Some of the most fascinating insights from our recent survey on the impact of the CTX donation programmes revolved around their effect on morale and professionalism within charities. The findings in this area sparked a debate that resulted in my recent blog for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. I wanted to get underneath the headlines of the Guardian blog and look at why the donation of technology to a charity can have such a positive impact on staff. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of respondents to our survey (83%) stated that the donation programmes helped them access software they would otherwise have been unable to afford. Investment in IT is notoriously low within charities (the National Computing Centre reported in 2011 that the Third Sector registered the lowest investment per employee of all the sectors they surveyed) and this has a knock on effect on staff. We have all suffered the frustrations of poor IT - PC’s not responding, connections to the internet failing, not being able to read documents sent to us electronically etc. For many charity staff, this is still a daily reality. Our survey identified ‘more robust systems’ and reduced compatibility issues as two areas where donated technology had a major impact - addressing the basic requirements of a charity's technology infrastructure. But ‘benefits from new software features’, ‘better use of and awareness of features’, and ‘increased expectations of IT’ also featured heavily among the benefits the donations brought. So what we are seeing is a positive feedback loop where better underlying technology breeds confidence in that technology. This confidence then encourages people to use the features of the technology more and, having discovered new benefits, they are more positive about looking for ways that technology can help them. Once a positive attitude towards a charity’s technology has been engendered, staff start to expect it to help them rather than hinder them. As this feedback occurs, the users begin to be more positive about the changes technology can bring and it becomes easier to use technology to drive more ambitious improvements, particularly where a charity comes into contact with its beneficiaries and funders. What our survey found was that taking away people’s frustration with technology increases staff morale and drives up the perception that the organisation is ‘professional’ at what it does. This is no doubt about more than the technology itself. It probably has a lot to do with how technology helps make processes more consistent and repeatable. As was pointed out in the Guardian blog, this gives people a level of confidence that they can deliver on the promises they make (or the organisation makes on their behalf). It also gives them confidence in front of fundraisers and their friends and family when they talk about what they do. Most people buy into the ideals of their charity. They want it to succeed, they want it to deliver the results their beneficiaries are looking for. There is nothing better for a charity’s staff and volunteers than to see those successes and have the confidence that they can do it again and again. A robust technology foundation, the feeling that they are working in a 21stcentury organisation, is clearly a big step in this direction.
In 2012, CTT, in partnership with TechSoup Global, conducted a survey of not-for-profits, charities, and social benefit organisations around the world to better understand the current state of their technology infrastructure, plus their future plans for adopting cloud technologies.