All organizations are constantly battling the cost issue. I am often struck by how much we waste in order to save a little. This is especially true in government, my home base. Whether we are government, non-profit, or for-profit we live by budgets and the image of how we manage them. Let me illustrate. In government today, there is a constant pressure to cut spending especially around election time. We tell constituents that we're cutting the budget another 10% to lower their taxes. What we don't tell them is all they are losing as a result of trying to meet a short-term goal of a tax cut. For-profits do the same thing when they cut personnel and research costs so that a business looks leaner and meaner for acquisition. In the non-profit world many organizations are so accustomed to doing without that they seldom look for a better way. Non-profits are also keenly aware that the image of fiscal responsibility is important to keep donors.
The problem with these short-term, often image driven solutions, is that your organization runs a strong risk of burning people out. For the non-profit this is a critical issue as human resources are so hard to recruit and retain. There is a better way. Equip and train your staff adequately to do the job. You can prove the return-on-investment you get by upgrading your computer system and software by the staff hours you will save. That is more time they can devote to your organization's mission. Convince your Board that working smarter, not longer benefits everyone. I propose that "smarter" not "thrifty" is the image to work toward in the 21st century. Continue to look for more innovative technologies that can make your work, and that of your staff, more efficient and easy.
The following book is an engaging read regarding how organizations waste the professional, and then consequently the private time, of their staff. Finding Time: How Corporations, Individuals and Families Can Benefit from New Work Practices by Leslie A. Perlow, makes a strong case for the fact that our high pressure work culture places our employees in a chronic state of crisis, that actually costs the organization and the individual. I saw my own organization in the situations presented in this book.
A final point on this discussion for non-profits. This field constantly discusses the lack of talent and the problem of competing with for-profit salary structures. By using technological innovation, you can attract bright people interested in learning. It can be a selling point for your talent recruitment strategy. The other side of that coin is burning out good people because they get tired of making due and realize that they are not learning new skills. From a human resources point of view, that is a lose-lose position.