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What to Consider When Choosing Technology Consulting for NFPs

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While nonprofits (NFPs) can often provide for many of their technology needs through the knowledge of volunteers and staff capable of “wearing many hats”, at times they may need a level of expertise beyond these means. 

Technology consultants specializing in nonprofits can assist in determining how best to use the wide array of cloud-based and on-premises technology products and services available in order to save time and money, and “stretch” resources to allow the NFP to concentrate on its mission. 

The technology consulting firm you choose should understand the challenges NFP organizations are experiencing today and has the expertise to do the following:

  • Minimize IT overhead and administration requirements and costs
  • Increase communication between departments and missions, and personalize your relationship with your  supporters
  • Provide financial visibility to department heads and board members.

However, if you've never worked with a consultant before, it can be challenging to select a provider and navigate the relationship to ensure your organization gets what it needs, the project runs smoothly from start to finish, and you stay on budget.

What Does Your Nonprofit Need from a Consultant?

Before you start looking for a technology consulting firm, it's important to make a rough outline of your needs and make a list of your top priorities and even limitations. Do you need help with a particular project or upgrade? Do you need someone to provide ongoing maintenance or support? Do you have a deadline for completion? Do you know your budget?

From this point, consider what you'll need a consultant's help with and what you can manage yourself. Not only will this exercise help you pinpoint the skills you'll need your technology provider to bring to the table, thinking through requirements first also will help you explain your project or ongoing needs to your candidates.

Once you have a solid grasp on what kind of help you need and to what extent you need it, ask yourself a few questions to help you focus on the kind of consultant you want.

What type of relationship do you want with your consultant?

It’s important to be able to communicate with your provider. This means that, while the consultant should be technically knowledgeable, he or she should be able to put confusing techno-speak aside and talk best practices and results in a language that’s easy to understand. The consultant should also make you feel comfortable asking questions and not “look down their nose” at any lack of technical knowledge on your part. That is, after all, why you are seeking their services. 

Should your consultant be local?

It may be easier to work with someone shoulder-to-shoulder. Someone who works locally can learn about your organization more quickly and collaborate more directly. However, only considering someone in town may severely limit your options, especially if you're searching for a specific skill set and have a tight budget. Today’s cloud computing capabilities make working with the right company, though it may be outside your geographical area, much easier. Refer to your list of needs and weigh the pros and cons of local versus remote consulting.

Should you work with an individual or a consulting firm?

Working with an individual can significantly lower your costs and ensure that your project gets the attention it needs, but it's also somewhat risky. A consulting firm is more likely to be able to fulfill a range of technical needs, calling on different consultants within the company to provide different aspects of expertise. Firms are also more stable and can be counted on to still be in existence in the future. Also, their experience with a wide range of organizations and projects means you're less likely to encounter surprises.

Not-for-profits face unique challenges in running an organization. Ensuring the proper stewardship of funds, providing disparate audiences (employees, volunteers, and board members) with access to information, and operating an efficient infrastructure safe from outside threats have to be juggled on a daily basis - all while operating on a smaller budget. These should be done as efficiently as possible to allow you to focus on your mission – not on IT or maintaining software. Thinking through and selecting the right technology consulting firm for your needs can help you establish a firm technology infrastructure, provide ongoing reliable performance, and ensure project success. 

LBMC Technology Solutions specializes in technology for nonprofit organizations. Our industry expertise in network infrastructure, financial software, and cloud computing can help your NFP focus on your mission instead of technology.

Read how one NFP client, Remote Area Medical, is able to expand its services with improved financial processes. Download the case study!