This book is about the application of information technology (IT) in the not-for-profit sector. IT is now a pervasive part of the not-for-profit sector for all size of organisations - large, medium-sized, small and tiny. This point was brought home during the writing of this book by the transformation of a friend, outlined in the case study below.
In this introduction, we aim to set the scene in two ways:
The five themes outlined below, which recur throughout the book, summarise some of the key advice contained herein.
Mike Ward runs a small charitable organisation primarily for the benefit of young people, the Actors' Workshop in Halifax. He is the only employee, there is a board of trustees, a dedicated group of volunteers and a small army of eager young people. Mike, until recently, was one of the least technically minded people we know. Naturally there is some sound and lighting gadgetry at the workshop, but Mike distances himself from that side of things completely - the youngsters know about it and deal with it admirably. In fact, the most "high tech" device we had seen in his office was the telephone answering machine, followed closely by the electric pencil sharpener.
One day Mike asked about the world wide web because his youngsters were insisting that the workshop should have a web site and e-mail. Further, a local web design company was prepared to help out with a gift-in-kind. What did we think? We told Mike what we thought. He went off looking perplexed. A few weeks later he dropped us a note suggesting that we look at the web site and would we kindly comment on it. We did that. A few weeks later, Mike proudly announced that some kind soul had donated a computer and that he was now on e-mail.
A few months later Mike dropped us another note. The workshop had been burgled just before a show was due to open. The workshop had struggled against all odds (successfully) to beg and borrow enough equipment and facilities ahead of their insurance claim to put on the production. The show had gone on, to fine reviews. But Mike's computer had also been stolen. "It's terrible", he said, "I can't get my e-mails until we get a replacement. People keep phoning me and asking why I haven’t replied to their e-mails. My only consolation is that the thieves didn't take my electric pencil sharpener."
Within the space of a few months, Mike had transformed from self-confessed Luddite into a not-for-profit person whose working life depends heavily on the use of IT.
While this book is not really about the technology per se, it is helpful to understand the trends in technology which are likely to be important to not-for-profit organisations. Chapters such as 'E-verything' and appendix A cover these aspects in a little more depth. We have grouped our thoughts into five main trends: