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Non-Profit guide to interviewing your next IT company

Q.  Do you have experience working with non-profits? 

If they have, then they know from the get-go, that non-profits are driven by a different purpose. While the purpose of a for-profit business is to create new customers and retain them, (a self-serving purpose) a non-profit’s purpose is more magnanimous; a non-profit is driven by a greater purpose and mission. Unlike religious non-profits, most non-profits don’t have to create new customers and most don’t want to retain them. Non-profits don’t have to look far for new customers because they’re lined up outside their doors. Non-profits simply want to fix-them-up, fill-them-up, or lift-them-up, send them on their way, and hope they won’t have a need to come back. An IT company that wants your business needs to know what is relevant from your perspective.

Q.  What questions should you ask a non-profit when doing your due diligence? 

Non-profits are more budget cautious, however, they do business like everyone else. We’ve found no measurable differences in the budget assumptions made by non-profits as compared to the assumptions made by their for-profit counterparts. Non-profits will not only due diligence as well or better than a for-profit but they’ll also insist on competitive bids.

Q.  How do non-profit and for profit’s ROI differ?

Do they understand that return on investment for you is not measured in revenue secured from customers, but rather in the amount of help you are able to provide customers. They should understand that the return on investment is mostly seen in the eyes of those that are helped and not in the joy of seeing a fat bottom line on a profit and loss statement. They must have an instinct derived from empathy and be able to speak, literally, in your native tongue.

Q.  How do the non-profit and for profit working environments differ?

If they have worked with non-profits they should explain that the working environment is a more-friendly environment, which makes it easier to build a strong long-term working relationship.  Believe it or not, but this alone, will save you a lot of time and money. 

Q.  Have you worked with non-profits with varying levels of expertise? 

More often than not, most IT firms expect to be working with an individual or group inside a business with IT expertise and specifically assigned to IT. More often than not, the head of IT in a non-profit inherited the job and is already wearing many hats, and has little experience in IT. 

Q.  Do you have experience working with a variety of platforms and operating systems on a single network? 

Non-profits often accept donations, which then lead to mixed environments. Many non-profit applications are web based which allows them to use both Mac and PCs, so they end up with a mix of systems within their network. Ask the IT provider if they are experienced with Mac and PC environments? And are they comfortable and knowledgeable working with multiple OS’s in their environment.  Also ask if they would be able to properly support and secure them? 

Q.  Do you provide a ticketing system to bring visibility and accountability to IT issues and the team tasked with resolving them? 

Service Board, Tracking System, Monitoring Issues/Resolutions, Faster Resolution. Many times the head of IT has little or no experience in IT or IT management so when it comes time to review the work of the IT staff they lack the documentation to make educated business decisions. (Similar to level of expertise question)

Q.  Will you turn up or turn down services as needed? 

Will they provide the expertise when issues are beyond the qualifications of your internal staff? Will they provide full coverage for vacations or illness? Will they scale their services to align with your needs and your budget? 

Q.  Are you familiar with the most common non-profit data security issues? 

Although not all non-profits are held to compliance regulations concerning data security, several struggle with proper security. When saving personal information are you saving an electronic file or a paper copy and how is this documentation stored? Know your liabilities and risks of storing sensitive personal data. Improper storage of sensitive data can lead to potential loss of public trust. A privacy policy should be put in place and adhered to. Data sharing and network access should also be monitored and regulated when concerning sensitive data. 

Q.  Are you familiar with the free software programs available to non-profits? 

This can be a game changer. If your IT provider does not have experience with non-profit licensing it’s time to look elsewhere. Software licensing can be a substantial cost to any organization; for profit, non-profit or academic. Make sure you’re getting the correct software licensing for your organization. Many of the top tier software vendors provide heavily discounted and sometimes even free software licensing to non-profits – take advantage of this! 

Q.  Do you have experience moving a non-profit from a reactionary, break-fix model to a proactive, high uptime model? 

Many non-profits feel it’s acceptable to deal with consistent downtime because it fits their budget. What they don’t realize is that proactive management actually costs less in the long run.  Can they articulate the amount of money you can save by eliminating fire drills and unexpected IT repair bills? Can they prove they are expert enough to be in your corner to guide your decision-making in all aspects of your system? Can they explain how the proper security should lead to less downtime and fewer IT repair bills derived from viruses and malicious software attacks? A better buying process leads to better quality systems requiring fewer hardware repairs and a longer life expectancy. 

Q.  Do you have experience designing and implementing data continuity plans?

If your organization suffered a cyber-attack, a natural disaster, significant hardware failure or worse, would your organization be able to survive? Will your IT partner help you position organization with an appropriate data/business continuity plan? Gartner Group, a trusted research company, reports 43% of companies/organizations were immediately put out of business by a “major loss” of computer records and another 51% permanently closed their doors within two years – leaving a mere 6% survival rate. 

So what should you expect from RYMARK as your IT provider? 

Expert advice with a real-life understanding of what it means to work within a budget. We tailor solutions to the needs of our clients, and while some solutions may not fit within every client’s budget, we feel it’s important to educate our clients and share best practice solutions. We’ve been working with non-profits for almost 20 years providing excellent and friendly IT support. 

To request an interview with RYMARK contact us!

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