June 27, 2008, Newsletter Issue #120: The Digital Divide Affects Nonprofit Organizations

Tip of the Week

While many nonprofit organizations recognize the need to educate individuals and get them better access to information technology tools and infrastructure, many (if not most) nonprofit organizations could also be said to be on the downside of the digital divide.

Whereas the Internet and other information technologies can help nonprofit organizations slash expenses, extend the reach of their programs, and transform the way they work, increasingly complex hardware and software and a lack of technical expertise are frustrating organizations' efforts to take full advantage of the information age. To some extent, falling prices and rising donations from computer companies and other grant makers have placed high-tech equipment within reach of all but the poorest organizations, but the disparities between how well prepared groups are to use these tools effectively persist.

To help bridge the nonprofit digital divide, companies and foundations are underwriting efforts by technology-focused nonprofits, such as CompuMentor, NetCorps, NPower and TechSoup, to help charities identify their technology needs and implement plans for improvements. With their expertise and guidance, nonprofits are able to consider a suite of options and choose a technology solution that can help them improve the efficiency and effectiveness of such tasks as accounting, payroll, and donor record management. Sometimes the answer is their own system and training their staff; sometimes the answer is outsourcing to an application provider.

Regardless of the route a nonprofit takes to climb the IT ladder, there are many opportunities for the tech-literate to identify needs and help out a nonprofit. If you have the expertise, or work for a company that could offer help, start a discussion with local organizations and see how you can help.

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