IT is often viewed as a service, kind of like janitorial or window washing. Someone has to keep the network up and the computers running, but everyone prefers that it happens behind the scenes. Smart nonprofit managers know that IT is more than a service and smart IT directors embrace the opportunity to be a strategic partner.
- If you’re an IT professional who’s not helping guide the strategic direction of your nonprofit, here’s how you can be in the room where decisions are made and show the strategic value of your expertise.
- Understand the Mission: You provide the tools that program staff use to accomplish the mission. Think ahead about what it takes to achieve the organization’s goals and look for opportunities to use technology to push that mission further.
- Be Consultative: Learn more about what people do. Talk to them about their struggles and how technology can help them do better work. This will allow you to point to real, programmatic needs when you discuss technology with your organization’s leadership.
- Train People: It takes time and patience, but if you help staff members use technology more proficiently, they’ll be better at their jobs, they’ll like you more, and your organization will be more effective.
- Show How Tech Can Make Your Organization Better: Program data is where mission and IT most fully intersect. Be proactive in helping your organization decide what data to collect and how to collect it and then be ready to manage the data so that it’s clean and useful. You might also create your own metrics and tie them to performance so that you can show how technology is helping people do their job more effectively.
- Speak Everyone’s Language: It’s tempting to claim authority by using a lot of technical jargon, but the unconscious message you send is that technology is not their job. In the end, that only makes your job more difficult because they’ll need help more often and will not feel comfortable working with you to find solutions to their tech problems.
- Think Like a Leader: Whether your organization’s highest IT position is CTO or just IT Manager, your expertise can be useful and valued. Take the initiative to work on planning and policy documents. Make sure to create thorough documentation for how to use the organization’s software and hardware. And don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings to offer an IT perspective, especially when there are opportunities to think big or to innovate within the organization.