Using Tech to Thrive in Challenging Times
Recent studies show that charitable giving is on the decline, while needs — such as housing and food — are on the rise. During these challenging times, nonprofits are looking for ways to increase impact while decreasing costs. But cutting costs during economic uncertainty shouldn’t mean restricting innovation or sacrificing your ability to deliver on your nonprofit’s mission.
In fact, in times of economic instability, a cloud-powered digital strategy becomes critically important. That’s because the cloud offers operational and economic advantages that can help nonprofits thrive in today’s uncertain environment. Many nonprofits use cloud in innovative ways to keep delivering an exceptional experience to their donors, volunteers and beneficiaries.
Here are four key ways that a cloud-powered digital strategy can help nonprofits do more with less.
Flexibility to Scale Up and Down
It’s common for nonprofits to face changing demand as they execute engagements and events during certain moments of the year. For example, charities may find that they need more resources in December than during the summer in order to drive holiday giving campaigns. The cloud makes capacity planning easy and helps organizations mitigate the risk of sitting on idle resources, because you’re only paying for what you use. Nonprofits can access as much or as little computing capacity as they need, scaling up or down within only a few minutes notice, on a global level.
Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s largest independent funder of cancer research, is using cloud technology to manage its payments web services platform, an in-house, serverless product that allows them to accept online payments and donations.
Previously, donations were accepted using a monolithic app that handled all payment card processing using a dedicated Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliant hosting solution that lacked auto-scaling. This limited the organization’s ability to scale in response to increased traffic, required additional capacity to accommodate predicted increases in traffic, and frequently resulted in downtime during high-traffic periods, such as the Stand Up To Cancer televised telethons.
By building a cloud-powered PCI-DSS compliant payments system that offloads payment card processing to the Payment Service Provider, CRUK can more easily handle peaks in donations — up to 800 transactions per second and scale up or down as required. As a result of CRUK’s cloud infrastructure, they are spending approximately 94% less than they did with their on-premise legacy system.
Given how fast needs change in the nonprofit sector, organizations must be ready to act quickly to develop new services and solutions to best support those they serve. Nonprofits that experiment with cloud technologies are better positioned to stay ahead of demand and deliver on their mission.
Cloud helps drive innovation in two key ways. First, nonprofits can redirect costs and time previously used to operate and manage on-premise systems to developing new cloud solutions and applications that directly impact their beneficiaries. Second, it makes innovation easier by spinning up resources as needed and deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes. This means nonprofits can quickly experiment and innovate with new applications. And if an experiment fails, you can always de-provision the resources without risk.
AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit membership organization, saw improved application deployment lead time after migrating to the cloud — going from months to hours. For example, in a recent brainstorm, the organization proposed changes to an application that would allow employees to better serve their members and reduce the average assistance time. By the end of the 30-minute meeting, the team was able to make the changes to the application, run thousands of automated tests on the cloud, and deploy it to production without any downtime or impact to its 4,000 users.
Another benefit of their pivot to the cloud has been improved employee retention, with IT employees being 2.2 times happier because they’re able to work on new projects, rather than fixing bugs or maintaining equipment.
Enhanced Customer Experiences
Delivering tailored experiences to customers is expected in today’s digital era. For example, most people want the option to choose what content they receive, when they get it and how they get it. Cloud technologies can help nonprofits better understand their members and beneficiaries, and improve their ability to deliver customized content. For instance, nonprofits can use machine learning-powered solutions to make sure the right message is sent to the right recipient on their preferred device and at the most ideal time.
PBS, which aims to deliver customized content to their viewers without delay, wanted to ensure access to their programming regardless of a viewer’s connectivity and provide content recommendations. To support this work, the nonprofit brought 300-plus local stations onto a single, cloud-powered platform. They also built an on-demand viewing solution available from the PBS website and app that recommends content, including educational games. The effort was accomplished without sacrificing speed or the ability to solve issues in real time. In fact, the services made for a smooth expansion in reach, especially to rural communities across America with low broadband connections.
Accelerated Mission Delivery
More often than not, nonprofits are dealing with situations where their beneficiaries require urgent assistance —a homeless individual needs housing, or a family needs help after a disaster. These situations require an immediate response. Nonprofits can turn to cloud technology to quickly prioritize responses and deliver services. For example, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), organizations can use sophisticated algorithms to rapidly identify where and when assistance is needed.
When disaster strikes, American Red Cross workers are among the first to respond, aiding those affected. To support on-the-ground efforts, the Red Cross is developing a cloud-based tool to help assess the level of structural damage after a disaster. Images taken by cameras attached to cars will be processed, using AI services, to determine the extent of the external damage to each home. Given this task is one currently done manually by volunteers on foot, this technology will relieve manpower and help the Red Cross more quickly deliver mission-critical services to those affected. This tool, currently in beta testing, will hopefully accelerate individual home damage assessments from weeks to days, with the initial AI assessment completed hours after images are uploaded.
With the cloud, nonprofits can improve innovation, enhance experiences, and accelerate the services provided to their stakeholders, donors, and beneficiaries. At AWS, we’re incredibly inspired by the innovative solutions coming from this sector, and we look forward to helping more nonprofits use the cloud to do more with less.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.