Peter Franklin, Tech Networks of Boston
Small to medium nonprofits are used to conserving their funds and operating with a staff who wear many hats. This may mean the executive director or office manager is responsible for all IT functions. Conversely, a larger nonprofit might be able to hire an IT Manager, but one who does not know the nonprofit IT landscape.
So, why would a nonprofit require the services of an IT consultant?
Because only an IT consultant trained in nonprofit work has the knowledge and experience to find ways to cut corners cost-wise but not service-wise. You need an expert who understands the budget limitations that impact technology choices. For example, Tech Networks’ IT consultants split their time among many other nonprofit organizations and always have their finger on the pulse of nonprofit needs, and the resources available to different industries.
In many ways, an IT consultant functions as a tech-savvy extension of the clients’ workforce by focusing on:
- Improving support tools and resources
- Reducing inefficiency
- Saving money
- Enhancing performance
- Assisting with IT strategy
It’s critical that your IT consultant is well-versed in the range of products and services that nonprofits can obtain for little or no cost through TechSoup and other vendors. The consultant should help determine which discounts your organization is eligible for, and then facilitate purchasing the software and other products.
Another advantage of bringing in an IT consultant during upgrades or changes to your technology is that they can train members of your staff to troubleshoot potential issues. When you have early adopters who are enthusiastic about technology, the transition to a new technology tends to go smoothly.
Consultants are also equipped with a perspective you cannot get from the inside – they identify inefficiencies within systems and processes and can recommend solutions that truly work. For example, if your staff is mired down in version control and document confusion, the consultant has the knowledge to realign the organization and establish guidelines that every team member can follow.
With about 1.5 million non-profit charitable organizations registered in the United States, not every nonprofit has the ability to hire an IT consultant. But many of them would certainly benefit from doing so.
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