New Year Resolutions for Nonprofit Techies

By Cindy Leonard, Consulting Team Leader and nonprofit technology program manager at the Bayer Center. 

2016 loadingEvery new year is a potential fresh beginning, a time to look at life and adjust your course. From one nonprofit techie to another, I offer these suggestions for your own new year resolutions:

  1. Make time for self-care. I have many techie friends who eat poorly, are lacking in sleep, over-caffeinate and under-exercise because they are at the beck and call of their organization’s technology needs (I’ve been guilty of this myself). While this commitment is admirable, it’s also a recipe for burnout. Be sure to take care of yourself first, so you can continue to care for your organization’s tech.
  2. Declutter your space.  I was a technology manager at a nonprofit for 8 years before coming to work at the Bayer Center, so I know if I used my x-ray vision, I’d see all the tech junk equipment you have hiding in storage. It’s time to get rid of those extra mice, cables, monitors, printers, etc. Once in a blue moon, you might find a use for one of those items, but it’s probably costing you more to store the stuff than to go purchase what you need online when you need it. It’ll also make your hardware inventory easier. (Oh, and remember to dig out those old software manuals too – DOS, Windows NT and Office 2000 aren’t coming back! 🙂 )
  3. Broaden your knowledge of organizational processes. Over the years, I’ve seen many talented techies bungle their careers and chances of promotion by sticking only to technology-related concerns and never learning the other parts of the organization’s business and programs. If you want to create true value for your organization and its technology, you have to get out of the server room. Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and to truly be helpful, you need to talk to and really understand your nonprofit’s people and programs.
  4. Advocate for yourself. I say this because I’ve known many techies (especially “accidental” ones) who have gone years without recognition, raises or being given a seat at the management table.  It’s not easy, but you must be your own best advocate, because rarely will anyone else do it for you. A few months ago, a techie said to me “I’m so frustrated, I’m ready to quit.” I asked if she had told her org what she wanted. She said, “No because they’ll get mad at me.” I told her if she was upset enough to quit, she had nothing to lose by speaking up.  It’s much better to advocate for yourself on a regular basis, so you never get to that blowup point.
  5. Learn a new skill. Nonprofit funding can change at the drop of a hat (think PA budget impasse) and the tech person can frequently be the first to go (“We’re going to outsource IT now!”).  With technology outside of your organization changing much more rapidly than the technology inside of your organization, you may have to work extra hard to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date.  Fortunately, you can learn nearly anything online these days, using free or subscription based sites. Be sure to sharpen your own saw a little each week so you can remain desirable to employers should your nonprofit job disappear.