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Using nonprofit technology for good


Affordable technology in the hands of socially-minded IT professionals has the power to radically alter the face of the nonprofit sector.

Like most of the world, tech nonprofits are looking into mobile communication and the cloud as vehicles to further their goals. Young IT professionals with practical knowledge in these fields are desperately needed in the nonprofit space. Not only that, there are areas ripe for motivated IT career-starters to make an immediate and lasting impression.

Take a look at some exciting areas of opportunity for recent IT graduates, and examples of organizations that demonstrate how IT expertise is indispensable– the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC)4 and Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB)5.

The ITDRC is a great example of nonprofit tech for good– It provides emergency communications and technical support to communities affected by natural disasters. Just last year, the ITDRC was active in 22 sites throughout North and South Carolina to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. In turn, MSF/DWB provides medical assistance in remote and conflict regions, a task that requires IT teams to sustain communication between headquarters and field teams. The organization has medical projects in over 70 countries around the world.

Using Nonprofit Technology for Good_body 1_tech_office

1 Cloud-based
software tools

These tools help nonprofits in many areas of daily operations. When Northern California was devastated by massive fires in 20187, the ITDRC created internet access points for aid groups and the Red Cross in order to access  data in the cloud and assess the magnitude of the disaster.

In another area of operations, ITDRC uses cloud-based software tools to accept donations, including cryptocurrency.

The next generation of donors will be major digital technology users that conduct their transactions from mobile devices. Already 67% of nonprofits across the globe are set up to accept online donations11. In 2017 alone mobile donations increased 205% 12.

Nonprofits need IT pros to get ready for the next wave. With limited resources, organizations can amplify their message by combining cloud-based technology with social media engagement and email campaigns. Awareness of how impactful the cloud can be is growing– 64% of nonprofit CFOs believe they’ll be able to cut operating costs by up to 20% through the adoption of this technology10.

46 percent of North American non-governmental organizations use encryption to protect data and communications. Of those, only 38% use it to protect donor information.

Using Nonprofit Technology for Good_body2_weather_meteorology_technology

2 Encryption

Data protection can be a breaking point for potential donors, and nonprofits across the board are struggling to provide it. According to the NGO Technology report, 46 percent of North American non-governmental organizations use encryption to protect data and communications. Of those, only 38 percent use it to protect donor information. Demonstrating your value in this area could be your way into a career while boosting an organization’s reliability. In the case of MSF/DWB8, encryption is especially critical considering that they must protect not only donors’ information, but also patient info and other sensitive data. With that in mind, all information entering and leaving MSF/DWB must go through security protocols and travel by high-grade encryption. Personal information is stored in a secure location and accessible only by designated IT employees. Other security measures employed by MSF/DWB include firewalls, intrusion detection, site monitoring, and periodic reviews of who has access. Using Nonprofit Technology for Good_body 3 _ technology computer group learning

3 Essential
IT support

Nonprofits often deal with lack of IT support, a considerable handicap when you’re trying to stay on top of trends or navigate a crisis. An organization’s ability to function can be critically jeopardized by its absence. Emad Ramlawi, former MSF/DWB IT supervisor, tackled issues like unreliable electric grids, poor connectivity, and low bandwidth. His approach was to solve the most basic needs6, such as the migration of MSF documents to digital, installation of new servers, and configuration of a network infrastructure. Once up, Ramlawi designed a strategy to optimize the investment –one that included establishing a network of IT providers– thus ensuring that MSF’s Reconstructive Surgery Program in Amman (Jordan) would continue functioning uninterrupted. In the case of ITDRC, IT support means 1,200 volunteers (mostly tech professionals) who travel to crisis-stricken areas to coordinate and deploy the nonprofit’s resources. Others offer remote assistance over the phone. According to co-founder Chris Hillis, “The ITDRC harnesses the collective resources of the entire tech community. We bring together IT professionals and technology companies and figure out how to give emergency tech solutions at no cost.” To date, IT technicians working with the nonprofit have made communication and coordination possible for more than 100 communities stricken by unforeseen calamities. Young IT professionals are already shaping nonprofit trends and using their talents to help their communities. There is a clear need for passionate IT pros with a desire to make an impact for good. The door is wide open.
SOURCES: (1) Goldstein, Phil (2018, February 18th). 25 Must-Read Nonprofit IT Blogs 2018. Retrieved from (2) Montague, Mary Lee (2016, July). The CIO’s Emerging Role in the Nonprofit Sector. Retrieved from (3) Joy, Kevin (2018, June 19th). 5 Questions Nonprofits Need to Ask Their IT Staffs. Retrieved from (4) DeBari, Joe (2018, November 12th). Disaster Recovery: Nonprofit Org Provides Vital Communications and IT Tech to Devastated Communities. Retrieved from (5) Ramlawi, Emad (2018, December 19th). 3 Reasons Why Nonprofits Fail at Technology. Retrieved from (6) LinkedIn. Emad Ramlawi. Retrieved from (7) Westland Real Estate Group (2019, January 8th). Westland’s IT Hero Helps Camp Fire Victims Get Back Online. Retrieved from (8) Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders (2019, February). Privacy Policy. Retrieved from (9) The Guardian Project. About the Guardian Project. Retrieved from (10) (11) Novokhovsky, Mary (2017). Ten #NPTech Statistic Every Nonprofit Should Know. Retrieved from (12) N|P Source. The Ultimate List of Charitable Giving Statistics for 2018. Retrieved from
Editorial credit: Matej Kastelic /
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