Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Monday, June 26, 2006

Small Nonprofits and Sharing IT

If you've been reading this blog regularly, you know that I like small nonprofits, and am wary of merger-fever. Deborah Elizabeth Finn seems to agree with me, and has written specifically about the technology needs of small nonprofits.

In Consolidate or die: Will it come to that, for small nonprofit organizations? she writes that
"An amazing number of nonprofit projects are run by one noble soul, working with great dedication from the coffee table in his or her living room. This person hardly has an information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure - never mind an ICT specialist to maintain it! The plight of this typical one-person-plus-coffee-table organization worries me a lot...

"Surely there's some way for small nonprofits, especially those of the one-person-plus-coffee-table type, to consolidate their technology infrastructures and back office administrative processes, even while each organization retains its hand-tailored (or even quirky) approach to services and programs?

"...I'd like to see those noble souls in very small nonprofits focus their efforts on what they do best - which could be saving the whales, feeding the hungry, organizing youth soccer leagues, ensuring access to health care, or keeping German opera alive in Montana - rather than on tasks such as contract management, accounting, or maintaining a file server. I'd also like to see employees of one-person-plus-coffee-table organizations enjoy some of the benefits that Red Cross staffers can take for granted - such as membership in a group health plan, access to professional development opportunities, and use of up-to-date information and communication technology."
I agree, and think that such resource sharing is entirely possible and easily doable. It will require a bit of leadership to get some of these "coffee table nonprofits" to overcome their egos in coming together, but that is easy too.

The leadership could (should?) come from the initiatives of community foundations or other regional funders who can use the carrot of general operating grants to bring organizations together for sharing technology and other resources. Other possible facilitators in this could be statewide or regional nonprofit associations, such as CAN (California Association of Nonprofits) or SVCN (Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits).

I'll end my post with the same plea that Deborah Elizabeth Finn used to end her post: "Let's make it happen!"

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