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Part 1 covers an overview of nonprofit size and stage and the typical IT support arrangement that is necessary and adds value. Part 2 covers practical advice on IT support for spin off and start ups and answers Q&A. Like podcasts? Find our full archive here or anywhere you listen to podcasts: search Community IT Innovators Nonprofit Technology Topics on Apple, Google, Stitcher, Pandora, and more. Or ask your smart speaker.
What IT do you need as you grow?
Join Community IT CEO Johan Hammerstrom and Outreach Director Carolyn Woodard for a conversation about growing your nonprofit. What IT do you need as a start up? As you spin off from a parent organization, how can you put your best IT foot forward?
Learn best practices and what to expect as you go out on your own
Learn the first decisions you need to make about IT support
Set your organization up for success and avoid common IT pitfalls
Over the decades Community IT has helped multiple clients grow from startups to well established organizations, as they grow in staff size and IT complexity.
We also have assisted nonprofits as they spin off from a parent organization, a university incubator, or a fiscal sponsor who previously provided IT support.
Join Johan and Carolyn for a practical presentation of what you need to know about start up and spin off nonprofit IT.
As with all our webinars, this presentation is appropriate for an audience of varied IT experience.
Community IT is proudly vendor-agnostic and our webinars cover a range of topics and discussions. Webinars are never a sales pitch, always a way to share our knowledge with our community.
Johan Hammerstrom’s focus and expertise are in nonprofit IT leadership, governance practices, and nonprofit IT strategy. In addition to deep experience supporting hundreds of nonprofit clients for over 20 years, Johan has a technical background as a computer engineer and a strong servant-leadership style as the head of an employee-owned small service business. After advising and strategizing with nonprofit clients over the years, he has gained a wealth of insight into the budget and decision-making culture at nonprofits – a culture that enables creative IT management but can place constraints on strategies and implementation.
As CEO, Johan provides high-level direction and leadership in client partnerships. He also guides Community IT’s relationship to its Board and ESOP employee-owners. Johan is also instrumental in building a Community IT value of giving back to the sector by sharing resources and knowledge through free website materials, monthly webinars, and external speaking engagements.
Carolyn Woodard is currently head of Marketing and Outreach at Community IT Innovators. She has served many roles at Community IT, from client to project manager to marketing. With over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit world, including as a nonprofit technology project manager and Director of IT at both large and small organizations, Carolyn knows the frustrations and delights of working with technology professionals, accidental techies, executives, and staff to deliver your organization’s mission and keep your IT infrastructure operating. She has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University and received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College. She is happy to be moderating this webinar.
Check back here soon for the transcript in case you missed this webinar on start up and spin off nonprofit IT.
Carolyn Woodard: Welcome, everyone, as you’re joining us for the Community IT Innovators’ webinar on Startup and Spin Off Nonprofit IT. We know that planning for IT can be overwhelming, or you might not know where to start and there are so many IT tools available now that weren’t available 10 to 20 years ago.
If you are a startup nonprofit, you’re probably able to do a lot of your IT yourself. But as you grow, and we hope you grow, there will come a point where you will have to either hire someone to build your capacity internally to handle your IT or outsource some or all of your IT support. There are many things you can do in the startup phase to prepare for that development. So we’re going to talk about that today.
On the other hand, we see a lot of prospective clients who come to us as they spin off from another organization, maybe a university incubator, a fiscal sponsor or maybe you were in a coalition for your admin needs including your IT. When you spin off, it can be the first time you realize you have to start making your IT decisions yourself and untangle your organization from whoever was providing your IT before. So it can be an opportunity, but it can be challenging.
And if you’re in either situation, a startup or a spin off, we’re glad you joined us. And maybe we can give you a framework on how to think about your IT support as you grow.
I’m Carolyn Woodard. I’m the Outreach Director for Community IT and I’m the moderator today. Before I came to Community IT, I was an IT Director at large and small nonprofits. So I’ve been through this from the client side, too.
I was in a position where I managed an outsourced IT provider at a large nonprofit and many of our grantees were startups. So I saw all kinds of different IT arrangements, some successful and some really chaotic. Before that I worked at a small nonprofit in D.C. that had a fiscal sponsor in California. So we had to handle all of our own IT and I have to say we got very little guidance from that organization that was our back office. They did multiple trainings on building our board, our HR, how to keep our books, but really nothing on IT or cybersecurity. We were on our own.
