Digital Poverty in Nonprofits

How lack of investment in technology hinders the social impact of nonprofit organizations
digital poverty blog

Introduction by Linda Widdop

How does a lack of investment in technology hinder the social impact of nonprofit organizations? I recently downloaded an eBook from Microsoft Working Smarter with AI in which they introduce the concept of Digital Debt: “the ever-increasing amount of data, information, and communications employees are tasked with processing daily”. This statement hit home for me as I think about the work that I do and the work that my team does daily.  By engaging CoPilot or other generative AI tools, maybe we can get back to the mission at hand to help nonprofits with their own technology journeys. I immediately started to experiment with Microsoft CoPilot to see if the promise could be realized. (spoiler alert – it can). 

By engaging CoPilot or other generative AI tools, maybe we can get back to the mission at hand to help nonprofits with their own technology journeys.

Even as I am exploring how this technology can help us expand our community impact, I started to wonder if the majority of nonprofits that we work with would be ready to adopt this technology and reduce their own digital debt. I think our customers are in a good position, but I am not sure about every organization. It was then that I went down a rabbit hole wondering if the concept of digital debt could be expanded to digital poverty. When I asked CoPilot about this concept, here is the output that it generated (in about 2 minutes):

CoPilot’s Take on Digital Poverty

Nonprofit organizations are often praised for their noble missions, their dedication to social causes, and their altruistic values. However, they are also often criticized for their inefficiency, and their inability to adapt to changing circumstances. One of the main reasons for these shortcomings is the lack of investment in technology that could improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and innovation. In this blog post, I will argue that nonprofit organizations suffer from a phenomenon I call "digital poverty", which is the lack of access to and use of digital tools and resources that could enhance their performance and impact. I will also suggest some ways to overcome this challenge and help nonprofits escape from digital poverty.

Main points

Digital poverty is a reality for many nonprofits. According to a recent report by NetHope, a coalition of nonprofits and technology companies, only 11% of nonprofits have a digital strategy, and only 5% have the skills and resources to implement it. This means that most nonprofits are not leveraging the potential of technology to optimize their operations, communicate their stories, engage their stakeholders, and measure their outcomes.

Digital poverty has negative consequences for nonprofits. By not investing in technology, nonprofits are missing out on opportunities to increase their reach, reduce their costs, improve their quality, and innovate their solutions. For example, a study by Accenture found that nonprofits that use cloud computing can save up to 60% of their IT expenses, while also enhancing their collaboration, security, and scalability. Similarly, a report by McKinsey showed that nonprofits that use data analytics can improve their decision making, fundraising, and impact assessment.

Digital poverty can be overcome by nonprofits. There are several ways that nonprofits can break the cycle of digital poverty and embrace the benefits of technology. Some of these are:

  • Developing a digital vision and strategy that aligns with their mission and goals, and that identifies the key areas where technology can add value.
  • Building a digital culture and capacity that fosters innovation, learning, and collaboration, and that empowers staff and volunteers to use technology effectively.
  • Seeking partnerships and funding that support their digital transformation, and that leverage the expertise and resources of technology companies, foundations, and donors.

CoPilot’s Conclusion

Nonprofit organizations play a vital role in addressing the social and environmental challenges of our world. However, they also face many obstacles and limitations that hinder their effectiveness and impact. One of these is digital poverty, which is the lack of access to and use of technology that could improve their performance and innovation. By recognizing and addressing this challenge, nonprofits can escape from digital poverty and harness the power of technology to achieve their missions and goals.

Linda’s Conclusion

Tech Impact’s Data Lab is working at large scale using AI to answer questions and build models that help communities. You can see some of our work here. As an organization, we have to be focused on helping nonprofits be ready to leverage AI to improve effectiveness, efficiency and innovation so that they can achieve social impact. We will be evaluating how our current services meet this challenge and expanding services to fill in the gaps where nonprofits need our support the most. I would love to hear from you about your organization’s AI plans. 

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