A volunteer staffer mistakenly downloaded malware from an email.  The hackers had empathy for the nonprofit, but not sympathy.  They demanded 50 bitcoin, or what was then about $43,000, to return the data and keep it private.  (NPR actual story)

There is a fine line between a legitimate email or link, and a dangerous one.  Most people cannot tell the difference.  Unfortunately mistakes can be costly.

Is malware / security the top technology challenge facing nonprofits today?

Probably not.

We suggest it is TRUSTWORTHY ADVICE

By their nature nonprofits are trusting people.  The challenge is everyone seems to have an opinion for you when you run or work at a nonprofit.  So who can you trust?  Is it constituents, board members, nonprofit advisors, members, vendors, and others?  Some people are biased towards a solution they sell, or have used.  Others speak with authority, yet lack knowledge – even if they are significant donors.

Here is one proven approach that can help you discern the best technology advice:

#1 – Experience:  Get advice and trust people who have “been there, done that” with the different types of technology you need.  Technology is cool, but cumbersome or risky when implemented poorly.

For instance, your nonprofit can get really cool apps for $10-$50 monthly each, per person, but unless the apps integrate and share data they can waste time and money rather than save it.

Find an I.T. managed service provider who helps you say, “No,” to technology that is not immediately needed and/or can be a burden.

#2 – Acumen:  How well does your I.T. managed service provider comprehend the challenges your nonprofit is facing?

Nonprofit technology needs and solutions are constantly changing.  Ideally your I.T. managed service provider has experience serving nonprofits, and/or is personally active in a nonprofit because your nonprofit has needs that are unique to your industry.

You need more than technology.  You need a virtual Chief Information Officer who can help your organization navigate increasingly complex technology options.

#3 – Value:  Evaluate price versus value.  (The lowest price is rarely the best value.)  Money is always tight at well-run nonprofits, but the lowest priced technology forces your staff and volunteers to spend more time doing their work to achieve your mission.

Spending more time does NOT save money.

The #1 purpose of technology is to save time.  The #2 purpose of technology is to lower costs and/or increase revenues.

Test drive any solution you want to purchase, BEFORE buying.  You do not have to entirely setup a network, software application, or expensive computer hardware.  However, you should be able to participate in a demonstration that proves the solution being proposed meets your financial and productivity objectives.

#4 – References:  Reliable suppliers have Clients who are willing to recommend them.  Find an I.T. managed services provider that has highly satisfied nonprofit clients, who are willing to explain what they like about the vendor, and where they can improve (if at all).

Call their references.  Pose typical scenarios you expect to face.  Ask about after-hours care.  Candidly ask them to share how the vendor has not met their expectations.  Then ask how the vendor has met or exceeded their expectations, or what they like best about being served by them.

THE GOOD NEWS

I could go on, but if you follow these four steps you can avoid the most costly errors when investing in information technology for your nonprofit.

Learn more at no cost.

We are a reputable, 15-year-old Maryland & DC Beltway team of computer experts providing IT security and managed services to businesses and nonprofits.

Email Marc Wishnow or call (410) 925-0303 to discuss your needs and consider ways to cost effectively apply technology to better achieve your mission.

P.S.  Marc can also schedule a complimentary network security assessment for your organization, which is important documentation of your current I.T. environment for your board.