How to Find the Right MSP for Your Nonprofit
Nonprofits range from small to large, corporate and educational, spanning across many industries and handling numerous different initiatives. Managing even the small to medium sized nonprofits is taxing with all operations, finance, fundraising, and building community awareness all while working from their overall mission and following governance rules.
When your nonprofit or any kind of a business doesn’t have technology as its main focus, usually there isn’t a dedicated and expert team for handling the technical aspects of the business. While being resilient to cyber threats and keeping up with emerging technology that can help improve several areas of operations for nonprofits, a dedicated IT team simply isn’t easily attainable. The nature of running a nonprofit and budget needed for an in-house IT team just don’t seem as a cost-efficient endeavor.
A solution to this isn’t to have one or more people in your staff scrambling around, without real technical expertise, trying to keep up with the technology needs in a nonprofit. Working with a Managed Service Provider, an MSP, can allow nonprofits to have an IT team without the financial load and responsibility an in-house one would imply, while they can focus on the business, fundraiser and program part of the business.
We have worked with many nonprofit clients in our shop, and from these experiences we have learned what are the main benefits that nonprofits can enjoy by partnering with an MSP and what they should look for in a provider to ensure their growth and unique needs are fulfilled.
Benefits of partnering with an MSP for your nonprofit
The value of technology and emerging solutions that offer efficiency and greater productivity opportunities in driving business objectives is recognized across all companies, including nonprofits. There are, however, some distinctive technology challenges that nonprofits are facing. When pondering whether your nonprofit leverages an MSP for their IT, it’s important to highlight the central areas that need a little nudge from technology.
It’s in the nature of a nonprofit to work with sensitive data from donors and clients that is both highly vulnerable and protected by law. With the increase in remote working and digitalization of fundraising, cyber criminals are wasting no time in targeting nonprofits as treasure troves of confidential data. A successful cyber attack or a data breach on a nonprofit can undermine all of their efforts and their mission.
Running outdated software, insecure payment processors, weak passwords, phishing emails, no overview on devices accessing confidential data — all of these are common cybersecurity threats to nonprofits. Having an MSP can help mitigate these risks and ensure data security as they usually address:
- Software update management
- Email management and security
- Identity access management
- Account provisioning
- Billing management
- Virtual Private Network support
Additionally, many of the confidential data nonprofits work with fall under compliance regulations. Not complying with regulatory compliance on safeguarding sensitive data can lead to nonprofits facing legal charges and fines, and can bring their reliability under scrutiny. An MSP can help streamline the process of recurring security compliance assessments. For more information, you can check our previous post about the common compliance certifications and compliance benefits for SMBs.
Overcoming technology challenges
To make operations easier, improve productivity, aid in program awareness and even reduce operating costs, digital transformation and adoption of new technology are of great benefit to nonprofits. Cloud computing comes as an easy decision as it provides streamlining for all different activities nonprofits conduct and help manage programs.
With an MSP, cloud migration, and any new technology adoption is managed for you, allowing your staff to focus on their other tasks and running programs. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps for easy billing, productivity app suites such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, a cloud voice over IP phones replacing a fully integrated phone system, the list goes on. These are all small and large technology leaps a nonprofit can take to increase efficiency and simply make their life easier. Usually, an MSP would cover all of this for you:
- Cloud migrations
- Cloud project management
- SaaS billing management
- Digital Transformations
- Google Workspace and Microsoft365 migration and management
- Phone (Cloud VoIP) deployment & management
- Hardware asset deployments and management
Even if you don’t understand some of the abbreviations and technologies, don’t worry — that’s the point. With an MSP, your technology needs will be assessed through time and suggestions on improvements will be the norm, with you being informed of the benefits but not overwhelmed with tech terms you don’t understand.
