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Changing the World through the Cloud: Insights for Nonprofits

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013

Typically, businesses turn to the cloud for cost savings, convenience, and ultimately, the promise of greater profits. But cloud computing, storage, and sync also promises to revolutionize the nonprofit sector, allowing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to protect donors, raise greater funds, and connect with a larger donor base. Through secure cloud services, nonprofits and NGOs can utilize this technological wave to help make the world a better place.

NGOs and Cloud Computing

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To start with, cloud data storage helps nonprofits consolidate and manage data offsite, freeing up much needed office space. Cloud services can offer NGOs greater security and storage space, along with guaranteed backup of important data like donor contact lists. Instead of hosting institution-wide computers and servers, the cloud enables Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, a mobile workforce, and radical cost-savings from reduced onsite server needs. This flexibility is especially appealing to nonprofits and NGOs, which often rely heavily on a strong core of volunteers. And for employees, while salaries and benefits are generally lower in the nonprofit sector, groups can still attract some of the best, most committed talent, with the appeal of flexibility that come with a mobile work, BYOD, and work from home policies, enabled by the cloud.

BYOD Benefits to Nonprofits & NGOs

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When donors are concerned, showing good stewardship can help secure a committed fundraising base. Money saved on infrastructure, servers, and IT, means more funds enabled for projects that leave a lasting legacy and improve the world. And funds saved on software, maintenance, and even electricity are just further proof of stewardship, which is sure to satisfy even the most cynical potential giver. Environmentalists become a new donor base when nonprofits can market their electricity savings garnered through the cloud, as making the transition save offices big on energy and onsite computers. Furthermore, as many NGOs and nonprofits are funded entirely by grants and individual donors, they must keep track of extensive donation lists, especially for tax concerns. Keeping such sensitive data protected from hacking, leak, or loss should be on the minds of all nonprofits, and is easily achieved by employing a private third party cloud service.

Impact of Online Giving

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Unfortunately, despite the cloud’s many benefits, NGOs and nonprofits have yet to fully tap its potential. According to a recent TechSoup Global survey of more than 10,000 international NGOs, many NGOs aren’t even aware of when they are using the cloud. According to Co-CEO of TechSoup Global Marnie Webb, “People often don’t know whether or not the technology they are using is cloud computing. It’s only when we asked respondents about specific technologies that we discovered that they were, in fact, using cloud computing.” 90% of respondents have used the cloud and over half of those surveyed had planned IT transitions to the cloud within three years. In regards to this transition, Webb said, “At the enterprise level, after organizations use more than three cloud-based tools, that becomes the tipping point at which they decide to move a significant portion of their IT onto the cloud. Once they start using cloud computing tools the benefits start to increase their motivation, because they have more experience with it.” According to another study, 60% of nonprofits were too unaware or ignorant of the technology to fully adopt it. Still, 53% of nonprofits planned IT transitions to the cloud within three years, echoing the results of the TechSoup Global survey. Community Manager at Grovo Learning Rolando Brown has seen the cloud’s benefits manifest firsthand, “What we in the social sector care about most is that we’re able to accomplish our goals and mission; i.e. solving community problems, promoting healthier behaviors, etc. With cloud computing, people can focus more on being better at whatever it is they do rather than being experts at technology. Before, I had to be a techie to take advantage of the web. I needed to understand code to launch a website. Now I can use WordPress and the technology is just available to me.”

Cloud Solutions for NGOs

Nonprofit organizations and NGOs turning to the cloud should be sure that their third party service offers data privacy and user anonymity. Many cloud services on the market have wide security gaps that leave projects and sensitive donor data wide-open to data breach or leaks. But for SpiderOak, this private cloud service provider offers the full benefits of cloud storage along with 100% data privacy for nonprofits of all sorts.

As for just how SpiderOak protects projects and data, the service offers two-factor password authentication and 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Two-factor authentication is just like the process used by some banking services that require a PIN as an extra precaution along with a password. Through SpiderOak, users that select two-factor authentication must submit their private code through SMS as well as an individual encrypted password. Nonprofits can store and sync data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user data. Plaintext encryption keys are only stored on the writer’s chosen devices, so NGOs can keep rest easy knowing their donors are protected. SpiderOak’s private cloud services are available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for flexible solutions and collaboration for global nonprofits.

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