Making communities safer. Paving more pathways to good jobs and careers. Increasing access to quality mental healthcare. Providing housing for the unhoused. Ensuring kids can read by the 3rd grade. These are just a few of the critically important and extraordinarily complex problems we ask human services and other nonprofit organizations to address. Unfortunately, far too often, these organizations are stuck with outdated technology and siloed data that limits their visibility and constrains their capacity—hindering their ability to take these challenges on.

As I transitioned to Ballmer Group Philanthropy, where we focus on expanding economic opportunity and making the American Dream more accessible, it became increasingly clear that the same digital transformation that has powered American business innovation has not been as accessible to nonprofits and human service organizations. And at the same time, demand for services is outstripping the capacity of these organizations to deliver them.

Let me be clear—technology will never replace human capacity, human hearts, and human caring. However, without more access to technology and tools, organizations are telling us that they face inefficiencies and struggle to scale. These organizations provide critical, irreplaceable services and opportunities for all Americans. As a society, we rely on these organizations, and as funders, we have a responsibility to ensure they can meet the needs of their communities.

We need to think differently about how we invest in digital infrastructure. Let’s continue the example of a business: when you operate a company, you spend money. That spend is often classified in one of two ways: expense—that is, the cost required for a good or a service—or investment—that is, the money spent now to grow your business, your capacity, and your capabilities in the future.

Read the full article about investing in technology for greater social impact by Molly Cleveland at Social Solutions.