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I’m increasingly convinced that Not for Profits, even successful, long-running charities, will fail if they don’t increase their annual IT operating budgets. I’m not just talking about the one-off capital improvement projects for system upgrades. I’m specifically referring to the portion of their budget they dedicate to IT, in general, each year.

For too long, many IT departments (including those outsourced) have been running BAU on the back of pennies and good intentions despite the organisation’s increasing reliance on their IT infrastructure over time. As such:

  • IT staff members are underskilled and likely underpaid (making it harder and harder to replace);
  • Hosted infrastructure and aging equipment are a major cybersecurity breach waiting to happen;
  • Data back-ups often involve a menagerie of complex processes and equipment due to full servers; and
  • The rest of the staff is underutilised and frustrated because of slow or inadequate systems and devices.

Even though any of the above issues could impact the organisation’s ability to deliver its core services, many Not for Profits will accept these significant risks to reduce their annual expenses.

This is especially true as some stakeholders expect Not for Profits to deliver their missions without the burden of overhead. However, despite these often voiced opinions, no one wants to receive a notice that their personal data has been compromised or that services cannot be delivered that day due to business continuity issues. For charities, in particular, donors have many other options, and they will quickly redirect their giving if they feel the organisations they support are not managed well.

As Not for Profits are completing their budget cycle for next year, it’s time to consider, “how much of our mission is dependent on technology?” Then, it’s time to increase the annual IT budget in proportion to this level of dependency.

Otherwise, if organisations don’t increase their annual IT operating budgets today, it’s just a matter of time before they will be forced to make significant capital expenditures in the future due to the accumulation of underfunded years.  

 Tammy Ven Dange is a former charity CEO, Not for Profit Board Member and IT Executive. Today she helps NFPs with IT decisions.

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