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Azure for Nonprofits Guide: Moving to the Cloud

Due to regulations, donor and financial confidentiality, many nonprofits decided not to move to the cloud because they were unsure regarding their safety. Microsoft’s vision for Azure for nonprofits has made it safe for them to move to the cloud and scale their operations. It’s perfect for keeping your data secure while reducing costs. 

 

Your organisation can significantly benefit from the exclusive features and discounted prices offered by Azure. Encryption, donor management, and volunteer engagement coupled with scalable cloud infrastructure are what you need to become efficient in completing your missions and helping society as a whole. 

 

Our Microsoft Azure Specialists can assist you in migrating to your new Azure cloud deployment one system at a time. 

What Is Microsoft Azure?

Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform that offers solutions that Nonprofits can use for services like Analytics, storage, virtual computing, or remote storage. You can opt for Azure for NonProfits to replace your in-house infrastructure based on the following facts: 

  • Flexibility
    You can obtain more resources as required. In case you need low processing power, you can also reduce them. 
  • Openness
    Azure supports all Operating Systems, languages, or frameworks, so you can use the cloud on every device you want. 
  • Reliability
    Surface Level Agreements are available at 99.95%, and tech support is available 24×7 to solve all of your queries if they arise. 
  • Global Operations
    Microsoft uses geosynchronous data centres to house data on your Cloud to avoid delays in accessing your files. 
  • Economical
    Microsoft will only charge you for the resources you utilise in your daily routine, making Azure highly economical. 

Why do Nonprofits need to move to the cloud?

Previously, nonprofits avoided cloud computing due to various misunderstandings and challenges unique to their sector. There is no rocket science behind it; you need to think of cloud computing as simply renting computing resources from other people. There are three broad categories of cloud computing: 

  1. Infrastructure as a Service
    You rent essential server hardware and a small amount of software to host applications specific to your niche. Example: Azure Automation
  2. Platform as a Service
    You just pay the rent, and your service provider takes care of all of your cloud’s maintenance needs. Example: Azure Cloud
  3. Software as a Service
    You pay rent to use a copy of an application your provider creates specifically for SaaS distribution. Example: Microsoft 365

The flexible nature of cloud computing is what Nonprofits require to grow and adapt to their expanding operations. There is no need to invest millions to build an in-house infrastructure and hire a team to manage it. You can purchase additional storage or computing hardware to support your application if you need to address the increase in the need for infrastructure. 

 

By considering cloud computing for your nonprofit organisation, you significantly reduce upfront costs and the need for maintenance to strengthen your position in your sector. Additionally, there is no need to purchase various licences for your employees. Cloud computing reduces the cost barrier while adopting new software. 

 

The cloud service provider is responsible for handling all future software upgrades. Since no physical servers are involved, you don’t have to worry about taking system backups as your provider will automatically take backups daily. 

Cloud Computing Considerations for Nonprofits

Azure for nonprofits includes office applications and cloud storage for your daily routine or other tasks. Here are some products by Microsoft designed especially for nonprofit organisations: 

  1. Azure Cloud 
  2. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform 
  3. Microsoft 365
  4. Power BI 

Due to Microsoft’s commitment to making things easier for nonprofit organisations, you can use Microsoft 365 Business basic for free. 

Why Nonprofits Should Leverage Microsoft Azure

Microsoft created a different version of Azure for Nonprofits that acts as a comprehensive solution to meet the specific needs of organisations. Here’s what you will benefit from by considering the Microsoft Cloud: 

Fundraising and Engagement 

You will leverage Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales database stored on Microsoft’s proprietary Dataverse for all of your fundraising and engagement needs. However, you will require a Dynamics instance to take full advantage. Microsoft provides up to 5 donated Fundraising and Engagement licences to nonprofit organisations. 

 

The engagement part helps develop donor and supporter bases as you can get a comprehensive view of constituents to connect others with personalised engagement tactics. You can also increase donor loyalty by understanding and addressing their priorities. 

 

For nonprofits, fundraising and Engagement from Azure also helps you increase efficiencies and reduce costs by automating key business processes, including donations, opportunities, campaigns, and events management. 

 

Here’s how your organisation will benefit by integrating with Microsoft Fundraising and Engagement: 

  • The experts in your organisations can better use the Microsoft Platform for your fundraising needs, and the utility surpasses what Microsoft Dynamics can offer. 
  • Specific tools work to introduce flawless integrations with standard nonprofit data models that let the management know how they can use the service well. 
  • Services offered by Fundraising and Engagement can integrate with other tools like Microsoft Teams to enable the organisation to leverage multi-cloud solutions. 
  • Specific applications transmit data in real-time to give you critical information like funding status updates right away.
  • Powerful algorithms reduce duplication within your system to match existing contacts within your database to keep your system clean. 

Volunteer Management and Engagement

You will leverage the Microsoft Power platform on the Dataverse to enable your organisation to manage your volunteers. However, you will require a PowerApps environment. Microsoft provides up to 10 donated per app licences for Volunteer Management to nonprofit organisations. 

 

Here’s how your organisation will benefit through the decision to integrate with Volunteer Management and Engagement: 

  • You can create a profile for your volunteers, track their responsibilities and build a history based on their performance. 
  • Azure for nonprofits also lets you define qualifications and other requirements that your volunteers have to meet before they can join your organisation. 
  • Volunteer Management also helps in automating application shortlisting and tracking attendance. You can also schedule routine tasks and manage social groups. 