Nonprofits have funding often reliant on donations and grants, and are in the constant cycle of managing their unpredictable budgets, leaving little space for technology. While many nonprofits have a line item in their budget for technology, that is typically where they will make any cuts first. The fluctuating budgets that can scale up and down quickly through the year are further amplified by the pandemic so it’s clear that an internal dedicated IT team isn’t a cost-efficient solution for a nonprofit.
With limited budgets, nonprofits would benefit from partnering with an MSP as they offer clients to only pay for services they use at that point in time and allow them to scale up and down, which is crucial for a cyclical and seasonal nature of business that nonprofits have. The right managed service provider will even offer cost reduction strategies and will create the most cost effective solution for you. Provisioned software, updates, licensing and IT management are all offered under one rate so there would be unexpected IT costs.
The bottom line is that the rate for an MSP service is significantly lower than having an internal IT team.
As donations are one of the primary activities when running a nonprofit, knowledge that every donation and donor’s information is safe and secure is something every nonprofit should be able to have. Whatever system you use to control donor data, be it a fundraiser CRM tool or a spreadsheet, donor management is vital.
Working with a trusted Managed Services Provider, your donations and donor data will be secure and backed up by utilizing different donor management tools and software. These tools are designed specifically to manage all of your donor data and improve efficiency by organizing all donations, wherever they are obtained, in one place.
While increase in the remote workforce and staff and teams accessing resources from different devices and locations brings in cyber risk, it’s also a way to attract volunteers. Cloud computing, online apps and new technology can also act as a way to allow your staff to be more productive by choosing when and from what they work.
New technology also means that your staff will be able to get access to tools that will allow them to do what they do best more efficiently and will in general improve workplace satisfaction and flexibility.
What to look for in an MSP for a nonprofit
Working with an MSP is basically partnering with your dedicated technology provider — they will be there to grow your business and see how your business can take advantage of available technology resources. They will be enrolled and closely connected with everything that is happening behind the scenes in your nonprofit, so it’s natural that choosing a specific provider shouldn’t be taken lightly.
We have highlighted what we discovered are the vital factors of a good nonprofit-MSP relationship:
Understanding of the nonprofit sector
Nonprofit sector has a set of specific characteristics that can set it apart from others, for profit, startups and small and medium sized businesses. Compliance standards, data security best practices, training needs for employees and volunteers, industry-specific technology and software, and sourcing the nonprofit discounts, etc. An MSP must be well versed in all these basic parts of a nonprofit to ensure that they can understand your mission and (technology) goals. We at Xceptional have many nonprofits in our client portfolio and we are well-versed and knowledgeable on the needs of this unique sector.
Focusing on your mission and goals first
While on the topic of your mission and goals, a respected MSP that is used to working with nonprofits will not start strong with all the “tech-talk”, spouting out abbreviations and jargon. What should be the first order of business is your nonprofit’s mission and goals and how technology can help advance them. This can then further inform services and technology needed for your case. As we mentioned in the start, a business will not be too concerned with IT if it’s not their main focus. They want to know what are the benefits, what’s in it for them and how closely it’s in line with their mission. Find an MSP that will help drive your business but will never forget about the final mission.
They give back to the community
Social impact and purpose-driven experience is at the forefront of running a nonprofit and finding an MSP that has the same ideals. An MSP should use their business talent, expertise and knowledge for the good of their community and encourage others to do the same.
Any proper and respectful MSP will have a working relationship with best in class, technology forward vendors in order to provide you with the best service. Access to best cloud providers, hardware solutions and security tools should be directly accessible through your MSP including the best pricing for those services. At Xceptional, you will find only the best quality and cloud forward products from our world-class technology partners such as Cisco, JumpCloud, and Google.
It’s clear that nonprofits, big or small, no matter the industry, can find great benefits with choosing to go with a Managed Services Provider as their IT and technology partner. Here at Xceptional, we enjoy working with nonprofits, helping them achieve their mission while fulfilling business objectives and discovering all of the ways in which your business can advance with technology.
Contact us to find out how we can help your nonprofit achieve its IT goals and give back in the process.