One of the biggest challenges for non-profits is putting technology to work to promote transformational change in the organization that advances the mission. Even more challenging, however, is selling your non-profit tech strategy to senior management. After all, technology costs money, and for most non-profits, budgets are always tight.

non-profit technology

In a recent HSO Dynamics Matters podcast, our UK team spoke with Ursula Dolton, Chief Technology Officer of the British Heart Foundation, an HSO customer, who shared a simple but important lesson around promoting to senior management the benefits of using technology for change.

As the CTO of a large non-profit, technology is “everything”—particularly in a pandemic world, where people are working remotely or in some combination. While there was some level of this going on before, the pandemic pushed organizations to accelerate their use of non-profit technology.

The British Heart Foundation had launched Microsoft Office 365 a few months before the pandemic, so employees were not yet accustomed to things like using Teams for calls and meetings. Today, this is more the norm than the exception. That is just one example of how quickly technology has advanced. But, Ursula says, technology is a journey, with every organizations improving in different ways and at a different pace depending on many factors.

Technology providers have been very influential, working with organizations to embrace technology quickly. For the British Heart Association, Microsoft was a strategic partner, supporting them before and during the pandemic, working to understand and address both immediate and long-term concerns. As the non-profit tech experts, they have the experience and know-how to get to those answers quickly and help organizations already stretched thin to get more than one benefit out of their technology investments. That, she says, is where the success lies—being shown how technology originally implemented for a specific challenge can deliver even more value.

“That’s where the likes of Microsoft have been amazing,” she says. “It’s not just work as a non-profit tech provider or vendor; they’ve gone out of the way to truly understand the organization and what we are trying to achieve. They then advise us on the right investments for the right platforms and how to get the maximum out of those investments.”

From a CTO’s point of view, the biggest challenge around putting together a technology strategy is getting leadership to understand that value and buy in on the plan. The key is to present a business case—demonstrating the benefits to the organization, not talking technology. If you lead with technology, you will struggle. You must make clear the problems that technology is going to solve.

Ursula’s advice for positioning a project or technology idea at a non-profit: Lead with the business value—the pain points it will address and benefits to be gained.

That’s something Ursula and her team do now as a matter of course. In the past, they referred to the initiative as a technology implementation or transformation; now, it’s about transforming the way they work.

“I always say it’s a business solution. It’s a business problem we are trying to solve, so it must be a business solution. The technology element is part of that business; that’s my whole thought process.”

One way to help “make the sale” is to have a consultative partner to mediate between the organization and the technology provider, a partner who can help make sure the technology hits the mark. She refers to the relationship between Microsoft, her organization, and HSO as a triangular partnership, with the technology, business, and Microsoft teams working as one.

Moving technology projects forward starts with a business conversation

To move your technology agenda forward, you must speak in a language senior stakeholders understand non-profit tech dynamics matters podcast– the language of business value and ROI. Listen to the entire Dynamics Matters Podcast: Ep 28 – Transformation lessons from a CTO . To hear more Dynamics Matters podcasts, subscribe to the RSS feed.

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By |2022-01-06T18:26:13-06:00November 19th, 2021|Application Management, Business Continuity, Data, Tech Tips|0 Comments


As Marketing Lead, Petra heads up efforts to generate opportunities in the Government and Non-Profit industries. She also supports overall marketing efforts through content creation, event coordination, and brand management.

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