Running a nonprofit can be both rewarding and challenging. Uniting people around a cause you believe in can be gratifying, but finding the money to support your actions can be difficult. With your budget and resources limited, you often have to rely on volunteers to tackle day-to-day operations. However, there are moments when only the expertise of an IT manager can help you meet your needs.
The good news is that you don’t have to hire a full-time IT staff to tackle your technical problems. Whether you’re looking to implement a new system, customize your network, or need help with server integration, an IT consultant is the best and most economical solution to technical problems that are beyond the capabilities of your personnel.
It can be hard to know what to expect from an IT consultant if you’ve never worked with one before. The potential for confusion and frustration in the face of this task can be enormous. That’s why in this article you can find some helpful tips on how to choose a good IT consultant for your nonprofit.
Step 1: Frame the Problem
A lot of nonprofits hire IT consultants to help them fix the “symptoms” rather than their fundamental problem. Although “symptoms” are situations that are hindering your progress, you need to look beyond them and find the real culprit.
In addition to helping you fix the underlying problem rather than the manifestation of it, a comprehensive analysis will also make it easier for you to explain your goals and needs to potential IT consultants.
Once you have a solid understanding of your goals and the kind of help you need, ask yourself the following questions:
- Should you hire locally or remotely? If you need the IT consultant onsite, then it’s better to work with a local specialist. Someone from your town can learn about your nonprofit quickly and collaborate with you more directly. However, if you are looking for a specific set of skills and you have a tight budget, it’s better to work with a remote consultant.
- Should you hire a consulting firm or work with an individual? Working with a freelance IT consultant can ensure that your project gets their undivided attention. However, a consulting company is more reliable and less likely to drop your project for a newer, exciting one. A company can also provide 24/7 support in case something goes wrong.
- Do you need an IT specialist or a generalist? If you need basic Transparent Solutions IT Support, then a generalist can provide the kind of help you need. If your project is specific, though, and you need someone with experience in certain programs like Curam or SAP, then it’s better to work with a specialist.
Step 2: Select the Right IT Consultant
Now that you’ve defined the scope of your IT project, the next logical step is to find the best fit for your nonprofit organization.
- Ask for referrals
One of the simplest ways to find a good IT consultant is to ask for referrals. Reach out to the organizations in your community and ask for their recommendations. Board members and funders can also have insights that might be useful, so reach out to them as well.
- Search lists from state nonprofit associations
Another way to look for a good IT consultant is to search the lists provided by state nonprofit associations. Most of them have dedicated groups that can provide technical assistance, retain outside consultants or refer you to a skilled professional.
- Get in touch with potential candidates
Once you have a list of potential candidates, contact them and let them know your project’s goals, needed skills, budget, and other relevant information.
- Schedule interviews
Now that you have a shortlist of potential candidates, you need to schedule individual interviews with them to learn more about their work and background. Make sure they understand the scope of the project and that they can communicate their ideas clearly and simply.
Step 3: Learn How to Work Efficiently with the IT Consultant During the Project
Congratulations! You’ve found the right IT consultant for your needs. The next challenge is to create a productive relationship. Keep the following in mind for a successful outcome:
- Outline the scope of the work, the estimated delivery date, and costs;
- Clarify the role of your new IT consultant;
- Communicate with your consultant and offer consistent feedback;
- Give the consultant what she/he needs to be productive.
Some organizational challenges cannot be overcome without the help of a professional. However, you need to make sure you work with the right IT consultant, one who understands your needs and can deliver outstanding services. Hopefully, these tips can help you find the right fit.