[Research] Data on Nonprofit Cloud Computing: Anywhere, Anytime Technology for Social Change | Beth's Blog

[Research] Data on Nonprofit Cloud Computing: Anywhere, Anytime Technology for Social Change

Research Studies

Note from Beth: Back in 2003 when most people in the nonprofit sector were asking, “What the heck is a blog?,” Marnie Webb, Co-CEO of TechSoup Global was not only writing one, but evangelizing to nonprofit techies about social media (called Web 2.0 back then) and being the one of the visionaries behind the Netsquared project.    So, when Marnie starts talking about the next big disruptive technology for the nonprofit sector,  I listen.   For the past year or so, she’s thinking about and talking about “Cloud Computing.”    That’s when you use software on the Internet versus your local hard drive or local computer network.  It makes your data and documents available anywhere, anytime.

TechSoup has just released the results of a global study if NGOs about cloud computing with some interesting findings.

Cloud Computing Survey Results from TechSoup Global

At TechSoup Global, the place at which I work, we wanted to know what NGOs worldwide thought about cloud computing. So we asked and more than 10,500 organizations from 88 countries and they answered. We’ve published those results and our partner network has translated the executive summary into a wide variety of languages.

And here’s why we care so much about the cloud:

  1. We care about the ability of communities to create change. That requires that organizations are able to spend as much time on the mission as possible. It also requires the ability to connect, to share, to communicate – in real time. And the cloud helps that. From project management software to communications platforms, the ability to use cloud-based solutions to quickly and effectively stand up a technology application and allow others to integrate is critical to the kind of success that we’ve seen in the projects submitted in NetSquared challenges.
  2. We think we can all benefit from data. Here’s the deal: cloud computing means that people are keeping data in similar formats. Or it can, anyway. If we offer solutions in the cloud, we can provide configuration, sure, but we can offer a way for data to be captured that extends to multiple organizations. And that means advocacy and access can happen in ways similar to open government efforts.

What Do We Think We’ve Learned With This Survey?
I feel lucky to be involved with this project.

I’ve been in on all the phone calls. Read all the interim reports. Heard what people in TechSoup Global were thinking along the way – what they agreed with and what they disagreed with. And here’s what I’m thinking about right now:

  1. We need to offer more precise solutions. We heard that from Africa, India and Latin America. We need things that get to more specific solutions – solutions that work in verticals and minimize configuration.
  2. We still have significant externalities that impact organizations’ ability to take advantage of technology. We need to be supporting the good work that people like Inveneo are doing to help make those externalities &mdash No reliable power! No internet! &mdash a thing of the past. But that support needs to be there, in equal measure, for those organizations who can connect but, for whatever reasons, have not yet done so.
  3. Training, you know, is something everyone needs. And it’s hard. Because we say we need it. We know we need it. But in the press of the every day and the big intransigent difficulties we are each grappling with, it’s hard to make “go to a technology training class” the most important thing on the to-do list. We have to figure out how we, as capacity builders, leverage technology and our relationships across a number of sectors to offer answers to questions on demand, create mentorships, office hours for experts who are willing to donate their expertise. We need to think about how we get knowledge to people where and when they need it. And how we do that when getting the answer is urgent.
  4. We need to know more about the technology usage of the organizations we all serve. We all know bits and pieces of the usage. And surveys, like this one, like NTEN’s State of the Cloud, help us. But we can also do a better job of thinking through the strengths and capacities we each bring, fitting those together so that we can get to solution that work on the ground for the organizations we serve. We try to do that in the TechSoup Global Network. We don’t always succeed. I’m not asking for a big giant enforced collaboration project here. I’m asking that we actually find three tangible projects that we can move forward in the next year to help us bring a greater degree of technology saavy and support to the organizations we are dedicated to helping.

So what are the next steps?

I wish I knew. But I don’t.  And that’s some of why we published these results. So that we can figure it out together. As you go through the survey, I’m eager to hear what you think, what you learned and what you believe we can do together.

Marnie Webb works for TechSoup Global.

9 Responses

  1. I find your thoughts about accessing the cloud technology aligns with many of the same barriers I have been finding when NPOs attempt to leverage their brands.

    Precision and unity of the brand promise is often elusive.

    Externalities – understanding the external not-for-profit context and brand position.

    Training – acquiring the xpertise for to build and levergae the brand.

    More research – more needs to be known about how NPOs are using brands

    Hopefully we are able to use cloud technology for matters of collaboration….even branding!

  2. Jay says:

    Having launched the first nonprofit marketing blog 3 years prior to your above reference of 2003, yes 2000….I can tell you with a degree of confidence that the next wave is less about the tools and more about first defining what the experience needs to be….the tools will then logically follow…..great piece

  3. Beth says:

    Hi Jay,

    My first blog was in 2000, but it hosted on a OneNW’s server and got deleted because I didn’t up date it regularly. So, my blog was there when yours was too. I say 2003 because that’s when I made a commitment to daily blogging and was able to do with the launch of the typepad service.

    I agree with you Jay, definitely less about the tools and more about the experience.

  4. Nancy Mattes says:

    The Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo project is conducting a pilot project with three nonprofit organizations to determine what type of operational functions (back office services) they want to share and what type of technology could be used. Cloud technology has enormous potential to enable collorations, improve efficiencies and effectiveness, but it requires patience, trust and a willingess to change.

  5. marnie webb says:

    Thanks for the comments. Nancy, I agree that switching to the cloud requires a willingness to change. But I also think that if, as capacity builders, we can do a lot to help make it a more positive switch for more organizations.

  6. Beth says:

    This comment is from Wayan Vota

    Beth & Marine,

    I would like to invite you to a conversation around the very topic you note above: how can we get “cloud” services out to those in the developing world we want to help.


    Inveneo now has Technology Salons in the Bay Area, so subscribe to join us for future discussions as well.

  7. […] Note from Beth: Back in 2003 when most people in the nonprofit sector were asking, "What the heck is a blog?  […]

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  9. Interesting article. I think we’ve gone a bit overboard on the cloud hype and it worries and confuses many of us. Our non-profit has settled on just two that need to be offsite and on the internet: stakeholder collaboration and backup. From non-profit perspective the big benefits from cloud come from collaboration portals– communicating and sharing information with project members, board members, staff, etc. This means being able to have folks access and retrieve pertinent documents, cases, etc, without having to call and meet about every little thing. So of course that means it needs to easy and secure. If the collaboration portal isn’t easy, no one will use it and get confused. Consequently admin costs actually go up if it’s complicated. There are a ton of confusing collab portals out there. We tried a lot of them. Our pick here is Centroy. Easy and intuitive… for users. And make sure it’s encrypted and has archiving– showstoppers not be overlooked. Centroy again won there. The other important “cloud” thingy–perhaps more boring– is backup. If a drive failure hasn’t happened to you, it will someday and if you lose data, well…. Two things here to consider: easy to set up and automate. You don’t need to have a tech guy involved. The other thing is reliability and time retrieval. Here you should test them out with free trials. But also google “data loss” and pick the online backup vendor. There are complaints of all of them loosing data, although seems few and far between. We like Crashplan because we can backup the same data to the cloud as well as each other’s PC drives. Kind of double data insurance piece of mind. So far so good for us.

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