Beyond the Box - Thinking strategically about technology grantmaking
in Canada’s voluntary sector
A background paper for the Voluntary
Sector Initiative Changing Technology Funding Practices
Prepared by Catherine Ludgate, IMPACS and Mark Surman, The
Where we need to go
challenge of technology
Moving beyond the box
with the basics
Thinking beyond the box
Building capacity to assess tech grants
Situating technology funding within the broader funding
Supporting Canadas grantmakers
Six Core Elements of Technology-Related
Common Types of Technology Funding
Exploring the issues
Lets start talking
Building a network possible future initiatives
the Changing Technology Funding Practices Project
This paper was prepared for the Changing Technology
Funding Practices Project, an initiative funded through the Voluntary Sector
Initiative (VSI) Information Management / Information Technology (IM/IT) table,
and housed within Industry Canada. The VSI is a joint initiative between the
Government of Canada and Canadas Voluntary Sector. The IM/IT table is
one of the VSI Tables committed to addressing key issues facing the sector.
Working with IMPACS, a Canadian charity
that turns up the volume on civil society by providing communications
services, training and support to not-for-profits, Catherine Ludgate has significant
experience in developing smart messages for specific audiences. She is a skilled
facilitator and trainer with an interest in helping the voluntary sector engage
a range of communication tools, including the strategic use of technology
and new media, in advancing public policy issues and achieving mission in
todays connected world. Catherine is part of an emerging network of
national capacity builders for the sector to which she brings a focus on strategic
communications and building collaborations across issues, geographies and
interests. She has extensive experience in fundraising for technology, for
One of Canadas leading
voices on the strategic potential of networked technologies for the voluntary
sector, Mark Surman has experience working on both the funder and voluntary
sector side of the table. He played a central role in the development and
implementation of Ontarios $13.5 million Volunteer Action Online grants
program and has provided advice to other technology funders including Industry
Canadas Volnet program, NetCorps Canada and Tides Canada. Mark also
has extensive experience as a strategist and project manager on large-scale
voluntary sector technology projects. Marks publications in this area
include Appropriating the Internet for Social Change for the Social Sciences
Research Council and From Access to Applications for the Government of Ontario.
We are grateful for the advice and
guidance we have received from members of the IM/IT Advisory Group
on the scope of this project. In particular, we acknowledge the
leadership of Don McCreesh, chair of the subcommittee for this
project, Martin Itzkow for bringing many useful resources to our
attention, Paula Speevak-Sladowski for her crows nest view
of various VSI and IM/IT projects, and Brenda Herchmer for her
commitment to collaboration. We also extend our thanks to Rose
van Rotterdam, Dominique Guillaumant
and Bridget Goldsmith of the Ontario Volunteer@ction.online Program:
their insights and advice were very helpful in thinking through
promising practices in funding technology. Thanks also to Al Hatton
and Noella Beausoleil at the United Way, Marlene Deboisbriand
and Ruth MacKenzie at Volunteer Canada, Jean Christie, Brenda
Cameron Couch, Laurie Rektor and Deb Foran at the Voluntary Sector
Forum, and Monica Patten at Community Foundations Canada: all
provided valuable insight into the genesis of this project, and
how to make the critical linkages between this project and other
We are grateful to the many grantmakers
who made time to speak with us in the early days of this project, and who
provided helpful guidance on how to make this project successful. In particular,
we thank the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Maytree Foundation, Tides Canada
Foundation, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, the George Cedric Metcalf
Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation, and the Atkinson Charitable Foundation.
We are also thankful for the guidance from Becky Lentz, Marc Osten, Nancy
Smythe and others involved in the Tech Funders Collaborative for providing
helpful background material and ideas for making the outcomes of this work
last beyond the end of this project.
We acknowledge the work
of Industry Canada, IM/IT Secretariat; their commitment to build
the technology capacity of the voluntary sector is great. We also
acknowledge our other project partners, including Dr Gillian Kerr
of RealWorld Systems, Geoffrey MacDougall of ITAC, and Chad Lubelsky
of OneWorld/UnSeulMonde. Finally, thanks to our own staff teams
and associates, notably Helesia Luke, Donna Barker and Sarah McPherson.
Donna contributed immensely to the content development, research
and writing; Helesia became an expert on federal government contribution
agreements; Sarah helped immensely with logistics and details.
