By Stephen G. Canton
A primary driving force for associations and nonprofit organizations is to successfully and actively serve their various communities of need on an ongoing basis. As a result, scalable technology solutions that enable maximum productivity and efficiency have become increasingly critical.
Cloud-based services allow for easy ramp-up or scaling-down, depending on specific fundraising goals and seasonality, allowing organizations to focus maximum investment in key communities of need, as opposed to in their own infrastructures, allowing them to advance their missions as efficiently as possible.
On-the-go features and robust capabilities have been in ever-increasing demand across the association space as a result of the large amount of projects often occurring simultaneously and the need for close, consistent, and reliable communication has become paramount in the continuing effort by each organization to carry out its mission.
The advent of cloud computing, and the various services and solutions it enables, such as hosted unified communications, virtualization, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) capabilities across popular desktop collaboration, communication and data management tools, such as Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync have become crucial solutions that are enabling nonprofit growth, and expansion into key communities of need. Cloud-based solutions are able to effectively address the full range of the majority of common challenges experienced by nonprofit organizations, including:
- Capital investment;
- Communications and effective usage of staff and volunteer personnel;
- Efficient collaboration among variable and occasionally remote or far-flung workforces; and
- Seasonal or cyclical funding schedules that often vary from quarter-to-quarter or year-to-year.
As a result, cloud-based services are uniquely positioned to deliver maximum value, and benefits to nonprofit organizations, as well as the tools and infrastructure required, at efficient and cost-effective rates, to carry out and advance their missions as their organizations grow and evolve over time.
How Does the Cloud Deliver Specific Value to Associations?
Cloud computing is centered on the concept of allowing organizations to eliminate premise-based architecture by downloading and storing all of their operational applications to secure, geographically-redundant data centers. While still retaining full control over this data and its usage, organizations are able to dispense with the large overhead costs associated with maintaining and securing technological infrastructure and expand the accessibility and utility of their data and networks to grow productivity among remote staff and across the ever-increasing mobile landscape.
For associations and nonprofit organizations, the cloud has become critically important as a driver of growth and expansion in its ability to offer significant cost savings on technological investment and maintenance, as well as the tremendous flexibility it offers for ramping-up or scaling-down functionality and tools to fit a particular organization’s growth trajectory and fundraising cycle. Organizations are able to on-board top talent from any location in a seamless manner, with no limits or access constraints. Additionally, the migration to the cloud helps to maximize productivity from staff and volunteers wherever they are, anytime, without necessitating a centralized headquarter location.
Regardless of specific mission focus or mission, the majority of associations and nonprofit organizations share several common challenges when approaching the technological means to manage their workflow and staff, conduct work in their communities of need, and work toward the achievement of their missions and organizational goals.
Some of these common challenges include:
- Secure access to enable staff to achieve maximum productivity whether they are in the office or on-the-go;
- Maximum collaboration to achieve common goals across an organization and/or community of need; and
- Scalable solutions that allow for ramping-up or scaling-down based around each organization’s seasonal activity cycles, fundraising schedules, and changing volume of work.
Unified communications solutions, using desktop tools can provide additional levels of collaboration across an organization’s workforce, to enable greater efficiency, productivity and strategic management through data and document sharing, secure access, and robust services with minimal capital expense.
VDI delivers a centralized, secure, and cost-effective data storage solution for organizations that provides the robust, flexible access for maximum real-time collaboration and productivity from staff in remote or far-flung locations. The vendor is responsible for all upgrades and system maintenance activities, which offers the organization peace of mind and continued cost savings.
As associations and nonprofit organizations are chiefly characterized by their mission-driven focus and concerted efforts to bring positive change and impact to the communities they serve, often the largest costs these organizations incur are human, in employees, volunteers, and infrastructures (i.e. investments in physical buildings, technological solutions, etc.). The success of nonprofit organizations is thus largely determined by how effectively each engages its human capital and harnesses its power to affect the organization’s mission and goals while reducing overall capital investment in systems that may detract from serving key communities of need.
Additionally, as many of these types of organizations are comprised of episodic volunteers, where the overall size of the volunteer workforce may grow or decrease substantially due to season or cycle. The cloud enables an efficient, cost-effective communication tool that enhances productivity without placing a large financial strain on the organization’s resources.
The majority of fundraising efforts, for example, are conducted at specific times or seasons throughout the year, often necessitating spurts of activity and influxes of staff to manage and facilitate the outreach and follow-up activities. This basic need to provide rapid response in times of focused activity may significantly aided by the cloud-based services, particularly in their ability to expand or contract in scale depending on the organization’s precise needs.
At the core of the association and nonprofit market spaces is the desire to serve, achieve, and give back to target, identified communities of need. Whether they be in the local area or across the globe, it is essential for nonprofits to maximize their capital investments and operating costs while maximizing the productivity of their staff and volunteer workforces in order to deliver maximum impact and value to the areas and communities they serve.
Cloud-based services are leading the way toward the next generation of associations and nonprofit organizations as a result of their ability to provide scalable, flexible, cost-effective, and secure tools for interest groups to achieve and advance their missions from anywhere in the globe, anytime, all while aligning with that specific organization’s growth path, fundraising cycle, and unique timetable.
Stephen G. Canton is Chief Executive and Chairman of iCore Networks, a provider of Hosted Unified Communications & Cloud Applications Services. He can be reached at email@example.com; or 703-673-1350; icore.com.