The Non-Profit Partnership With Information Technology
Is your non-profit relying on the limited tech skills of a volunteer or employee who has other full-time duties in your organization? Discover the benefits of, and tips for, outsourcing your IT.
Tips for Outsourcing Tech for Your Non-Profit
There tends to be thinking that the operation of a non-profit organization is far different from that of a for-profit company. Most of those differences, however, are organizational and financial related. From a business-to-business standpoint, non-profits and profits can be very similar. This includes how each manages their IT needs.
Like for-profits, non-profits require tech service providers that understand their needs and can work within a budget. You should have tech support that is responsive and available. Unfortunately, many non-profits will instead rely on a volunteer or employee who may fancy themselves as a “techie”. These part-time, as needed helpers usually are well-intentioned but have limited areas of expertise. They may also cause more problems than they resolve.
It is far too easy for non-profits to ignore routine and preventative maintenance. Backing-up data, updating software or ensuring systems are properly secure from malware and outside attacks fall down the priority list. When problems do manifest themselves, they can become time-consuming, costly, and may result in calling in an outside consultant anyway.
Since computer reliability and stability has improved greatly over the past decade or so, many organizations, including non-profits, have eliminated or reduced staffing in IT. Many have turned to outsourcing their tech services. Outsourcing allows you to have access to services when you need them, without the expense of a full-time employee. It also allows you to choose resources that specialize in areas of your specific needs. When done correctly, outsourcing for tech provides you the expertise you need, when you need it, and get it more affordable.
Here are some tips for outsourcing tech services for your non-profit.
Perform Your Due Diligence
Selecting the proper resource for your tech needs will take some research into pricing, areas of expertise, and experience. It can be valuable if a resource has experience in the non-profit sector. Make sure they are familiar with the type of equipment and network you use. You may consider asking for referrals from other non-profit organizations of similar size and scope as yours. Don’t be afraid to ask for a provider’s non-profit references.
Ask About Insurance Coverage
Find out if your support company carries worker’s compensation insurance for their staff. Ask if you are covered for any inadvertent damage they may cause to your system or equipment.
Do They Have Access to Your Network by Remote Access?
Remote access can minimize potentially expensive on-site visits. Many tech-related problems can be resolved remotely so this is a valuable aspect of outsourcing tech support.
Is the Company Properly Staffed?
Many individuals with tech knowledge will go out on their own and present themselves as IT consultants. There can be a few issues with this, in that there is a limit to both knowledge and availability. When you have a computer or network issue, especially if it’s critical, you want an immediate response. You may not get that with a one-person company.
Does an Outsource, Outsource?
You’ll want to work directly with any tech company you outsource too. This means, avoiding using a company who uses subcontractors. If the company you outsource to, outsources, it adds potential communication problems and responsibility issues. Make sure your tech company performs all of their work in-house with their own staff. This holds them accountable for any work that is done.
Get Billing and Invoicing Details
Before choosing an outside resource for your tech needs, you’ll want a full understanding of precisely how you will be billed and invoiced. How do they track hours and travel time? What are the parameters for what they define as “emergency service”? Billing should detail services provided so any projects can be fully understood after the fact. Avoid prepaying for blocks of time for “anticipated” repairs in advance.
Range of Knowledge
You’ll be well served to discover what areas of expertise potential resources bring to the table. Do they have a full understanding of your network and software needs? Can they assist you with security issues? Are they experienced at making hardware recommendations? The wider the range of expertise they offer, the better they will be able to serve you. It also means you will need fewer outside resources.
Can You Relate to Each Other?
One of the weak links in outsourcing is the potential for poor communication. After all, you may be outsourcing because you don’t fully understand the jargon of technology. Ideally, you want a resource who can communicate with you in terminology you understand. Be cautious of companies who overuse technological terms to create some sort of “mystique” about their services. They should understand that you may not understand what they are saying and use less technical language to communicate.
Is There a Commitment?
Service contracts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can delineate responsibility and outline expectations. They demonstrate a mutual responsibility between a non-profit and a vendor. However, you do want to fully understand the terms of any such agreement before signing on. Be cautious of monthly minimums and contracts that may automatically renew for lengthy periods of time. Service agreements should benefit both parties.
Outsourcing tech for non-profits makes sense and is a solid business practice when the proper resource or resources are chosen. Relying on a volunteer or employee’s help in keeping your network functioning and protected is risky and may ultimately be more costly. Perform your due diligence and follow the above tips in selecting the right tech consultant for you and your organization. You can get high quality, knowledgeable tech support while staying within budget.