What draws nonprofits to cloud solutions?

Cloud solutions enable nonprofits to  connect with multiple stakeholders.
Date Published
06/02/2014
Author
Sue Guttormson

In recent years, many enterprises have attempted to reach out to those in the nonprofit sector by providing them with access to cloud-based services. Considering the fact that charitable organizations are regularly looking for ways to reduce overhead costs, especially those related to back-office processes, this trend is often welcomed with open arms.

Taking a minimalist approach
Nonprofit management software has helped many groups reduce the need for information technology infrastructure through cloud solutions. By taking this route, organizations aren’t required to invest in building IT architecture needed to establish an internal server. What’s more, nonprofits don’t have to worry about maintaining and updating their hardware, nor their database or Web module software. Because this service is delivered through the cloud, the solution can be scaled to fit the individual needs of a nonprofit group, meaning it can grow alongside the organization. Furthermore, cloud solutions help foster a mobile workforce. Employees who telecommute or are working onsite at fundraising events can maintain a connection to all internal resources they may need to access away from the office.

The cloud gained traction
According to the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2012 report “The State of the Nonprofit Cloud,” more than 90 percent of 780 nonprofit groups surveyed were using a cloud-based software solution as of 2011. In the majority of cases, nonprofit groups were using a hosted service to support staff email needs, but a sizable portion use this resource for data backup and database needs. In fact, 41 percent of charitable groups depend on the cloud to maintain backup files of internal data offsite, and another 40 percent use this tool to manage constituent databases.

According to NTEN, backing up data through the cloud can be an attractive option for nonprofits because these systems automatically sync with local files. As a result, nonprofits can be confident their crucial documentation remains intact even in the event of a natural disaster or power outage. This is particularly important for organizations that operate in areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other events that can decimate paper-based documentation. In this way, as a recent Cisco article suggested, the data backup through the cloud helps nonprofits reduce risk, while providing a more predictable platform.

Helping nonprofits coordinate communication
Additionally, the cloud is ideal for nonprofits that offer employees the opportunity to telecommute but still need various stakeholders to collaborate efficiently. A 2013 Cisco analysis of cloud collaboration as it impacts business value also highlights the way flexibility is important for organizations in various industries. The report also anticipates that 40 percent of all enterprises will integrate the cloud to enable collaboration by 2015.

Why is the cloud so effective in this regard? NTEN wrote one distinct advantage is portability. As long as staff, volunteers or board members have access to the Web, they can connect with one another in support of fundraising initiatives and whatever programs the nonprofit supports. For instance, if external stakeholders like social workers need access to a nonprofit’s internal files, they can do so more easily through the cloud than having to collaborate using email or visiting a physical location.

Many nonprofits have made cloud solutions part of their office operations, but there are many ways to use the resource more effectively.

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