Feb 01 2022

How Nonprofits Can Get the Most Out of Their Mobile Devices

The right apps, tools and management strategies can help nonprofits maximize the value of their portable gadgets.

When mobility comes up in the nonprofit space, it’s often in the context of fundraising. Mobile devices have revolutionized the way donors give, creating unprecedented convenience that can drive significant contributions.

Fundraising isn’t the only task that’s important to nonprofits, though. Organizations also have to serve their communities and engage volunteers — all tasks that greatly benefit from the flexibility that smartphones, tablets and laptops bring.

Beyond the devices themselves, mobile apps can help nonprofits work more efficiently. Developing an infrastructure of platforms that can accelerate processes can be invaluable for a sector that is so dependent on doing more with less. What that looks like will vary by organization, but there are things all nonprofits can look out for to optimize their mobility.

Improving Collaboration on the Go for Nonprofits

Even before the widespread shift to remote work, cloud-based collaboration platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace were enabling robust collaboration with mobility at the forefront.

Whether the goal is to keep a line of conversation open through Teams, to collaboratively edit a document or to brainstorm in real time using tools such as Microsoft Whiteboard, there is a level of near-parity with mobile and desktop apps that there wasn’t a few years ago. As a result, team members can contribute in valuable ways no matter where they are. It’s also often possible for nonprofits to get discounts on cloud-driven applications, based on their need and mission.

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Building Custom Applications for Nonprofits

While Google Workspace, Zoom and Microsoft Office are great starting points for building a team that can collaborate from anywhere, nonprofit organizations may need more specialized applications to fulfill their missions.

There are options that serve both at a high level and in more depth. Low-code or no-code tools such as Microsoft PowerApps and ServiceNow’s App Engine can provide a way to test the waters. These tools can build applications that help solve specific problems or integrate into external databases quickly.

Some solutions will require more development than low-code and no-code tools. Custom-built applications can keep an organization’s infrastructure moving. In the association space, for example, it is common for groups to build custom applications to encourage their members to advocate for a given cause on social media. This approach can help amplify a cause; the National Restaurant Association’s use of social media advocacy early in the pandemic is a good example.

Building an app can be a lot of work to take on in-house, especially given the number of devices that developers need to account for, but it could be an opportunity to collaborate with an outside partner, such as CDW Amplified™ services, to help strategize the right approach and build for it.

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Leaning on Ruggedized Gadgets in the Field

Whether your staff is on the front lines serving your nonprofit’s mission or your volunteers are doing crucial advocacy work to drive donations or petition signatures, technology is now mandatory in the field. However, fieldwork can wear down your mobile devices, slowing down your team and potentially creating unexpected costs over time. After all, if 72 percent of people have accidentally broken a cellphone in the past, odds are good that your organization might run into a cracked screen or two.

That’s where ruggedization comes in, casing devices in material that is tougher to break, such as magnesium and polycarbonate, with rubberized outer shells that can minimize the effect of spills.

There are two directions that nonprofits can take to ruggedize their devices: acquiring gadgets built for rugged use cases, such as Panasonic’s military-grade Toughbook line, or buying specialized cases for Apple iPads, Chromebooks and other devices that are built to handle drops and situations where damage is likely.

Ruggedization doesn’t just mean high-end or ultraspecialized products, either. HP’s recently announced Fortis line of Chromebooks, built for the classroom, could also be a good fit for nonprofits looking to balance technical flexibility and rough-and-tumble fieldwork when it launches this year.

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Using Mobile Device Management for Nonprofits

Physical damage isn’t the only risk that can emerge with a fleet of mobile tools that your nonprofit relies on. There is also the management aspect, whether that’s supporting organization-supplied devices or granting network access without jeopardizing security when employees use their own devices.

Mobile device management, which describes the technologies used to manage access to networks through mobile devices (whether owned by the organization or the end user), is often a great way to address this, as it can create ways to provision iPhones or Android tablets alike.

An MDM strategy, while helping minimize access to internal networks, can also be a way to detect and mitigate security problems that can emerge with mobile platforms, such as a significant vulnerability on a prior version of iOS or malware that could expose sensitive data on Android.

Ultimately, when you lean on mobile devices to manage your technology, you want the gadgets to work with you, not against you.

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