What are tech foundations?

Tech foundations cover the core tech components allowing staff to share information and collaborate effectively.
What are tech foundations?

Core components

The tech foundations domain covers the core technology components to allow staff to share information and collaborate effectively. It includes the following categories of technology:

  • Personal computers and related user devices such as mobile phones and tablets
  • Email and calendars services to enable staff to collaborate effectively and manage their time
  • File sharing to create and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations and many other types of information
  • Network infrastructure to securely connect people, computers and information to each other and the internet
  • User authentication to ensure only authorised people can see restricted information, and servers to host your applications and other services
  • Telephony and videoconferencing to enable staff to communicate effectively with others regardless of location
  • Group collaboration services to provide teams with an integrated environment to easily chat, share files and video-call colleagues wherever they may be
  • Organisational information services to effectively communicate across the organisation through an intranet or similar, including features such as news, key application link, and policies and procedures.

Where to begin

We recommend non-for-profits pick either the Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace platforms and work hard to get value from their chosen platform. Both offer zero cost options including:

  • Email, contacts and calendar
  • Create and edit spreadsheets, documents and presentations
  • File storage and sharing
  • Video conferencing, instant messaging, group collaboration
  • Uptime SLAs

The main differences (to help you choose between these two platforms if you're not sure which is best for you) are:

  • User interfaces differ (which are your staff comfortable with)?
  • Microsoft has stronger security certifications, integrates better with servers (if you need them) and a broader range of features (some free, some not)
  • More tech companies support the Microsoft 365 platform than Google Workspace (if you want a partner to look after this part for you)
  • What type of PCs do you use?
    The Microsoft platform integrates better with Microsoft Windows PCs. The Google platform integrates better with ChromeOS devices. Both work similarly with Apple Mac devices.
  • Google is available at no charge for a broader range of non-profits, and can be easier to administer for people with limited IT expertise.

Learn more about discounts for not-for-profits for Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace here:

If you need a partner to support you in your use of a platform, make sure you consider this before choosing a platform – depending on your location and which platform you prefer, there may be many partners with the right experience, or none.

We’ve summarised our not-for-profit Tech Foundations capability levels and requirements in the table below so you can understand what we recommend to progress through the levels.

Tech foundations maturity
  Basic Intermediate Advanced
PCs & personal devices Most staff have access to a PC, but some are slow and unreliable. Staff have reliable PCs.
An accurate PC list is used to budget for replacement on a regular cycle (3-5 years).
PC problems are fixed in an agreed, reasonable timeframe.
Most staff have the PC skills needed for their roles.
Staff and managers are highly satisfied with their PCs and devices. They are set up well, support effective working and can evolve to meet future needs.
Email & calendars We pay for a mail/calendaring service (or have a server) that needs maintenance (updates) and can be difficult to access across multiple devices or keep within mailbox size limits. We use non-profit version of Office 365/Google Workspace or similar, which intuitively allows staff to securely access email and calendars.
Availability of staff. Cars and rooms can be seen to minimise booking conflicts.
We are sophisticated email and calendaring users, using shared mailboxes, email aliases, distribution lists etc.
Staff and managers are highly satisfied with our setup and confident it can evolve to support future needs.
File sharing We pay for a file sharing service (or use servers) that needs maintenance or regular updates and can be difficult for staff to access remotely. We use a non-profit version of Office 365, Google Workspace or similar, available at no cost and intuitively allowing staff to store files in personal and shared areas to securely collaborate with other staff.
Files can be easily accessed remotely and synchronised for offline work. Most staff can use systems well and easily share and find files they need.
Staff and managers are highly satisfied with our file sharing services.
Access permissions are correct, staff can easily work with files they need, and the system can evolve to meet future needs as the organisation grows, matures and evolves.
Network infrastructure Staff have access to the internet and core systems, but it can be slow and unreliable. Staff have access to wifi, our core systems and internet, which are reliable and fast enough for all their needs, at all our locations. Visitor internet and wifi are available at all our sites, segregated from the core network for performance and security.
Key traffic is prioritised, so peed and performance are never an issue.
All devices are remotely monitored and managed and budget is allocated to refresh devices every 3-6 years.
Servers & user authentication Our servers are not always reliable, fast or up-to-date. Our servers are reliable, meet our current needs and are well supported. Our servers are reliable, hosted in the cloud and can be easily increased or decreased in capacity as required. 
Authentication systems are linked so that staff can use a single username/password to access all our core systems.
Telephony & video conferencing Staff have access to a landline/mobile phone (as appropriate).
It isn’t possible to receive calls outside the office.
While the system generally works, when failures occur, repairs and updates can take time.
We use a phone system that is reliable, centrally managed and allows calls to be received outside the office. 
Videoconferencing is available to all staff.
Key rooms have easy-to-use videoconferencing equipment installed.
Our telephony system runs in the cloud and supports staff working anywhere with an internal connection.
Our telephony and videoconferencing systems are integrated and can readily support future needs.
Group collaboration We collaborate via email and shared folders. We make good use of a not-for-profit collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace. This platform provides teams with an integrated environment to share files, instant-message, videoconference and manage tasks. We make effective use of our group collaboration platform with external partners and stakeholders.
All staff are comfortable getting the most out of this technology.
Organisational info We have a very basic intranet (or none at all).
Our policies and procedures are stored in a file share or hardcopy.
We have an intranet that works well to share information across the organisation, including policies, procedures, important news, etc. Our files and information are well structured and easily searchable. 
Staff can find what they need easily and access it anywhere.
Our information systems and structures and flexible and easily evolve to meet the needs of the organisation.

Read next

Achieving intermediate-level tech foundations

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