When it comes to IT for nonprofits, at least two things are nearly always true. The first is that you’re working from a limited budget.
The second is that your current setup is in need of an overhaul – a serious overhaul.
Let’s face it: Creating an efficient, productive organization nowadays depends on solid, reliable IT infrastructure. If you only have a limited amount to invest, you’ll need to be careful about how you direct those precious funds.
Here are five simple IT “fixes” that should improve your nonprofit’s internal IT performance without sacrificing quality or going over budget.
1. Find a reliable IT partner.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. And don’t enlist your tech-savvy nephew, either.
In the absence of an experienced IT technician with extensive office network experience, you will end up spending more time – and, therefore, more money – trying to solve your own IT problems than if you had hired someone to begin with. That’s why it’s a good idea for every office to have a reliable IT guy or gal, even if when there’s a limited budget.
Ask other non-profits in your area who they use for IT service and support. Those organizations may be able to refer you to someone who specializes in non-profits and is reasonably priced.
2. Cut costs with cloud services.
Not long ago, every small office needed a server (or two, or three…) to store and manage its data. Now nearly all small businesses can use cloud services that are at least as reliable as what they used before. Sometimes, they’re even more reliable.
And for nonprofit organizations, cloud applications like webmail, offsite backup, and CRM can eliminate the need to invest in additional hardware. All data is stored at a remote location, and someone else is responsible for its upkeep and security.
In most cases, offsite data will be more secure than what a nonprofit could manage in-house, and paying for cloud storage will be less costly than purchasing and maintaining a clunky server apparatus.
Oh, and fewer local servers means more free floor space.
3. Seek out hardware donations.
Here’s an additional “hidden” benefit to finding a good IT service provider: If said provider works with other clients – other clients who happen to be business clients – then they may be willing to donate their retired, but still functional, hardware to you.
It’s a win-win situation. You get free hardware, and, assuming you’re a 501(c)(3) organization, they get a tax write-off. Your IT partner probably already knows someone with extra computer monitors lying around, and you have nothing to lose by asking about it.
4. Take control of proprietary data.
Many nonprofits have connections to local school districts, government institutions, or universities. Others may be interwoven administratively with local businesses, too.
There’s nothing wrong with piggybacking, but if you’re relying on another organization to manage and secure your data, it might be time to explore some alternatives.
Why? Because your donors, beneficiaries, and internal communications warrant privacy and security. For some organizations, relying on someone else to secure, say… your email might even raise compliance issues.
Whether it’s through moving data to a reliable cloud service provider or investing in new hardware that will let you manage data yourself, taking control of your proprietary information should be a big IT priority for any nonprofit.
5. Create a clear BYOD policy.
Speaking of proprietary information, it’s important to remember that employees and volunteers can and will use personal devices to send, receive, and store internal communications. To avoid any privacy issues, be sure to set a clear BYOD (bring your own device) policy that addresses how to properly manage data that ends up on these devices.
Maybe you want to disallow certain devices from accessing your organization’s email account, or perhaps those devices simply need to activate particular privacy settings first. Whatever the case, just make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to data security, smartphones, and proprietary information.
Because one of the biggest IT problems you can have is for confidential communications to be intercepted by the wrong people. Make your BYOD policy clear, however, and you’ll be less likely to experience any problems.
And the cost of letting employees use their own devices as opposed to providing them on the company dime? Zero dollars.