Technology is essential to the success of nonprofits. Digital tools enable organizations to automate operations, access new audiences, reimagine programs, and assess their impact with greater clarity and effectiveness.

But the digital gap is widening. Only a quarter of nonprofits report having a defined strategy for transitioning to a digital workflow, and only about half of those have the resources to implement their strategy. It’s no surprise that nonprofits spend about $1 on technology for every $3 private companies spend, and yet we know that tech-savvy nonprofits are four times more likely to achieve their missions.

The good news is that purpose-driven tech industry professionals are eager to partner with their nonprofit peers to close this gap. On LinkedIn, for example, more than 400,000 US tech professionals have expressed interest in joining a nonprofit board on LinkedIn. But while this new generation of tech workers wants to leverage their skills and networks for good, few are actually engaged.

This represents a massive, untapped opportunity for organizations to use tech talent to drive better outcomes for their communities. As longtime practitioners working at the intersection of nonprofit governance, corporate social impact, and tech for good, Alethea Hannemann and Aaron Hurst, co-authors of this article and former colleagues at the Taproot Foundation, decided to partner with Okta for Good, led by Erin Baudo Felter (also a co-author of this article) to understand the challenges that nonprofits face in developing a tech strategy and using new technologies. In early 2023, we conducted more than 50 interviews with nonprofit leaders (including nonprofit tech experts) and tech executives to find a way forward. A clear signal emerged: Interventions at the board level can radically transform nonprofit engagement with technology in a way that forwards their missions, helps scale their operations, and allows them to develop a long-term vision for technology within their organizations.

Embracing technical governance under the direction of a tech-focused board member requires a common framework that helps nonprofit leaders and those running IT operations develop a long-term strategy. Based on our research, we identified four discrete areas where tech-focused board members can make an immediate impact and framed them as questions that a technology board leader can explore directly with the executive director or the CEO, or with their board.

Read the full article about technology governance in nonprofit boards by Alethea Hannemann, Aaron Hurst and Erin Baudo Felter at Stanford Social Innovation Review.