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How to Transfer Your Tech Skills to a Mission-Driven Career

Ashley Fontaine profile image

Ashley Fontaine

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Are you looking to make your way into the nonprofit world from a career in tech? It’s not as big a leap as it may seem. 

More and more essential nonprofit functions, from volunteer management to digital communications, are becoming increasingly reliant on new technologies—and it requires a certain level of tech savvy to keep things running smoothly If your training or career has been in the tech sector, you can bring your know-how to bear in a social-impact career, either as a volunteer or as a paid employee.

Paid positions

Medium- to large-sized nonprofits with more than 10 employees and budgets over at least $1 million are the most likely to have full-time paid employment opportunities for trained techies. Particularly great places to look include larger organizations addressing complex issues related to healthcare delivery; broad-scale public health challenges like infectious diseases and access to clean water; and internationally focused nonprofits that rely on remote tools to do global work.

If you’re looking for a paid full- or part-time tech role in the social impact sector, try searching Idealist for some of these titles:

  • Technology Associate or Manager
  • Manager of Technology and Data Systems
  • Technology Trainer
  • Technical Support Engineer
  • Information Technology Director
  • Director of Technology
  • Chief Technology Officer

Volunteer positions

Maybe you want to do good in your spare time and keep your current day job. You don’t have to work at a nonprofit to do good and create social impact. Using your tech expertise as a volunteer can go a long way in helping smaller nonprofits expand their IT knowledge, get the most out of their technology budgets, and plan ahead for what digital tools can help them fulfill their mission. There are many ways tech professionals can help nonprofits on a project-specific or ongoing basis.

  • Website updates: Without a dedicated communications or technology staff member, updates to online presence can take a back seat. Bonus: This kind of volunteer support can often be done remotely.
  • Hardware help: Do a computer (and other hardware) audit for a nonprofit you love. Help them create a system for managing their technology, regularly rotating out ageing computers and keeping track of what they have. Bonus: If your employer is upgrading to the newest and fastest machines, consider donating gently used, functional computers to a local nonprofit—and doing all the setup for them!
  • Databases, apps, and other builds: If you’re a developer, there are several ways you can help. Many nonprofits have their own specific tech needs, from simple databases to micro-sites with login areas for board members and lead volunteers. Depending on the scale of the project, you could even coordinate a coordinate a hackathon.
  • Software updates and training: You can help nonprofits keep all their technology up to date by dropping in twice a year to proactively address needed software updates, install new software when needed, and be on call in case they need an expert in a pinch. If a nonprofit uses a particular CRM for capturing donor and volunteer information, you might be able to help teach some of their staff the basics of how to use it for what they need, how to create specific reports, and other functions that they might not know about. 
  • Matching funds from your employer: Some companies will offer matching donations when their employees volunteer time or make a donation themselves to a nonprofit - check and see if yours does. For example, Microsoft’s Employee Giving Program will match employee donations dollar for dollar up to $15,000, and match volunteer hours with a $25/hour donation. If your company doesn’t have a matching program, you could be the one to add it to their suggestion box!

How to find an organization you want to help

Idealist has thousands of nonprofit opportunities on our job board, both paid and volunteer. The sky is really the limit in terms of what technology needs nonprofits have, across a huge array of missions—so look for causes you care about. Your local animal shelter, youth development organization, senior center, or small nonprofit theater could almost certainly use your expertise.


Have you found a way to use your tech skills in the nonprofit world? Share your story with us on Facebook.

Ashley Fontaine profile image

Ashley Fontaine

Ashley Fontaine is a writer, mental health professional, and former nonprofit executive director. She’s on a mission to eliminate “we’ve always done it that way” from our collective vocabulary by helping leaders focus on possibilities rather than limitations. She believes organizational culture is the key to productivity and staff retention.

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