By Jan Pabellon
The primary goal of many nonprofits is to support issues of public interest, often by raising awareness, getting funds and mobilizing resources to enable change that would benefit society in some tangible way.
To do this, nonprofits often need to attract supporters, donors and volunteers; develop, evaluate and implement programs; create budgets and allocate funds; track spending and report performance.
To do this effectively, business software can be used to manage all of these activities and processes. One key important factor is that the software the nonprofits chose to use help and not hinder the organization from achieving their goal.
Let’s take a look at five key ways in which software, specifically software delivered via the cloud, can help nonprofits optimize the use of their time, money and personnel, as well as streamline their operations so as to stay focused on their mission and achieve their goal.
By moving to software delivered via the cloud, nonprofits can reduce IT cost and effort, unify their data, introduce best practices, scale up operations, and adapt to change.
Reducing IT costs and effort to free up resources. Nonprofit resources are extremely valuable and having to accrue costs and devote personnel time to upgrade and maintain antiquated on-premise software is wasted effort and a distraction from an organization’s core mission.
By adopting cloud software, nonprofits can confidently place the management of IT to a third party and always run the current release of sophisticated business software. Staff can concentrate on their primary roles and not act as IT support staff and the nonprofit will save money previously needed to keep its aging and limited in-house software and systems operational.
The Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, a grantee of NetSuite.org’s corporate philanthropy program, moved from Intuit’s QuickBooks to NetSuite and has been able to substantially improve staff productivity. For instance, the nonprofit has saved two days of work per week thanks to NetSuite’s financial dashboards which display real-time accurate and actionable financial data.
Unifying data to gain real-time visibility. Nonprofits thrive on data – they need their operational software to provide reliable and up-to-date donor, financial and spend information which they can then use as the basis for decision making and future planning. Nonprofits also need to share accurate and actionable data with the different communities they serve – the beneficiaries of their aid, their partners, their donors and their own internal organization.
For many nonprofits, access to real-time accurate information is next-to-impossible because they are running their operations on a mix of poorly integrated on-premise applications and manual processes. The result? An incomplete, inaccurate and outdated view of donor, financial and spend information.
By implementing a complete cloud-based business management suite, nonprofits can ensure that they have a single source of unified real-time data which they can use for reporting, budgeting and planning.
For nonprofits considering any kind of certification, looking to attract additional investors, or undergoing any kind of audit, the ability to provide a third party with accurate data is vital.
One good example is NetSuite.org grantee American Chamber Foundation Philippines, who replaced Sage 300 ERP and multiple Excel spreadsheets with NetSuite. By now having a single unified system of record for all data, the nonprofit has been able to speed up and make financial management processes more efficient and more reliable to fully meet exacting audit standards.
Introducing best practices and business rigor at an early stage. For any nonprofit, establishing a solid foundation at an early stage for how business processes will run across the organization is key to ensuring that operations run smoothly and are optimally streamlined to avoid any potential workflow bottlenecks.
One reason why nonprofits adopt a formal cloud-based business management suite is to ensure they have tried-and-tested business processes in place to support the organization as it expands, particularly as it increases its local, international or global presence.
Moving into another country opens up a whole new range of regulations to comply with, a process that becomes a lot easier when a nonprofit is running on a system that’s already optimized for the requirements of nonprofits around the world. Nonprofits also have the option to further customize a cloud solution to the specific requirements of their organization, if need be.
Benefiting from scalability to support rapid or steady growth. Many factors can contribute to a sudden surge (or dip) in a nonprofit’s activity, for instance, a regional natural disaster may lead to a very rapid rise in donations. It’s important that the operational systems the nonprofit runs on can meet such sudden occurrences. Cloud-based solutions are built for scalability and, by investing in such a solution, a nonprofit can ensure that its systems will grow as it grows.
Easily able to adapt to change, and, if necessary reinvent. No organization is immune from change, and change may require a shift or expansion in focus or in core mission. For some nonprofits, that change may be entering a new type of business such as operating an ecommerce website or establishing a manufacturing operation.
For others, the change may be in its business model, switching from nonprofit to becoming a for-profit social enterprise where the organization invests a substantial proportion of its revenue in funding worthy causes and projects.
A cloud solution enables a nonprofit to future-proof its organization so, if it does need to morph in some way in the years ahead, the required change will be supported by its underlying business management solution.
The cloud empowers nonprofits
All nonprofits are required to do more with minimal IT, financial, and human resources. The cloud is the perfect solution for nonprofits providing them with software that’s adaptable, flexible and scalable and purpose-built to meet their organizational needs today and into the future.
With cloud-based business management software like NetSuite, nonprofits can drive efficiency throughout their organization and achieve real-time control and visibility across their entire operations.
We at NetSuite believe in empowering nonprofits. That’s why we established NetSuite.org, our corporate philanthropy program, to offer nonprofits around the world donations and deep discounts on our cloud-based business management suite.
To date, over 500 charities and social enterprises have received a donation of NetSuite software. NetSuite.org also provides nonprofits with the pro bono assistance of SuiteVolunteers, NetSuite’s program that enables employees to donate their time and expertise to help nonprofits implement and customize NetSuite.
The author is the group manager for product management at NetSuite