Constituent Marketing Journeys 

You will leverage Dynamics 365 to define your constituent marketing journey for all of your marketing needs. However, this is an additional paid offering that will help your organisation in the following: 

  • Segmenting donors based on their information for your fundraising system. You can also identify donors who have never made a recurring gift to your organisation. 
  • The suppression list feature helps you exclude donors who have made donations in the past 30/60/90 days from sending marketing emails. 
  • You can also create custom journeys for your donors and volunteers to give them a sense of meaning or attraction towards your organisation. 

Benefits of Azure for Nonprofits

With your decision to migrate to Azure, your nonprofit organisation will benefit from the following: 

  1. Increased productivity
    The extensive mobility and seamless communication offered by Azure for nonprofits will allow your employees the flexibility to access their work from their offices, home or co-working spaces to increase their collaboration. Azure will also allow your volunteers to organise, share and collaborate on missions. 
  2. Reduced IT costs
    By shifting to Azure, your organisation will significantly cut down IT costs as the need for in-house infrastructure diminishes. All because now you will not be making any more hardware investments or upgrades, and your IT staff will not be tasked with maintaining or troubleshooting your existing infrastructure. 
  3. Increased donor engagement
    Integrations through ease in connectivity to allow your members to engage with your donors through Azure’s online features effectively. You can also centralise donor information through a cloud-based Association Management System on Azure servers. 

Extended control on security

The reservations held by nonprofits while choosing cloud-based instances for their financial or donor data are valid. Therefore, Azure for nonprofits offers the following security features to keep your data safe.

  1. Threat detection
    Microsoft has introduced a stable and reliable threat intelligence mechanism in Azure. Safety protocols allow it to immediately identify and neutralise threats before they can endanger your data. 
  2. Identity and Access Management
    Azure is also equipped with an IAM to allow access to the right people after the security protocols have identified them. IAM assists in the authentication and regulation of your cloud IT resources. 
  3. Encryption protocol
    All data stored on Azure is encrypted, and it is always shared, transferred or stored in an unreadable format to keep it safe from unauthorised access. 

Azure Strategy & Implementation for Nonprofits

Microsoft believes that nonprofit organisations should have the right technology in their hands to accelerate their missions and do good for society. Migrating to Azure for nonprofits is straightforward and does not work on an all-or-nothing model for non-profits. You can start by moving a workload or a system at a time to maintain a hybrid cloud environment.

 

You benefit from on-premises and cloud capabilities for your infrastructure, data, users and applications to work cohesively and ensure the success of your mission. After you get access to your Azure instance, you need to create actionable steps for your organisation. Keep these four pillars in mind: 

  1. Engaging with your customers
    Deliver rich experienced through personalised journeys to better engage with your donors. 
  2. Transforming your products
    Keep up with the fast-moving nature of your donors and efficiently collaborate with them to meet their requirements. 
  3. Empowering your employees
    Increase the flow of information throughout your organisation to manage your resources better and keep everything synchronised. 
  4. Optimising your operations
    Expand your business’s reach by taking full advantage of digital channels and anticipating your donors’ needs to improve processes. 

Securing your Modern Enterprise 

Even when securing a modern enterprise is challenging, Azure for nonprofits is equipped with Microsoft’s cybersecurity portfolio to help you improve your response to threats. Here’s how the cyber security portfolio operates to specific threats: 

 

ChallengesStrategySolution
Credential theft through  phishingTime-of-click protection and attachment detonation, policy enforcement through secure privileged access roadmap
Limited Visibility and control of sensitive dataData Loss Prevention Systems protect your data anywhere it goes. 
  • Azure Information Protection 
  • Azure Rights Management 
  • Edge DLP
  • Endpoint DLP
Devices for sensitive dataMobile Device Management allows you to provide hardware-based security with advanced detection and response capabilities
  • Windows 10 Intune WDM 
  • Conditional Access
  • System Centre Configuration Manager
Complexity formed by adding cloud data centres to existing in-house infrastructureSecurity Information and Event Management gives broad visibility for insights in your hybrid cloud infrastructure 
  • Log Analytics Security Centre
  • Threat Protection 
  • Threat Detection
  • DDoS attack Mitigation 
  • Backup and Site Recovery

Managing Data Location 

As you create an Azure storage account for your nonprofit organisation, you can define the Azure Datacenter region that will store your data. You need to select one of the following storage redundancy options to determine how often Azure will replicate your data in your desired location. 

  1. Locally Redundant Storage (LRS)
    Data replication occurs three times within a single region. As you write, Azure will perform synchronous write operations across all three replicas. 
  2. Geo-Redundant Storage (GRS)
    Data replication occurs three times within a single region with additional asynchronous sync to your paired region. 
  3. Read-Access Geo-Redundant Storage (RA-GRS)
    Data replication is the same as in GRS, but you also have read access to the secondary region just in case. 

Encryption 

Since encryption as a protection policy is a crucial requirement for nonprofit organisations; you should consider implementing the following: 

  1. Azure Disk Encryption
    It protects all data within your Virtual Machines. At the same time, no one will have access to the storage where your confidential data resides. 
  2. Transparent Data Encryption
    It protects your data from any malicious activity by keeping your databases and associated logs encrypted in real-time. 
  3. Azure Storage Service Encryption
    It protects your physical storage volumes from malicious access through 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard protocol. 

Conclusion 

Microsoft designed Azure for nonprofits for specific modernisation of these organisations to assist them in streamlining and scaling their daily operations to serve society. Azure Cloud will store your confidential data in an encrypted state at multiple locations, and you can actively manage access rights to ensure protection. 

 

Feel free to consult with our IT experts to start transitioning to a hybrid infrastructure to scale your operations and achieve targets.

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