NTEN asks: What’s holding your technology back?

When it launched its new Facebook fan page, NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) offered participants a chance to win a free registration for the NTEN On-line Technology Conference, or a registration discount for a serious post, on its discussion tab (…still trying to figure out if I’m seriousish but it’s guaranteed to be a great conference and you should totally go so it’s worth it to get serious…). 

The question for discussion?  What’s holding your technology back?  Here’s my reply, quick and dirty.

Our parent company, called ROI Philanthropy Partners, Inc., is effectiveness-focused. I was all ready to say ‘undefined intentions,’ or not knowing the difference between communications ROI and fundraising ROI, or department use silo-ing.

But then I got stuck thinking about a Steve Heye tweet this week: “What if we all stopped working to keep our org growing and started working to make a difference?”  To his comment, I would say now that a pretty consistent problem we see is ‘when is enough enough.’  This is the crux of the effectiveness problem in NPOs right now, measuring the difference made in program reach, in fundraising success, in operational efficiencies. Who needs to see information delivered in this way, versus another delivery method? Which segments of our constituencies care about a fan page vs. a twitter account vs. purl mailings vs. a phone call vs. a mailed brochure — or a combination of any or all of these?

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (disclosure: I’m on the committee), for every six dollars given to an NPO in a given year, the NPO will lose five dollars through attrition and reduced support. For every six donors in a given year, NPOs lose five the following year.

What’s holding technology back?  As a whole we are slow to justify its reach to any given constituency, so as an industry segment we are still in the ‘putting feelers out’ phase of methodology uses. Add to that the onslaught of new products every year, and we have varying degrees of authenticity measures to factor into the equation each year — how to apple-to-apple effectiveness in the shifting sands of product availability?

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