The average nonprofit budgets 1-2.2% of total annual spending for technology, according to the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report from NTEN. Quite often, the majority of that budget only covers IT staff salaries and infrastructure overhead, leaving nonprofits with very little remaining to invest in new, cutting-edge technology resources.
Without the ability to stay current in today’s tech-centric digital landscape, smaller nonprofits find that they are losing their edge on mission progress due to out-dated technology and limited support for their staff, who might not always be on-site to troubleshoot issues.
Luckily, there are a handful of services that enable nonprofits and businesses alike to trim technology overhead costs, and improve the effectiveness of investing in new technologies with a small IT budget. The following are just a few low-cost technology solutions that trim overhead, improve working conditions, and most importantly, help nonprofit staff spend more time and money on their mission.
- The Cloud
Infrastructure is one of the bigger IT costs. Your nonprofit may have 1-2 servers already, but might need to invest in more servers depending on the information load from website visitors and internal usage. Adopting cloud hosting, places the cost of maintenance, load, and even crucial features such as security, and data recovery in the hands of experienced professionals, leaving your nonprofit with all the benefits of data management and operations for only a fraction of the cost you used to pay to have on-site servers and staff to manage the servers.
- Voice over IP phone systems
Voice over Internet Protocol, also known as VoIP, once again removes the need for on-site infrastructure (other than an internet connection and power source) operating costs, because VoIP phone systems operate over your wireless internet connection. Not only does it integrate with your internet, but it also provides many additional features that hard-wired phones lack, such as the ability to forward your calls, make free international calls, and get your voicemail messages sent to you in an email.
Did you know in 2013, Microsoft started offering Office365 as a donation to qualifying nonprofits? That’s right, all the power of MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and other powerful Microsoft programs and services stored in the cloud that can be accessed from virtually anywhere via an internet connection. So, not only would your nonprofit have the latest versions of Microsoft’s software, but you also get the reduced infrastructure burden since the service is cloud-hosted.
- Virtual Desktops
Computers that receive daily use, or that travel with employees typically start to slow down and age after 2-3 years of use. Usually this is due to clutter build-up from residual files, programs, and caching on the computer from daily wear-n-tear. That means, every few years, your nonprofit either needs to retire older PCs and desktops or invest in new parts to keep an old machine up and running. Using a virtual desktop, rather than your computer’s local desktop moves the operational and memory burden to a larger server, which will provide you with an identical computing experience without the clutter build-up on your actual machine.
- Support services
Providing IT support staff is another major cost nonprofits face. Often, especially for small nonprofits, daily digital operations rely on one person, maybe two. These IT staff members might specialize in particular areas, but might lack the working knowledge that a full IT support team might have. Similar to outsourcing infrastructure to cloud services, support services can also be outsourced. Rather than hiring individuals, you can save a large chunk of your budget that’s delegated to salaries when you hire a support service, with a professional IT team that can proactively assist with all of your technology needs and questions. These specialists are always just a phone call away and can actively monitor your systems and troubleshoot device-specific troubles by remotely connecting to the device.