So I’m happy to be here with you today to talk to Johan about what he’s seen in clients that helped them be successful as they grew and where some of the pitfalls might lie. So Johan, would you like to introduce yourself?
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah. Thank you, Carolyn. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this webinar. We’re glad you could make it. My name is Johan Hammerstrom, I’m the CEO of Community IT. I have been here for a long time, over 20 years. I’ve worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations in that time, including a lot of organizations that were just starting up or in the middle of spinning off from their parent organization. And so this is a topic we’ve been talking about for a while and I’m excited that we’re finally presenting it today on the webinar.
Carolyn Woodard: Thanks, Johan. So before we begin, if you’re not familiar with Community IT, a little bit about us. We are a 100% employee-owned managed services provider. We provide outsourced IT support. We work exclusively with nonprofit organizations and our mission is to help nonprofits accomplish their missions through the effective use of technology. We’re big fans of what well managed IT can do for your nonprofit. We serve nonprofits across the United States and we’ve been doing this for over 20 years.
We are technology experts and we are consistently given the MSP 501 recognition for being a top MSP, managed services provider, which is an honor we just received again in 2023.
I want to remind everyone that for these presentations Community IT is vendor agnostic. We only make recommendations for our clients and only based on their specific business needs. And we never try to get a client into a product because we get any kind of incentive or benefit from that. But we do consider ourselves a best of breed IT provider. So it’s our job to know the landscape, what tools are available, reputable, and widely used and we make recommendations on that basis for our clients based on their business needs, their priorities and their budget.
Resources for Starting a Nonprofit or NGO
We had several questions in registration about starting a nonprofit. And I just want to clarify, today, we’re going to talk about our area of expertise, which is IT support for new nonprofits. But if you haven’t started your nonprofit yet, I’m going to put some resources in the chat and they’ll be in the transcript about that part of the process. In the United States, there’s the Council of Nonprofits, which has a lot of resources on running a nonprofit, including starting one up. And your city or town may have a Nonprofit Resource Center or your Public Library also might have some resources to help walk you through the paperwork and the setup that you need to do. If you’re joining us internationally, you’ll need to check with your own government about their regulations for starting an NGO.
In addition to the free resources on our site about IT, our friends at TechSoup also have lots of information on free and low cost technology tools for new nonprofits. And they have a library of online courses as well that you can take to improve your management of IT including a Cybersecurity 101 course that Community IT provided for them.
- We want to help you learn typical IT concerns for startup and spin off nonprofits.
- We want to learn best practices as you go out on your own,
- understanding evolving security needs as you grow and
- learn a couple of IT leadership tips, even if you aren’t an IT person.
We love to start out with a poll. We wanted to find out a little bit about you.
How many staff are at your nonprofit?
- And your options are fewer than five,
- from 5 to 10,
- 11 to 15,
- more than 16 or
- not applicable. Maybe you’re much larger than that or you’re not starting up yet.
And we know that startups don’t have to start with just one or two people. It could be a larger startup. And definitely spin offs, sometimes they’re smaller, but if you’re an established organization that’s been part of a larger organization and you’re spinning off, you might have 20, 30, 40 people, or more.
Johan Hammerstrom: 17% of respondents have 5 to 10 staff and the remaining 83% have over 16 staff, so larger organizations are joining us today.
Carolyn Woodard: That was great to learn. And we also have another poll for you.
What are you? Are you a startup? Are you a spin off? Or again, is this not really applied to you?
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, 30% are startups, 15% are spin offs and the remaining 55%, that question doesn’t apply to.
Carolyn Woodard: Okay, great. Thank you guys so much for that.
All right, so now we’re going to talk a little bit more about the IT needs that you have as you grow. So Johan, I think we talk a lot at Community IT about these different size ranges. It’s not always the case that clients and prospective clients fall into these exact categories, but there’s just some natural ways of managing IT that fall into different size categories. So do you want to talk a little bit more about this slide?
Johan Hammerstrom: Like you were saying Carolyn, these are not exact definitions in the sense that you could be a startup or spin off with over 100 staff. You could be a mature organization with only 15 staff. So these are not hard and fast definitions, but they’re general rules of thumb that we’ve found broadly applicable. And I think you can consider your size as well as the age of the organization as you think about the different kinds of IT support that you need.
We’ll start at the bottom with what we’re calling the startup organizations, fewer than five staff.
