Technology Cost Savings

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It has never been easier to maintain an online presence at a low cost. Yet, many nonprofits are still stuck in their old ways.

Case in point:

"My non-profit is spending thousands of dollars a year on an IT guy just to keep our email running and our server from going berserk.”

We have two red flags waving high and clear right here - not only do you not need a tech guy, you don’t need a server.

Many nonprofits still maintain a local server to host their email, shared drive, website and a few accounting or project management software programs. Tens of thousands of dollars a year are dropped on individual per-computer software licenses and IT (information technology) support to maintain complex cabling systems and local software installations.

Such a setup can crash, break, lose emails and cost thousands more unbudgeted dollars to fix. With today's technology, funneling a ton of money to tech support is a major waste.

Save Time and Money

Here are four things you can do to shrink your budget to almost nothing:

1. Google Apps

Google’s nonprofit program is a great source for free email, calendars and real-time collaboration tools. Through Google Apps, anyone in your organization can access their email and shared documents from anywhere. This is perfect for professionals who travel or teams spread across the country.

Does this mean you’ll need to use a lackluster gmail.com domain? No. Once your organization’s domain is set up, any administrator (no technical skills required) can create new accounts, so each of your team members can establish bespoke email addresses like [email protected].

And you’ll get better security and reliability than most local email systems to boot. No more lost emails, no down time, and very little risk of hacker attacks. Learn more at http://www.google.com/nonprofits/products/

2.     Donation Programs 

A few state-of-the-art CRM, mass emailing and advertising platforms have donation programs for nonprofit organizations. These include:

  • Salesforce.com. Salesforce offers a robust donor and constituent management system with all the apps and potential for expansion your organization could ever need. They donate up to 10 licenses to nonprofits (estimated value of $15,000) per year, and many of the companies within their app exchange also offer nonprofit discounts. Learn more about joining forces with Salesforce.
  • Vertical Response provides all of the same functionality as Constant Contact or other mass emailing tools, and integrates seamlessly with Salesforce. Bonus: They provide 10,000 free emails per month to nonprofits and huge discounts on emails over 10,000. Another great platform. Learn more.
  • Google Adwords can be accessed through the Google for Nonprofits program. Adwords offers up to $10,000 worth of free, pay-per-click advertising to nonprofits each month. This is a fabulous way to boost your visibility online.

3.     Nonprofit Discounts

Nonprofits are a special breed and as such, are often offered special deals. Take advantage of this perk with TechSoup, a company dedicated to getting cheaper technology in the hands of non-profits. See their website for discounts on Microsoft products, new computers and more.

4.     Move to the Cloud

It’s happier and fluffier up here! Almost every software service you currently have installed locally on your server, or personal computers, from accounting and fundraising, to project management, now comes in a cloud-based version.

Likewise, your website is easily hosted on the cloud, or at least offsite, by your web design agency - another reason to kick that rickety ole server to the curb.

Basically, moving to the cloud means that the company hosts the software, not you. There are a multitude of cloud-based, software-as-service providers that offer excellent packages for nonprofits. Many will provide installation, maintenance and upgrades at no cost to your organization.

The really swell thing is that your team can access these programs from their laptop or any office computer, with just a username and password. This tends to increase productivity for employees who travel or work from home, and makes it easier for team members to collaborate and share information.

You’ll also find that these solutions are more up-to-date, dependable and secure than a local server system. Because most of these providers have millions of clients to keep happy, they do invest heavily in their security, service quality, hosting and backups.

Go For It

Once your organization has floated up to a more efficient, airy, on-the-cloud system (Google Apps, Salesforce, Vertical Response), your monthly maintenance costs should drop like a brick, freeing up thousands of dollars a year that you can invest in other activities to make your organization more efficient, improve your reporting capability, or reach more beneficiaries.

It’s a magical time, what with software clouds, free email and click-through donations. Work the magic! Don’t let yourself get dragged down by clunky IT.