a group of nonprofit staffers looking at sticky notes on a wall, symbolizing putting together a solid technology foundation for a nonprofit

How to Build an Effective Tech Foundation for Your Small to Mid-Sized Nonprofit

As we've all heard over and over, the way that technology companies deliver their products is changing as the world moves its data and infrastructure to the cloud.

Nonprofit organizations vary as much in size as they do in mission, scope, and levels of funding. This diversity is what makes our sector so powerful, but it also means that the technology needs of nonprofits may differ from one organization to the next.


TechSoup has been and always will be committed to connecting our members to technology resources that may have otherwise been out of their reach.

To offer the best information and technical assistance to the nonprofit community and support the evolution to cloud-delivered technology, TechSoup has made some big changes, including

We are helping many nonprofits keep pace with the latest technology trends. And at the same time, we remain dedicated to organizations that don't need an enterprise tech solution or that are still evaluating their options for moving to the cloud.

Many small operations are run well with appropriate productivity, security, storage, and backup solutions — and these can be a mix of cloud and on-premises solutions. If this sounds like you, keep reading to find out how donated products from TechSoup can help build a basic — yet effective — tech foundation for your nonprofit.

The Basics: Donated Nonprofit Tech Essentials

illustration of nonprofit staff members working on building a technology foundation depicted as web pages

Let's take a look at the most essential tech solutions every nonprofit should have at its disposal.


"Productivity software" refers to the tools with which many people are most familiar, such as Microsoft Office classics like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. We are excited to offer a variety of Office 365 licenses to organizations interested in moving to a cloud-based subscription model for their productivity needs. And those who need more time to evaluate their cloud options can still get the basics with a donated, on-premises version of Office Standard or Office for Mac.

If you use PCs at your organization, you should definitely upgrade to the latest version of the Windows operating system. It is critical to keeping your systems and data secure and protected. However, you should be aware that in 2020, Microsoft will be discontinuing "mainstream support" for on-premises, perpetual license versions of Windows.

The subscription version of Windows is available today at a nonprofit discount through TechSoup and bundled with Office 365 as part of the Microsoft 365 offer. And although your on-premises products won't "stop working" when support ends, you will no longer receive crucial updates and security patches designed to keep them running safely and smoothly.


Another key component of any set of productivity tools is an email solution. If you are most comfortable with Microsoft products, TechSoup offers the Exchange Server Standard Edition as a donation (Exchange is the email server to which the Outlook application connects).

However, an increasing number of organizations are using Google Mail (Gmail) as their primary email platform. Gmail is a component of G Suite for Nonprofits (which is part of the larger Google for Nonprofits offer). G Suite is a bundle of cloud-based productivity apps that includes Gmail as well as Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.

G Suite for Nonprofits is free to eligible nonprofits validated through TechSoup. It can easily serve as a one-stop organizational management tool that allows your team to connect, create, and collaborate from anywhere in real time. It allows you to use your organization's custom web domain for email at no charge. Plus, it provides an admin console to manage multiple users across your organization from a single place.


As devices across the world have become increasingly connected to the Internet, cybersecurity threats continue to increase. It's important that you take measures to secure your data from bad actors. Maybe you don't work with highly sensitive data such as the identities of children, refugees, or survivors of domestic violence. However, your nonprofit is likely the steward of a great deal of employee information, personally identifiable information, and donor information, such bank and credit card data.


Make sure you protect yourself with tools such as Norton Small Business by Symantec, or Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition (for organizations with a staff of 5 to 100). Additionally, you can look into cybersecurity software from Bitdefender.

Bitdefender offers solutions for both autonomous devices (Internet Security for PCs, Antivirus for Mac, and Mobile Security for Android) as well as networked computers and servers (GravityZone Business Security). All of these are available from TechSoup as a donation.


There are also more systemic ways to add layers of protection and security to your systems. Ensure that you have the correct permissions and settings activated on your Windows operating system (and that you are running the most updated version of your OS) and on your browser.

Microsoft also offers a cloud-based application to manage the security of the devices connected to your network called Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). EMS can be requested through TechSoup as a standalone product or as part of the Microsoft 365 bundle.

Document Storage

Even if you decide to use an on-premises productivity tool like Office Standard, you should still consider a cloud-based storage solution. Cloud-based storage solutions include Box (available as a donation) or Google Drive (which is part of G Suite, and is free with the standard edition).


A third option is Microsoft's SharePoint, a document storage, management, and collaboration platform that has a variety of other capabilities as well. SharePoint on-premises software is available as a donation through TechSoup, and the cloud-hosted version is included in Office 365's suite of applications.

Storing files in the cloud is actually more secure than storing them on your computer, an external hard drive, or an on-premises server. This is because cloud-based servers are constantly updated with patches for the latest security threats. It's also because cloud-based servers are backed up with multiple redundancies in the event that a physical event were to damage one of the provider's data storage facilities.

Cloud-based storage is also handy for collaboration because files can be accessed from anywhere, from any device, by anyone with the appropriate permissions. It also allows for multiple parties to make edits or comments on files and projects in a single, easy-to-access location.


The final component of an effective tech foundation is a backup solution. Paper files are becoming practically obsolete. And so, maintaining a contingency plan for your nonprofit's digital files in the event of a disaster — anything from a cyberattack to a natural disaster — is extremely important.

If you use Box or Google Drive as an online storage solution, you've already taken a big step in terms of protecting your files. In general, it's a good idea to save anything on your desktop or laptop on these cloud-based drives.

You may also want to look into a stronger backup solution such as Veritas System Recovery 18 or Veritas Backup Exec 20 (also available as donations). These powerful tools allow you to schedule backups and perform data recovery for individual files or entire systems if necessary.


Tech Support and Training from TechSoup

TechSoup strives to be a comprehensive resource for civil society organizations across the planet. Beyond our marketplace for nonprofit technology, we also offer support and training services. These assist our members when something goes wrong and help organizations optimize the use of the solutions at their disposal.

We have a range of consultative and support services priced for nonprofits, from tech implementation to day-to-day Managed IT services. But for small organizations in need of one-time fixes or basic ongoing tech support, Help Desk from TechSoup is a great solution. And it's provided at a fraction of the cost compared to other tech support services.

We also offer first-class online training through TechSoup Courses. Some of our learning tracks include Social Media for Nonprofits, Email Marketing for Nonprofits, and Digital Security. Courses are taught by leading industry experts and can be purchased as a bundle or individually. Plus, we're excited to announce new 301-level blended learning courses, which encompass both live instruction and a series of self-driven modules.

A Lasting Commitment to Building an Equitable Planet

As a community, nonprofits work to address the most pressing issues on the planet today — no matter how big or how small. TechSoup has been and always will be committed to connecting our members to technology resources that may have otherwise been out of their reach.

We want to help nonprofits gain access to the technology resources they need so that they can better realize their organization's mission to make the world a better place. The first step in this direction is to ensure that all our members are equipped with all the necessary tools that can be acquired within their budgets.

Of course, TechSoup can also take any organization as far along the path of digital transformation as it would like to go. But everything needs to rest on a strong foundation, and we're here to help.


Additional Resources: How Your Nonprofit Can Build an Effective Tech Foundation