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Technology: Secret Ingredient for Nonprofits

Shelly Hoss

What drives local nonprofits in achieving their missions?

The elements we might think of are the quality of their programs, excellence of their staff or leadership of their board.

We would be right. But a key ingredient would be missing: An element that nonprofits, and even funders, may be reluctant to acknowledge is increasingly critical to their success and sustainability.

That secret ingredient is information technology.

Technology has become vital to the daily operations of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Whether in relation to fundraising, accounting or program reporting, without effective technology resources it is increasingly difficult to manage and grow.

Unfortunately, the budget constraints faced by most nonprofits severely limit their access to technology and support, which means that they limp along with outdated, inefficient systems that absorb precious human resources which could be better applied to their mission.

In response to these challenges, GroundWork is helping nonprofits here with their technology needs. Founded in 2005 in Ohio and launched here in December, GroundWork—itself a nonprofit—delivers affordable information management, education and technology services to nonprofits so that they can focus their efforts on the most important elements of their mission.

In early 2009, OC funders, technology professionals and nonprofit leaders came together to discuss local nonprofits’ struggles in relation to information technology.

The committee connected with GroundWork and began conducting research on the technology needs of OC nonprofits. Their study found that while most organizations had access to a technology vendor or IT resource, due to budget constraints many could only access services sporadically or on an emergency basis.

It became clear that Ground-Work’s unique service model would be the perfect fit for local nonprofits tackling technological hurdles.

And the fact that they are a proven and sustainable social enterprise model, covering expenses through service fees rather than relying on ongoing philanthropic support, makes them an even more valuable asset to our community.

GroundWork serves only nonprofits. It understands the unique challenges that other nonprofits face.

It determines the right solutions for each organization’s needs and has developed a wide range of software and Web-based tools that nonprofits can access.

GroundWork then provides ongoing technology support and helps local IT business leaders connect with the nonprofit community. This specialized service model helps nonprofits to invest more effectively in technology, and thus expand their ability to serve the community.

GroundWork OC recently named Gene Elias as its chief executive. Gene brings more than 20 years of experience in information systems and technology, having served in executive leadership roles at St. John Knits, Deloitte and Quiksilver.

“In a region with such an active nonprofit sector, a resource like GroundWork can make a big impact,” says Anne Olin, executive director of Charitable Ventures of Orange County and member of the GroundWork OC steering committee. “GroundWork group’s services can help local nonprofits strategically use their IT in ways that actually help the achievement of their missions.”

2011 promises to be a year filled with powerful impact as GroundWork helps local nonprofits find the perfect blend of ingredients for their success.

Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation based in Newport Beach. She can be reached at shoss@ oc-cf.org.

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