The Internet and other networked technologies have
become central to the ways Canadian voluntary organizations work with each
other and work for the communities they serve. Of course, these new ways of
working have lead to both changing funding needs in the voluntary sector and
new challenges for Canadian grantmakers. The Changing Technology Funding Practices
Project is working with grantmakers to promote information sharing and to
develop tools that respond to these challenges.
Most Canadian voluntary organizations
now have access to technology basics a computer, Internet access,
support. However, many organizations still have a hard time finding money
to pay for these basic tools and confusion remains about whether and how
grantmakers should cover these costs.
Canadian grantmakers understand
that technology has become an important component of any successful voluntary
organization. However, they often feel that they lack the expertise or information
necessary to evaluate technology projects. Grantmakers want support from
peers or experts to review the specifics of technology-oriented projects.
While some organizations have
used technology to enhance their ability to pursue their mission, most have
not moved beyond basic e-mail, word processing and web sites. A more strategic,
mission-focused approach delivering services online, creating virtual
collaborations, mobilizing volunteers with e-mail is necessary if
we want to see the real social benefits of technology.
Computers, Internet access and
support need to be broadly accepted as voluntary sector must haves.
They provide both essential communications capacity and the ability to realize
efficiencies that can free up resources for high touch services.
Grantmakers should ensure that organizations have basic technology capacity
in place before making other investments in an organization, and grantmakers
should help organizations get this capacity if it does not yet exist.
The thinking about the technology
in the voluntary sector needs to shift from boxes, cables and software
to strategic, mission-driven uses of the Internet and other networked tools.
Inspired by those organizations who are leading the charge in this direction,
voluntary sector leaders and grantmakers alike need to ask the question
where does technology fit in? when planning new strategic initiatives.
Collectively, we need to raise
the capacity and comfort level of grantmakers to assess projects that have
a technology component. This means starting a conversation among grantmakers
about technology issues as well as developing tools for grantmakers that
help with everything from initial project reviews to final assessments of
the impact of technology investments.
We need to understand that the
power of technology lies primarily in networking people. Online collaboration,
encouraging organizations to work together across a community, our country
and the world, needs to be more broadly understood and supported.
A common, sectoral understanding of concepts
like technology planning and strategic applications
must be achieved for the voluntary sector to push forward social goals using
existing and emerging information technology.
We see the Internet as a perfect platform for collaborative
initiatives among NGOs. This is where we see the real potential.
Tim Draimin, Tides Canada Foundation
The Internet presents Canadas
voluntary sector with both an opportunity and a challenge.
Consider that Canada is a country
in which most voluntary organizations are already online and that those that
are not can easily gain access through a library, Internet café or
a generous volunteers own connection. Access to technology is no longer
a major communications stumbling block for most voluntary organizations.
Despite these dramatically
increased levels of access, few Canadian voluntary organizations have moved
far beyond using e-mail and building basic web sites and the sector
has mostly not moved towards what can be called the strategic use
of these technologies. Put simply, the tools are in the hands of most voluntary
sector organizations, but most have not yet decided what to build with those
There is a pressing need for
Canadas voluntary sector to take the next step with these technologies,
moving beyond boxes, cables and software and on to the strategic, mission
driven use of the Internet. And grantmakers have a key role to play in helping
the sector to make this step.
Electronic networks have become the platform on which much
of the voluntary sector operates. As such, voluntary organizations and the
people who fund those organizations must come to terms with the networked
realm in which we all now live. This is not about rushing out to buy a modem
or get e-mail training, although some organizations still need these things.
It is about gaining the skills and perspective to shape and apply these technologies
for our own purposes to use them strategically to create healthier,
more just communities.
Strategic use of the Internet has the potential to empower
Canadas voluntary sector with broader audiences, new collaborations
and increased access to information. In many cases, we have already started
to see this potential unfold. Here are two of the dozens of examples of how
technology has been used to achieve mission-based goals in the Canadian voluntary
Ability Online is a computer friendship
network where over 3000 children and youth with special needs connect to
each other, to their friends, family members, caregivers, and supporters
each month. This online community has broken down the sense of isolation
and disconnection that participants felt in the past.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of
Canada has built on their traditional one-to-one, regular contact between
the mentor and the little to create their Digital Heroes program
an electronic version of the traditional Big Brothers / Big Sisters
mentoring program that has been proven to have a very positive impact on
school attendance, grade achievement, motivation and self-confidence.
