Top 15 Things Executive Directors Need to Know about Technology

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Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find Marc Osten’s list of ten things you can do to make better use of technology in your organization and Steve Pratt’s ten ways to save money. To keep pace with my colleagues, I’ve come up with the following list.

15. What is the digital divide?
This term refers to the wide gap between Mr. Spock’s second and third fingers as he holds up his hand and intones the Vulcan watchword, “Live long and prosper.”
14. Is it safe to send credit card information over the Internet?
Definitely! Internet security systems were designed by the same outstanding engineers who created the top-secret systems used for the State Department’s laptops and the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory.
13. What is a gearhead and does my organization need one?
A gearhead is a distinct human genotype who utilizes a stylized language called “geekspeak,” writes “code” rather than sentences, and doesn’t get enough sunshine or regular exercise. Gearheads are valuable staff members because they have the unique ability among carbon-based life forms to communicate with inanimate objects such as computers and to work inordinately long hours without food or drink other than that provided by Kozmo.com. Your organization should have one, but no more than one.
12. What are cookies and why on earth would anyone want to block them?
Cookies are special “treats” placed surreptitiously on your computer’s hard drive by companies that have only your best interests at heart. There’s no reason to try to block them, unless you have some sort of irrational objection to everyone in the world having access to your most intimate personal and financial information.
11. How do I make those little faces out of punctuation marks—and what do they mean?
Sorry—this information is classified and available only to certified gearheads.
10. What is the information highway?
“Information Highway”is the codename given to a secret project planned and implemented by a high-security taskforce inside the Microsoft Corporation. Its purpose is to create the impression that computers exist to make our lives simpler and more enjoyable and to increase our leisure time—assuming we own enough of the right software.
9. What does FAQ stand for?
I beg your pardon!
8. Is there any difference between an ISP and an ASP?
Yes! An isp is an internet service provider; an asp is a deadly serpent that can strike unexpectedly, causing great trauma. . . . On second thought, there isn’t that much difference.
7. What is a portal?
q A small computer used by FedEx delivery people
q The opening through which Harry Potter must pass to reach the Griffindor common room
q A large tankard of ale
q A customized entry point for Internet access designed to divert you from such foolishness as research or fundraising and focus your attention on the real purpose of the Internet, unlimited shopping opportunities.
(Note: answers to multiple choice questions will appear in the next issue of NPQ.)
6. What is the most effective use for a Palm Pilot?
q To impress colleagues
q As a paperweight
q To help you improve your fine motor skills
q To download spam
5. What is virtual reality?
q The year 3 budget in your grant proposal
q Funders’ notions of nonprofit collaboration
q Your Board’s evaluation of your performance
4. What is the Love Bug?
q The Volkswagen Beetle driven by Annette Funicello’s boyfriend in the 1968 classic “Beach Blanket Bingo”
q The bee that stung Gillian Anderson in the movie version of the “X-Files”
q A computer program embedded in certain email attachments, causing normally rational people to behave as though they’ve just been struck by Cupid’s arrow (or some other sharp instrument)
3. What is a search engine?
q Your mother, anytime you didn’t come directly home after school
q Your six-year-old, when informed there’s a piece of candy hidden somewhere in the kitchen
q A means by which Internet users can get a list of 22,672 irrelevant websites to visit on any topic of their choice
2. Can I run my organization from Guadalupe using my Internet-ready, digital wireless cell phone?
Yes, but only if you hold the board meetings there.
1. Is the Internet a threat to my unquestioned authority as ED?
Absolutely! Information-sharing can be dangerous if you want to hold onto power. Your best strategy is to hire a gearhead fast, get her a Palm Pilot, feed her some cookies, and thereby assure her undying loyalty.

Jonathan Spack is executive director of Third Sector New England.