Successful not-for-profit organisations (NPOs) operate a lot like the best businesses, they just focus on different outcomes. Profit isn’t a priority, but it’s not as dirty word either. Achieving altruistic aims costs money, and surplus revenues are fed back into the NPO’s activities.
NPOs – such as charities, voluntary organisations, and trade and industry associations – need to generate revenue in order to operate. There is a focus on well controlled costs and playing by the rules in terms of the requirements of their legal structure.
IT plays an important role for NPOs, not just for corporate communications, but also for providing privileged access to resources for members and clients, and offering information to the wider public. Mason Advisory has worked with national and international NPOs, ensuring they get efficient and effective technology to help them further their causes. Our insights into the challenges facing organisations in this sector are outlined below.
Managing IT TCO. Given the model for NPOs, there is clearly pressure to manage costs. This means IT departments must understand their total cost of ownership across all services, and puts a focus on life-cycle management, sourcing, commercial and vendor management, and operational efficiency to ensure that costs are managed.
Maximising the impact of technology. IT can be transformational, and for those in the third sector there are wider opportunities to use technology innovations to be more inclusive, more environmentally efficient, and more engaging, as well as delivering lower-cost and more effective ways of working for the organisation.
Managing channels. NPOs engage with members, customers, beneficiaries, and other agencies to provide information, services and products. This can involve a number of channels including contact centres, drop-in centres, websites and extranet portals. Delivering a consistent service and experience is critical to user satisfaction and confidence. NPOs need to make sure their technology strategies consider this diverse set of interfaces and put the needs of the user communities first.
Collaboration. Working with other organisations is a major part of ensuring that charities, industry bodies and other NPOs provide a seamless service for members and beneficiaries. That can include sharing electronic data, accessing central systems, and aligning processes. It’s vital to be aware of technical, legal or regulatory requirements surrounding shared working, and to include integration and collaboration in strategic IT planning.
Sourcing. The increasing divergence of software providers, the introduction of cloud-based suppliers, and the drive for cost efficiency means that sourcing strategies need to be continuously evaluated. Sourcing health checks to ensure that relationships continue to deliver good value for money are an essential and pragmatic approach.
Security. NPOs are often holding large amounts of personal data, such as donor and member personal and financial details, as well as corporate information. Security is therefore critical to the confidence of the people they support and to their reputation. The frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks is increasing and NPOs must stay ahead of the curve in this respect, with strong controls in place to protect the integrity and privacy of data.