At that size, the focus is really on the organizational priority, getting the organization off the ground, starting to work on developing your program, securing your funding sources. Very little work is really going into organizational development itself. You don’t have a complex hierarchy. You may not even have any kind of management supervision structure. There’s probably one person who oversees the whole organization and makes all of the decisions.
In an environment like that, it’s important that your IT is secure and it’s meeting the needs of the staff. But generally the smaller organizations, and with startup organizations there’s sort of an expectation that everybody is going to be resourceful in all kinds of different ways. You have to be resourceful to keep an organization like that running and that’s going to extend to IT. So at that size, we typically recommend not working with a full-on outsource service provider like Community IT. We’ll talk a little bit more about what that entails on the next slide.
But generally, if you have someone in the organization who is pretty good with technology, who can figure out the basics of administering either your Google Workspace or your Microsoft 365 account, that is probably sufficient. That’s probably going to meet the needs of the organization at that size and you save a lot of resources not trying to outsource overall IT management. A good way to think of it is the organization is small and doesn’t need much in the way of management and the IT by the same token, also doesn’t need much in the way of management.
You need IT to work. You need someone to be able to set it up and configure it and resolve problems when they arise. But beyond that, it’s pretty simple at that stage. You can try to cover that need in-house. Like I said, organizations of that size, people wear a lot of different hats. If there’s someone who can put on and wear the IT hat, by all means let them do that. If there isn’t, we typically recommend working with an independent contractor at this stage. Independent contractors tend to be less expensive than a full service IT Support Company. They also tend to be more flexible and they just are a better cultural fit for organizations at that size.
A partial exception might be organizations and nonprofits for whom technology is a core part of their program. So that’s organizations that are doing data collection, data analysis, and data reporting. Maybe they’re collecting health data and then aggregating that and reporting on it and that’s a core part of their program. That’s an exception in the sense that if data is part of your mission as an organization, one of your first five staff is probably going to need to be someone who is an expert in data management. Hopefully that person could then also pitch in on the IT side because they’re technically proficient and they probably have experience working with technology. So that’s in the startup space size range.
And then you’ve got spin offs, and we’re saying that’s five to 15 staff.
Oftentimes, organizations will incubate as part of a larger organization, or as part of a university department or program, or as a program in a much larger nonprofit organization. That organization will provide support as they move through the startup phase and move into more of the spin off phase. But it could also be an organization that made it out of the five-person range and is really starting to develop itself and the programs that it’s delivering.
At that point, you probably have one or two or three people in management and supervision roles. They are approving time off, making decisions about salary, making sure that the organization is following its policies, and starting to develop policies for the organization. So there’s a growing management need for the organization. And in the same way, there’s a growing management need with the IT that the organization is using.
Somewhere in the 10 to 15 person range, it starts to become too complex to try to manage all of the machines that people are using in an ad hoc way, or to try to manage all of the accounts that need to be set up for your staff in an ad hoc way. So as you move into the spin off phase, it’s important to start thinking about the long term plan for the organization. What size do you anticipate the organization growing to and what IT is going to be required to support an organization of that size? So start that planning process when you get into the spin off stage. Start thinking ahead to the future and making decisions at this stage that will set you up for success down the road. And we’ll talk about that in more detail later on in the presentation.
Then you get up into the 15 to 100-size organization. At that point, the organization has more advanced management requirements.
You’re developing a hierarchy of an org chart most likely, different business functions that the organization has around fundraising, program delivery, operations, legal, financial management, all of those are now turning into teams or departments. You need to start having more control over the information that people in the organization have access to. And that’s the point at which you really need to have a well-run IT management function that isn’t just providing IT services to the organization, but managing how those services are used.
At that stage, it does make sense to start working with a managed services provider. Organizations can also build that capacity in-house and there’s some different factors to consider when thinking about that decision.
And then finally, mature or very large organizations, organizations that have more than 100 staff, we strongly recommend organizations in that size start to build out their own in-house IT capacity.
In every one of these size ranges, there is someone in the organization who needs to own IT. And that applies to all functions. Somebody needs to own HR. Somebody needs to own legal who’s making sure that the contracts the organization is entering into are in the best interest of the organization. That doesn’t mean you need to be a lawyer, but somebody is playing that point of contact role with the counsel that’s supporting the organization.
And in the same way, someone needs to play that point of contact role with whoever the IT support provider is. So at some point, most likely when you hit the 100 staff range, you really need to have the owner of IT be someone who comes from an IT background, an IT professional whose full-time responsibility for the organization is around overseeing IT.
