How Much Does Strategic IT Planning Cost for 501c3 Nonprofits?

 

We know how difficult it can be for 501c3 organizations to prepare an IT budget. When funds are limited, it can feel like you're stretching to cover just your basic technology functions, never mind when you're venturing out into more advanced services like strategic IT planning.
 
But, while a well-crafted budget can take the surprise out of your annual investments, strategic IT planning can not only remove the guesswork, but can have significant cost-saving effects by maximizing efficiency and productivity throughout your organization. What's more--aligning your IT with your overall mission can transform your technology from a tool into an incredibly powerful catalyst.
 
So, what will it cost your organization to engage an expert to put some real elbow grease into learning your goals, assessing your current situation, comparing it to industry best practices, and spelling out what it will take to get from A to B? After serving the expansive nonprofit community in the DC Metro area for over two decades, you can imagine that we at Optimal have heard this sort of question more than a few times.
 
Having a ballpark investment in mind when you approach a strategic consulting project is important not only for budgeting purposes, but also to make sure you’re getting both a fair price and a quality result. Below we’ll break down the main factors that will impact your cost, along with an average price range for these engagements.
 

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What are the main factors that influence the cost of strategic IT planning for 501c3 nonprofits?

In general, the cost of strategic IT planning will depend almost entirely upon the scope of your engagement. The main factors in play are:

  • The size of your organization and its infrastructure. Is your organization fairly small with only one or two dedicated servers, or do you have multiple offices packed to the brim with staff and twenty servers to show for it?
  • The number of interviews your provider will need to run. How many people will your consultant need to speak with in order to get a proper understanding of your current business and technical situation? Just your board? One member of every individual department? A representative sample of your staff?
  • The length and quality of your write-up. Are you hoping to receive a full-fledged, prioritized 3-year roadmap for your organization’s future, or will a more succinct list of recommendations do the trick?
  • Whether or not you’re including a security component. Security audits are complex and require their own unique set of tools (take a look at the key elements here). Do you need your strategic consultant to also assess your network security? In what depth?

 

What is the average price range for a strategic IT planning engagement?

Depending upon the factors outlined above, your engagement could run anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000. Unlike ongoing managed or cloud services, this will be a one-time investment (though it’s not a bad idea to repeat the process every 4-5 years, or whenever your organization goes through significant change).
 
At the highest level is where you’ll find providers doing incredibly detailed technology roadmaps for large nonprofits, including an analysis of their Donor Management Systems and fundraising software, a security assessment, and a long list of interviews from both the technical and business side of operations. As you scale the engagement further and further back, the price tag will drop accordingly.
 
If you’re offered an engagement for much lower than that $10,000 mark, tread carefully; many companies will perform an assessment at low to no cost with the end goal of identifying problems that they can solve with their services. They’ll run software, that software will locate holes, and they’ll hand you some glorified marketing literature as their final product.
 
The key here is locating a provider with the proper technical and business acumen who will give you a truly objective account of your IT situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for résumés along with your references to dig into what kind of experience your consultant(s) will have.
 
An investment of this size—and with such potential to advance your mission—is not one you want to take any chances with.

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