Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.
It's hard to open your inbox these days without stumbling across an email or blog post suggesting you change something about your nonprofit. Guess what? This is one of them.
Not every tech solution is right for every nonprofit. A two-person operation running an animal shelter probably does not need a security solution that will make it HIPAA-compliant, and even a mid-sized organization may not require E3 versions of Office 365 across the board.
So, yes, there's a lot of noise about which new tool or best practice your organization must adopt in order to comfortably survive the twenty-first century. At the same time, there are some things that you absolutely should move to the top of your list. Here are a few of them:
1. Prepare for an increase in the number of remote workers. According to the NTEN Digital Adoption 2018 Report (PDF), 41 percent of nonprofit staff members are working outside an organization's office delivering programs and services, working from home, or telecommuting. And about one in nine (11.7 percent) spend a mixture of their time both in and outside the office, while less than half of nonprofit employees work exclusively in the office.
The numbers are indicative of a nationwide shift in work arrangements. Indeed, a few years back a study found that nearly half of employed Americans spent at least part of their time working outside the office.
If you haven't already, consider using online communications software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams (which comes bundled with certain versions of Office 365). Also, think about storing, sharing, and collaborating on files using Google Drive, Box, or Office 365. All are excellent ways to keep your workflow intact when it is tough to get everyone in a room at the same time.
As an increasing number of people get their work done outside the office, it's also important to use a tool that plans and manages projects for teams. In the TechSoup marketing department we use Wrike. But there are lots of other options, including Trello and Microsoft Planner (also part of Office 365). A solid task management tool will help keep teams of any size on the same page and on deadline, no matter where people choose to get their work done.
2. Develop a mobile-first mindset. Back in November, TechSoup launched a new website that, among other things, incorporates something called responsive Web design. Our biggest takeaway from that experience? Design your website so that it can be easily read and used on mobile devices.
Across the Web, nearly 60 percent of Web searches now come from mobile devices. In other words, if you still have a website that does not automatically adapt to a smaller screen, you are missing out on a major opportunity to spread your message.
The implications of not having a mobile-first mindset are even more far-reaching, however. According to a recent TechSoup blog post by Michael Stein, 24 percent of online donations made in 2017 came from mobile devices. So, not only does having a responsive website look cool — it also is likely to translate into additional support for your nonprofit.
3. Security, security, security. GDPR is here. If you're a nonprofit in Europe, or one that does work there, you are now required to adhere to the most comprehensive data protection regulations ever enacted.
Beyond that, data protection and data privacy is simply on everyone's minds these days. Earlier this year, the announcement of two security vulnerabilities, nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre, caused heartbeats around the globe to skip a beat. Between that and a spate of data breaches over the past few years, donors, beneficiaries, and anyone involved with your nonprofit now expects you to take certain measures to ensure that the data you collect and hold on to is done so with their safety and privacy in mind.
There are many security and and backup products out there, including those offered by Symantec, Veritas, and others. If you haven't already, you need to research what kind of security or data recovery plan your nonprofit needs based on your organization's specific requirements.
4. Start moving to the cloud. Cloud computing usually offers significantly more security than on-premises software and hardware. In most cases, it's also constantly updated to keep in line with evolving security regulations — such as GDPR. So, security is a big reason to start moving some of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. But there are also two other major benefits: cost and collaboration.
Let's start with cost. Cloud-based software such as Office 365, Amazon Web Services, and Adobe Creative Cloud is delivered via a subscription model. That means the software — which is constantly updated to reflect the newest version available — can be accessed 24/7 as long as your subscription has been kept current and that you can cancel at any time.
In addition, cloud computing has made collaboration easier and more efficient than ever before. Even if your organization employees only a handful of people, the ability to store and edit a spreadsheet or document online from anywhere is a remarkable thing.
And the cloud is a boon for managing remote workers, in that it can be used to inexpensively provide volunteers with the information and resources they need to be effective and empower employees' efforts to advance your nonprofit's mission regardless of where they happen to be.
As the pace of technology continues to accelerate, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. But taking these steps now, before the year-end crunch, will help keep your organization ahead of the curve. Good luck!
Additional Resources: The Future of Work for Nonprofits
- Get a head start on creating a responsive website for your nonprofit by reading our article on how to choose a CMS.
- Find out more about the environmental benefits of working from home.
- Learn more about protecting confidentiality and privacy in the cloud.
Stephen Jackson is a digital content manager at TechSoup.