Harnessing the Power of Technology
There is hardly any aspect of life today that is not impacted by advances in mobile and internet technology – from the way we do our banking and shopping, to how we educate our children or care for the sick. Recent events in the Middle East are powerful examples of the influence of social media. Contemporary Thomas Paines now use handheld mobile devices to communicate their message, much to the chagrin of long established, and now often former, leaders.
Organized philanthropy has been understandably slow to adopt these new forms of technology to their daily operations. Generally conservative in nature, foundations are reluctant to make changes unless clear benefits can be demonstrated. Yet, technology’s impact on contemporary life is so pervasive that few foundations are still immune to their effects. Nowadays most have websites; many encourage online submission of grant proposals and reports; and increasing numbers boast Facebook pages and leaders who can be followed on Twitter.
Yet as dramatic as these changes are when compared to the way foundations operated 20 years ago, they are mere shadows of what is yet to come. Instead of looking at digital technologies as optional business equipment, philanthropy now sees them as essential tools in the service of social change and impact. By harnessing the power of these new technologies, foundations are dramatically increasing the impact they can have on local communities. The possibilities for information gathering and strategy development are greatly enhanced, while demands for greater transparency and accountability can be accommodated much more easily. For example, does not the fact that two-thirds of the people in the world today have access to mobile phones change the way foundations plan programs or evaluate the projects they fund? When instant feedback is available through the cell phones of the target population, focus groups and online surveys can serve very different purposes and mid-course program adjustments can be more informed, effective and timely than ever before.
In the coming months, OGF will offer webinars, workshops and other resources on the impact that technology is having on foundations today and how you can use these tools more effectively in your work. Special sessions are also planned for this year’s Annual Conference in Columbus, October 24-26. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about how philanthropy is meeting the challenge of a new day.
Thank you for your interest and support.
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum