Digital transformation is essential, even for cash-strapped nonprofits

A nonprofit in Kentucky is reaching thousands of rural clients in need thanks to a well-planned digital transformation.

Digital transformation is essential, even for cash-strapped nonprofits
A nonprofit in Kentucky is reaching thousands of rural clients in need thanks to a well-planned digital transformation.

Digital transformation isn’t a choice anymore for organizations looking to stay competitive. For the nonprofit sector, this can be challenging because budgets are stretched so thin. Yet the integration of technology across all sectors of an organization can help drive a nonprofit organization’s mission and ensure more clients are served.

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass fills a critical role in Kentucky. The nonprofit organization provides legal assistance for low-income, often vulnerable residents. Joshua Crabtree, executive director, said the organization’s legal help to needy clients is critical. “These are the ones that are going to fall through the social safety net: We’re keeping people in their homes and families together.” 

SEE: Digital dexterity: What it is, why your organization needs it, and how CIOs can lead the charge (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The organization provides services for 33 counties and more than 200,000 people. Without updated technology, the Legal Aid lawyers can’t reach clients scattered throughout the state. Just a few years ago, the group realized it had to do more and investing in technology was a necessity. “We were having to restart the servers once a day,” Crabtree said. “The system was always so slow.”
The first priority involved an overhaul of the servers and a slow migration to the cloud. Once that hybrid setup was complete, the focus shifted to updating the firewall, Wi-Fi ports, switches, and more. “Portability for employees is so important,” Crabtree said. “Now they can work from home and telecommute in a planned way.”

One of the most important additions to the organization included a mobile office, dubbed the Justice Bus. The van is equipped with everything needed for lawyers to take their work on the road. Because of the investment in technology, thousands of Kentuckians are now receiving services in rural areas. 

The organization didn’t go through the digital transformation alone; with the help of NetGain Technologies, the plan to achieve a more cohesive, connected office structure was put into place. Robert Patterson of NetGain serves as the Virtual CIO for Legal Aid, and he assisted Crabtree and the others at Legal Aid every step of the way. “Whether it’s server storage, networking, cloud technologies, we’re telling them what the industry standards are and how they can best integrate the technology that fits their needs,” Patterson said. “Incrementally, over time, we are getting them closer towards all of the best practices.”

The entire digital transformation cost the organization about $750,000. Crabtree believes the changes have helped Legal Aid  reach thousands more Kentuckians and has better positioned the group to move forward with the next generation of employees. “We’re hiring a much more tech-savvy workforce now, so it’s great to have the ability to meet the needs of our new staff.”

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Image: Derek Poore