New Story
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New Story

Untapped Efficiency: Why Nonprofits Should Hire Software Developers

It’s 2018. If we can’t tell donors exactly where their money goes, it wouldn’t be because it’s impossible — it would be because we didn’t prioritize it. Technology is available to simplify problems that used to be unsolvable, but few nonprofits are ahead of the curve on adopting new tech. Pushing for innovation in the nonprofit sector ensures we maximize our effectiveness, and for us, that means building an in-house tech team. Still, most nonprofits won’t make that shift. Why?

We’re just too overloaded.”

Nonprofits do incredibly meaningful work, often with limited resources. Think of organizational purpose as the size of your load: the bigger your load, the harder it is to get where you want to go. It’s tempting to say no to innovation on those grounds alone: we’re doing important work, we’re already busy, and we can’t afford any distractions. The concerns are reasonable and contain valid points. Imagine with me however, your family is taking a long road trip across the country. Setting off on the journey, it’s likely you’d drive toward the nearest interstate. Even if the onramp was a little further North and you were ultimately headed South, the speed and consistency of driving on the interstate makes the initial effort worth it over time.

It’s tempting to say no to innovation on those grounds alone: we’re doing important work, we’re already busy, and we can’t afford any distractions.

Technology works much the same way. Even small investments can unlock significant returns on time, energy, and effectiveness. A single software engineer could unlock 10x impact with half the staff and a fraction of the overhead.

“We don’t need anything.”

New Story didn’t begin with a tech department. We started with a list of problems to be solved, like any nonprofit, and we were using dozens of platforms and systems to get things done. Once we recognized the need, we saw we were limited by our complex assortment of tools. They were slowing down our work. We were either going to hire 10 people to slog through the chaos or hire 1 developer to build a better system.

To better unpack the tension, imagine life before smartphones. Traditional cell phones connected us to friends and family across the globe. If we wanted to send emails or browse the internet, we had desktop computers. When we wanted high quality photography, we bought a digital camera. Smart phones consolidated the technology. The didn’t introduce us to technology we didn’t already have access to, but they made the tools and information much more accessible, thus amplifying its impact. Phones today still ultimately connect us to people, but in ways we never imagined.

We are resistant to change, especially when things seem to be working. Because problems and processes are not debilitating, we don’t feel urgency to solve pain points. Unfortunately, “good enough” becomes an obstacle to doing work that’s really great.

We already have a great website.”

Most nonprofits don’t realize what’s possible with technology or how close it is within reach. Even among those investing in tech, the focus is on surface level developments and improvements, like a website. Sure, websites are an important part of your organization, but probably not worth starting a whole new department. But what if a developer or software engineer began to identify the most significant pain points in your organization and tried to solve them? Think about every hour your team spends doing a repetitive, administrative task. What if you could cut that in half, and let your team focus on work related to your core purpose?

Today, our team continues to grow while focusing on higher and higher value activities. The efficiencies produced by technology haven’t removed jobs, rather they’ve redefined them to be more meaningful and produce higher returns. For us, higher returns are measured by more people in life changing homes.

Ultimately, a limited view of technology will limit our impact where it matters most: in the work we do on the ground with families. In a time of exponential growth and possibilities within technology, we should be leveraging every available tool or resource. If you’re interested in learning more about the innovations we developed to help your organization maximize your impact, reach out to us here.

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A nonprofit startup pioneering solutions to end global homelessness

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Morgan J. Lopes

Morgan J. Lopes

CTO at Fast Company’s World Most Innovative Company (x4). Author of “Code School”, a book to help more people transition into tech.

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