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Strategic IT Planning for Non-Profits

Chris Claudio

As you know, a big passion of mine is removing the mystique of great IT management for organizations, so I was thrilled last month when I got the chance to speak to top executives and professionals in the not-for-profit sector on the topic of ‘IT Budgeting for Non-Profits.” This lunch was catered to IT professionals who are employed by non-profits in the Massachusetts Bay area. For lunch, students from the Home for Little Wanderers Culinary Program catered this event and truly did a fantastic job. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this wonderful organization and their programs, The Home for Little Wanderers is a non-profit headquartered in Boston, MA that provides services and programs for child and family development. It was energizing to see the students in their element and how committed they were to doing a great job.

I focused my presentation on how to create a strategic IT plan and the key principles that help drive IT budgeting. In order to have a leading and successful non-profit organization, it is important to create a strategic IT plan that converts your business goals into actionable IT initiatives. The role of technology has changed significantly in the last decade, IT used to be an investment that organizations were forced to make rather than a strategic focus. Today, IT is a tactical asset and should be used to help drive budgets and define deliverables.

While all of this sounds simple, I am consistently shocked at how many organizations, particularly in the non-profit sector, do not focus their IT spend around their own strategic business objectives and vision. 

Here are a few key elements to consider for strategic IT planning:

  1. Document Your Strategic Business Plan: Regardless of your organization’s industry, you have goals and quotas to meet each day, week, month and year. Your leadership team should create a strategic IT plan that define your deliverables, identify resources needed and marry this plan with a budget.
  1. Gain Leadership Consensus: When creating your IT plan, key stakeholders and leadership members need to be involved. It is important that your entire leadership team understands where your company is going, what is the mission and the vision of your company as well as your organizational goals. 
  1. Build IT Governance: The overall objective of IT governance is to understand the issues and strategic importance of IT and align these initiatives to support business operations. Leadership must be held accountable and enforce responsible use of IT resources, tools and best practices.
  1. Create Metrics for Achieving Goals: In order to ensure that your strategic IT plan is on track, organize quarterly checkpoints to review your status. It is important to understand that business plans will change, therefore, IT initiatives will change. Budgets will shrink or expand, particularly in the non-profit sector, so enforcing these checkpoints will confirm that still holds to your mission and vision.  

These are just a few principles to think about when creating your strategic IT plan within your business. If you don’t feel like you are getting this kind of support from your IT provider, then it’s time for a serious conversation around the strategic role IT plays in your organization.