PICNIC error – “Problem In Chair Not In Computer” is defined on Wikipedia as “slang in technical circles… that implies a lack of computer savvy on the part of a user”. While critics of the term argue that the issue actually arises from systems not designed intuitively, there is another issue common in nonprofits that contributes to it as well – lack of technology training.

NTENITRptA recent NTEN Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report included data on this issue. Of the many interesting findings in the report, one is that responses:

“indicate that nonprofits feel relatively
confident that they have the tools to
do their every-day work, but are less
confident about having enough
skilled staff or training to effectively
use their technology for their work.”

Adequate training and support are key to getting more “bang” for your technology “buck”. Staff wasting effort trying to create reports that could be done easily if they had the training are just one example I have run across many times in my nonprofit technology career.

This issue also relates to examining work processes. Why do 6 of the 8 staff in an organization need to enter data from a donation in 8 different places? Usually because the organization has not stopped to look at their business processes. How many times have I heard “We’ve always done it this way” or “That was how the person before me taught me how to do it”. Spending some time making sure you have the best process in place can free up time best spent elsewhere. Applying technology to a bad process usually results in a slightly faster bad process, not the significant increase in efficiency that creating intelligent processes can have.


Nonprofits have limited resources to spend on technology. Two of the best ways to improve your return on investment are:

1. Invest in regular technology training that helps you use the tools in efficient and effective ways

2. Examine business processes and do your best to eliminate inefficiencies

There are lots of resources for good training on nonprofit technology. Once you identify what the needs are, search through the offerings of NTEN, TechSoup Global, Idealware and the many other online (and local!) resources to help you make better use of your technology dollar.

Rather than blaming the person in the chair for the error, know that some training could go a long way to reducing those errors. Build those technology skills in your nonprofit and everyone can benefit.

  Category: Nonprofit Technology, Training


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