You’ve probably heard the phrase “tech for good,” but what does it really mean? Doesn’t most technology accomplish something good? Think software for nonprofit data analysis or customer relationship management; technology planning programs for nonprofits; collaborative groups such as Seattle Tech for Good; online platforms such as AIGA Changemakers Series; or tech solutions to tackle societal issues such as ending homelessness or reducing gender inequality through microfinance.

In other words, it’s technology that improves people's lives, the environment, business processes that will impact the first two, or some combination of all of these.

Tech For Good’s Challenge

When it comes to software, many nonprofits face challenges related to configuration, training, and oftentimes maintenance of tech solutions. Nonprofits and those seeking to create positive impact through their ideas, are focused on their mission and outcomes and typically have a background in what they are passionate about, not in technology. They need help, volunteer or paid.

Because nonprofits are all unique in their mission, theory of change, operational model, culture, and technology savvy, it can sometimes be difficult to know which technology will have the most impact.

Innovative tech solutions require experimentation, time, and, funding.

Focusing Donor Dollars

As a donor myself, I want to improve on solutions that I’m passionate about. My wife and I research organizations and determine how we can help. Most often it is through unrestricted donations, though sometimes it is by sharing our expertise - a donation of time because we feel we can help through our background, skills, and experience in the hi-tech industry either via design, operations or management. Here are a few other ways donors can support tech for good:

  • Invest in nonprofit service organizations that provide technology resources, events, and trainings for nonprofits. Each needs donation dollars to survive and keep innovating. Find a local service organization that is most effective and help fund their initiatives.
  • Fund programs and platforms: Platforms that help connect tech volunteers to nonprofits with technology projects are invaluable. Look for platforms that link nonprofits and innovators, creatives, and engineers together.  These networks help nonprofits with tangible, effective solutions.
  • Sponsor conferences and events: Conferences that support nonprofit tech cost many thousands of dollars. Additionally, it can be costly for nonprofit staff to attend due to attendance costs, flights, and hotels. Sponsor an event or work with the organizing committee to fund scholarships for nonprofit staff. Find a Tech for Good group in your community that is putting on events and see how funding can help move the needle in your region.
  • Invest in nonprofit tech accelerators which provide mentors, funders, partners, policy makers, a way to accelerate nonprofit tech for good projects - essentially helping a team solidify their plan and creating a pitch and/or demo to secure funding.
  • Invest directly: Finding a nonprofit that is working on an issue that you care about and donating directly to their cause is a great way to have immediate impact. By connecting with the nonprofit, understanding their technology staffing, infrastructure, and roadmap you can work with the nonprofit to see how your dollars can be used to help their efforts using technology to accelerate change.

Technology is a great enabler, and can create efficiencies and accuracies never achieved before. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen nonprofits understand the role of technology better and better, and funding is opening up technology adoption and innovation as never before. Yet that is only part of the equation. To help nonprofits achieve their mission they need dollars to help with their technology focus.