First of all, what is “Tech Team Augmentation”? Not exactly a term that rolls off the tongue. Simply put, “Tech Team Aug” means establishing a dedicated tech services partner for your nonprofit. It’s having a full tech team at your disposal without having to hire one.
In today’s world where the success or failure of your mission will hinge on your team’s ability to leverage technology effectively, having a mission-focused, technology-agnostic partner who fills the gaps, get things done, and looks out for your best interests is an essential strategy for every nonprofit – no matter the size.
Organizations that take a “go it alone” approach are at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who embrace technology services wisely, even if they have huge budgets. There are many reasons why this is true, and today we will focus on the top 5.
1. Buying tech is easy, leveraging it is hard
We are living in an age where options and availability of nonprofit tech has never been greater or more complex.
Whether it’s CRM products and websites for fundraising, outreach, advocacy and event management, or back office infrastructure for day-to-day operations and everything in between, the list of functions and choices is seemingly endless and growing by the day.
Most products are easy to get, and with many product companies offering generous discounts to nonprofits, the price point is often attractive too, with some even offered for free.
But there is a catch. HAVING tech is not the same as USING and MANAGING tech.
The challenges of designing and deploying robust, efficient and cost-effective systems and processes, configured to your unique needs with strong governance, adoption and lifecycle management are daunting even for the largest organizations. And if you get it wrong, your tech will create more problems than it solves. It takes significant knowledge, time and focus to keep things on track and humming, with a potentially huge payoff for getting it right.
A tech partner that understands the technology landscape and has “been there, done that” can take the pressure off your team and show you how to use tech to accelerate solutions, not create friction.
2. You can’t hire for every need
Take a step back and think about your in-house tech team, or person, if you have one.
If you are like most nonprofits, your tech team or person is often stretched, rarely with enough time and resources to get everything done. Often the backlog is keeping your organization from focusing on the exciting and powerful future, where growth and impact are waiting.
The reality is there is no way nonprofits can hire for every need and every skill set. Quality product and custom technology experts are not only hard to find in a competitive labor market, they demand high salaries and lots of for-profit perks.
Hiring for everything is great when your budget and workload are high, but when they’re low, the drain of underutilized, highly-skilled and paid employees can create a serious risk to your mission.
Partnering with a broad and deeply skilled tech services partner can provide a whole team of scalable experts who can fulfill a plethora of needs when and how you need them.
3. Who’s got your back?
Navigating a product and technology landscape that is growing and changing by the minute is not easy for anyone. And even the most well-meaning product company account manager enters the conversation convinced their tool is the magic wand that will make everything perfect with the click of a buy button. It’s their job to think that way.
As we all know, the truth is not so simple. While your needs may follow a general pattern across the industry (digital fundraising, marketing and communications, program, event and grant management, etc.), the reality is your specific situation is unique, and products designed to serve the mean will only get you so far.
A generalist tech partner who has no product allegiances, who is there to serve and represent your best interests, who can ask and answer hard questions and design systems that work together is a safeguard for your tech investment.
4. See the big picture, cut through the noise
It’s rare that a tool or technology you need to adopt only touches one area of your nonprofit.
Want to use a particular tool at one end of your operation? It’s guaranteed that folks on the other end will need access to your data and still others will need to be ready to provide you with training, troubleshooting and ongoing support. Cross-team collaboration and commitment becomes essential, as functional interdependencies are everywhere.
The challenge is that not everyone will agree on what’s most important. And when competing priorities do just that – compete, it can be hard to navigate when everyone has a stake in how the outcome affects them. It’s human nature, and sometimes an outside voice is just what is needed to find a way forward.
A dedicated tech partner serves as a bridge between teams, helping you analyze and prioritize your needs holistically with a critical eye, while maintaining the ability to stay out of the fray and still dive into the weeds.
5. Save budget while lowering risk
In the end, the most important reason to augment your nonprofit with a dedicated tech services partner is to reduce risk, drive effectiveness and save time, energy and donor dollars that can be redirected to those you serve. The cost of choosing the wrong tech, designing or implementing it poorly or not adequately considering the people who will use it represents considerable risk.
Augmenting your staff with a trusted partner who cares about your mission will calm the chaos curve, fill the gaps in your capacity and knowledge, and stand beside you as you create and deliver even more benevolence to the world.