Most organizations have a basic understanding of cloud technology, but the next question becomes…

“Should I make the switch to the cloud?”

Nonprofits are striving to invest more in their core missions, decrease the cost of operations, and ultimately execute more successfully. For many, the dilemma is how to maximize effectiveness without breaking the budget.  And although cost may be a driving force behind a move to the cloud, the reality is that cloud solutions are more robust and flexible than ever before and offer integrated solutions specific to the needs of your organization.

In other words, the cloud can provide both cost savings and innovative, integrated solutions that enable your nonprofit to be the best it can be.

In its recent survey, TechSoup found that 49% of respondents cited cost as the largest obstacle in a switch to SaaS.  Cloud services are maturing at unprecedented rates and nonprofits now have options they’ve never had before. Ironically, these cloud services are typically offered at costs that are more economical than traditional licensed software and internal support expenses combined.

Here are 5 reasons the cloud is right for your organization:

1. You Only Pay For What You Need

So, everyone is moving to the cloud. Everything you’re hearing tells you that SaaS is better than the old licensing model. But nonprofits must factor in the costs to decide if it’s truly worth making a significant change in how their organization operates.

When you buy new hardware or software, it’s sometimes difficult to determine how much capacity to invest in. We tend to purchase more than what our immediate needs dictate, with the intention of consuming additional resources over time. That means that we spend money on equipment that may sit idle and we may purchase additional functionality that is bundled in with traditional licenses. There will always be a challenge to determine the best return on a capital investment.

But with the cloud, you only pay for services that you use, and you don’t pay for excess capacity. 

There’s no need to over-invest in anything you won’t need right away. Plus, most cloud solutions scale on demand to meet changing needs.  This is especially important to nonprofit organizations that manage seasonal fluctuations in activity and volume or plan to grow their business while maintaining minimal cost increases and overall risk. Cloud services are monitored, deployed, upgraded and managed to scale as required and with minimal impact to the end user.

2. Your Data is Safe in the Cloud

TechSoup’s recent survey found that 45% of respondents cited data security as a major concern about switching to the cloud. You could be saying to yourself, “Sure, my organization’s hardware is expensive but at least it’s safer here in our own office than floating around somewhere on the Internet.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the stories in the news about celebrities having their photos and other personal information stolen from SaaS providers. Even the National Security Agency was shown to be vulnerable. Nevertheless, the reasons these stories make headlines is because they are the exception, not the rule.

I think whenever something like that hits the news the conversation is more about that being an anomaly. I think it’s less about trying to say that Microsoft can be unsafe. They have an extremely vested interested in making sure it’s safe. —Amy Sample Ward, CEO, NTEN.

Reputable cloud providers retain highly skilled teams comprised of experts whose sole job is to detect these threats and prevent them. They invest significant funding to strengthen their privacy and data protection capabilities, and anticipate and address potential vulnerabilities.

Did you know that recent data shows that roughly half of all data attacks target nonprofit organizations?

Your organization has to decide how to best protect its data, including sensitive information on donors and fundraising efforts. The time and resources required to stay on top of every new virus or hacking scheme pulls attention away from your organization’s objectives. Cloud solutions providers’ mission is to continually strengthen data security so that your organization is free to focus on advancing yours.

3. It’s Anytime, Anywhere

The right cloud environment will allow your organization to function in a more streamlined and efficient manner. Suddenly, “the office” is available anytime and anywhere your team members have an Internet connection and mobile device. That kind of on-the-go access dramatically increases opportunities for collaboration amongst your team.

Having that ‘anytime, anywhere” component is really compelling, especially to executive directors who just won’t look at that stuff on nights or weekends because it’s too difficult to get to. – Patrick Callahan, Executive Director, Tech Impact

Mobile has quickly become the mainstream. The emergence of cloud computing coupled with mobile devices (smaller laptops and netbooks as well as sophisticated tablets and smart phones) has forever changed the way we access information and data in both our daily and business lives. We live in a time where it’s possible to perform any computing function almost anytime and from anywhere.

The reality is, mobile continues to be the catalyst for an ongoing transformation in the nonprofit sector, from the way supporters engage with their favorite nonprofits to the way nonprofit organizations fundraise, market and manage information. And this will only continue to evolve. Having a mobile-friendly approach to engaging donors has never been more important. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the platform of choice for computing and collaboration versus sitting behind a desk, and will change how organizations leverage data and drive mission delivery. The cloud makes access anytime, anywhere from any device a reality.

4. You’re Already Using The Latest Version

One of the major advantages of the cloud vs. on premises infrastructure is that you don’t have to suffer through long updates or expensive upgrades.  Mature cloud solutions enable updates behind the scenes, without disruption or customer investment or preparation, and never when you’re trying to log in and make critical updates to your database. Updates are “smart changes”, based on feedback that SaaS providers obtain from usage statistics and client feedback. Cloud solution providers are able to effectively react to customer needs and deliver value quickly, without the need of installation support from customers.

Modern cloud software companies are able to add new features in a ‘high velocity’ environment so that new capabilities can appear on a monthly or even weekly basis based on client feedback and changing market needs.Mike Gianoni, President & CEO Blackbaud

5. Integrated Solutions Specific to Nonprofits

Not all cloud services are created equal, and no cloud service is the right choice if it doesn’t provide a solution that really works for you and adds value to your organization. Partner with a cloud vendor whose services best meet your needs. Working with one partner who understands your business, will invest in solutions that are most important to you, and who provides an integrated ecosystem of functionality, community and support, is very important. Yes, the cloud offers the opportunity to integrate across diverse software and hardware stacks, but the need to manage, monitor, and support disparate services becomes more important than ever. Look for a partner who offers integrated solutions, and provides support and service across the cloud solutions that are core to your business.

So, what might an integrated solution look like?

It’s a single platform that provides a common user experience and incorporates the latest capabilities in CRM, online, mobile, analytics, and integrated payments.

Integrated cloud solutions for nonprofits deliver:

  • Full functionality
  • High quality service through detection and resolution of issues that arise
  • Full installation, deployment and management in a cost effective manner

Ultimately, an integrated cloud solution enables a partnership and services that customers love.


Mary Beth Westmoreland is Senior Vice President of Product Development, responsible for product architecture, product engineering, quality assurance engineering, user experience and user education teams. She started with Blackbaud in 2008 and has over 25 years of experience in software engineering and product development. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Mary Beth was Vice President of Research and Development at Ipswitch, Inc. where she led product development for the company’s entire product portfolio, including the WS_FTP family of products and WhatsUp Gold Network Monitoring and IMail Server product suites. Before Ipswitch, Mary Beth spent 15 years at the Savannah River National Laboratory where she started as a programmer and eventually managed the company’s Enterprise and Technical Systems Engineering organizations. Mary Beth graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physics from Immaculata University located near Philadelphia, PA. She is a member of the board of directors of the South Carolina chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and is actively involved in a variety of STEM programs and Women in Technology initiatives.

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