There are some cases where that is an important role to have for much smaller organizations. Theoretically there could be a case where a larger organization doesn’t need that as a specific role, but it’s hard for me to imagine what that would be. Once you’re heading in the direction of 100 staff, you really need to be thinking about building out your IT team in-house.
Carolyn Woodard: Yeah, we also talked earlier about if you have multiple offices, although a lot of people are working remotely now. But if you have more than one office, your IT needs are going to be more complex because of that as well.
Johan Hammerstrom: A managed services provider is a very specific type of IT support provider. There’s been kind of an evolution over the last 25 years in how IT support is provided by third party firms like Community IT.
For a long time, the approach was break-fix which was basically you pay someone to come in and set up your computers and your information systems. And then when they break, you call that same provider to come and fix the machines. That was the original model for IT services back in the 90s and into the early 2000s.
I don’t know if it was replaced, because there are still firms that provide that type of support, but then an additional model was created called value added reseller or VAR where they would sell the equipment directly and then include support of that equipment as part of the long term support contract. But one thing you note in these models is that they’re really equipment centric, they’re focused on the equipment, set it up, fix it, sell it, make sure it’s running.
And as we’ve all learned, IT is about so much more than the equipment. In fact the equipment is really there to facilitate the use of these information systems that help make the staff and the organization as a whole more productive in doing the work that they do.
And so that whole model of break-fix and adding support onto the sale of hardware, was lacking because it wasn’t really providing organizations what they really needed, which is the management of IT systems and equipment over time. That’s really where the managed services provider model came from.
Nowadays, if you’re looking for IT support, you are almost certainly going to be considering a firm that offers some version of managed services, and so we all call ourselves managed services providers. The chances are if you’re working with an IT company right now, they are an MSP and that’s the industry that we all consider ourselves to be in.
Some of the things that make MSPs unique and different from break-fix and value added resellers is that they’re very proactive. The managed services provider should be providing proactive network management, monitoring all the machines, applying patches in an automated way, proactively.
A good managed services provider will
- meet with you on a regular basis,
- will want to understand what your business needs, your organizational priorities are and
- help you think through how to align your information systems with those organizational priorities. So they’re proactive in that way as well.
- Almost every MSP offers a help desk that you can call to get support
- and the help desk is relying on the proactive management tools that the provider has in place for the organization to provide support.
So it’s a model that’s more advanced and sophisticated and it requires more upfront investment. But the long term goal is to be less expensive than break-fix because usually when something is broken, it’s more expensive to replace it. So you’re not waiting for things to break. You’re keeping them running so that they won’t break.
But more importantly than it being less expensive, is that it ends up creating IT that’s more effective, that has a greater impact on what the organization is trying to do because the systems are well tuned to meet the needs of the organization.
Carolyn Woodard: We have a couple more resources on our website about this specific question of how to select an MSP. And I want to make sure everyone knows that it’s not always us. We hope that it is, but it’s weird; we really put a lot of time into building good relationships and partnerships with the clients that we interact with. And as Johan was talking earlier about the slide on the size, there are some nonprofits that aren’t a good fit for this model.
So it’s important as you’re going forward to think about some of these ways to make sure you’re getting an MSP that will be a good fit.
Johan, I know you wanted to talk a little bit more about this and I’ll put a couple of the links to our other resources in the chat.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah. The resources that we have: questions to ask potential managed service providers that you’re considering working with, that really outlines a lot of the areas that we recommend organizations look at when they’re evaluating managed services providers.
This goes back to the real value that a managed services provider delivers is around aligning IT with the organization’s priorities and mission objectives. And that alignment only happens through a collaborative process.
The managed services provider has to understand what your organizational priorities are, and then has to be able to articulate how their IT recommendations help you meet your organizational priorities.
If that conversation isn’t happening, if the managed services provider can’t articulate how IT is going to help you accomplish your organizational objectives, then it’s very difficult for you to establish an effective partnership with that MSP.
And that needs to start in the evaluation process. See if they ask you what your priorities are. Are they asking you about how you do your work? Are they asking you about anything beyond the nature of your IT systems?
Pose technical questions to them. Any problems that you might be currently experiencing as an organization, share those problems with them and see if they understand what you’re talking about and see if they can articulate a possible solution or how they think about that sort of problem.
