Non-profit organizations, designated as 501c organizations. are pivotal to a healthy and balanced community. Non-profits provide immeasurably meaningful and valuable social and environmental services for communities, filling the huge gap between public funded programs and services and private enterprise.
Working for or leading a non-profit is not easy, and typically involves long hours, mediocre compensation and constant resource scarcity. As a result, and for obvious reasons, it is typical to see a distinct under-investment in IT systems and technology at non-profits. Unfortunately, this is often the place non-profits should be investing the most. By leveraging technology effectively, they can often provide better engagement in their cause with less manpower. If non-profits can find a partnership with the right Managed IT Service provider, they can create an opportunity to grow into a better version of themselves.
Here are four indispensable elements of an IT relationship that every non-profit should employ:
Budgeting & Roadmapping
Despite a lack of resources (or perhaps because of it) we routinely see non-profits manage their technology without any formal plan or strategy. Decisions are often made to address isolated challenges or opportunities, rather than as a part of a greater overall strategy, which typically exacerbates the already pronounced problem of inefficiency.
Step one for every non-profit is to decide how to strategically align technology with the needs of the organization. The process of aligning an organization around a technology plan would require a multi-part blog series in-and-of itself, but at a basic level answer the following questions:
- What is the long-term vision for the organization?
- What are the key factors that will ensure success? For instance, will success hinge on: hiring key personnel, developing a distributed workforce or multiple locations, community engagement, finding large donors, etc.?
- How does technology interface with the key success factors? What is its potential?
- Where are our technology gaps in the areas related to our critical success factors?
- What will it cost and how long will it take to close the gaps?
- Who is responsible for ensuring the outcomes and managing the process?
This strategic alignment will require a strong relationship with a relatively mature and sophisticated Managed IT Services team in order to be successful.
We are shocked at how many non-profit organizations are unaware or under-utilize TechSoup! TechSoup was formed by a group of Microsoft alums as a way to provide deeply discounted software and hardware to charities. TechSoup provides many of the most popular IT solutions on the market like Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Adobe, and even QuickBooks at up to 90% off. An engaged IT support team should go to TechSoup first when recommending any new solutions.
Partnership & In-Kind support
In exchange for discounted IT services, non-profits should develop a way to provide public recognition, intangibles or access to a strong referral association or network. By developing and offering a clear set of benefits to an IT provider, a discount can be equitable and will create a strong position for negotiation with an ideal technology partner. If the non-profit can put sweat equity into ensuring the IT partner is receiving benefits despite the lower margins (introductions to new customers, highly-visible recognition at the annual auction, introductions to key associations, etc.) the IT partner will be incented to continually discount project scopes as well.
Beyond everything else, it is important that your Managed IT Services partner aligns with the values and philosophy of your organization. If you are a non-profit that is hungry and innovative in your space, it is imperative that your IT partner shares and embodies those values. Does your IT partner put their money where their mouth is on engaging with the local community? Does your IT partner have goals and systems for measuring their engagement? To ensure a successful professional relationship, evaluate if your organization’s goals align with your IT partner.
Upward Technology has a deep and committed relationship with the non-profit community of the Willamette Valley. Upward is the first and only Certified B-Corp in the Pacific Northwest, demonstrating our commitment to being more than just another IT company in our community. If you are ready to investigate a different approach to technology that can have profound benefits for your organization, reach out to Upward today to begin the conversation.