Yet, while a handful of organizations are looking to the
future and making strategic use of technology, many voluntary organizations
still struggle with the basics of getting online and most are not using technology
as a strategic tool to pursue their mission. This is the technology conundrum
of the voluntary sector we are at once on the cutting edge of strategic
applications of new technologies and falling dangerously behind in harnessing
these tools in support of our mission.
In order to understand this conundrum, it is helpful to
look at voluntary sector use of technology along a spectrum from basic access
to computers to strategic, mission-based use of the technology.
Technology as a strategic tool is not yet widely
understood in the sector. A lot of work still needs to be done to help people
understand the basics of strategic technology use. Michael
Stephens, Centre for Community Organizations (Centre des organismes communautaires),
Technology should be seen as a strategic tool to
increase the influence and impact of our grantees. These are the kind of technology
requests that we will support.
James Stauch, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation
As the spectrum illustrates, the majority of voluntary organizations
in Canada have access to and use basic technology in their day-to-day operations.
The opportunity in front of us is to move from funding basic access and skills,
to supporting strategic, mission-based technology projects, application development
and training. This is where capacity building of the sectors use of
technology tools and investments in technology will reap the greatest rewards
and where the greatest social impact can be made.
and the opportunity for a more effective voluntary
Looking at the terrain, there are several major areas where
the strategic use of networked technologies is having a positive impact on
the goals of voluntary organizations. These include:
Collaboration The inexpensive,
global, many-to-many communications offered by the Internet and other network
technologies provides an excellent platform for voluntary organizations
to collaborate: sharing research, resources, ideas and building collaborative
Publishing We are in the
midst of an online publishing revolution in the voluntary sector,
with leading organizations showing how publishing can be distributed among
staff, volunteers and the community. Still, there is tremendous work to
be done to improve capacity in this area, and much to consider in terms
of impact research and support for innovative approaches to reach new and
Mobilization One of the
most widely discussed uses of network technologies within the voluntary
sector is community mobilization moving the public from awareness
to action in support of the missions and goals advanced by voluntary organizations.
This includes using the Internet to recruit and engage members, volunteers
Observation Network technologies
have opened up a new world of research and information gathering to voluntary
organizations. Not only is information available more quickly and economically
than it has been in the past, but new kinds of research and information
sharing have emerged.
Service Delivery Some
voluntary organizations are able to use network technologies to provide
services to specific audiences they could not otherwise reach. Other new
types of organizations are able to deliver all of their services online,
serving a whole region or even the whole country from a single office.
Administration For most
voluntary organizations, the entry point for network technologies is in
the area of improving efficiencies where repetitive tasks are required,
such as in accounting and tracking client transactions and activities.
While there are more and more examples of these strategic uses of the technology
everyday, most organizations find it difficult to move to this level
thinking about technology not as a computer or e-mail but as a way to make
their organizations more effective.
Used effectively and flexibly, basic tools like computers
and e-mail can become the natural raw material from which much more important
things are built coalitions, campaigns, knowledge, networks. However,
to empower the sector with the full benefits that technology can provide,
we need to ensure that voluntary organizations have adequate skills and resources
across the spectrum of applications. The following table demonstrates the
kinds of skills and resource needed at each stage of the spectrum.
|| Ability to participate
|| Participating in a
national listserv with similar organizations
|| Basic computer literacy;
funds to pay for computers and internet access
| Basic skills
|| Participating in a
national listserv with similar organizations
| Saving time and money
by answering common client inquiries on a web site
|| Literacy in office,
accounting and web updating software; staff time dedicated to tasks like
web maintenance and electronic accounting
| Strategic use
|| Improved impact
|| Increased speed and
number of volunteers responding to an urgent call for help
|| Senior management understands
tech options; tech included in regular strategic planning; funds available
for advanced tech projects and tools
Both voluntary organizations and grantmakers must accept
that computers and Internet access are now must haves in line
with phones and faxes. As necessary tools for basic participation in the community,
they are not optional frills they are basic, necessary operating expenses
for an organization to survive. More importantly, we need to understand that
these technology tools are only building blocks: there is a need to invest
further in the skills and strategies that turns these building blocks into
something far more useful.
