With charities’ expenditure coming under increased scrutiny, it is getting more difficult to justify or secure budget for internal requirements. IT represents a major cost for any organization but equally it is hugely vital for marketing, fundraising and office management.
Chris Gill, CEO for children’s charity Wooden Spoon, explained ‘Spoon enjoys a huge network of supporters, the majority of whom are people working in professional environments. Consequently they are used to certain standards of communications and admin management and expect us to comply with those. It is sometimes painful to achieve, but investment in IT has to take a priority when planning a budget if the Charity is to continue to develop and better serve its beneficiaries and volunteers. In the current economic climate any Board of Trustees will be conscious of the need to achieve the very best from the reduced funds that will be available during the recession.’
Nigel Davey of IT support service, Managed Networks, fully understands this issue ‘About 10% of our client base consists of charities and non-for-profit organizations. The IT we provide them with drives their websites, databases and accounts, which in turn delivers their marketing, communications, fundraising and financial management. All of which are crucial to their existence. Donors, volunteers and those that govern the sector have increasingly raised expectations about how well charities should be run but equally expect to see that funds raised should go to the causes the organizations supports. To this end it is understandable that charities need to look for discounts and added value.’
Another area charities should explore is offsetting. David Foster of accounts Blue Cube Business has worked extensively in the charity field and advises ‘Event based charities or those with a trading division should be able to offset key expenditure – like their IT budget – against any surpluses as well as reclaim VAT on certain aspects of spend.’
To this end, Managed Networks drawn up a list of ways charities can maximize their IT budget
1. Make sure you are buying charitable software licensing. Most software companies provide considerable discounts for charities – for example Microsoft Professional commercial Office offers a 15% discount on its products
2. Invest in a good support contract rather than a state-of-the-art server. Whilst buying the best server you can afford may feel like the right decision, in truth you will probably only use about 15% of it and if there is a problem most people would want to know that they had engineers on the case immediately
3. With this in mind, choose an appropriate server. The chances are your needs are pretty simple so the server spec needn’t be very high – which will save you money. Use a trusted support company or well informed advisor who understands your business to make sure you don’t overspend
4. Invest in a good internet connection. All too frequently charities will get something like BT HomeHub as a perceived saving. It is a false economy and will cause a lot of frustration
5. If you are a growing charity, don’t feel that you have to go straight to owning your own server. A hosted solution (ie you rent part of an off-site server that belongs to someone else) can be a very good, cost effective solution until you get a lot bigger
6. Check out ways of off-setting your IT expenditure against any trading surplusses
7. Always ask for a discount, the worst someone can say is no!
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For further information, please contact Heidi Anderson at ENS on 020 7934 9034 (email@example.com)
Editors Note: Where possible please include a link to the Managed Networks website (www.managednetworks.co.uk)
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