CommitChange now hosts Fika for Social Good events in the MidWest, an informal series of discussions for nonprofit leaders and tech professionals. Our most recent discussion was about finding the right technology hires and led to some common myths nonprofits have about technology.
Balancing limited resources with the tech needs of a nonprofit organization can seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be. Often, it is myths that spring up around making technology decisions that hold us back from finding the right fit.
Myth 1: You're on your own when it comes to planning out tech solutions.
Resources abound for nonprofits that want to know their options when it comes to new technologies. Community foundations and nonprofit associations provide training and workshops, as do many local networking and small business organizations. You can even learn how to use specialized applications like Photoshop and film and audio editing software at many local libraries.
There are also professional consultants who can help you plan out focused technology and communications strategies. From helping you figure out what kind of skills to look for in a permanent hire to helping to assess your needs and figure out what kind of software you should be using to fulfill your mission and development strategies, paying someone a relatively small amount in the short term can help solidify your long-term game plan.
2. Web designers and developers are too pricey.
Websites are increasingly the first space people interact with nonprofits, and professional website design and SEO are key to attracting both donors and the people you would like to serve. And yet, so often, website design and maintenance are tasked to overburdened staff members, volunteers, and interns.
Web design is so commonplace that a Google search of "nonprofit website development firm" will probably bring up search results within a twenty minute drive of your house. Website development is also often included at advertising, marketing, and design firms that would be happy to redesign your logo, design some tshirts for you, or take over your direct mail campaigns. If you invest a little now, you may find a long-term partner willing to help you with a number of tasks you've been putting off or trying to do in-house.
Whether the first firm you find charges by the hour or by the project, it's good to shop around for quotes. $125/hour can seem like a lot, but if you need a simple site and you're working with an experienced designer, you may be looking at only a few hours' worth of design time. A few thousand dollars might seem like a large initial investment with a design firm, but you might get training, a logo design, and other essentials thrown in. It's important to be an informed consumer on what you need as an organization and how much you can expect to pay.
3. College interns intrinsically "get" social media and web strategy.
College interns understand how to interact with their friends and niche audiences on the web, but that doesn't mean that they understand the basics of communication strategy or the best way to communicate your message.
There are places to find a college intern well-suited to communications strategy, like journalism and mass communications programs. Handling day-to-day social media tasks, press releases, and blog posts are fine for interns, volunteers, and lower level staff members who have the knack, but long-range strategy and implementation plans should be left to professionals with more experience, whether it is your in-house communications director or a consultant. Ultimately, you want to trust someone who gets the big picture of who you are, who you serve, and who your stakeholders are to take responsibility for the message you send out.