Modernizing Nonprofits with Cloud Technology for Good

Nonprofits and charitable organizations are solving some of the world’s most complex problems, including extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and environmental degradation. For nonprofits, charities, and global development organizations dedicated to helping others, access to technology should never be a hurdle or a limitation. The question these groups must ask themselves is: why is now the time to modernize (and, in some cases, develop) an IT strategy to help achieve both the long and short-term goals of the organization?

In the nonprofit sector, which faces the same complex problems of any other global business, there is enormous potential for innovation across the nearly 1.8 million registered organizations looking to make a lasting social impact around the globe. However, many of these organizations are held back by small staffs, limited budgets, and lower technology expertise; approximately 87% of nonprofits are without a dedicated IT department. Geographically dispersed teams, operating in a multitude of locations and time zones across the globe, often add to the list of challenges.

Today’s advances in mobile technology and cloud applications, along with the development of more user-friendly technology solutions, has greatly benefited industries from construction to healthcare by increasing employee productivity, streamlining employee workflow, and improving the availability of support services. The same IT-driven transformation is possible in the nonprofit world, given technology decision makers within these organizations prioritize a digital strategy on their agendas as they look to improve workflows with emerging technologies that are cost-effective, simple to deploy, and easy to adopt.

Take, for example, The World Bank Group, a vital resource for financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Through the use of cloud collaboration technology, the development organization is helping employees securely share files with partners in the government and private sector, while accessing their files and folders from anywhere in the world, and on any device. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, funding lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, allows its employees across the United States and Canada to get their work done more efficiently on iPads for fundraising in the field, sharing presentations and PDFs easily with potential donors, and collaborating seamlessly with third-party vendors and partners. The streamlined fundraising tactics reduce friction and time to market in deploying resources for impact.

But IT innovation in the cloud is not just a one-size-fits all solution for nonprofits. It’s important these organizations asses the specific needs of all teams—from field rescue workers to fundraising and partnership departments—to address how employees and volunteers would like to interact with technology, ultimately to choose the solution that will empower workers  to do their job better with the tools they want to use (and with the security that IT requires). This focus on end-user needs will allow nonprofits to unlock the power of an agile cloud environment, while making their organizations better equipped to share information at a rapid-fire pace.

In addition, through the use of cloud applications, managing mission-critical information from tablets, smartphones or the desktop is achievable for even those teams with the most strapped IT budgets. Leveraging new devices and applications equipped to support more than just the core information technology needs will enable nonprofits to uncover all-new and creative ways to do the work that matters most.

For instance, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development nongovernmental organization, needed to develop a new emergency response portal that’s easily accessible from laptops online or offline. Leveraging a cloud platform API, the IRC was able to help field workers in disaster relief situations access manuals, procedures, and templates while directly in the middle of a crisis.

This is just the beginning. It’s imperative for nonprofits to see the value in maturing an IT strategy to make teams more mobile and efficient, right now and in the long-term.

As we look forward, we can anticipate that the ideas and solutions generated by nonprofit organizations will be central to fostering economic development and good will around the world. It is crucial that today’s technology vendors continue to support these efforts by delivering the best tools and solutions that will help nonprofits and philanthropic organizations maximize the impact they can make on the communities they serve.

karen appleton
Vice President of Development and a member of the executive team at Prosper Marketplace. She also served as National Marketing Director for the corporate group at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, LLP. At Lexis-Nexis, she launched the firm’s internet product, managed top-tier accounts, and ran business development for the state of Hawaii.