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How can NFPs justify generating funds to invest in innovative technology, whilst still remaining true to purpose?

Posted January 24, 2019
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How do you explain to funders that their money is going into upgrading your tech? Won’t this look out of place on the balance sheet, an aside from your mission?

By Rushad Billimoria, Information Systems Manager: Not-for-Profits and Aged Care

Justification of generating wealth is an issue unique to NFPs. In business, this is the end goal, while on the Not For Profit side, wealth generation needs to be justified by carefully considered, true-to-purpose spend. Donors and other sources of funding want to know that you are spending wisely; furthering your mission, becoming better at your purpose.

So how do you explain to funders that their money is going into upgrading your tech? Won’t this look out of place on the balance sheet, an aside from your mission? As technology becomes not merely a necessity business, but rather a competitive tool, NFP’s need to get serious about their tech infrastructure. The issue arises as these technology solutions often come with a significant price tag.

We know, this can sound biased coming from a technology provider, however, we are there, on the ground, seeing and experiencing the benefits of implementing innovative technology solutions.

What we see is many businesses using IT to gain business advantage, racing ahead with automation and AI solutions, while many NFPs are falling behind as they are busy just trying to justify a laptop upgrade.

Investing in technology means more efficiency

You know how easy Netflix made people’s lives? They made a product so efficient that it sent video stores out of business. When you spend money on tech products that can make your work life much more efficient, this means you can spend more time on your core mission.

Let’s take, for instance, setting up task automation within your NFP. Perhaps you have a monthly newsletter that you send out to donors. Spending time writing up pieces, designing, and getting content from people across the organisation can be extremely time consuming. Instead, you could set up software with a monthly recurring project and automatically assign tasks to people. Once they’ve uploaded their content this could be auto-fit to a newsletter, following a design pattern that you’ve set up. Reminders could be sent to people who haven’t uploaded their content the week before the newsletter is released. Once all tasks are completed, you could give the generated newsletter a once-over, before it’s automatically sent out to all your donors.

Just this process can save hours and hours of time – time better spent on other activities.

The solutions and products you choose don’t always need to be expensive or complex. Here’s an example in the education industry where a school leveraged Office 365 and used forms to transform its dining-hall processes.

Broadclyst School – Online dining from Microsoft DMC on Vimeo.

Modernised systems allow you to collaborate and communicate more effectively

How are you collaborating with donors, stakeholders, with others involved in your mission? With modern, cloud systems, collaboration and communication is fluid, easy, and instant. Tasks that would’ve taken hours in the field can be done from anywhere.

An example of this may be if you are in a meeting, where you are asked on the spot to provide documents stored on your work systems. If you don’t have cloud access, you’re left in the lurch, saying you’ll need to send them through when you get back.

Perhaps you want to collaborate with a similar NFP in another state. Using O365 online you can even work on documents together at the same time, share resources, and instant chat.

At Bremmar, we are advocates of Microsoft Teams for internal collaboration and communication. You can either use it within your Office 365 account or it’s now also available for free. This tool has many uses and benefits.

In our office, we use it for specific project discussions, where you can upload all files, meeting notes, conversations and everything you can think of related to that project to one central hub.

Another interesting way we’ve incorporated Teams into our business is through our Marketing department. The Marketing team only collaborates with our Marketing agency (which is based on the East Coast) through Microsoft Teams – meetings, weekly WIPs, conversations, files, approvals, etc. For both companies, back and forth emails and confusing approval processes have become a thing of the past!

By investing in cyber security, you are honouring your donors’ trust

This is another area where spending on technology is crucial for your NFP. As cyber security threats become more complex and pervasive, your cyber security countermeasures need to keep in step.

For instance, having all your systems frozen by ransomware and having to pay to get them back isn’t desirable for any organisation, but for an NFP, having to pay up might be near-on impossible.

Of course, the monetary impact can be huge, however, we can’t ignore that an incident like a data breach or information leak can pretty much ruin your reputation and completely break your donors trust.

Securing your IT infrastructure needs to be a priority to protect your digital assets within your organisation.

The basic solutions that we recommend for any business, for profit or non-profit are reputable anti-virus agents on all your computer and mobile devices along with encryption, a solid well configured firewall to control access to your computer network, a reliable backup system and basic user education to identify scams. If you don’t have those, you could be a real easy target for attacks! You can take more steps and implement other systems to make your environment even safer, however, this must be evaluated case by case and depends on your business needs.

Investing in technology saves money

Strategic investment in technology is designed to save money in the long run. By becoming more efficient and effective in your workplace, this means that you can do more with less resources. Instead of having to hire more people, the team you have can do more for your mission.

Maybe you are not in the right moment to make a big investment in technology, however, it’s good to start thinking about it and putting it as one of the priority items in your business plan. There are also small, incremental changes that you can do over time which won’t be such a big impact on your budget and you can use the opportunity to start getting your staff ready for technology updates.

By taking some steps, such as moving to the cloud, you convert costs from Capex to Opex, so your NFP avoids that initial big investment in IT whilst opening the door to many solutions and apps that can be leveraged in the cloud. In the long run, cloud-based app and solutions can reduce overall costs and you can scale your NFP’s operations according to its needs.

Justifying spend on technology needs to be backed up by a solid strategy in place to help you become more efficient, effective, reduce your risk, and save on resources.

At Bremmar, we’re committed to helping NFPs further their mission by undergoing digital transformation. If you are interested in learning more about how you can achieve this transformation and unlock all the benefits of a tech-first organisation, contact our consultants today!

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

We can help with software, technology implementation, strategy and staff training.

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By Rushad Billimoria, Information Systems Manager: Not-for-Profits and Aged Care

As Client Information Systems Manager, I’m the go-to person for Bremmar’s NFP and Aged Care customers.  I help charities, non-profit and Aged Care partners of all sizes transform their digital capabilities and modernise their workplaces, using a targeted and industry-specific approach.

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