The biggest challenge facing us today is simply how we think
about these tools adjusting our thinking about technology as simply
boxes, cables and software to thinking of technology as a multi-tiered system
of tools, skills and strategies that must be in place and funded
if organizations are to have social and community impact in 2004 and beyond.
We want to build sounder, more efficient organizations
where technology is integrated with mission.
Luna Ramkhalawansingh, Maytree Foundation
Research done for the Voluntary Sector Initiative shows
that Canadian voluntary organizations cite lack of funding as their biggest
technology challenge. At the same time, more and more grantmakers are supporting
technology as a part of both their project and core program investments. In
fact, some Canadian foundations have said that they have had difficulty with
take-up for their technology funding pools. Why is there such a disconnect
here? And how can we bridge this disconnect so that voluntary organizations
can tap into the strategic potential of technology?
While some grantmakers are providing support for technology
in voluntary organizations, other grantmakers lag in understanding the critical
role that technology funding plays in the successful operation and sustainability
of an organization. As a result, funding for even basic technology is provided
unevenly across the sector. Support for strategic, mission-driven technology
work by voluntary organizations is even spottier.
Part of the problem is that technology means
different things to different people grantmakers and voluntary organizations
alike. Most of us think of hardware (such as computers and networks) and basic
access (the cost of a dedicated phone line for Internet use). Some of us think
of communications (ways to reach target audiences) when technology is mentioned.
Few of us consider technology beyond the box as an investment
that supports the mission of individual organizations and the success of the
voluntary sector as a whole.
Foundations have made substantial and successful
investments to non-profit use of technology. Despite this, there is still
not widespread and strategic adoption and integration of technology in the
Report to the TechFunders Collaborative
While strategic use of the Internet represents the biggest
opportunity for the sector, it is essential that the solid foundation of technology
basics be in place, as a starting point. Organizations need these basics simply
to communicate and collaborate with funders, other organizations and their
One of the biggest problems with technology basics is agreeing
on what they are and who is responsible for them. There is a growing consensus
that the basics include not only up-to-date computers, software and Internet
access but also ongoing support and training for the people who use them.
These are all minimum required operating expenses for modern voluntary organizations.
Grantmakers understand that a contribution to overhead and
infrastructure like rent and phones is a necessary and basic expense of operating.
A similar understanding needs to exist about core technology capacity. Grantmakers
must commit to funding, at least in part, not just the initial cash outlay
for the purchase of computers but also Internet access, training, support,
maintenance and upgrades. Together, these costs make up the total cost
of ownership a baseline monthly or yearly cost for each computer
user in an organization. Typically, the cost for the voluntary sector is about
$250 per month per user.
Grantmakers can ensure that these basics are in place by
asking a few simple questions of the organizations they support: How do they
budget for technology? How often do they do backups? Who is responsible for
technology planning? What is the replacement schedule for equipment as it
ages? Are updates to software contemplated? What training on the use of technology
is budgeted? Does the organization have time committed to its own professional
development in the use of the new technologies? And, of course, grantmakers
can also help by allowing for technology basics within funding guidelines.
Opportunity #1: Build core capacity
Grantmakers can support the capacity of organizations by supporting the costs
of maintaining technology basics. In most voluntary organizations, these are
not frills they are essentials.
These basics are not a one-time investment. In fact, the
basics normally cost approximately $250 per month per workstation. Most of
this is support, training and access. Hardware is only a small part of the
Funding one staff person for a two year project also means funding two years
worth of computer access: $250 x 24 months = $6000.
Funding uncertainty has increased
substantially and continues to undermine the efficacy and quality of organizational
programs as well as their long term prospects for sustainability.
Katherine Scott, Funding Matters; The Impact of Canadas
New Funding Regime on Non Profit and Voluntary
Opportunity #2: Support the strategic use of technology
Grantmakers can increase the impact of voluntary sector organizations by helping
them obtain the tools and skills they need to use information technology more
strategically. This includes: e-fundraising; online outreach and communications
campaigns; resource and information sharing.
A project uses virtual volunteers to provide
career mentoring to youth in remote, Northern communities. As a result, participating
youth have career paths opened up to which they otherwise would not have had
Of course, successful technology integration in the voluntary
sector requires much more than investments in machines and software. Thinking
beyond the box about technology in terms of strategic approaches
and projects that focus on meeting the mission and goals of organizations
is what is needed.
