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March 10, 2021

How Donors, Funders & Sponsors Work in Partnership Toward Creating IT Futures’ Mission

How are the donors, funders and sponsors that support Creating IT Futures like chickens?


Jeff Lareau, manager, strategic partnerships, answers this riddle in a recent episode of the organization’s award-winning Technologist Talk program.


Want to know the details? Peruse this edited transcript of Lareau’s conversation with podcast host R.C. “Bob” Dirkes:


Jeff Lareau: We believe that technology careers should be open to anyone who has an interest in the field. And every study about diversity says that a lack of it leads to a lack of productivity, it leads to a lack of innovation, so there's a real incentive for the industry and for businesses themselves to take this issue head on.


There has been a consistent problem in the IT field for so long and we're just trying to do what we can to fix that. That's really our mission. And we have programs for youth, programs for adults, for women, for people of color, for veterans, so that we can change the IT landscape. That's the crux of our mission at Creating IT Futures. There's no shortage of the unemployed, underemployed and underrepresented demographics who have an interest and a real talent for the work. They just need an organization to give them a leg up.


Bob Dirkes: When we say that these careers should be open to anyone who's interested, we recognize there are some barriers that may prevent those groups of people from entering the field. Could you elaborate? There's been some research by CompTIA and by Creating IT Futures that illuminates this point.


Jeff: One of those stats that stuck out to me right away is that 68% of organizations have had challenges in building a diverse workforce, which includes retention. And the majority of these organizations say that they'd be willing to try a new approach. Well, if these organizations are willing to try a new approach, we have a great, proven approach ready to go. Our IT-Ready program is more than two-thirds people of color. The program assesses, it trains, it certifies, it provides placement assistance. So the programs are there. [They’re] ready for them to use.


And the second reason that I'd say that our mission is more important than ever is that there's a pipeline problem with IT regarding diversity… Women, people of color… they're discouraged by our culture from pursuing a career in IT, often even by the time they get to high school. So, programs like TechGirlz are directly combating this pipeline issue that companies are facing now. And I think by targeting middle school-aged kids, they're tackling the problem before it can even take place…


…There was a stat recently that over the last 30 years, since 1990, that the [percentage of women] in tech jobs has gone down. It hasn't gone up. Women in tech careers, you would expect that number to go up just because it's been an issue that we've been so aware of over the last 30 years, but it hasn't. And it just really emphasizes that programs like TechGirlz are absolutely necessary now because it's worse than it was before. It's not better. We really need to change that direction.


Bob: And it takes deliberate action… because organizations and individuals are willing to provide material support, money. How does Creating IT Futures define a donor, as an organization, as an individual, either/or, both/and?


Jeff: So, there are all these terms, and I feel as though every organization defines these terms differently. There's donor, funder, partner, sponsor. A lot of people use them interchangeably and a lot of organizations use them interchangeably. We, at least in our team, we tend to think of a partner as an umbrella term. I mean, it's kind of like there are roosters and there are hens, but they're both chickens.


For us, they're all partners. Anyone who's a donor also falls into the partner category. Anyone who's a sponsor is also a partner. Companies who hire our students would be considered partners. Individuals or organizations who volunteer with us would also be partners. Organizations that work with us to shape pilot programs, they would be partners.


Under that lens, a donor is a partner who donates financially to us. That could be an individual, or that could be a corporation, an organization… but typically a donor, there's no strings attached. It's just here's money, do great things with it. While a funder is sort of like a donor with strings attached. Typically, these are grant funds that we applied for and won. And there's some sort of reporting component to it.


For a sponsor, you can think of it like a donor that is donating for a specific event or a specific program, such as our Women in Tech Summit. Typically, there's marketing placement or benefit from that sponsorship.


These lines are blurred all the time. You could be a donor who is also a volunteering partner. You could be a donor who is a hiring partner. It's dependent on what kind of relationship the organization wants to have with us. We have these exploratory conversations all the time, “How can  we work together?”


Is your organization looking for a volunteering opportunity? Is it looking for publicity for CSR, corporate social responsibility? And if so, what does that look like for you? Is it a financial thing? Is it a partnership of some kind?


We know that there's some synergy, to use that word that is overused, but we know that there's some mission alignment between us and an organization. But what does that look like in reality? And how do we make that partnership happen?


Hear the full podcast conversation with Jeff Lareau about developing philanthropic partnerships here: Episode 43 – Talking about Partners: How Do Volunteers, Donors, Funders & Sponsors Work with Creating IT Futures


Technologist Talk is an award-winning podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping the careers of today’s and tomorrow’s technology workers.