4 Insights Into How Nonprofits Are Using Cloud Solutions

What’s the opposite of “cutting edge”? Fair or not, when it comes to technology, certain industries have a reputation for

4 min. read

What’s the opposite of “cutting edge”? Fair or not, when it comes to technology, certain industries have a reputation for lagging behind: Manufacturers because they’ve been doing things the same way for decades. Healthcare providers because transitioning HIPAA-protected patient data to a new system can be a major pain. And nonprofits because of a lack of capital. You’ve heard these stereotypes before.

Thankfully, times are changing. Over the next few years, manufacturers anticipate implementing some new and exciting sales tools. Healthcare providers are modernizing the patient lifecycle. And according to NTEN’s latest State of the Nonprofit Cloud report, 75% of surveyed nonprofit professionals say their organizations are using cloud-based services for at least three purposes (everything from campaign and donor management to finance and accounting).

That level of adoption is great news, but it doesn’t tell the full story. To better understand why and how nonprofits are using cloud solutions, we reviewed NTEN’s full report. These were our top takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Nonprofits aren’t measuring the ROI of their cloud solutions.

According to the survey data, nearly 70% of nonprofits aren’t measuring the ROI of their cloud solutions. For a sector traditionally tight on cash, this is surprising. If you’re going to make a significant investment in technology, wouldn’t you want to know whether you’re getting your money’s worth? After all, wasted capital limits an organization’s ability to achieve its mission.

Most likely, this measurement shortcoming is due to one of two reasons — lack of time or lack of know-how. In the case of the former, we get it: When your team is constantly stretched thin, it’s hard to ask somebody to do one more thing. In the end, though, it’s probably worth it. If a particular solution isn’t a value-add, you need to act fast: Improve it or scrap it? Your decision will depend on the data, but the longer you wait, the more money you stand to lose.

And if it’s simply the case that you aren’t sure how to best measure the ROI of your cloud solutions, there are some handy guides online. We like this one from Annese.


Takeaway #2: For nonprofits, access is the key advantage of cloud solutions.

When asked about the specific advantages cloud services bring to their organizations, nearly 40% of survey respondents mentioned the importance of access. And given that access is an umbrella term that covers mobile solutions, this makes a lot of sense. As noted in an article by the Marsh & McLennan Agency, “Mobility is at the forefront of almost everything nonprofit organizations are doing… Technology that is mobile-friendly permits volunteers, staff and board members to have 24/7 access to data and connection with each other.” That kind of connection just isn’t possible with on-premise/installed technologies.

Mobile is also essential when it comes to donations. According to Crowdrise “mobile devices make up over 79% of traffic and 62% of donations to campaigns.” That means things like donor communities powered by your CRM need to be mobile friendly.

NTEN’s data suggests that more and more nonprofits are coming to understand all this, but those that don’t risk falling behind.

Takeaway #3: Nonprofits believe cloud performance helps them achieve their missions.

While access may be the biggest overall cloud advantage for nonprofits, it isn’t the top driver when it comes to organizations achieving their missions. Per the report, that banner goes to performance: Flexibility, reliability, speed, consistency, support, security and efficiency. Which, again, makes sense: Access is more of an operational advantage. Performance, on the other hand, is all about making your staff better at their jobs and allowing them to get more meaningful work done.

Actually, we should say it’s about helping your staff get more meaningful work done in a sustainable way. Because according to Fast Company, “50% of nonprofit employees feel either nearly or totally burned out.” When expanding your team isn’t an option, the right cloud tools can help current employees cut down on the sorts of manual tasks that demand an overwhelming (and unnecessary) time investment.

Takeaway #4: At the same time, performance also ranks as the greatest concern.

This one was a bit of a head-scratcher at first: While nonprofit professionals say performance is the biggest driver of mission achievement, they also say it’s their number one cloud concern. Thankfully, the report offered some clarity: “When mentioned as a disadvantage, this category almost always related to loss of control or concerns over backups and security.”

Ah, okay — those are both fair worries. But the good news? There are concrete steps you can take to protect your organization from dangerous breaches. You can find an excellent resource from the National Council of Nonprofits here. From risk assessment to liability insurance, they cover everything you need to know.

If you want to read the full NTEN survey, you can download it here. And if you’ve got questions about how a cloud solution like Salesforce could benefit your nonprofit, please reach out to us. We’d love to help you work through some of your biggest pain points.