Getting IT Invested in Your Cause

Andy Adams

Andy Adams

Earlier this year we introduced you to Imtiaz Haiyoom, an “IT guy” for CitySquare who encouraged nonprofit marketing staff to bring their IT staff into the decision making process. Today, we have another IT guy who shares how he grew to even like marketing. Crazy!  ~Kivi

Guest Post by Andy Adams of Whistling Duck 

It was the first day of my first job as a young programmer. I was given a tour of the snack room before I was directed to my desk. I sat down in my ergonomic chair and gazed past my monitor upon a gargantuan wall with a single tiny door on the far right side.

“What lies beyond yonder wall?” I sheepishly asked the elder engineers. “Marketers,” they replied coldly. “Do they ever come to our side?,” I inquired. “Only when they want us to toil upon their terrible A/B testing or SEO tomfoolery.” And so the great divide between IT and marketers was erected.

Ok, ok…a bit of that story is exaggerated. But in many organizations, IT and marketing can be in two different worlds.

I started as a pure programmer, but as my career continued I took jobs that forced me – begrudgingly – to dip my toes deeper and deeper into marketing waters, until one day I actually started…gulp…liking marketing.

I’d love to share with you a few things that my employers did that got me invested in marketing my organization’s cause.

1. Allow IT to choose the technology

Most techy people love to try new tools. Every day a new programming language, framework or software system is born. Many geeks would rather try a new programming language than get a new car. Seriously.

When you have a new project, allow the IT staffers to choose the technology to build it. Also, give them a budget to sign up for the latest software to help with their job.

“I can build the website in Ember.js?”  I just got 1000% more interested.

2. Show them the numbers

If there was a single event that began my transformation from marketing-hating-engineering-guy to hey-this-marketing-thing-is-kinda-cool-dude, it was when I saw the numbers. One day, I was given access to the company Google Analytics account; I had to physically restrain myself from looking at the stats for the whole day.

Conversion rates, open rates, and other metrics often aren’t openly shared with the IT staff. If you aren’t already, start sharing metrics. There is something about the cause and effect of “I moved the donate button; now 5% more people are donating” that can make an engineering mind fall madly in love with marketing. Just don’t call it marketing…

3. Have them blog about the cause

Another powerful tool to get your IT crew more involved is giving them a public voice. At most of my jobs, writing content was Marketers Only™. But one employer handed me the keys to the blog, and magic happened.

I shared my technical experiences with the organization. I shared my opinions on working. And all of a sudden I cared about the cause. Writing forced me to reflect on the bigger picture.

If you need help thinking up proposals for your IT staff to write about, here’s a couple to start:

  • “I’d love if you wrote about how you implemented that email newsletter tracking.”
  • “Could you write about how you decided on X software/hardware?”

Any other geeks out there?

The points in this article motivated me to get more involved in marketing – but they may not apply to every IT person out there. If you’re an IT geek (or have worked with one of us) and have any experiences that brought you into the “marketing fold,” I’d love to hear it!

Andy Adams is a web consultant and entrepreneur. He runs Whistling Duck nonprofit software, and spends his free time pushing a double stroller around Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. You can reach Andy on Twitter: @WhistlingDuckNP



© 2007-2017, Nonprofit Marketing Guide. All Rights Reserved.

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  • David

    As the Founder & CEO of an IT consulting firm for nonprofit organizations worldwide, I really resonated with Andy’s post. In my former life, I worked in the IT department for a venture incubator that invested money, advice, and office space into startup companies.

    One of my biggest annoyances was that the IT department wasn’t consulted when it came to major IT decisions. Software & hardware was chosen, policies adopted, and decisions were made having everything to do with IT, but without consulting with IT about said software, hardware, policies and decisions. As a result, we often times ended up with sub-par solutions for our needs.

    My experience with the nonprofits for whom we’ve consulted has been better, although like Andy, our business is still fairly new. I think one of the differences in this is key: our business is typically hired to provide advice and guidance in the decision making process to begin with, and the nonprofits with whom we partner want our advice.

    Regardless, I really like this post, and resonate with the frustrations of an ignored IT professional! In my opinion, we are geeks, and while final the high-level decisions certainly do need to be made by executives (often times who aren’t a part of an IT department), those decisions must take into account the advice of IT.

    I certainly acknowledge that the direction of a company or nonprofit should not be guided by the IT department. But they are there for a reason!

    • Andy Adams

      Hey David, thanks for the response! Your point is well put. If you want happy IT staff, you have to give them control over their domain. Without it, I’ve seen “us vs. them” develop between IT and the business interests, and that’s toxic for any organization.

      • Karl Hedstrom

        Great post Andy! The one thing I’d add to your list would be to give the IT Department an actual seat at the table where these decisions are being made. Not only will this increase IT’s investment in the project or decision, but it can also further streamline the process for identifying and avoiding some of those sub-par solutions that David mentions.

        • Andy Adams

          Thanks, Karl. One of the most frustrating periods in my career was when I was prevented from making decisions on the infrastructure behind my company’s systems, so I agree wholeheartedly. As long as you trust your IT team, then you’ve gotta get their input and let them implement things as they see fit (from a technical perspective). Otherwise, you can get feet dragging and IT may not buy in.

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  • Great post! (even if it did take me a year to make that comment…)

    I think I would stress the point around defining who owns what but sharing it, but also adding who will make which decision and when. This topic needs to extend beyond the tools though, what is the shared responsibility for the content on the website? Or thoughts around who owns social media, which I tried to address in an old post as well: http://steveheye.blogspot.com/2013/01/who-owns-social-media.html.

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