When your nonprofit purchased computers, servers, and basic software you might have thought you had covered your technology needs. However, there are many issues, small and large, that can increase your tech costs year after year. Nonprofits often don’t have large IT budgets or dedicated internal IT staff, so it can be difficult to make purchasing and budgeting decisions for your organization. We hope to give you a few tips to help make your budgeting process easier.
First, you’ll want to review what systems your team is currently using and think about how your organization plans to grow and change over the next year and beyond. Typically, devices like laptops become obsolete within a few years and you will need to get a new server, or migrate your data to the cloud, after a few years of operation. Other technology needs, like your operating system, should be upgraded every few years to ensure you’re safe from security threats and your devices are running as smoothly as possible (read about Windows 7 End of Life HERE). While it may be tempting to rely on repairs and patches for longer than recommended, this could end up costing you more in the long run than simply spending on new devices and software.
Reviewing the systems your team currently uses gives you the opportunity to determine whether you’re spending too much on programs you don’t need or can replace with something else. Do you use Google Docs and Office Online? Are you using a CRM with email marketing functionality but still using a separate tool like MailChimp to deliver your campaigns? Are you paying for everyone to have access to Adobe Creative Suite when only two team members use it? Make sure you’re not spending in unnecessary places so that you can create more room in your budget for essential costs.
It is also important that you consider the way your company will grow over the next few years, and how you can anticipate future needs now. The systems you use should be scalable, and you should have plans for onboarding new hires as well as helping current employees transition roles smoothly. For instance, if you currently use Salesforce for nonprofits and you have under 10 users, you’re well within your budget (since its free!). However, if you expanded the team that uses Salesforce, or want other team members to start using it to manage data, will you be able to afford that growth? Or will you have to take time and resources to move over to another software that is better aligned with your budget and size needs? Planning for growth is essential, and it can be risky to handle everything ad-hoc.
Finally, you’ll want to determine what your plan is for handling tech when it reaches end-of-life or needs to be upgraded. Not only do you have to budget for the purchase of new tech, but you also must budget for properly discarding your old technology. Creating a set of guidelines for your technology purchases can help you manage costs by determining how often devices need to be upgraded, what functionality is needed by role, and how hardware is to be sourced (preferred vendors, etc.). The cost of updating technology like your operating systems is also important to factor in, including the labor and downtime that might be incurred during the process.
Technology budgeting is an involved process and it can be difficult to manage alone. Chances are, your nonprofit doesn’t have a robust IT department, and it may be difficult to navigate technology projects. It is important to take a holistic approach to your IT budget and planning, because it impacts the way your business operates every day. If you have questions about how to start or need help, please contact us.