Boston certainly has a vibrant nonprofit technology community. The Boston Nonprofit Technology Conference, put on by the good folks at TechFoundation, was made up mostly of the nonprofit technology folks from the area. While it was a little disappointing not to see more nonprofit decision makers (executive directors, program managers, board members, etc.), the conference provided a great opportunity to network and learn from leaders in the field.
I was able to sit on a couple sessions. The session that stood out the most in my mind was the funder driven session entitled "Does Anyone Ever Raise Money for Technology Anyways? A Grantmaker's Perspective on Developing Compelling Requests."
The session was especially interesting since my thesis has some things to say about the perceived availability of funding for technology in the Boston nonprofit sector. Essentially, 91% of Boston nonprofits surveyed said that funding for technology was inadequate.
The biggest take-home message for me was that Boston-area funders vary widely in what they are looking for in a technology proposal.
For example, some foundations will fund infrastructure projects outright realizing that such technology is necessary. Others wish to see the technology line item incorporated into program requests, while other funders refuse to fund technological infrastructure for individual organizations.
What was also clear is that none of the funders were using a portfolio approach to IT investments that many corporation now use to manage their IT investments. There was some discussion of strategic vs. infrastructure investments, but there seems to be opportunity for more exploration about how best to invest in nonprofit technology.
The interaction between foundation staff, nonprofit staff and technology staff was immensely helpful for everyone involved. We ought to find more opportunities for such interaction.