There is no doubt that the year 2020 put many charities on a steep learning curve with a fast shift to remote working, cloud services and delivery of digital services. The way that organisations adapted was remarkable, and although the challenges are continuing in 2021, now is also a good time to reassess how IT can be rationalised, how staff can be trained further, and where costs can be reduced.
When looking at how to get the best from technology, charities and non-profits should consider the following trends;
Integration of Systems
Connecting all the IT technologies within the organisation, third-party systems and programs into a larger system that works ‘as a whole’, with secure data integration, makes systems integration one of the biggest challenges charities face, especially whilst most are working at home.
One of the main challenges is how to make legacy on-premise systems and cloud systems speak the same language so that they are easier to use and much more cost-effective to run.
Moving your ‘sign on’ function away from on-premise servers to a cloud service such as Azure Active Directory is a very powerful first step, and the cost is either free or minimal – see our ‘Optimising 365’ guide for more information on this.
Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM) will continue to become extremely valuable in not only providing a central digital database of all interactions with donors, prospects, beneficiaries, but also in saving time and enabling donor contributions to grow, even more important when teams are distributed.
Organisations should be optimising their CRM systems and utilising the reporting, business intelligence and volunteer management systems more. Integrating CRM with all the IT systems and programs will maximise productivity and enable all applications to talk to each other.
Returning to the office: meetings, telephony and communications
Remember that building you used to go to every day for work? At some point you may go back there! But it’s likely that over half your team will be at home, so those old meeting rooms with an ancient PC in the corner won’t cut it any more.
Technology such as Microsoft Teams Rooms allows you to very easily hold hybrid meetings on Teams, servicing people working remotely as well as those in a meeting room, in one place. There might be a small investment needed on installing a Teams-compatible tablet into the room, but these packages are a lot more affordable nowadays and make meetings a lot more efficient and easier to manage.
It is also a fair assumption that the desk phones we all used to have on our desks are heading for the recycling, having gathered dust for the last 12 months. Most of the charities we work with anticipate reducing their landline telephony by over 50% and for the remainder they are using Teams telephony instead; external calls simply arrive on your Teams app instead of a desk phone.
Microsoft recently added Business Voice to the non-profit scheme, meaning that from £8 per user per month, you can have a full ‘landline’ functionality, including call transfer, groups, helplines etc. All within Teams.
Repetitive, mundane tasks like taking data from 1 system, importing into Excel, and uploading to another can be much more easily automated nowadays without the need to know any programming or advanced IT skills.
Microsoft Power Automate is now included in most 365 subscriptions, meaning you can train a robot to process those reports and email them to stakeholders or Trustees, or massively reduce manual handling of data for new starters and volunteers via Forms and Lists which work hand in hand with Power Automate, and are also included at no extra cost in most 365 subscriptions.
An unfortunate trend for 2021 is the alarming increase of cyberhackers and cyberattacks leaving charities and non-profits in an even more vulnerable position than ever before.
Faced with reduced budgets and distributed staff, charities and non-profits need to rise to the challenge to change the way they approach cybersecurity and manage the risks. A fantastic starting point is to obtain the Cyber Essentials accreditation for your organisation. We’ve seen lots of funding bodies such as Local Authorities start to ask for Cyber Essentials as a prerequisite for any funding bids you may be working on, and it’s usually relatively quick and cost effective to gain the accreditation.
Smartdesc can assess and award Cyber Essentials, so please do contact us for more information, and also check out our simple guide to secure remote working here.