Using an IT Helpdesk to Benefit Your Nonprofit
By Jordan Teneyck
As nonprofits rely on technology to drive more administrative, service and marketing functions, many realize quickly that they need help with day-to-day issues that arise. So, they turn to outside contractors to provide assistance in the form of an “IT helpdesk.”
It’s a worthwhile investment. IT helpdesks can provide many benefits – handling the basics and stretching into roles that provide more strategic value over a long-term period.
Here are a few ways an IT helpdesk can be a lifesaver for a nonprofit. It can:
Provide peace of mind
Most nonprofits will want to arrange for 24/7 support, ensuring that questions and problems can be dealt any time – day, night or weekend. That can make a huge difference for any organization, in many ways. If you’re having trouble opening a computer document late at night when a grant filing is due, having access to an on-call specialist it might save an opportunity worth thousands of dollars. Having a contracted specialist also avoids the need to have a nonprofit executive interrupt a weekend trip to tend to an IT problem.
Morph into a service desk
The best helpdesks are all-purpose problem-solving resources. They handle the basic IT processes – user account control, password resets, patch updates, security access approvals and all the random questions about why a file isn’t formatting properly. They can also act like service desks – empowering skilled technicians to do preventative measures. If an issue is affecting one user, it might affect another, and another. Rather than just be the first line of defense, helpdesks can play offense, getting ahead of problems.
Train staffers on basic security measures
Like for-profit enterprises, nonprofits are vulnerable to security hacks. Everybody is. The question is, do nonprofits have someone who can teach employees what behaviors to avoid to protect the organization against being breached? Maybe, maybe not. Firms that provide helpdesk support have that knowledge and they can be a resource for employees. They can educate staff about creating safe passwords, spiking spam emails or snuffing out phishing attempts.
Help with vendor issues
So, who deals with outside vendors? If it’s the coffee delivery person, nonprofits probably have a system for buying, stocking and quality testing the product. But if the supplier touches your IT systems in some way, it makes sense to involve the helpdesk people in the issue. If the broadband is having issues, the helpdesk can coordinate with Comcast. If the servers need fixing or software needs to be installed a certain way, the helpdesk can pitch in.
Keep current with technology shifts
It’s hard enough understanding all the issues required to handle IT support today. With so many variables involving platforms, standards, connections and vendor specs, patched-together internal IT departments will have a difficult time keeping up. It’s just going to get more complicated in the future. Having an IT helpdesk involved, with staffers getting regular training on any and all changes in the technology landscape, can future proof your IT infrastructure.
Partner with the nonprofit on a flexible pay model
Finances, of course, are an ongoing challenge for nonprofits. Most of these entities are trying to stretch dollars as far as they can, and the funds they do bring in often ebb and flow based on the timing of fundraising activities. While hiring internal IT staff saddles nonprofits with fixed expenses, contracting with an IT helpdesk can be done on a more flexible basis. Helpdesk providers can structure plans based on their needs and their funding mechanisms, ensuring that the arrangement works well for both sides.
If you are wondering if an IT helpdesk would be a good fit for your organization, we’d like to speak with you. Tech Networks of Boston has been providing helpdesk services to over 100 nonprofit organizations in the Boston area, and we would like to see if we can help ease your IT worries!