Why Nonprofits Need Cloud Computing
Nonprofit organizations face many of the same issues that for profit companies face such as challenges around communication, data organization, and productivity, but with one major difference: they often lack the capital and the manpower that makes expensive tools viable at large, for-profit organizations.
Having to work with a smaller allowance forces not-for-profit companies to be very deliberate about any and all technology they pay for, taking into account not just money spent, but the amount of time their employees will expend implementing and using a product, how efficient a tool can make their organization, and any and all risk a new technology poses to their organization.
Keeping all of these factors at top of mind means that nonprofits aren’t usually thought to be on the cusp of business technology, and may often be “behind the times” in comparison to for-profit companies. Still, nonprofits are realizing the benefits that come from at least one type of upgrade: moving their data and services to the cloud. We’ve broken down why cloud computing has been such a boon for nonprofits, and the kinds of concerns you may have if you’d like to move your company in that direction.
Like I said just before, budget is a driving factor for nonprofits just like it is for any organization, but particularly because they’re usually working with less. Maintaining servers to house data is expensive: you’re paying for physical space and hardware and manpower to sustain them. There is definitely a cost involved when transferring your company’s information over to a cloud based system, but even with these fees, it’s usually much more cost efficient to utilize cloud based software. Nonprofits don’t just get to save capital, they also get to save time, there’s no need to purchase, install, manage or maintain their own servers. There’s no updating or wondering if you have the latest version of whatever software it is you’re using either, all of the infrastructure and upkeep needed is provided by cloud services.
Accessibility and mobility
When things are going as planned, most nonprofits prefer to have their employees out in the world making an impact rather than sitting at their desks. Working within the cloud allows employees to work from anywhere and access their colleagues and information no matter where they are, that is, assuming you can access some kind of internet connection. The less tethered an organization trying to make a social impact is, the more effective they are likely to be. Wylie Wong shared a powerful example of this in a recent article he wrote for BizTech. The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is based out of Minnesota, but they were working on a project to build a microgrid in Liberia that would help improve education and healthcare. A member of the organization visiting Liberia was able to upload a hospital’s measurements and receive initial sketches of the project from his colleagues back in the states that he could share with the hospital staff.
Another challenge that is not exclusive to for-profit companies is the need to adhere to ever increasing government compliance standards and to be open about where their money is going. Organizations working in multiple countries need to be able to comply with a number of varying regulations and to account for the flow of capital, something that is no easy feat no matter what a company’s size is, but especially when resources are few. Cloud computing systems like CRMs can be extremely valuable to nonprofits in that they help to centralize and organize important information, making it easier to demonstrate accountability for outcomes or compliance.
Security and outage concerns
When considering the move from a physical server system to a cloud based system, many nonprofits wonder if they would be moving their data to a less secure holding place, which is not necessarily the case. Large cloud computing companies scale for millions of users around the word, and are prepared for disaster more so than a single server located in a closet somewhere. The same is true for concerns regarding outages. Though your cloud computing service can’t prevent a hurricane or a blizzard, it can ensure that your data is backed up and available to you in the event of an uncontrollable event.
Do your homework
The best thing that any company, not-for-profit or otherwise, can do when deciding whether or not to migrate to cloud services is to do their due diligence. Ask a potential provider questions about data ownership, and what happens if unforeseen events arise, like the company goes out of business or is bought by another company. If there are extra security measures that must be in place in order for your organization to comply with certain regulations, ensure that the provider you intend to use can provide that security, otherwise it’s going to be your fault that you didn’t ask, not theirs. If you’re looking to make the switch to the cloud and follow the successful path of many other nonprofits, you’re probably already doing a lot of research, so all security and data concerns should just constitute another layer of this process.
Interested in using a cloud based CRM at your nonprofit? Contact Xceli Global and find out how you can take advantage of our pro bono services.
Wylie Wong for BizTech: “Why More Nonprofits Are Taking IT to the Cloud”
Abby Jarvis for Qgiv blog: “Should Your Nonprofit Consider Cloud Computing?”
Cloud Technologfy for Nonprofits — Ebook from Blackbaud
Megan Berry for NTEN.org: “Cloud Computing for Nonprofits: the Risks How to Overcome Them”
John Hoffman for Nonprofit Quarterly: “What Every Nonprofit Needs to Know about Cloud Computing”