Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pooled nonprofit IT

File this one under "Daydreaming".

There are lots of small, local nonprofit organizations that really can't afford to do their IT well. They can't afford a full-time professional, so they make do with unskilled labor, plus a smattering of donated services and what short-term contractual help they can afford. Each time, the solutions implemented depend on the skills and tastes of the implementor, and rarely build usefully on what has been implemented before.

Imagine the efficiencies if many organizations could share a small, full-time IT staff dedicated to their needs. Most organizations share many of the same needs, and could share the same set of solutions. A full-time pro would become familiar with those needs and could efficiently apply a well-known solution to each group. (S)he would provide continuity, well-informed decisionmaking, and perfectly specialized skills.

Providing this would seem like a natural role for, say, an organization like the United Way; or perhaps for a small meta-charity created for the purpose. I'm sure private firms have attempted to set themselves up in this role, but anything that demands a steady funding outflow from the benefiting agencies is a tough sell, no matter how beneficial it would be in the long run.

I'm just daydreaming, but I'm interested in people's comments. Has anybody heard of something like this being done?

7 comments:

Tom said...

I actually worked for such a company for a while here in Cincinnati. It was called SophiaTech now called the Partnership Center(http://www.partnershipcenter.net/). I consider it to have been one of the more gratifying experiences of my career, and technically challenging/interesting.

David Reid said...

You might be interested in something like the Cernio Technology Cooperative: http://cernio.com/

pkeane said...

Sounds like a terrific idea to me. And with things like Amazon Web Services, or even Google Apps + Google App engine there is affordable infrastructure to base such an operation on as well.

kindly said...

I was just looking for such a local company in the london/uk. This company http://www.communitytechnology.org.uk/ seems to fit the bill and they also refurbish computers and set up/support basic IT infrastructure.

kindly said...

I was just looking for such a local company in the london/uk. This company http://www.communitytechnology.org.uk/ seems to fit the bill and they also refurbish computers and set up/support basic it infrastructure.

PaulN said...

I'd keep an eye on the Google Apps for Non-Profits offering. There are heaps of powerful, zero-support-effort solutions cropping up on the Google Apps Marketplace as well.

http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/nonprofit/index.html

Vassago said...

I would be more than willing to lend a hand remotely (or onsite if in my neighborhood), but someone has to coordinate and schedule. I am a Linux / Windows / Storage admin, and honestly think it is a good thing. Paying homage to Ellison, and paying it forward if you will.