A tech checklist for new and emerging nonprofits

When nonprofit founders launch new organizations, they are steadfastly focused on changing the world. They have a vision and a mission, and they are eager to accelerate their impact on the populations they intend to serve.  

A critical but often overlooked part of this process is determining the technological systems and infrastructure that will underpin a new organization. Technology may not be part of the mission of a nonprofit, but it is a key initial consideration. Why? Because your systems are the foundation of your organization, allowing you to make a difference in the most measurable, secure and effective way possible.  

In my career, I have accumulated extensive experience assembling and growing high-performing software engineering teams, primarily in the SaaS medium among domestic and globally distributed environments. Some of my recent work involved supporting the technology functions of nonprofit organizations in a variety of ways, which established a proper understanding of the foundational technology functions nonprofits need to set the stage for successful inception and future success. The good news: It does not have to be expensive or complicated. The most important part of the process involves assessing the initial and individual needs of your organization and then developing a plan with priorities to ensure you have the technological support you need.  

To convey how to approach setting up your IT need, I put together a checklist to offer you a solid place to start.  

Emerging nonprofit checklist – Where to begin 

Let’s start by talking about the basic categories of your technology needs:  

  • Back-office systems 
  • Equipment  
  • Security  

These are all foundational systems that any nonprofit (or business) will need to get up and running, regardless of size. The choices you make will depend on the size of your team, your existing infrastructure and your ultimate goals for growth and development.  

Back-office systems: This category includes the office essentials, which includes email and other programs that are essential to business operations (think word documents and spreadsheets). In this realm, there are two predominant choices: Google and Microsoft. Either option is the correct one, and your selection will likely come down to overall cost of service, which, for a small nonprofit with one to few employees, should be fairly reasonable no matter which option you choose. If you’d like a side-by-side comparison, check out this helpful breakdown from The Capacity Collective.  

Accounting is another key back-office system to financially track your operations. This can be daunting to most, but the good news here is that there are numerous technology providers in this space, and many have simplified their accounting software to make it both user-friendly and affordable. Forbes recently collected the top accounting software options for nonprofits, something I recommend you peruse to gain a starting point for your research and selection.  

Another key piece of software which can be vital in your organization is in the area of project management. Having a key system or tool (like Excel or Google Sheets!) to have in place right from the onset. Even if your nonprofit is operating with a team of one, a good project management system will help keep you organized and allow you to put good processes in place from the start, which positions you for growth, helps you save time and allows you to track your projects and efforts for greater insight into your productivity and focus.  

There are several options available, with a variety of price points and functionality. TechRepublic put together a list of the 8 best nonprofit project management software systems, and it is a great place to start your research.  

Lastly, a nonprofit is only as sustainable as the “revenue” it generates. Revenue for nonprofits generally comes in two forms: grants and donations.  Neither are easy or simple, but there are systems that can simplify this vital function.   


The first factor to consider as you think about the equipment you will need for your nonprofit is the size of your organization. If you are operating out of your home, the list of considerations is considerably smaller than if you are planning to rent office space.  

First, let’s talk about procurement – where do you purchase your equipment? You can shop at your typical retail outlets, like Best Buy or Amazon. Or consider purchasing refurbished or deeply discounted equipment from an organization like TechSoup, that specifically operates to support nonprofits. They also offer discounts on software, which could help you stay within budget as you get off the ground.  

Another option nonprofits often encounter is a donation of technology equipment. However, with donated equipment come security concerns, so be prepared to take the necessary steps to secure your equipment no matter what.  

If you are a team of one, you may be able to skip out on the extra investment and lean on the equipment you already have. However, if you have additional team members, you will have to plan for a larger investment. It’s important to have everyone in your organization operating on the same systems to streamline the collaborative process and keep your proprietary information and documents secure.  


Security is of the utmost importance, whether you are a team of 1 or 1,000. If you intend to process donations, generate a mailing list or collect event registrations through your organization’s website, you will soon find yourself in possession of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and your nonprofit has a vital obligation to protect it.  

The Council of Nonprofits recently put together a comprehensive document that outlines the cybersecurity risks for nonprofits, as well as additional resources and strategies to address these risks. It is a great place to begin educating yourself and preparing for the investments you may need to make.  

Deciding and investing in technology can feel intimidating, especially if you have little to no knowledge of technology and you must make crucial decisions when you are just starting out. My recommendation is to invest only in what is necessary in the beginning. As you grow, your needs will evolve and so will your technological demands.  But in the beginning, focus on these core tenets to set yourself up for success and most importantly, permit you to focus on making an impact.  I hope you find this helpful.