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Linh Song, the Director of npServ at the NEW center, sat down with Online Tech to answer a few questions about how they are helping out Michigan Non-Profits.
Question 1) Can you tell us about NEW and your npServ program?
NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work) was created in 1993 to manage the NEW Center, a facility that provides affordable office space and shared office equipment for nonprofits. The McKinley Foundation and a diverse group of community members were eager to replace an unsightly junkyard at the northern entrance to Ann Arbor with an attractive and valuable community resource. The first 20 nonprofit tenants of NEW Center found immediate benefit in lower overhead costs and on-site cooperation with other nonprofits. The staff and leadership of NEW soon realized that nonprofits—within the NEW Center and throughout the community—could benefit from a variety of additional management support services. As a result, NEW has developed 15 years of experience in helping nonprofits succeed.
Our programs include Board Connect, Resource Connect, and npServ. Online Tech has been a strong supporter of NEW donating over $100,000 in data center support, dedicated server hosting, and electronic backup to NEW for our npServ program which is our IT managed services effort for nonprofits. Essentially, our team supports nonprofits looking to save on their IT maintenance by paying a minimal monthly fee for unlimited technical support. We’re able to do this by using Linux on the desktop and the dedicated servers hosted at Online Tech, but still allowing nonprofits to access their Windows programs by running a Windows Server slice on Linux. The npServ program has been a boon to nonprofits who are incapacitated by old technology and/or were reliant on volunteers or expensive consultants. Our technical support service also helps small to medium-sized nonprofits who are unable to hire their own IT system administrators. A new program that we’re offering are social media assessments where we help organizations evaluate their online efforts and improve upon how they engage supporters and donors. This is an especially exciting service for nonprofits looking to diversify their funding sources and engage with community members more directly. We joke that this program reflects our project director, Linh Song, and her personality since it’s a great combination of social worker plus geekiness.
Question 2) What are the most common misconceptions that nonprofits have in regards to sharing data on one server?
Small to medium-sized nonprofits are often unaware of file servers or secure data backups and what that means to their organizations. Once we explain to them that by working with npServ that they can save all of their data on a file server that’s backed up to Online Tech’s secure data center, they are delighted about the prospect of being able to maintain some sense of institutional memory. Nonprofits experience high staff turnover and often do not have internal IT policies so we hear of nightmarish experiences of losing grant applications or fund raising data right before a fundraiser. Organizations are quick to see the benefits of saving their data to the data center and not leaving valuable data exposed to rotating staff, volunteers, or to other elements (coffee!) in the office.
Question 3) How has the current recession impacted Southeast Michigan non profits and the way they are managed?
Nonprofits are looking to better manage their resources and find efficiencies in their business processes. Our npServ program is well suited to meet these challenges during tough economic times. While nonprofits have in the past been forced to engage IT consultants who charge $80-125/hour to revive servers or troubleshoot desktop crises, we’re able to offer a service for only $25/month/machine by leveraging open source applications as well as the support of organizations such as Online Tech. We hope that other nonprofits are able to take a closer look at their IT costs, including staff down time, and see that managed services and better data management can lead to better operations and cost savings.