Technology

Study: As Security Needs Rise, Nonprofits Hire More Data Staffers

By / Sep 3, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A recent study by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) shows that much of the increase in nonprofit tech staffing these days is focused squarely on data—at a time when data security is more important than ever.

What do Target, Goodwill, Home Depot, The New York Times, Sony, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sarah Palin have in common?

All have been the victims of data security breaches. (Or, in the case of Home Depot, it’s still trying to figure it out.) Some have been extremely wide in scale, affecting millions of people; others, intimately personal. (The latter case, which emerged this week involving the Oscar-winning Lawrence and numerous other celebrities, is raising a new kind of debate over online privacy.)

But the incidents taken together highlight one common issue: Data is becoming more important than ever to protect, and that’s leading to an increased need for security. Nonprofits are in that same boat, and a new study by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) suggests they’re addressing that need by boosting staff.

The Eighth Annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report, released in July, found that nonprofits, on average, have 4.4 people on staff responsible for technology-related issues and 1.1 data-focused staffers per organization. In both cases, the numbers are up from the prior year’s survey—in the case of technology staff as a whole, by a full person. While information technology staffers make up most of the tech workforce at nonprofits, with 1.7 staffers on average, data-focused staffers tend to be more prevalent than employees focused on the web or digital issues.

The growth is especially pronounced at organizations that describe their approach to technology as “leading,” or tech-forward. They average 4.3 data staffers this year, compared with 1.7 in last year’s survey.

Other highlights from the study:

Roughly half (52.7 percent) of the 781 respondents said their organizations were “operating”—that is, they were keeping up with technology trends and maintaining stable tech standards. Just 11.8 percent of respondents described their organizations as “leading,” or innovating, while 28.5 percent said they were merely “functioning” and 7 percent said they were “struggling” with their infrastructure. Very large organizations were more likely to describe themselves as “leading,” while small organizations were much more likely to be “functioning” or “struggling.”

Slightly less than two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they included technology as part of their strategic plans—something that appears to have a direct effect on innovation. More than half of “struggling” organizations said they did not include technology as part of their plan, while more than 80 percent of “leading” organizations said they did.

Size isn’t everything: While very large organizations tend to spend more overall on their technology needs, they spend less on average per staffer ($2,881) than medium-sized organizations ($3,736).

The study is available for download from the NTEN website.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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