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A recent study by NTEN and Microsoft found that 75 percent of nonprofits now use cloud services for at least three different activities, such as data storage and donor and event management. But the survey also found that cloud adoption is still lagging in many smaller organizations. This is happening for two reasons: tight budgets, which discourage them from migrating off of older infrastructures, and a general lack of knowledge on how to properly implement a cloud solution.

However, there are ways you can work within these constraints and still adopt a successful cloud solution. For example, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) recently underwent a digital transformation that has helped improve productivity and efficiency while reducing costs, allowing them to empower their employees and expand their reach in their communities. In doing so, the BGCA is showing how the decentralized, flexible structures of cloud-based tools offer nonprofits more benefits than on-premises systems.

If you are considering a cloud solution for your nonprofit and are wondering which tools to prioritize, here are three features that dramatically improved the BGCA’s operations:

1. Communication and collaboration tools

The work of community-based organizations requires seamless communication between staff, volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries. As the BGCA found, cloud-based communication and collaboration tools are a great way to ensure everyone stays on the same page. The best solutions make it simple to store and share documents, and to control who can view and access files. Cloud-enabled mobile applications that allow you and your employees to stay connected when working outside of the office are another key benefit, while  advanced workflow automation tools can take care of tedious tasks like sending out calendar invites. These types of tools do amazing things for productivity, freeing up your staff and volunteers to concentrate on the organization’s mission.

2. Robust data gathering and analysis capabilities

Nonprofits are always looking for better ways to know who their services are reaching and how they’re being utilized. While surveys are a popular method to accomplish this, they can be expensive and time-consuming and their results can go quickly out of date. This is where a cloud solution with robust data gathering and analysis tools can help.

Cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) tools enable your organization to collect a variety of data on your customers as frequently as you need it—even in real time. Visualization tools can then analyze this data in easy-to-understand reports, allowing you to unearth trends and draw powerful insights on how to optimize the impact of your operations so that your organization meets—or exceeds—its goals. For example, the BGCA used cloud-based CRM and visualization tools to improve how they gather and interpret data on Club member demographics and participation rates, helping them refine their programs to reach more youth in need of Club services.

3. Integration of all tools and data

Although cloud-based tools make it simple to share files and analyze data, incompatibility between apps can inhibit employee productivity. That’s why it’s important to look for a unified cloud solution that can integrate all the applications across your organization. Here are some of the benefits to look for:

  • A single integrated content hub where staff can view data and download files, streamlining communication and preventing confusion about file versions and locations.
  • An integrated dashboard that displays the latest information fed by various sources (e.g., different offices or cloud-based tools), ensuring everyone stays up to date.
  • An easily customized, user-friendly portal interface that enables staff to quickly search for and disseminate critical information.
  • The cloud solution should also be scalable, making it easy to track and manage tools, data, and teams as your organization grows.

Watch this video to learn more about how the Boys & Girls Clubs of America is benefiting from its unified cloud platform:

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