That partnership and ability to collaborate around IT is really essential. And oftentimes partnership is about the intangibles. Are they a good fit for the personality of your organization? Not every provider is a great fit for how different organizations work. Be mindful of that partnership, the vibe you’re getting from the meetings that you’re having with them. Are things clicking? Are you speaking the same language? Are they getting you or is it just now flowing? Listen to those sort of intangible things because those are really the essence of a successful IT partnership.
Being able to solve technical problems, that’s table stakes. In general most MSPs that are in business these days are able to do that. Otherwise, they would have gone out of business. But you can check with their references, make sure that they’re strong in the area of IT. But like I said, those are table stakes and the key differentiator is that ability to form a partnership.
Look at the leadership. Who is managing the MSP? And then also look at the ownership.
It’s an interesting industry because it’s dominated by small companies, companies that have less than 40 staff. Most of those firms are owned by a single owner and many of those owners are getting close to retirement age. So one of the trends that we’ve noticed in the MSP industry over the last five to 10 years are these small business owners looking to sell and retire.
They want to get value for what they’ve built in their business. And at the same time, there’s a lot of private equity funding coming into the MSP space and that’s causing these roll ups to happen where a larger MSP will seek to acquire a lot of smaller MSPs so they can then go out and get private equity funding.
That can be a challenge because oftentimes when a smaller MSP is acquired by a larger MSP, they cut the services. They change up the support model and as the ownership of the MSP changes, the priorities of the MSP change as well. So that’s something to be mindful of.
I would always ask, if I were evaluating managed services providers, who owns the company, what are their five to 10 year plans for the business? Because we’ve worked with a lot of organizations that had an MSP that they loved and then the MSP ownership changed and there were significant issues to the point where they ended up having to find a new provider.
Carolyn Woodard: And that’s always a painful situation. That’s a great question to ask when you’re interviewing your MSP options.
This has been a great overview of what MSPs are and the different sizes of nonprofits that can benefit from MSP and other arrangements.
We’re going to do another poll now.
Who at your nonprofit has responsibility for IT?
- The founder
- Number two is we all do. Everybody kind of pitches in.
- Number three is it reports to the CFO, the CEO or the Executive Director. So you might have someone responsible for IT, either an accidental techie or an IT manager, but they are often reporting to someone in operations.
- Number four, there’s only me in my organization and I do it all.
- Not available.
So 40% IT responsibility is shared by everyone. We all have responsibility. 20% IT reports to the CFO, COO or ED and 40% are other.
Best Practices and Pitfalls: Nonprofit IT for Start Ups
We’re going to go on to the second part of our presentation, which is probably what you all came for: best practices and how to avoid pitfalls.
Johan, you want to start us off with best practices for startup IT?
Johan Hammerstrom: Three things we would encourage you to focus on are:
Probably the best way to do that as a startup is to think about the management of the IT as you roll it out. You need to spin up a website, that’s great. That isn’t hard to do these days depending on what you need from the website. Maybe you just get a Squarespace website right off the bat.
But who is going to manage that over time? Who’s going to keep it up to date? Who’s going to manage the renewal? Are there future integrations that might be needed? How do those get managed? How do you keep it secure?
Carolyn Woodard: All of the people who have admin access to your website.
Johan Hammerstrom: Exactly. So think about the management of the system.
Same with equipment. If you’re going to ask staff to use their own personal computers at this stage to do their work, how is that going to get managed? How do you make sure that their machines are secure, that the organization’s information is safe on their machines? If you’re going to purchase machines for staff, how do those machines get managed?
Thinking back to the earlier slide, the management requirements at the startup phase, especially for small organizations with five people or less aren’t significant, so you may not run into these management challenges right away. But you will run into them eventually. And so it’s really important to start thinking about that now.
How is IT going to get managed? Who is going to own it? So it’s really the ownership and governance of IT that isimportant to keep in mind in this startup phase.
Think about not just what you need today, but your timeline for growth. What do you need when you become 10 people a year from now? What if you’re going to grow to 20 people two years from now? Are the IT decisions that you’re making now going to work for the organization as it grows?
I think one of the biggest decisions that organizations have to make is whether or not to go with Google Workspace as their primary productivity solution or to go with Microsoft 365 as their primary productivity solution. And we have a lot of resources on our website comparing the two. There are other resources out there that will walk you through the implications of making that decision.
