How A Nonprofit Can Develop A Cloud Based Integrated IT System – A Case Study from Enclude in Ireland
by Eamon Stack with Jim Lynch (Techsoup Global)
This is a case study of how an Irish based nonprofit, Foundation Nepal, developed a cloud-based integrated IT system. The project was done in cooperation with ENCLUDE, which is TechSoup’s NGO partner organization in Ireland. ENCLUDE provides hands-on technology solutions as well as software donations for Irish charities.
Foundation Nepal was founded five years ago after Nicky Deasy, who was then a financial accountant at KPMG, went on a visit to Nepal, and ended up staying to work with children in the rural villages of Nepal. She also experienced first hand the problems that local NGOs were having to supply services, and as a result of her experience she founded The Nepalese Children’s Foundation, which eventually became Foundation Nepal. The mission of Foundation Nepal is to create and fund effective health and education programs in Nepal. The organization is located in Galway.
Within in the last three years the organization had grown to a staff of 8 people, but still had a rudimentary IT system based on using various tools like Hotmail, Google, Word and Excel. The organization devoted their resources on developing aid programs for children in Nepal, as well as developing food production, micro-finance and micro-business opportunities for women in the region, rather than developing their own infrastructure. After the organization developed partnerships with major Irish philanthropic organizations and had grown in complexity it became apparent that it had outgrown its informal IT system and it was time to develop a proper IT system that could manage multiple financial accounts, fund raising efforts, increased communications needs, and put everyone on a set of common office productivity applications.
Quote here from Eamon: “when Foundation Nepal came to us, we found their IT system to be…”
After doing an assessment of the current IT system and the IT needs of the organization with ENCLUDE, together they were able to identify an affordable solution to build an appropriate IT system on three levels:
1. To build a basic local area network with consistent OS and office software versions on all client PCs
2. To meet the organization’s communications needs across several platforms: email, instant messaging, SMS messaging and phone
3. Most importantly the organization needed an integrated solution for project and client management, financial management and document management.
The elements of the integrated system included:
Question for Eamon: what type of local area network did you develop? Peer to peer? Server client? What functions does the LAN perform? Certainly it gets all the computers to the Internet. Does it do anything else?
Another question: do they use a donor database of some sort?
· Consistent versions of Windows and Office 2010 on all client desktops and laptops
· A cloud-based database of clients and projects hosted by Salesforce.com, which integrates well with the organization’s website
· A fund accounting system using Charity AccountsIQ
· A communications hub anchored by the Microsoft Office 365 cloud service. This set of applications hosts the organization’s email (using their own domain), calendaring, scheduling, instant messaging, online meetings, and document storage and management via Sharepoint online. Sharepoint also integrates well with Microsoft Office Web Apps that hosts online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Web Apps augments the organization’s use of on premises Microsoft Office. The value of having all of these applications and documents hosted in the cloud is that employees of the organization can work from any location and from any computer with Internet access. They also streamline working collaboriatively, so multiple people can work together regardless of where they’re located. Google hosts a similar set of cloud-based collaborative tools with Google Apps.
Enclude built the new IT system in five days of work. Everyone’s office computers now automatically log into email, instant messaging and their Sharepoint based intranet. Employees of the orgnization quickly found new system to be easy to use and easier to maintain than their old IT system.
ENCLUDE finds that cloud computing based IT systems offer charities like Foundation Nepal – three things:
1. A single shared organization wide IT system that is scalable, secure and accessible on demand;
2. It removes the limit to growth – so that organizations like Foundation Nepal won’t need to re-do their IT system if they double in size again;
3. It enables charities to achieve levels of efficiency and effectiveness which are expected nowadays, for instance giving them tools that allow for impact assessment and reporting.
Eamon Stack of ENCLUDE also adds a cautionary note to IT consultants “we often find that charities like Foundation Nepal find themselves in an IT cul-de-sac. My experience is that nonprofit leaders often feel poorly equipped to make IT decisions. They come to us often after they have been intimidated by technology sales people who use IT jargon, but who don’t have much interest in an organization’s mission and work style. In helping charities develop their IT systems, we like to take the time to explain options in context for our clients, especially when we’re proposing, or better, demonstrating new technologies like cloud services that may well be unfamiliar.
In the case of Foundation Nepal, however, when executive director, Nicky Deasy saw here new system, she didn’t seem surprised. She was quite familiar with cloud based computing from here work in KPMG. Her reply was “we should have had this system four years ago when we really got started”.