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Indiana nonprofits lack information technology tools and training, new research finds

For Immediate Release Mar 26, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – Many Indiana nonprofits lack basic information technology tools that would help them better communicate and serve their constituents, operate more effectively and efficiently, and offer more assistance to the communities they serve.

These and other findings are the subject of a new report on Indiana Nonprofits: Information Technology Resources and Challenges released today by the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The report is based on a wide array of Indiana-based nonprofits, from traditional public charities and religious congregations to other tax-exempt entities such as membership associations and advocacy groups.

“Most people probably cannot imagine getting along without access to the internet or a full range of IT tools,” said Kirsten Grønbjerg, Distinguished Professor at the O’Neill School and Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, who directs the Indiana Nonprofits Project. “However, that is the situation many Indiana nonprofits find themselves in, as our report shows.”

More than one-third of the 1,036 Indiana nonprofits surveyed do not have an organizational website, although 60 percent use social media frequently or almost all the time, the report finds. More than one-third rarely or never use electronic financial records or IT security, and two-fifths rarely or never use electronic client or member records.

The use of these internally or externally focused IT tools varies by a number of nonprofit characteristics. Overall, the age of the organization, how formalized it is – for example, the number of organizational components, such as written policies, it has in place – and the primary mission appear to be particularly important.

The report also explores the types of challenges Indiana nonprofits face in using information technology. Creating and maintaining an engaging and current website was the most widespread challenge, according to the report.

Indiana nonprofits also indicated they confront other challenges in applying IT – such as using donor databases – and in capacity, such as identifying IT tools and resources or training staff and volunteers.

IT challenges also differ according to various characteristics of the nonprofit organization, but board vacancies appear to be particularly important, after controlling for all other factors. For example, nonprofits with board vacancies encounter challenges in ensuring all needed IT activities are carried out. Also, those with major IT challenges find it difficult to recruit and keep board members.

“We hope Indiana policymakers and philanthropic funders will read the report and consider ways in which they can support efforts to strengthen the capacity of Indiana nonprofits to obtain and use information technology,” Grønbjerg said.

On the Bloomington campus, the SERVE IT Clinic is already using the report findings to prioritize its efforts of providing state-of-the-art technology services to local nonprofit organizations.

“The report offers the clinic’s students a way to understand the full scope of technological needs that these important community institutions face,” said Una Thacker, assistant director of the clinic. “Being able to tie their work to real community needs helps our students recognize the importance of the services they provide.”

About the report

This is the third report based on a major 2017 survey of Indiana nonprofits from the Indiana Nonprofits Project. It is the first report based on the survey to provide an in-depth analysis of a particular aspect of nonprofit management.

Future reports in this series will focus on program evaluation, advocacy and political activities, human resource management, and other aspects of nonprofit organization leadership.

These analyses are a joint effort of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. The co-authors of the briefing include project director Kirsten Grønbjerg and research assistant and Indiana University undergraduate student Payton Goodman.

For more information, contact James Boyd at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 812-856-5490 or , or Adriene Davis Kalugyer at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 317-278-8972 or .

About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington

The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2020 list of “Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs” by U.S. News and World Report, SPEA ranks first in the country. Five of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including the No. 1 nonprofit management program.

About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy – voluntary action for the public good – through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Media Contact

O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs

James Boyd

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