IT is integral to the operations of for- and nonprofit organizations alike. Email is necessary for communications, customer relationship management systems for keeping tabs on people they’re serving, and project management platforms for distributing workloads and ensuring milestones are met. From afar, it looks like both types of organizations aren’t so different when it comes to using technology and requiring IT support. However, this isn’t the case upon closer inspection.
Unique IT considerations
Nonprofits can’t just outsource IT support like for-profit companies do because of the following considerations:
1. Budget: Nonprofit organizations rely on outside funding and can’t recoup their expenses
Charities must spend the money they receive efficiently. That is, they must maximize the benefit they produce for their beneficiaries and, at the same time, optimize their spending on fundraising, recruitment, research, project management, and other administrative costs. Otherwise, their benefactors may withdraw financial support.
This balancing act means that budgets for IT investments are highly constrained. Often, nonprofits will rely on tech companies’ generous programs, such as Google for Nonprofits and Microsoft’s nonprofit program, to obtain IT solutions. Despite the availability of such programs, nonprofits’ IT choices are still severely self-limited. This affects the IT infrastructures they end up building and, consequently, the IT support they need. Obviously, budget restrictions extend to paying for tech support, too.
2. Complexity: The organizational structures of nonprofits tend to be more complicated than those of businesses
Businesses generally have fewer stakeholders to consider than nonprofits do. For-profits have shareholders, employees, customers, and the community at large they operate in. Charities, on the other hand, have to consider their beneficiaries, benefactors, regulators, regular staff, volunteers, and the community they serve. While businesses can and have been flattening their structures, nonprofits’ structures — of which IT support would be a component — have to accommodate more complex relationships and systems.
To illustrate, educators may be provided with teaching apps and would need to be taught on how to use these from both their point of view and that of their students. Additionally, students may be provided with tablets or laptops. Not only must tech support repair and maintain these, but they may also be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the devices are used as intended and that students’ privacy is maintained.
3. Compliance: Nonprofits have to abide by many regulations
Charities’ interventions are supposed to help beneficiaries, but there can also be a risk of harm. Techwise, data of those who receive healthcare assistance may be breached or the identities of underage scholars may be wrongfully disclosed. These and other concerns are why nonprofits are subject to all sorts of regulations — and IT support must also help charities comply with all of these.
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With budget, complexity, and compliance considered, when must a nonprofit outsource IT support services?
There are two cases in which outsourcing tech support is called for.
1. The organization lacks the resources to handle its IT by itself
When a charity starts out, their IT requirements may be light enough for staff to handle by themselves. However, as the organization grows, IT management grows in complexity as well. They may be able to afford one IT specialist to take care of everything IT, but that person would only have so much bandwidth and expertise.
Hiring more IT staff is an option, but such professionals are highly sought after. What’s more, those who are willing to take a pay cut for the sake of social work are few and far between. Managed IT services providers (MSPs), on the other hand, provide readily available IT resources at affordable prices. Being stables for IT workers with diverse specializations, MSPs provide clients with both reliable bandwidth and broad expertise.
2. The nonprofit can handle its IT, but suddenly needs supplemental resources
A well-established charity may have a sizable IT team that’s capable of addressing trouble tickets and other day-to-day IT tasks. However, there would be occasions when their plate is full and can no longer take any more assignments. To illustrate, the IT team may always have their hands full fixing IT problems and no longer have time for strategic planning. They may also encounter a new problem that requires a rare specialization that none of them has.
These scenarios don’t justify the hiring of a full-time employee (too expensive) or a freelancer (too limited in terms of capacity and skills) but can be perfectly addressed by an MSP. In addition to being affordable and having both bandwidth and expertise, MSPs like Online Computers also have relationships with IT vendors that provide solutions for nonprofits’ particular needs.
Whether you’re a nonprofit or a business, you can leave the technology to us™. Contact our IT consultants at Online Computers today.