According to a study funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation,
leaders in most grantmaking foundations do not understand the power of technology
to increase the capacity and effectiveness of the organizations they fund.
Even for those grantmakers who do get it, there is a lack of reliable
information available about the impact technology is having in moving forward
voluntary organizations programmatic goals.
Rather than approach these obstacles as impediments to investing
in successful technology grantmaking, these challenges can be viewed as an
opportunity. It is a chance to learn more about what Canadian grantmakers
can do to support the successful integration of technology into the mission
work of the voluntary sector.
Although many grantmakers feel unable to adequately assess
technology grant requests, the reality is that grantmakers already have 90%
of the tools and skills to evaluate these proposals. Grantmakers can easily
evaluate how clearly the technology plan is articulated and whether or not
the use will serve the community in need. Simple guidelines and consultation
with those knowledgeable about voluntary sector technology can help determine
whether the right tools are being requested, what are the reasonable costs
to fulfill a technology request, and if the overall technology vision fits
with the project goals.
By sharing grantmaker experiences, successes, and failures
with each other, there is a tipping point opportunity, now, to quickly build
the knowledge needed to make good technology investments.
It is important to recognize that changing funding practices
to support greater and more strategic use of technology, while important,
is not a stand-alone undertaking. And, efforts to increase funding for technology
wont necessarily grow the funding pie. Voluntary organizations are now
working with significant funding challenges, as funders move from providing
core support to more project-focused funding and government support moves
from grants and general support to contribution agreements. As noted in the
recent Funding Matters report, the sector is dying the death of
a thousand cuts, as funding support is increasingly restricted to specific,
All funders, regardless of issue, geography or sector, need
to understand the implications of providing only project specific funding
that doesnt support overhead and general organization costs, including
technology. Without a solid foundation, organizations cannot survive to do
their mission work and the goals of the sector will not be achieved.
These challenges are addressable, and in many ways, they
represent a huge opportunity for Canadian grantmakers an opportunity
to increase community impact by making the connection between technology capacity
and the mission-driven work of the organizations they fund.
We can most effectively approach these challenges by encouraging
conversation between grantmakers and by providing simple tools to help guide
decision-making around technology grants.
Sharing stories about successful (and not so successful)
technology granting experiences are a part of this. Individually, grantmakers
have a significant body of experience in technology grantmaking. There are
opportunities for this experience to be shared collectively, in support of
the voluntary sector.
Documenting approaches of successful technology grantmaking
will also be important. At the simplest level, this could include tools that
help with tech grant assessment, boilerplate technology granting guidelines
and policies, and lists of organizations that can help review technology grants.
But it could also extend much further into areas such as collaborative funding
and evaluation strategies that advance the mission-driven use of technology.
Finally, grantmakers have the opportunity to shift the conversation
by modeling the strategic use of technology in their own work, and provide
instructive leadership to the voluntary sector through this modeling. As grantmakers
understand the change-making ability of strategic technology use, they can
twin funding support with technical support to their grantees.
A goal of the Changing Technology Funding Practices Project
is to support this kind of learning and collaboration amongst grantmakers.
Information about specific support activities planned for the coming months
of this project are included in Section #4 Starting the Conversation.
Opportunity #3: Free up resources for high touch
Automating repetitive tasks and making administrative systems more efficient
has the potential to lower costs, freeing up resources for high touch
front line services and mission based work. Grantmakers can help organizations
to automate areas such as transaction processing, accounting, routine information
requests and case tracking so that resources can be reallocated elsewhere.
Monthly credit card donations are processed automatically using online donation
system freeing up fundraising staff to put more effort into new campaigns
In March 2003, the US-based Summit Collaborative published
an exhaustive research study to inform the way grantmakers understand and
support the successful integration of technology into the voluntary sector.
This report, From Obstacles to Opportunities: Six Interlocking Elements
of Strategic Technology Grantmaking proposed core principles that can
help individual grantmakers improve the impact of their technology grantmaking.
The following section is excerpted directly from this report.
How can we encourage grantees to think through
their strategic technology needs before they show up on our doorstep? We need
some kind of framework or self assessment tool that helps with this.
Patricia Else, Ontario Trillium Foundation
Determined Leadership the vision
and fortitude to promote and support appropriate mission-driven technology
use and innovation.
