Advocates for Accidental Nonprofit Techies?

By looking up the word advocate at Webster.com, you get the formal definition of what an advocate is:

  • 1: one that pleads the cause of another; specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court
  • 2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
  • 3: one that supports or promotes the interests of another

Hopefully accidental nonprofit techies are not in need of an advocate to handle a tribunal or judicial court, but advocates are vital to assist an accidental nonprofit techie get the work done that they need along with moving from accidental to purposeful.

There are three main things to look at when searching for an advocate for yourself:

  • Status of Knowledge – This means that the advocate should have at least worked in the technology field, is currently working in the technology field, or has knowledge that is specific to technology. Sometimes an intern working on a degree in computer science may be enough to confirm that you are doing the right thing if you are working in a small nonprofit. However, don’t be surprised that for your advocate to really help you out, you will need someone with a proven track record that no one will question. If the superiors or Board doesn’t recognize the advocates skill and knowledge, they will be less effective for you. This is where that alphabet soup of certification and degrees that accidental techies don’t have after their names, helps to be after the names of your advocates.
  • Desire to Assist – If you find a person you feel is going to be a perfect advocate, you need to make sure that they are willing to assist the agency and most importantly, help you. You need to be able to talk to this person and have them see things as they currently are for you and what they could be for you in the future. If this person is looking for another thing to add to their resume, this might not be the appropriate advocate for you. You also need to learn how well your advocate follows up on their ideas. If an advocate has wonderful ideas and gives you a long list of things that they will do for you, if they don’t actually do it, you need to be prepared.
  • Action-orientated – I found that I had to get a group of advocates to work together in assisting me. It took two of them to make things happen. One by themselves got a voice to my superiors, but two of them working together and speaking up together, got things to change. If you find someone who wants to just give you ideas, that’s great. But sometimes you will need to have a person who will look at your superiors and say that things need to change. For myself, this meant that I had to find advocates that were Board Members.

Once you have found some advocates, what do you do? Sometimes, counting on where you work, you can keep it informal. For most of us, these advocates start to become the beginning of a Technology Committee that you can use as advisors to projects and ideas.

But also remember that you should always be looking for advocates. You may have to change your advocates up once you reach a new plateau or once you have finished a specific project. I don’t believe there is such a thing has having too many advocates. Even now as I am no longer an accidental techie, I know that I still need my advocates. There are a few that specialize in making the arguments to the Board, there are few that handle all the special requirements of assistive technology, there are a few that assist with social media, and there are a few that just say “you are doing a great job”.

Your advocates will be your support system – so select wisely.

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