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How Cloud Computing Can Benefit Nonprofit Teams

Drawing of a white cloud surrounded by drawings of desktop computers, a laptop computer, a tablet, and a cell phone. Dotted lines go from the cloud to each of the surrounding drawings.You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that hasn’t felt the positive effects of digital transformation in today’s business landscape. Innovative technology like cloud computing is becoming more widespread and more accessible, bringing its well-documented benefits to organizations of all shapes and sizes.

The advantages of implementing cloud tech as reported by the nonprofit sector include increased donations and improved productivity—and yet many charities have been be slow to adapt. In fact, NetChange’s survey of technology use by nonprofits found that just 11 percent of organizations rated their digital strategies as “highly effective.”

Cloud computing is becoming more democratized all the time, so what’s keeping nonprofits tethered to outdated tech? Perceived costs, skills gaps, and a lack of tech know-how can all create barriers to innovation, but the fact is that transformation is no longer elective. As cloud tech continues to revolutionize the way we work, engage with one another, and spend money, those who fail to make digital transformation a priority risk falling behind.

Here’s how implementing cloud tech can help nonprofits—and their missions—thrive.

How the cloud helps nonprofits do more

By adopting the cloud, nonprofits are able to utilize digital services and tools that make their lives run a little smoother—whether by increasingly flexibility, making it easier to access information, or enabling them to deliver their services in ways that were previously impossible through the use of traditional offline software.

Using cloud services also drastically reduces the amount of resource a nonprofit needs to dedicate to its IT infrastructure. The engine that drives cloud services lies with the vendor; you don’t need heaps of servers or internal computing power to access it, and you can instantly flex the amount of muscle required without having to invest in more hardware.

The benefit of not having to manually upgrade or maintain hardware is enormous. Using the cloud frees up time and money so they can be dedicated to furthering the organization’s mission.

Even something as simple as being able to access donor information or connect to a central data bank from outside an organization’s headquarters can be transformative. Cashless, contactless technology, for example, is changing the way that people spend money, and that has a huge impact for fundraising.

In this fast-paced world, nonprofits that can’t engage with donors quickly and conveniently are missing out. Take Tap London, for instance. In late 2018, 35 contactless terminals were rolled out across the UK capital, enabling Londoners to donate £3 to homeless charities with a simple tap of their bank cards. Fast, simple, and secure, the terminals have proved a big hit, raising almost £100,000 to date.

Connecting staff, engaging donors

Since cloud users essentially pay to borrow the computing clout of their vendors’ systems, they’re able to take advantage of the latest technology the moment it becomes available. Cloud tech gives nonprofits access to features and a level of flexibility that simply can’t be found on-premise.

With this power at their fingertips, nonprofit adopters of cloud tech are able to transform how they operate. Even something as seemingly simple as centralizing donor data can immeasurably improve productivity and boost donations. A cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) system collates information about your supporters into a single platform, one that’s accessible to all your staff no matter where they are. This kind of 360-degree view of your patrons is hugely important. It ensures that your team members have all the information they need to do their jobs, and it also allows you to deliver a personalized experience that will help turn one-off donors into lifelong supporters.

All good cloud CRMs on the market today are infused with artificial intelligence (AI), bringing the benefits of high-end data analytics to their users in an unprecedented way. Data is the world’s most valuable commodity; use it wisely, and you can transform user data into donations by unearthing crucial insights and analyzing trends. The way people engage with each other and with charities is changing fast, and keeping on top of those changes is essential for nonprofits that want to remain viable in the long-term.

Upskilling for the cloud era

Cloud platforms, especially those with built-in AI and machine-learning features, can do a lot of useful stuff, but they’re not magic bullets. Your team still needs to know how to use them to get the best out of them. Cloud success doesn’t end when you push it live; if you’re rolling out new tech, you need to provide training. 

User adoption is the biggest threat to your tech investments. When new tech tools fall flat, the most common cause is lack of take-up by its users. No matter how great your cloud tools are, if your users won’t adapt to them, or are unsure how to use them properly, the benefits the tech can deliver will fail to materialize.  

Improve productivity can be transformational for nonprofits. Before you kickstart your move to the cloud, however, you need to make a plan to manage the change, and commit to investing in training users and offsetting any resistance they might have to your state-of-the-art digital tool kit.

Paden SimmonsPaden Simmons is a senior vice president at Nigel Frank International. In the seven years since he joined the company as a consultant, Paden has used his expertise in cloud computing to help businesses execute successful digital transformations by matching them with tech experts with the right skills for the job.

Topics: Nonprofits and Technology