Strategic support of technology-related activities
requires strong leadership both within the organizations supported
by grants and within the foundations making those grants. Develop and support
decision-makers who practice strategic technology use and grantmaking and
who can be powerful examples to others.
Active Learning assessment and
evaluation that drives nonprofit technology grantmaking, support and use.
The field of technology-related grantmaking is evolving
at such a rapid pace that it is imperative to invest in activities that will
help stimulate learning from failures as well as from successes. Such investment
also encourages a culture of learning in which nonprofits and foundations
feel more able to take risks, innovate and identify effective practices to
be replicated. If adequate time and resources are not devoted to this type
of learning, then organizations are bound to repeat each others mistakes
and technology investments may end up poorly targeted, or even wasted.
Dynamic Collaboration nonprofits,
intermediaries and funders working together to leverage experience and resources.
Most of the technology that today we take for granted
including the Internet would not exist today without conscious
collaboration. Collaboration is critical for ensuring that the promise of
technology is delivered to the nonprofit community. It can take many forms
and happen at various levels. At its heart, collaboration is about information
sharing and a willingness to engage in practices that leverage available resources
in a community. Though complex and difficult to start, nurture and sustain,
collaborations can yield higher impact at lower transaction costs for both
those within the collaboration as well as the beneficiaries of the effort.
Strategic Technology Use appropriate,
mission-based use of technology.
If technology is to be embedded effectively into nonprofit
programmatic work, so must it be embedded into programmatic grantmaking. This
will require more emphasis placed on strategic thinking and planning to identify
the appropriate ways that technology can advance nonprofit effectiveness.
Moving such funding from machine-based support to more strategic uses of technology
is a most important priority. This requires an understanding that technology
potential is about much more than improving efficiency and that barriers to
strategic thinking and planning must be overcome to move nonprofits from casual
to powerful users of mission-forwarding technology.
Holistic Infrastructure servers,
processors, software, networks AND the people and skills to make it
Effective infrastructure development and deployment
takes more than purchasing up-to-date hardware and software. It also requires
an appreciation of how nonprofit work processes contribute to an organizations
mission and are integrated into its workflow. Only when these areas have been
given consideration should technology advancements that better serve the groups
needs be considered. Whether a grantmaker supports the needs of a specific
organization or entire communities of nonprofits, solutions are usually most
effective if driven by the customerthe nonprofit, not by
Effective Intermediaries people, organizations
and services that support nonprofit use of technology.
Intermediaries are essential if grantmakers want to improve
the chances that their grantees will successfully deploy technology. The knowledge
they provide is indispensable and much can be learned from those who have
had success. Investment in intermediaries has great benefits as grant dollars
to one agency can serve multiple organizations. But such support must be considered
in the context of the other five elements of technology-related grantmaking.
Otherwise, funders risk not only the eventual failure of the institutions
they support, but also the creation of intermediary efforts that are not compatible
with the basic needs of nonprofit technology users. Substantial financial
support should be invested for ongoing systems of learning about, and collaboration
among, intermediaries. A modest amount of funding for networking type efforts
could have a major positive impact on the entire intermediary field.
Opportunity #4: Use technology to support collaboration
Grantmakers can increase the impact of voluntary organizations and promote
innovative ways of working by investing in collaborative online projects.
Online collaboration creates the possibility for new ways of working and approaches
A project creates an information-sharing network that interconnects the web
sites of ten organizations working on an environmental health issue. The project
is used to provide databases that enable content sharing and build collaboration
skills of participating organizations.
||technology assessment, planning and evaluation.
||machines, connectivity, training and support.
||for individual organizations or the entire sector.
||advocacy, service delivery.
||electronic publishing, campaigns, recruitment, fundraising.
||development, delivery or replication of services.
||learning networks, website portals.
||community assessments, conferences, collaborations.
The relationship between technology and grantmaking
is a relatively new area of study, with just a handful of detailed research
projects having been undertaken in the past two years. We have learned a great
deal from these studies and from conversations with grantmakers who are active
in the technology field. In Canada, broader conversations about technology
and grantmaking are yet to be had. It is beginning these broader conversations
that is the work of the Changing Technology Funding Practices Project.
These conversations will focus on the rapidly changing
role that networked technologies play in voluntary sector work and the challenges
that grantmakers face in responding to these changes. These conversations
are not designed to encourage technology grantmaking for its own sake. Rather,
through dialogue with grantmakers who are trying to address new challenges,
we can develop responsive and practical tools to help grantmakers strategically
evaluate the technology needs and requests of the Canadian voluntary sector.