But we have worked with organizations that just kind of picked on a whim; in both directions there’s no right answer here. It’s really about fit for the organization. We’ve worked with organizations that maybe weren’t as intentional about that decision and then ended up having to switch and created a lot more work for themselves down the road. So that’s just one example. There are others, but that’s one of the primary ones that new organizations need to think about.
So there are two examples that come to mind here. One is if you’re spinning off, if you’re part of another organization and they’re giving you access to their information systems, at some point when you become your own organization, you are going to need to spin off and become your own organization. The more independence you have earlier on, the more you own things like your domain name and your website earlier on, the less difficult it becomes down the road to go through that process.
The other thing that we’ve seen is organizations that work with an IT support provider that will resell information storage systems.
When you’re working with an MSP, they will provide you with the management tools. So they’ll provide the systems that keep your machines secure. They might provide you with the antivirus, they might provide you with the automated patching solution, those are all completely portable. If you’re working with us and switch to another MSP, all of our systems come off very easily and the new MSP systems come on very easily. Those are easily moved around.
Your files can be very difficult to move around. So if you end up getting your file storage solution from a managed services provider and then you outgrow them and want to switch to somebody else, your files are on their system.
How helpful, how accommodating are they going to be in you moving your files off of their system to another system? And if it’s a strange system, if it’s not a standard file management system, is it even going to be possible?
So I really caution organizations, when you’re working with an IT support provider, by all means use their utilities asthose tend to be delivered more efficiently through an outsourced provider. But be very careful about having them host your email and your files. Any information that you want to take with you should be on systems that you own from the outset.
Best Practices and Pitfalls: Nonprofit IT for Spin Offs
First, Start Early
There’s some similarities here between the last topic and this one on spin off IT: there will be some detangling. It’s not always possible for an organization while it’s being incubated, or maybe it started as a program. You know, it’s just a program in a larger nonprofit organization. That program gets its own domain name, but the domain name is owned by the parent nonprofit. The e-mail, the files, everything is part of the parent nonprofit. That happens and that’s fine.And at some point, the program, the organization, decides for strategic reasons that it would be better if this program, this initiative, were its own nonprofit organization and it’s time to spin off. So that happens, it’s not always possible to avoid.
But there is a detangling process that needs to take place and that can be difficult and it can be challenging depending on how accommodating the parent nonprofit is. If you’re spinning out of a very large nonprofit that has very formal ITpolicies and procedures, you might not be able to do everything that you want to do.
There may be added steps that you need to take to move your data to a system that you own. So get that process started early. Have an ally in the management of the organization you’re spinning out of, who can advocate for you and help you move certain decisions through. But start thinking about that process now if you’re thinking about spinning out.
Make sure you identify someone in your organization who is taking on the leadership role for the transition.
Don’t assume that your new IT support provider can own every aspect of that because there’s a lot of interfacing that needs to happen with the parent organization and oftentimes they don’t want to talk to the new provider. They’re only willing to talk to the organization that’s spinning out.
There’s also change management that needs to happen within the spinout organization and it’s important to have somebody in the organization taking the lead on that.
And then finally, the cloud is your friend.
This is true almost universally these days. But it’s so much easier to migrate systems that are hosted in the cloud rather than systems that are hosted on someone’s server and we’re seeing a lot less these days. But it’s important to keep that in mind as well.
Carolyn Woodard: But with a caveat, we’ve had a couple of organizations come to us and I wouldn’t try to do a migration to a cloud provider and spin off and implement other new systems all at the same time.
This is great where earlier you said start as early as possible. So if you know that you’re going to be spinning off in a year or two, you might want to do a migration to the cloud platform that you expect to want to have as a spin offand it will make it easier later. So trying to do that organization at the timeline, is always smart, when you can.
Security Needs as you Grow
We also had some questions about understanding your security needs as you change providers, as you spin off or are starting up.
This is a framework that we use. We have a downloadable playbook on our site. That’s a free download that goes into a lot of depth on how to handle cybersecurity as a nonprofit of any size. As Matt Eshelman, our cyber security expert says, wire fraud is a crime that doesn’t care how big or small you are, everyone is a target.
Thinking early about cybersecurity basics is a good habit to get into. Just as you’re talking about managing all of your IT early, thinking of it as a strategic investment and being able to manage it, you also want to keep cybersecurity in mind.
Even small organizations can fall victim to ransomware or wire fraud scams. There’s a lot of basic tools like using multi-factor authentication and basic training for staff that you can do to help keep your organization protected. But cybersecurity can’t protect you if you aren’t doing it or if you’re saving it for later because it kind of stresses you out and you’re hoping that you’re going to be under the radar.
