The end of December is a period filled with new opportunities, particularly in terms of nonprofits who are starting to prepare for their 2017 tech budgets. January 1 essentially creates a clean slate - a situation where anything is possible if you put the plans in motion now. If you truly want to prepare properly for your 2017 tech budget, however, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind.
Communication is King
For starters, it's important to understand that preparing for A 2017 tech budget and preparing for THE RIGHT 2017 tech budget are two completely different things. One of the most common traps that agencies fall into in this regard is that they under-budget. The majority of the time, this is because they fail to come to a consensus on a budget WITHOUT first thinking through factors like initiatives, workflow, research, keeping their systems updated regularly, maintenance and so much more.
All of these are complicated moving parts within an organization that have the input of multiple people, sometimes dozens. If you fail to get everyone on the same page as early in the process as possible, you have no chance at truly identifying where you're going - let alone how you're going to get there by way of the proper tech budget. The importance of sharing ALL information about goals, strategies, management systems, governance processes and more - all powered by good metrics - is something that cannot be overstated enough.
Remember: grants, fundraising, pleasing boards and more are all huge parts of your upcoming plans and they're all influenced by "good data." Truly measuring the difference that a nonprofit makes can be a time consuming, difficult process - but that doesn't mean you can't try. Open, honest and regular communication helps make it much easier to meet these ends.
You Have to Look at the Bigger Picture
Another key to preparing for your 2017 tech budget involves looking at things from a macro perspective. Remember, investing in a piece of software today isn't a one-time expense. The latest that modern technology has to offer TODAY is going to be OLD in four years if you don't work hard to continually improve and maintain it.
In many ways, this is not unlike a new car purchase. That fancy new sports car may drive like a dream when you take it off the lot, but you will need to put work into it to keep it running like new. If you never change the oil or keep up with your maintenance schedule, you'll have a very attractive looking giant paperweight that really only performs well on paper. Nonprofits don't exist in a world of "paper" - they can't.
Make no mistake about it: it is ultimately to your advantage to keep your system up to date and this will require consideration in your 2017 tech budget. After four years, if you plan now for upgrades and updates, you'll still have what is essentially a new system versus an old, out-dated one that doesn't offer you a fraction of the benefits it once did.
Look BEYOND 2017
Finally, one of the most essential ways that nonprofits can prepare for their upcoming tech budget involves going BEYOND December 31, 2017. Your organization has specific goals in mind and by now it likely has a plan on how to get there. Budget accordingly not only for implementation in the near future, but also for the shape your needs will take down the road.
2017 is going to be a year ripe with new insights, new programs, new services, new regulatory requirements - you name it. If you don't make an effort to play for them now, you're going to run into significant problems with under-budgeting in the not-too-distant future.