Nonprofits share technological lessons from shifting to remote work

Man participates in video conference call through computer from home.
Man participates in video conference call through computer from home.
Girts Ragelis / Shutterstock
A shift to remote work because of the COVID-19 pandemic has driven important technological lessons for nonprofits.

Nonprofits share technological lessons from shifting to remote work

The pandemic has pushed nonprofits to take on new technology to communicate with staff and clients.
June 26, 2020

All nonprofits, regardless of mission, have had to make a rapid shift into virtual services and remote working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, albeit in varying capacities. Though that sudden transition could be resource-intensive and complicated, many organizations have also learned valuable lessons about where and how technology can be helpful in fulfilling their mission.

Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, said his nonprofit has been able to take advantage of unique ways to communicate with its clients. The organization has started communicating with youth more often through Discord, a messaging platform popularly used for video games, and has reached other people through WeChat, a Chinese social media app.

“We’ve learned that we can work with, for example, our workforce programs differently,” he said during NYN Media’s Nonprofit OpCon event on Thursday. “We had people traveling from the North Shore of Staten Island to our office in Flushing to learn hotel hospitality. We shifted that to an online program and it’s working well.”

Nonprofits have also shifted to rely on technology more heavily. LatinoJustice already had an infrastructure in place to support remote working, said Silvia Orna, the organization’s chief operating officer, and has found Microsoft Office and RingCentral – a communications system for conference calls and messaging – to be helpful. Thomas Dewar, executive director of information technology at Lutheran Social Services of NY, said his nonprofit began using SchoolMessenger – a mass notification system normally used by schools to inform parents of news – for its own clients.

Increased reliance on technology does create new security challenges, however. “There are many different layers of data security we need to keep in mind,” Orna said. “For people who are looking for technology or using that technology, double-check who owns the data.”

Frank Orzo, vice president and co-founder of Nonprofit Sector Strategies, agreed that organizations should scrutinize potential vendors on their policies.

“The question you should ask that vendor is, ‘Who owns the data?’” he said. “And a vendor should say, ‘We own the application but you own the data.’”

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.