Quality, sustainable and reliable digital technology and IT support and advice are essential to ensure not-for-profit organisations don’t waste money or the valuable time of staff and volunteers. Achieving that level of quality, sustainability and reliability requires adequate resourcing, which can be a challenge for any organisation, especially not-for-profits. The smart way to getting there is to start with identifying the main areas of need.
Areas of need
For ease of reference, the areas of need can be grouped into three categories.
Tech foundations and cyber security
- Cloud-based infrastructure like Office 365 and Google workspace
- On-premises network infrastructure, including processes for implementing updates and patches
- Purchases and projects, including hardware
- Onboarding and offboarding users
- Troubleshooting, including everyday issues such as computer problems, sign-on issues and internet connectivity
- Cyber security, including information classification and security, user device management, network threat detection and alerts, policies, user education and compliance.
Information systems and digital marketing
- Service delivery systems including client/case management systems and constituent relationship management (CRM) systems, requiring support such as data cleanliness, queries, reporting, configuration, database backup and updates
- Human resources information system support
- Financial management system support
- Website support, including design and development, hosting and maintenance support
- Social media support, including social media channel management
IT Management (strategy and governance)
- Digital strategy roadmap
- Digital technology budget planning
- Project work and scheduling
- Digital technology governance, including data governance.
Once you've identified your areas of need, you'll need support to resource them appropriately. There’s a variety of options that can provide the support your organisation requires, both internal and external. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, your organisation’s needs may be best met by a combination of the following.
Internal support options
- Permanent/contract digital technology manager (full- or part-time): This staff member’s main responsibility is managing the relationships with any outside vendors or contractors you work with. They might also coordinate with other staff that should be involved in technology decisions and have a high level understanding of your digital technology ecosystem and also in some cases develop strategy and planning.
- Accidental techie: This is rarely a formal job title. Rather, it's often one of the responsibilities an office manager finance person or administrative professional might take on in the absence of a dedicated IT professional on staff. They’re usually a person who understands digital technology or office equipment better than most in the organisation, and can figure out how to adapt the knowledge to the organisation's needs. They can act as a digital technology coordinator, knowing basic technology troubleshooting and/or where to look to get more information. They might work with outside vendors for additional support and assistance.
- A member of the board or governance committee: This type of person is particularly valuable on digital strategy roadmap and planning. They can be relied upon to educate other committee members about digital technology investments and provide some independent advice and guidance to both the manager and the person responsible for digital technology support in the organisation.
External support options
- Managed service providers: These are companies that act as an outsourced digital technology/IT department. They can handle your day-to-day support needs particularly for technology foundations and cyber security, including hardware issues and network problems. They often have a help desk available to your staff to call or email for assistance. They can also handle routine maintenance security settings and can provide strategic guidance. There are various digital agencies and providers available to support digital marketing, including website support.
- Consultants: These are individuals or small groups of digital technology experts that can handle much of what managed service providers can do but on a smaller scale. A consultant who specialises in a particular information system such as a CRM can be helpful for project work such as implementing new technologies or providing ongoing support of key systems. It’s also helpful to create a digital technology strategy roadmap.
- Volunteers: Tech savvy volunteers are another option for non-profits. Exercise caution when considering this option. Paying for expert technology advice and help often proves to be a smart investment in the long term. If you decide to commit to the volunteer option, read the section below.
- A common question is how can we improve our digital technology support when we can’t afford to pay? While there is no magic solution, there are some low cost-options to consider:
- Ask your existing volunteers whether anyone has (or wants to learn) the digital technology skills your organisation lacks
- Ask your staff, volunteers and board members whether they know of anyone with the digital technology skills you require who might be willing to donate time to help your organisation
- Advertise on volunteering funnels, for example:
- Employ a student from a university or TAFE. You can contact them directly, they will all have "work integrated learning" options, or similar, or go through established internship programs such as Navitas.
This webinar helps you understand the volunteer management journey, from finding volunteers, the on-boarding process to involvement and retention.
Having a trusted external provider is particularly important. Every organisation that relies on technology needs someone they can call upon when required, whether it’s to remove a virus, advise on whether to upgrade their email or fix a difficult technical problem.
Lastly, you can book an expert to guide you on digital technology support options.
How to assess candidate potential (webinar)