Resourcing to meet your IT needs

How to best support your organisation's IT set-up, including how to draw upon volunteers.
Using volunteers for IT

Quality, sustainable and reliable IT support and advice is essential to ensure not-for-profit organisations don’t waste money or the valuable time of staff and volunteers. If you are not satisfied with your IT support and advice, this should be addressed before working out new ways in which you can use technology.

To maintain some continuity in IT support, all organisations should have:

  1. One or more volunteers or discounted service providers who can perform many of the basic IT tasks required by the organisation.
  2. A paid member of staff with designated responsibility for ensuring that documentation exists and is maintained about the IT environment (they don’t need to be able to support your IT environment).
  3. A member of the board or governance committee who can be relied upon to educate other committee members about IT and provide some independent advice and guidance about IT to both the manager and the person responsible for running IT in the organisation. Note that this role can sometimes be combined with the strategy above, and even (for short periods of time) the first strategy when your IT person leaves the organisation.
  4. A trusted external provider who can offer extra support (for a fee) when the tasks are more complex, or when the organisation loses access to internal resources (it may be pertinent to have the provider sign a confidentiality agreement).

It is useful to document the specific IT responsibilities of the manager, board member and volunteer. This formalises the roles and can help to ensure accountability for IT knowledge capture and transfer.

However, a common question is how can we improve our IT support when we can’t afford to pay? Unfortunately there is no magic solution. However, there are some low cost-options you can consider:

  • Ask your existing volunteers whether anyone has (or wants to learn) the IT skills your organisation lacks.
  • Ask your staff, volunteers and board members whether they know of anyone with the IT skills you require who might be willing to donate time to help your organisation.
  • Advertise on volunteering sites, 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.

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.