Thursday, June 16, 2011

BIG’s Blog: The New Golden Age of Fund Raising: Is Your Mind in the Cloud?

Last week, after Steve Jobs announced the iCloud, suddenly the average Apple customer (iPhone, iPad, or Mac user) standing in line at Starbucks “gets” the Cloud. Of course, people have been talking about Cloud computing for the last few years, but, when Steve Jobs describes how it will automatically sync up your calendar, email and contacts across all your Apple devices with iCloud, suddenly the dots were connected.

Our personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers can now run programs, retrieve and store information from software applications housed somewhere on the virtual Internet.

With the advent of the Cloud, the new digital platform that is the Internet is quickly morphing into something new, fundamentally different and very important. The most immediate change is that localized software, which is software loaded on servers or your computer at your office or at home, will soon be a thing of the past. Software companies will begin to offer Software-as-a-Service options (SAS) where your copy of the software and your information reside on their servers and you access it via the Internet using encrypted and secure protocols to keep it safe and secure.

But, it isn’t just personal software programs like Word or Excel that will be available via the Cloud or applications (apps) that run on smaller devices like smartphones or tablets, but even your major enterprise applications including your donor management software (what many of you call your donor database) will also be able to be accessed from any device connected to the Internet. To be sure, most enterprise software today has accessibility features built in, but, moving to SAS models changes the way nonprofits will purchase and support these services.

So what are the implications for nonprofit fund raisers of this new Cloud computing?

Most fund raising organizations will continue to host their donor management software and productivity tools (such as Word or Excel) on their own servers as long as the applications are up-to-date, but, over the next decade as fund raising organizations decide to upgrade their software, most organizations will begin moving to SAS models. And, as fund raisers begin looking at software programs, both for marketing uses such as Constant Contact for sending mass emails or CRM such as SalesForce, they will begin moving more and more software applications to the Cloud.

The work of IT staffs will change as more and more software applications are accessed through the Cloud rather than hosted onsite. You will still need IT, but just doing different things.

The Cloud will transform many things but more than anything else, it will transform how work is done within fund raising organizations.


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