Career Moves: Will The Non-Profit Route Pay Off?

And should CIOs help out non-profit organizations by contributing time or talent? Because non-profits desperately need the efficiencies IT can bring.

John Soat, Contributor

September 13, 2007

3 Min Read

And should CIOs help out non-profit organizations by contributing time or talent? Because non-profits desperately need the efficiencies IT can bring.As my colleague Marianne Kolbasuk McGee pointed out recently in a news story based on a research report by John Hopkins University, it can be difficult for non-profit organizations to attract IT talent. The perception is that non-profits aren't competitive salary-wise or benefits-wise, and they don't necessarily enhance your resume.

Also, they're not exactly tech savvy.

I remember speaking with the CIO of a major health care non-profit a couple of years ago. He was lamenting the fact that non-profits are criticized when they invest in IT because donors don't understand that investment -- they question why the money isn't spent on helping people directly instead of on computers. This is the "cost-center vs. innovation engine" debate about IT played out in another -- perhaps more dramatic -- context. Donors don't understand that IT can bring efficiencies and innovation desperately needed by cash-strapped and resource-constrained non-profit organizations.

But maybe that's changing. I hope so.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation said earlier this week that it had hired a CIO. His name is Charles LaPlaca, and he comes with 30 years of IT experience in the private sector.

Prior to joining JDRF, LaPlaca was executive VP and CIO of a 77-store kitchenware and appliance retailer called Le Gourmet Chef (recently acquired by The Kitchen Collection), where he was responsible for managing IT, supply chain, data warehousing, and e-commerce. Before that, LaPlaca was VP in charge of systems and technology for Herman's Sporting Goods, which filed for Chapter 11 about 10 years ago. Before that he has was a technology executive in the Integrated Benefits Services group at Merrill Lynch.

With his e-commerce experience, LaPlaca seem like a good fit for the organization. "Mr. LaPlaca will provide best-in-class solutions to JDRF's growing online initiatives, leading the transition to a donor/data centric organization, and enabling even greater research collaboration and efficiency through leading-edge knowledge management technologies," the foundation said in a statement.

"As JDRF continues to invest in technology and information management systems, the experience Charles brings will allow us to communicate more effectively and efficiently with donors, volunteers and staff," said William Ahearn, VP of strategic communications at JDRF. "Investing in technology and managing information systems more efficiently will help JDRF raise funds and keep expenses low, allowing us to direct more resources towards our mission of finding a cure for type 1 diabetes."

To judge from its Web site, the JDRF has some pretty heavyweight celebrity talent involved with it. Would it be a good idea to volunteer tech talent to non-profits? Does anyone know of any organizations that allow/encourage their IT workers to volunteer their time? Do you volunteer your IT expertise at a non-profit? And if so, how's that working out for you?

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