Definitely take it seriously to begin with. There’s lots of resources out there on being able to protect yourself, including our playbook.
Johan, is there anything specific for starting up or spinning off around cybersecurity you would say?
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, I think cyber security can be big and scary. I’ve got so many other things I’m dealing with getting this new organization off the ground, now I have to become an expert in cybersecurity. I’ve got to go and read all these resources and stuff.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by it, I think the most practical way to get started is to let your cyber liability insurance application be your guide. If you’re starting a new organization, you’ve got a lot of insurance policies that you have to set up like workers’ compensation and general liability. Nowadays, cyber liability is going to be its own policy. The days of it being just baked into general liability, the days of it being just an easy, one page rider on general liability, those days are over.
I’m almost certain everyone we’ve talked to has had to get a separate specific cyber liability insurance policy. And in order to qualify for cyber liability insurance, you now have to complete an application and this is something new. This has only been in the last few years. So that’s a good starting point.
That application is going to basically be an audit document and it’s going to tell you all the things that you need to do to qualify for cyber liability insurance. And I think if you do those things, you’ll be in a good starting position as a new organization when it comes to your cyber security.
IT Leadership Tips
Carolyn Woodard: We want to make sure that we’ve hit on a couple of IT leadership tips. I think Johan, you kind of sprinkled several of them throughout our talk today. Really focusing on even as a small organization, or maybe especially as a small organization, taking ownership of your IT management and making sure that that’s a leadership position is important.
We’re going to talk a little bit about an IT roadmap. I just want to point out that we did an IT roadmap webinar recently. That’s on our site, so you can look at that in more depth. But we’ll just add a few more tips for someone who is spinning off or starting to grow. These are not trick questions either, Johan.
Johan Hammerstrom: Another thing that sounds complicated. Very simply, it’s a list of initiatives related to IT that the organization needs to do, organized based on priority, the urgency and the importance as well as the impact that it’s going to have on the organization.
Carolyn Woodard: And how can an IT road map help you in transitions?
Johan Hammerstrom: It’s very helpful because it ensures that the IT that you need is in place when you need it.
The organization should have a spin out plan. We’re doing this by this day, the formal separation is on this day, we’re signing the chartering documents on this date, we’re opening a new office et cetera. And you just want to have IT baked into that. If you have a larger organizational plan, then you can make sure that the roadmap is aligned with that larger plan so that all of the IT systems are in place when you need them.
Carolyn Woodard: Can you make one yourself or do you need IT consultants to make an IT road map?
Johan Hammerstrom: You can probably make one yourself and especially if you’re a smaller organization, I would encourage you to at least get started trying to make one.
And then if you do run into problems, we typically recommend just thinking back to that early slide about the different types of support you can get: a power user in-house, an independent consultant, a small IT support shop, a full service managed services firm.
Whoever you’re working with to help you with your IT, they should be able to put the roadmap together for you, or at the very least, give you the information that you need to put your roadmap together. So, you don’t need to go out and find a special roadmap consultant to put the roadmap together.
Carolyn Woodard: And then next question, what do startups and spin offs need from their IT road map?
It can be something as simple as a spreadsheet or even you could start with a Word document and then put it in a spreadsheet or a Lucid chart. Use some way that you can indicate when things are going to happen, who is responsible for them and what the priorities are and what the urgency is.
Do you want to talk a little bit about this example and how for a spin off this might be particularly useful?
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, you just kind of brainstorm and think through. Our staff are going to need laptops to do their work. We’re going to open an office and we need a wireless network for them to connect to. Based on our cybersecurity application, we’re going to need to provide multi-factor authentication and set up single sign on. These are best practice policies for organizations to have. Especially for smaller, newer organizations, they can just be developed as part of the overall employee handbook, HR policies and organizational policies that are being put together.
You may know that you need to migrate files from the parent organization. So basically you’re collecting from these various sources, the things that you’re going to need to do as far as IT goes and then ranking them.
And I think the other thing you can do which we didn’t do here is also put them on a timeline. Almost have a light Gantt chart listing when these things are going to happen and establishing any dependencies between them. It can really fit into a project management framework, so hopefully whoever is responsible for this whole transition that you’re going through, you’ve got someone good doing the project management and they can just slot in the IT component.
