The Changing Landscape of Nonprofit Technology (and What It Means for Your Org)

September 10, 2015 Mary Beth Westmoreland

The emergence of cloud technology has changed the way people around the world work, communicate, share information, and support causes.

More than 90% of nonprofit organizations are using some form of cloud technology today, with half of them using multiple cloud services. 

The vast majority of software is currently offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS/Cloud), and the growing use of these services is allowing individuals and nonprofit organizations to focus more on their services, programs and respective missions rather than investing valuable resources on an expensive, time-consuming IT infrastructure. The cloud typically scales faster and more cost effectively, and has greater stability and availability than in-house (self-managed) infrastructure.  However, even as a majority of nonprofit organizations inch toward implementing the benefits of a more cost-efficient and productive work environment, there are still major opportunities to take advantage of cloud-based services.

While the majority of nonprofits are using the cloud for common tasks like email, only about 15% are using cloud-based accounting and fundraising solutions.

A recent report from TechSoup found that beyond email and file storage, most nonprofits are reluctant to embrace the cloud for their other organizational needs.

The Changing Landscape of Technology

Less than a decade ago, we installed software on our own internal systems using physical compact discs. In today’s environment, most applications can now be accessed immediately with only  an Internet connection from your laptop, smartphone or tablet. The complex and time consuming installation process has been replaced with a simple login that allows us instant access to the tools we need to do our jobs.  These tools and applications are monitored, updated, and maintained by experts whose primary focus is to offer quality service and support.

Used effectively, switching to the right cloud service provider will save an organization time and money and offer higher quality service and support.

There’s no need to  invest in expensive hardware, software licenses or hiring significant IT staff. Additionally, the services offered by the cloud are superior to those offered by the old model, in which an individual’s work and resources are tethered to the physical location in which they were created—the cloud offers applications that makes it possible to work from any device, anywhere and at any time. The SaaS model also enables you to take advantage of a broad collection of IT services without needing to have a deep and sophisticated knowledge of how those services function on an operational level. Instead, you’re free to focus on their core tasks and mission

On Premise vs. the Cloud

Unlike the on premise model, the cloud functions on a “Pay as You Use” model, where you are only charged for the storage and specific services you require. Cloud service providers handle maintenance and accessibility issues, including security. And changes do not need to be applied to everyone’s individual computer. Licensing costs become a thing of the past. And your IT staff will be able to easily adjust resources to meet the demands of the team.

Of course, there are many things to consider before making a switch from an on premise infrastructure to the cloud. 

Cloud technology is not unto itself the end-all. It’s about choosing the right cloud, the right integration, and the right partner that is focused on your space.


 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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