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Why Investing in Technology is Mission Critical for Nonprofits – SaportaReport

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By Brooks Robinson Board Director and Technology Advisory Board member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and advisor to technology companies and investors including Tech Square Ventures and Engaged

Technology has transformed how we live and work. The need to continually invest in technology and innovation is critical for companies to remain competitive. The case has been more challenging to make for the non-profit sector. However, that is changing. The societal demand for non-profit services has never been higher, but finding the staff to scale and fulfill the mission is harder and harder. In addition, people served by nonprofits are more tech-savvy than ever before. It’s time for nonprofits to benefit from the efficiency and experiences gained through strategic investments in technology. And it’s time for the Atlanta tech community to make that happen.

Atlanta is one of the country’s fastest growing and most important tech hubs. We have Fortune 500 companies and startups driving innovation side by side. We have a “Tech Mayor” who is committed to “stamping out the digital divide”. And we have a tech community that is as vibrant and diverse as any in the country.

Mayor Andre Dickens recently announced Donnie Beamer Jr. as Atlanta’s first Senior Technology Advisor “to be the city’s ambassador to the thriving tech industry and ensure that equity is at the heart of every conversation”. Engage, an innovation and corporate venture program, recently celebrated 5 years of investing in and growing partnerships between startups and Atlanta’s leading corporations resulting in $2.7 billion raised by the startups since the program’s inception. And the 15th annual Venture Atlanta conference was another huge success, with over 1,200 entrepreneurs, founders, investors, and business leaders in attendance at a crown jewel of our city, the Woodruff Arts Center.

The opportunity is now for Atlanta-based nonprofits and the Atlanta tech community to work together to enable the positive social impact we know is possible. That is our vision at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA).

Investing in technology is not new for BGCMA. Our last comprehensive campaign raised over $1 million to fund various technology projects. These included investments in data collection and analytics to measure impact, an upgraded, mobile-friendly website, and a new CRM platform to improve donor management. The organization also invested in programs, including outfitting each of our 25 club locations with upgraded bandwidth, wifi, and tablets for kids and teens to do homework, as well as recording and production equipment for music studios and computers for digital art programs. That was five years ago, and like most technology, it requires a refresh and a new, broader vision for making an even bigger impact.

The organization’s newly adopted 5-year strategic plan calls for technology to be more than just IT infrastructure; it also needs to drive innovation, efficiency, and experience. Rising Together, the fundraising campaign that will make it possible for BGCMA to operationalize its plan, has earmarked more than 10% of the $27.5M campaign goal to invest in technology.

There are three specific areas of our technology plan:

Execute an Innovation Roadmap. A big part of this includes enlisting tech experts to provide industry best practices, align our innovation and technology roadmap with our strategic plan and attract volunteers and service providers to help with technology initiatives. Our newly formed Technology Advisory Board (TAB) is a perfect opportunity to tap into the wealth of tech expertise and resources that exist right here in Atlanta. The mandate of the TAB is to ensure our technology investments deliver the desired impact of helping the kids and families we serve. If you’re in the Atlanta tech community, be ready for one of us to come calling. We need your help!

BGCMA Technology Advisory Board

  1. Drive Efficiency. We are leveraging technology to help our team work smarter. Plans include adopting a more seamless online registration process for parents trying to enroll their children in our Clubs and implementing a new ERP and data management platform to share data between systems, eliminating the manual process that has long plagued our team members and reduced their productivity. Ultimately these projects and others will help the organization scale and allow us to focus more and more of our resources and energy on what matters most – the kids we serve.
  2. Invest in the Experience. We want to ensure that the kids we serve can experience all that is great in the world of technology and reduce the barriers for our staff to implement these programs. At a minimum, this includes providing the latest computers and software applications needed to complete homework assignments for school. Beyond that, we want to ensure we are giving our kids and teens access to exciting new technology and training. For example, a new initiative with META is giving teens the opportunity to experience the new Oculus virtual reality headsets. The initiative is being offered at 6 of our Clubs with the potential to expand to all 25 locations. The core of our mission is to position our kids to be successful in the workforce of tomorrow. That will only be possible if we give them access and exposure to the latest technologies and provide a bridge to close the digital divide.

It’s an exciting time to be working at the intersection of technology and nonprofits. If our mission and passion for driving change through technology and innovation is something that resonates with you, here are four ways you can help:

  • Join our Technology Advisory Board to provide thought leadership and expertise.
  • Donate resources or provide financial support for one of our technology initiatives.
  • Volunteer on one of our technology development projects.
  • Provide exposure to careers in technology for our kids and teens as part of our workforce development program.

Nonprofits need to leverage technology and innovation more than ever. It’s mission-critical, and we need the Atlanta tech community (from startups to corporations; from software developers to executives) to lend a hand, invest and use their superpowers to help us positively impact the kids and families we serve.

Please contact Michael LaMont, Chief of Staff, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta – to explore ways you and/or your company can get involved.

This is sponsored content.