One of the first lessons successful charities learn is a non-profit business is still a business and must be operated professionally. This applies to all aspects of the company including accounting, human resources and IT. Unfortunately, many non-profit organizations take a minimalist approach to IT services. This undermines their ability to provide help to those in need. IT assessments allow charities to determine what kinds of resources fit their needs and their budget so they can provide the best care possible to their target population.
One of the most basic business functions is to have an IT plan for disaster recovery – prepared by a firm (www.ScarlettCulture.com). Information such as financial data or client records is critical to any organization’s function, and if that information is lost, operations can come to a halt. The charity could collapse and even find itself in trouble with granting agencies for not providing promised services.
IT assessments allow non-profit organizations to find disaster recovery solutions appropriate to the organization. For small charities, this might be as simple as a schedule of nightly server backups onto tape or remote servers. Larger facilities might need more advanced disaster recovery solutions such as redundant servers and network connections that allow the charity to operate in the event of a natural disaster. Many non-profit services are in most need during crises which can also threaten the charity’s ability to function. Thus, disaster recovery is even more critical for these entities than for private corporations.
Protecting Confidential Information
Although disaster recovery is vital, information also needs to be protected from unauthorized intrusion. Non-profit organizations often have access to confidential information, and they must make every effort to ensure this data does not fall into the wrong hands. Something as seemingly harmless as a list of client names could alert unscrupulous individuals to people in need or people who might be desperate enough to fall for scams such as identity theft.
Charities that deal with patient medical or financial information can face serious penalties if that information is not adequately protected. Organizations such as hospitals, bankruptcy advisors or legal aid societies are privy to information that must be protected at all costs. IT assessments can determine how vulnerable the current infrastructure is to unauthorized intrusion ranging from hacking the network to simply walking in an unlocked door and sitting down at a computer. They can also institute systems to protect computers from viruses, spyware and other malicious software.
Big Needs, Small Budgets
Non-profit organizations have IT needs as great or greater than private organizations, but don’t have the deep pockets that corporations have. They often can’t use off-the-shelf solutions designed to meet the needs of a wide range of customers since they contain a range of features many buyers don’t use. Non-profits need customized tools that cater to their needs and fit within tight budgetary requirements.
Grantors don’t give money to organizations only because those organizations assist the community. Grantors also need to know their money will be used wisely. Charities that don’t show fiscal responsibility find their sources of funding dry up. When charities ask for grant assistance, they must justify every penny spent and demonstrated every solution is the most cost-effective choice. IT assessments need to find options that meet the needs of the organization regarding security and data recovery, but also regarding their limited financial resources.
Creating A Plan That Helps Everyone
Many departments will be impacted by the changes recommended by the IT assessment, and this is why everyone should be included in the planning phase. Obviously IT staff should be included, but so should directors of each department. Large charities should have representatives from each chapter involved in the planning.
Since the organization already is using some software and hardware solutions, the company’s vendors should also be included in the planning to ensure they can offer the capabilities needed to support the final solution created. Any partner charities should be included as well. The IT assessment can’t help unless the people involved have all the information needed to come up with a comprehensive plan to meet the organization’s IT needs.
Professional management ensures a non-profit organization can meet its mission to communities in need, and live up to its responsibilities to donors and grantors. IT assessments ensure the organization has data protection and disaster recovery tools in place to meet those obligations.