As a grantmaker, we encourage you to get involved,
to add your voice to one or more of the following Changing Technology Funding
Practices Project activities.
This Project is exploring and summarizing current
thinking on technology grantmaking. Three types of documents are being produced:
This background paper, which
provides an overview of technology opportunities in the voluntary sector,
challenges commonly faced by grantmakers and strategic technology grantmaking
Presentations and briefing kits
that summarize key concepts such as the cost of basic infrastructure and
the Six Elements of Strategic Grantmaking.
A dynamic collection of tools
for grantmakers including boilerplate technology funding guidelines, cost
analysis frameworks and strategic technology assessment tip sheets.
In all of this documentation, there is a dual focus
on the role of basic technology infrastructure in the voluntary sector and
the growing importance of strategic, mission-driven technology work that focuses
beyond the box.
Building on research into existing practices and from
conversations with grantmakers and sector leaders, the Project is focused
primarily on convening conversations that broaden our understanding of how
the technology needs of the voluntary sector are influencing grantmaking in
Canada. A variety of approaches will be used:
A series of tech funding roundtables
that provide grantmakers with an opportunity to share their experiences
and challenges, learn about trends in technology funding and get feedback
from others who have a broad overview of the technology issues facing the
sector. In most cases, these roundtables will be held within the context
of existing funder networks or conferences.
A number of one-on-one meetings
will be arranged to provide support to grantmakers facing pressing technology
funding challenges. Lead by experienced tech funders or analysts, these
meetings will provide an opportunity to troubleshoot and explore practical
new approaches to a technology funding policy or issue.
A small number of half-day strategic
tech funding workshops for grantmakers will also be held. These workshops
will provide grantmakers with a set of technology funding analysis tools
and offer an opportunity for group problem solving. They will also include
examples of voluntary organizations that have used technology as a strategic
tool in the pursuit of their own missions.
Collaboration with the international
Tech Funders Collaborative. This would include joint workshops and presentations
on technology funding.
As noted above, the goal of these conversations is
not to encourage technology funding in its own right. It is to improve the
capacity of Canadian grantmakers to deal with the voluntary sector in the
networked age. Grantmakers, voluntary sector leaders and analysts with broad
experience and understanding of technology funding will facilitate all these
Note to readers: These bullets have been presented
as future activities as they are not currently funded within this
Project. If additional funding could be secured, we would make them a part
of the main Project.
In order to be effective, the conversations described
above need to continue beyond the current scope of Changing Technology Funding
Practices Project. With this in mind, the Project will undertake a number
of activities designed to build enduring networks of individuals and organizations
interested in these issues. The primary activity in this area will be collaboration
with the international Tech Funders Collaborative (www.techfunders.org), a
peer capacity-building network that includes organizations like the Ford Foundation,
the Open Society Institute, Muttart Foundation and IDRC. Mailing lists and
other follow-on activities from technology funding workshops will also be
used to encourage ongoing peer networking on this issue:
A series of regional and issues-based
sector/funder think tanks on technology funding issues. These meetings could
bring together clusters of grantmakers and sector leaders to explore the
funding challenges that technology has created in their region or sub-sector.
They would also provide sector representatives with a chance to share their
experiences with technology grantmaking.
A national technology and funding
summit that draws together key Canadian grantmakers and voluntary sector
leaders to talk about the key technology funding issues that we currently
face. Building on the regional think tanks, this event would include roundtables
and workshops based around the idea of joint sector/grantmaker problem solving.
The outcome of this summit: an ongoing community of inquiry and networking
aimed at maintaining the conversation about technology funding issues in
The following documents are helpful resources for
anyone interested in issues related to technology grantmaking.
