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How cloud can help charities stay resilient

The role that not-for-profit businesses play in society has evolved significantly over the years. In the past decade, the number of charities in the UK & Ireland has grown by 10,000, with many of the newer ones looking to fill gaps in the countries’ mental health and social support systems.

Unfortunately, the level of public trust in charities has not seen a similar rise. A 2018 study by the Charity Commission found that 45% of respondents reported a decrease in trust. Four years prior, and before several high-profile scandals, that number was at 18%.

It’s clear, then, that charities are under intense pressure to manage resources efficiently, keep donations and data secure, as well as continue to lead real, demonstratable change.

With the rise in security breaches brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, non-profits are in an even more vulnerable position. With low levels of resource and flexible budget, it’s hard to keep data secure. And, as the country continue to work remotely, it hard to keep volunteers and employees engaged. The lack of in-person meetings and work has decreased morale and charities can often find it trickier to motivate staff in the same way as commercial businesses can.

Can Microsoft 365 offer charities a solution to their challenges?

To address these problems, some charities are undergoing digital transformation and implementing new software solutions. By now, many will be very familiar with Microsoft’s Office suite, which provides a vital set of document tools in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Fewer, however, are aware of the improvements to cost, security, and flexibility that a Microsoft 365 subscription can offer non-profits. Microsoft’s cloud solutions can reduce reliance on buildings and office spaces, and act as the first step towards a more agile work environment.

Non-profits can extract particular value from four specific Microsoft 365 offerings:

  • Microsoft Teams

By now, many people across the world will have heard of Microsoft Teams. For non-profit organisations, it offers the ability to seamlessly replace in-person meetings with virtual ones while acting as a hub for secure file sharing, chat, and collaboration.

Teams offers co-workers ample opportunities to stay connected, as well as enabling companies to host virtual cross-company events to boost company culture. It also allows charities to reach out those in need via video chat to provide continued support.

No matter where employees are working, Microsoft Teams helps to mitigate productivity losses. Those using Microsoft 365 will find that Teams integrates automatically with their existing Office 365 apps. Outlook will automatically populate with appointments made on Teams, for example, and lets workers reply to missed message straight from their inbox. This, combined with the natural benefits of a communications hub, helps charities react more quickly to developing crises.

  • SharePoint

SharePoint has been a mainstay in businesses for years, but with the shift to remote working many charities are now realising its appeal. The cloud-based file sharing and collaboration solution provides increased capacity for remote working without excessive costs.

Through SharePoint, non-profits can provide their workers with real-time document collaboration and storage without compromising security.

  • Outlook

Email is a core part of any non-profit business, but Microsoft 365’s Outlook offers much more than that. As well as being an excellent way to communicate, it provides essential planning and task management functionality.

Outlook Calendar helps charity workers stay on top of their obligations despite the lack of co-workers to provide in-person reminders. Microsoft To-Do integration, meanwhile, lets them review their tasks without leaving the email client.

  • Enterprise-grade security

Microsoft 365 also offers best-in-class security, designed to successfully address the growing volume of cyberattacks charities face. Microsoft 365 Business Premium, free for charities for up to 10 users, provides conditional access functionality to automatically prevent logins from unexpected networks, devices, and locations. Microsoft security features also include AI guarding against phishing and ransomware attacks that could compromise a donation pool or lead to leaks of personally identifying information.

Of course, while these features aid many of the problem’s charities face, budgetary constraints must also be considered. One of the largest advantages of Microsoft 365 for non-profits is the flexible and discounted pricing model. Microsoft 365 Business premium comes at no cost for 10 users and is just $5 per month for each one thereafter.

It’s been a hard year for non-profits, but the productivity and security benefits that Microsoft 365 can offer can help charities greatly improve their resilience.