Non-profit administrators face an ever-increasing need for upgraded technology, but identifying the right tech to invest in can be challenging. Should you move file storage to the cloud? Invest in a donor management system? Build an app for volunteer engagement? There are a seemingly infinite variety of improvements to choose from.
Technological Challenges Common to All Non-Profits
Before delving deeper into solutions, let’s first understand the problem so that we can better analyze the root cause. Some of the key technological challenges that are common to a majority of non-profits are listed below:
Obsolete or Outdated Technology
These non-profits are still relying on technologies that have become a thing of the past. They are still paying salaries to IT employees whose only job is to keep their email running and protect their servers. The majority of these non-profits continue to host their software programs, shared drive, website, and emails on an in-house local server. The associated maintenance is costly, and risks of cybercrime are high.
For non-profits, documentation work is important and detailed. However, at many 501(c)(3)s, this documentation is manual, which makes it hard to access in case of an urgent situation. Some non-profits have still not automated any phase of this tedious process.
Steep Learning Curve in Technology Adoption
The conventional mindsets of people working in non-profit organizations can be difficult to change. They may not welcome new technologies that private companies have been leveraging for a long time. This could be due to previous efforts at digital modernization that went poorly, or to skepticism about the value provided by tech.
Cumbersome Fundraising Tools
Some non-profits rely on mass donations to run efficiently and therefore organize fundraising drives using multiple tools. However, when these tools are poorly designed, it becomes a daunting task to increase and then track the flow of money.
Technical Challenges Vary by Non-Profit Type
The aforementioned technological challenges are of differing importance from one type of non-profit to another.
For instance, some of the leading challenges for churches are the changing nature of privacy, challenges in digital payments due to lack of infrastructure, selection of modern anti-virus software, and lack of knowledge of cybersecurity.
On the other hand, charities are finding it hard to keep their technology and systems running remotely, as some charities are still manual and there are no CRM systems in place. They are still operating without online platforms or videoconferencing apps and need to manually transfer phones to their workers’ houses in a work-from-home scenario.
Political organizations are still using face-to-face verbal communication to engage with citizens, as they lack digital connectivity tools. This has made it hard to track and manage their campaigns given the current conditions of the pandemic
6 Tech Upgrades That Non-Profits Can Implement Today
Selecting the right technology upgrades can help NPOs save money, operate more effectively, improve the satisfaction levels of their employees and customers, and engage their donors in a better manner. These tech upgrades are listed below:
Everything from local servers to accounting and project management software is hosted on the cloud these days. Cloud migration means that the provider will host and run your software on its servers instead of on a server that you own on-site. Benefits of the cloud include free installation, maintenance, and regular upgrades at no extra cost. The advantage is that all your employees can access everything, including programs and data, while working from anywhere.
Upgrading/Replacing Legacy Technology
It is high time for non-profits to divorce their legacy technologies and make investments in installing newer software and technologies. Desktops working on old operating systems and unsupported software are more prone to get hacked, resulting in a costly data breach. Legacy systems and technology also add more costs in the form of hiring employees to maintain them on regular basis.
If you're interested in modernizing your IT infrastructure, Crowdbotics' hosting and development platform includes cloud deployment, security, and maintenance while also enabling you to build new software for your specific organizational needs.
Switching to Open-Source Tools
There are many open-source tools that can help non-profits in their pursuit of online engagement. These free open-source tools can help you save money since you don’t have to pay any licensing fees. Because it is typically well-maintained by a passionate community, open source technology helps to reduce your long-term tech expenses and enables you to compete with more tech-forward rivals. There are many open-source software providers for non-profits, such as the Apache Software Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, and Digital Freedom Foundation.
Donor Engagement Tools
Donor management tools help non-profits maintain their relationships with large donor bases and raise money from them at opportune times. For instance, Salesforce has a donor management system that includes 10 free licenses as well as a suite of helpful apps for non-profits. Other companies, such as Vertical Response, also offer email tools for well-timed donor outreach.
Google has a program specifically for non-profit organizations that allows them to fundraise in innovative ways. Google Apps for Non-Profits offers access to free emails, real-time engagement tools, and calendars. Any person within your organization can access all the documents being shared while working from anywhere in the world.
Also, as part of this program, non-profits can send and receive emails from their website's domain address instead of from Gmail. This is safe, reliable, and secure when compared to native email systems. When using Google, you enjoy a very low risk of lost emails, downtime, or unauthorized access.
Equipment and Services
For non-profits that prefer to outsource their IT, there are still opportunities for cost-effective upgrades. Conventional hosting and maintenance services might still be relying on pre-cloud technology and charging far more than the cost of scalable, modern SaaS platforms. If you haven't investigated exactly which technologies your IT partner is using, then it may be beneficial to request some information from them and evaluate whether you are really getting your money's worth.
Factors to Consider When Comparing Individual Tech Solutions
As a non-profit, you should request quotes from several vendors and solution providers and compare them to ensure maximum savings. Some of the key factors you should consider are:
Subscriptions refer to the amount to be paid to another party before you can use their products and services. You should ask about all of the additional services and perks that you will get as a part of your subscription. Also, be sure that your understand the duration of the subscription: is it a one-time fee or recurring payments at regular intervals? Are there any hidden fees that may apply under certain conditions? Get answers to all these queries and then compare amongst different providers to get the best deal.
Another concern after signing up is the solution's periodic maintenance and implementation charges. As a non-profit, you should carefully analyze the proposals submitted by different vendors and select the one that is offering free maintenance and implementation, or the lowest quote amongst them.
What is the use of a new technology product or service if it isn’t compatible with your existing systems and infrastructure? You should ideally check the compatibility of the tech upgrade by conducting a demo of it within your current IT environment to ensure that it runs smoothly.
This consideration primarily relates to donors and their payment-related information. Sensitive data is of utmost importance and should be kept private, so you should choose an upgrade which ensures maximum data security and privacy.
Measuring Success of IT Upgrades
There are a few important metrics that non-profits can track to assess the impact and effectiveness of a newly adopted tech solution.
You might focus on the success of fundraising campaigns, amounts raised, or improved monitoring. You could also look at improved modes of engagement and collaboration with employees, donors, stakeholders, and the public. Another approach is to assess whether you now enjoy simpler workflows and better security of data as a direct outcome of upgrading. Sometimes, gauging the time reduced for employees which was occupied by manual work and tedious documentation can also serve as an indicator of a successful tech upgrade.
Crowdbotics has a demonstrated history of working with non-profits to deliver apps fast and at a competitive price. If you have a need for custom-built non-profit software, get in touch with our experts today for a detailed estimate.