From Obstacles to Opportunities: Six Interlocking
Elements of Strategic Technology Grantmaking. Funded by the WK Kellogg
Foundation, this report represents the only comprehensive study of technology
grantmaking issues. It is based on extensive interviews with US grantmakers
and technology support consultants. It includes both a solid analysis of the
issues and a practical framework aimed at improving the capacity of grantmakers
to deal with technology requests. Written by Marc Osten, Jillaine Smith and
Rob Stuart. Available online at: http://www.techfunders.org/summit03_materials.html
Strengthening Voluntary Sector Capacity Through
Technology. The final report from of the VSI IM/IT Joint Table, this report
represents an extensive overview of the technology needs of Canadas
voluntary sector. It includes both a summary of findings from IM/IT Table
research and recommendations for action by the IM/IT Joint Table. One of the
recommendations in the report was the creation of the Changing Technology
Funding Practices Project. Available online at: http://www.vsi-isbc.ca/eng/imit/reports.cfm
Appropriating the Internet for Social Change: Towards
the Strategic Use of Networked Technologies by Transitional Civil Society
Organizations. Commissioned by the Social Sciences Research Council in
New York, this paper explores the issue of strategic technology use within
civil society. It includes both a general explanation of strategic use issues
and twelve detailed case studies of civil society organizations that are leaders
in Internet use. Written by Mark Surman and Katherine Reilly. Available online
The Technology Needs of the Canadian Voluntary
Sector Report to the VSI IM/IT Joint Table Written by Gillian Kerr.
Available online at: http://www.vsi-isbc.ca/eng/imit/reports.cfm
From Access to Applications: How Ontario Non-Profits
Are Using the Internet Report to the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship
by Mark Surman. Available at: http://commonsgroup.com/docs/accesstoapps.pdf
More Than Bit Players: How Information Technology
Will Change the Ways Nonprofits and Foundations Work and Thrive in the Information
Age Report to the Surdna Foundation written by Andrew Blau. Available
online at: http://www.surdna.org/documents/morefinal.pdf
e-Philantropy v.2.001 From Entrepreneurial
Adventure to Online Community. Report to the WK Kellogg Foundation by
Stephanie J Clohesy at: http://www.actknowledgeworks.net/ephil/
Virtual Promise: Are Charities Making the Most
of the Internet Revolution? Report for Third Sector UK by Joe Saxton and
Stephanie Game. Available online at: http://www.virtualpromise.net
Stimulating and successful conversations among grantmakers,
voluntary sector leaders and technology advisors will be key to changing
funding practices. Through the series of tech funding roundtables, one-on-one
meetings and half-day strategic tech funding workshops, the Changing Funding
Practices Project will initiate a country-wide dialogue about the strategic
use of technology by the voluntary sector, in support of the missions of organizations
and grantmakers. A number of champions are being identified, and
cultivated, to play facilitator and leader roles in these conversations.
We invite grantmakers and sector leaders to self-nominate
to take on these roles. Through this Project, we will provide background briefing
notes, a dynamic set of tools to understand and evaluate tech funding, and
an overview of leading funding practices that support strategic use of technology.
Champions will also be supported, in leading conversations, by a facilitator
from our Project team.
Among the early volunteers to act as champions, we are grateful
to have the members of the Changing Funding Practices Advisory Group. We have
also had positive responses from some Regional Associations of Grantmakers,
and the first pilot roundtable will take place in Vancouver in early March.
Note to readers: This background paper, once reviewed by
Industry Canada, will be broadly distributed to grantmakers, associations
of grantmakers, voluntary sector leaders, technology advisors and leaders
of voluntary sector organizations who are making strategic use of technology.
We will follow up with calls to these leaders to secure conversation facilitators
for each event.
Surman, Mark. From
Access to Applications: How Voluntary Sector Organizations are
Using the Internet. Government of Ontario, Ministry of Citizenship.
This list of strategic
Internet uses drawn from Surman and Riley. Appropriating the
Internet for Social Change: Towards the Strategic Use of Networked
Technologies by Transitional Civil Society Organizations. Social
Sciences Research Council, New York, 2003.
- Kerr, Gillian. The Technology Needs
of the Canadian Voluntary Sector. Report to the VSI IM/IT Roundtable.
LaForest, Rachel and
Susan Phillips. The Voluntary Sector: A Productive Force in
the New Economy. Discussion paper prepared for Industry Canada,
Cost estimate based
on research undertaken by Dr Gillian Kerr for Citizenship and
Osten, Marc et al,
From Obstacles to Opportunities. Summit Collaborative, 2003.
Funding Matters: The Impact of Canadas New Funding Regime
on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations. Canadian Council on
Social Development, 2003.
from: Osten, Marc et al, From Obstacles to Opportunities. Summit
Collaborative, 2003. Excerpted with permission.