4 IT Best Practices For Nonprofits

The answer is to use follow the following four IT best practices. Consider them when developing your technology strategy. They will help you identify opportunities to optimize your financial resources, enable growth and achieve your mission.

1. Align Your Information Technology System With Your Mission.

Sometimes technology is an afterthought for nonprofit organizations. Typically when this happens, IT investments don’t deliver the required results and end up “sitting on the shelf.” You can’t afford to waste money on technology that doesn’t perform. How can you justify this to your board of directors?

Strategically selected digital tools empower staff and stakeholders to effectively deliver on organizational missions. When you look at technology as a strategic investment and implement and maintain it in a proactive rather than reactive way, it will be the tool you need for short-and long-term success.

But, how do you know what the right technology is? The easiest way is to ask an IT services provider who has experience working with nonprofits. They can conduct an IT assessment that will examine the technology you use and what’s lacking in relation to your culture, process and financial requirements. This will generate greater value for your organization while decreasing risk.

2. Use Cost-Effective Cloud-Based IT Solutions.

Ask your IT provider about customized, industry-specific cloud solutions that can help you remove data silos, optimize your resources, and improve operations and efficiencies.

Legacy technology systems are often difficult to manage and don’t provide the required return on investment. Cloud-based IT services and solutions are more cost-effective and provide the anywhere/anytime access you need. Plus, you’ll have the technology you need to succeed at a fraction of the cost of purchasing it outright.

Instead of expending your capital, you’ll pay an affordable, per-user, monthly subscription.

And you’ll no longer need to worry about technology solutions going out of date because they are automatically updated. With cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, you can scale up or down easily — You’ll have the flexibility to add or delete the seats as your nonprofit grows (or needs to scale back). This also makes it easy to predictably budget what you need for the year.

For example, with business intelligence systems like those in Microsoft Office 365, you can collect donor data from different outreach channels and then analyze this information in a centralized location. This insight allows you to identify trends and patterns that could improve the results of your next fundraising campaign and generate higher revenue. By exploring these new cloud innovations, it’s possible to leverage business intelligence that you could never afford to purchase outright.

3. Establish Information Security Policies & Procedures.

Information security should be a priority. You could be doing everything else right, but if you don’t mitigate risk and protect your nonprofit organization’s confidential data, you could face a costly data breach. Just one breach could result in hefty fines, penalties, expensive litigation and a ruined reputation that scares donors away.

An Information Security Policy (ISP) is a set of rules to ensure that your users or networks adhere to a standard that ensures the security of data stored digitally. It governs the protection of your information technology. The policy can be as broad as you need it to be but should consider these key elements:

  • Identify a general approach to data security.
  • Denote the steps needed to detect and prevent compromising of data and IT infrastructures including misuse of information technology, networks, computer systems and applications.
  • How to protect the reputation of your nonprofit with respect to its legal and ethical responsibilities.
  • To observe the rights of your members and donors and to provide effective mechanisms to respond to complaints, questions and concerns about non-compliance with the policy.

4. Protect Your IT Investments From Cyber Threats.

Ask your IT Service Provider to do the following:

  • Implement Layers of Security: You shouldn’t rely on just one security mechanism to protect sensitive data. If it fails, you have nothing left to protect you.
  • Segment Your Networks With Firewalls: Network segmentation categorizes IT assets and data and restricts access to them. Reduce the number of pathways into and within your networks and implement security protocols on these pathways. Do this to keep hackers from gaining access to all areas of your network.
  • Use Solutions That Detect Compromises: Use measures like Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs), Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPSs), and anti-virus software to help you detect IT security events in their early stages. This provides 24/7 detection and response to security threats.
  • Secure Remote Access With A VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts data channels so your users can securely access your IT infrastructure via the Internet. It provides secure remote access for things like files, databases, printers and IT assets that are connected to your network.
  • Employ Role-Based Access Controls With Secure Logins: Limiting your employees’ authorization with role-based access controls prevents network intrusions and suspicious activities. Define user permissions based on the access needed for their particular job. For example, your receptionist might not need access to your financial data.
  • Install All Of Your Security Patches and Updates: Software developers are diligent about releasing patches for new security threats. Ask your IT provider to install them as soon as they’re released. If you don’t, your IT system will be vulnerable to cyber attacks. They can set your systems to update automatically. Auto-updates will prevent you from missing critical updates.
  • Secure and Encrypt Your Wireless Connections: Be sure your company Wi-Fi is separate from a guest Wi-Fi or public networks. Your internal wireless network should be restricted to specific users who are provided with unique credentials for access. These credentials should be preset with expiration dates and new ones provided periodically. Your company’s internal wireless should also be protected with WPA2 encryption.
  • Back Up Your Data: You must have a backup copy of your data if it’s stolen or accidentally deleted. Develop a policy that specifies what data is backed up, how often it’s backed up, where it’s stored and who has access to the backups. Backup to both an external drive in your office and a remote, secure, online data centre. Set backups to occur automatically. And make sure your backup systems are encrypted. Your IT provider should also test your backups regularly for recoverability.

In Conclusion

By assessing technology in relation to your mission and vision, using the right cloud-based solutions, and by following information security protocols, your nonprofit association can use technology to help facilitate growth and overcome mission-critical challenges.

Contact Sysoft Computer Consultants for assistance in implementing these best practices. We serve many nonprofit organizations in Toronto, North York, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Markham, Vaughan, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Barrie and throughout the entire GTA.

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