Carolyn Woodard: I was going to add putting on it who is responsible. Not only when it has to happen in order for your transition to happen, but who is the responsible person?
Then make sure that they have all of the resources that they need: time and staff and support. Leadership support to tell people what needs to happen and why you’re doing it and how it’s going to help the IT work after the spin off is important.
We have a little bit of time for some Q&A. We do have a couple from our registration.
Do you have recommendations for laptop inventory as part of this process?
Johan Hammerstrom: I wish I did. That is something that we’re still trying to figure out.
I do think for smaller organizations just a simple spreadsheet works just fine: the name of the computer, the serial number and the person that it’s assigned to.
For larger organizations, if you have an asset management system, if the finance team is going to use a formal asset management system, we recommend including the IT equipment on that.
There’s a number of different solutions that we’ve been testing, web-based solutions for managing inventory, but we’re not ready to make a recommendation yet. Unfortunately, it’s an open issue in the sector.
Carolyn Woodard: And you do need to manage your inventory.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah. I’ll just quickly mention that.
There’s two different aspects to inventory management.
- There’s who is logged into the computer
- and who physically has the computer.
And sometimes those are the same people, but those are two different questions that you’re answering.
You don’t need it right away, but when you get to the 15 to 20 person size range, you need a good device management platform. That system can tell you this is a computer that we own and here’s the last person who logged into it. What that system can’t tell you is who your facilities manager gave that laptop to and where they live and where they took the laptop to.
And this has become a real challenge in the contemporary world because of work from home. So the best thing to do is have two systems, one that’s a facilities based system where you have inventory control and you record this device was given to this person and they’re at this location.
And then you can always match that up with your device management system that tells you that it aligns with this user logged into this device and that is consistent with what the inventory management system is telling us. So it’s important to have sort of a double ledger, if you will, of equipment for inventory management purposes.
Carolyn Woodard: And I feel like that’s another piece that as you grow becomes more important, and also budgeting and planning for replacing that inventory.
And when you’re a small startup and you only have three or four staff members and you all have your own laptops, you just bring it and work on it. But as you grow, you’re going to want to be replacing those at regular intervals so that you have them up to date and they can receive all the security updates and all of that.
So starting early with an inventory, we do have some clients who come to us who don’t even know all of the devices that are out there or who is on them. So it’s a good habit to get into.
How Much Should IT Cost?
Someone in the registration did ask about costs. When you are looking at a managed service provider or other IT support, how do costs usually work? Is it like per staff person? Is it per device, other costs that go into it? How can people get an idea of what that’s going to be like?
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, the two most common ways of pricing out IT support services are per hour, or per device, or per person.
Independent consultants and smaller break-fix shops will typically bill you on a per hour basis and their staff just have an hourly rate associated with their work.
Managed services providers will usually combine hourly rate work with a per device fixed price. So, a fixed price for managing the devices and potentially supporting the staff that use those devices and that will either be per device or sometimes they’ll do it on a per person basis as well.
Carolyn Woodard: All right, that’s good to know.
We had some learning objectives today and I think we’ve gone over them.
- We wanted to learn typical IT concerns for startups and spin off nonprofits.
- We wanted to learn best practices as you go off on your own or as you grow, just in general.
- We wanted to understand evolving security needs and give you some resources to go to for security
- and then learn a few IT leadership tips for guiding your organization through these types of transitions.
Next month we are going to do an update on Google Workspaces and Nonprofits. The platform is very popular, we mentioned it already today. It’s always evolving. If you’re on Google Workspace or thinking about moving to Google for everything, you can join us next month.
One thing we’ve noticed is that a lot of startups do use Google when they’re starting up. Then they have a question of is it professional, can they continue with it as they grow and get larger and have more complex needs? So we’re going to talk about that with two of our experts who’ve done lots of Google projects. That is August 16th, next month at 3:00 PM Eastern, noon Pacific. Our experts Steve Longenecker and Luke Casey are going to join us for that.
If you happen to be watching on YouTube today, we encourage you to just subscribe to our YouTube channel so you get updates when we post new webinars. And of course, you can register for upcoming webinars on our website because then even if you can’t attend, you will be on the mailing list to get reminders every month of our different topics and you can also ask your own questions at registration and suggest future topics for us that you’d like to hear about.
Johan, I want to thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise with us today. I feel like this is really very useful. I hope it was useful to people who are spinning off or managing their startup nonprofits. And thank you all so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.