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Microsoft 365 Business update targets nonprofits

Microsoft announced this month that it is releasing new updates and offerings for nonprofits, addressing concerns customers had over cost, cybersecurity and user training.

Microsoft is rolling out some updates to its productivity offerings, hoping to capture the business of nonprofits looking for a path to digital transformation.

Digital transformation tools can help organizations improve the security, cost-effectiveness and efficiency of their processes. Small nonprofits often can't afford these systems. Recognizing this, Microsoft is offering 10 free Microsoft 365 Business licenses for nonprofits, a productivity suite that includes access to Word, Excel, Outlook, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint and more. Each additional license will cost $5 per month.

These free licenses do not give access to the Dynamics 365 CRM system and its Nonprofit Accelerator, but Microsoft does provide discounts to nonprofits looking to adopt its CRM.

The Microsoft Digital Skills Center for Nonprofits is another digital transformation resource that is already available, launched in partnership with learning platform TechSoup. This service provides free product training for nonprofits on how to use Microsoft 365 Business, among other services.

On Oct. 1, Microsoft plans to launch the Nonprofit Operations Toolkit. Built on Power Platform, this system integrates PowerApps, Flow, cloud storage and Excel to help nonprofits manage projects and awards management systems, such as tracking donor transactions. This system will include extra security features to ensure donor privacy, said Justin Spelhaug, general manager of technology for social impact at Microsoft.

Microsoft 365 has numerous security features, even at the individual level. If an employee accidentally tries to send sensitive information, the system can stop it. And if an employee leaves a mobile device on a bus, the nonprofit can wipe information from the phone.

"Nonprofits have some incredibly important info in IT systems about beneficiaries," Spelhaug said. "Maintaining trust with donors and with beneficiaries is the lifeblood of organizations, and part of maintaining trust is having appropriate security backstops."

Combined with Microsoft's other tools, these systems can form the basis of a digital transformation strategy.

How can companies use these systems?

Meals on Wheels of Greenville County in South Carolina uses Microsoft 365 Business to optimize the delivery of meals to homebound and senior citizens.

One of the best things a nonprofit can do, but often doesn't do, is to operate like a business.
Catriona CarlisleExecutive director of Meals on Wheels of Greenville

The biggest challenge Meals on Wheels had in crafting its own digital transformation strategy was training volunteers to use new technology, said Catriona Carlisle, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Greenville. The initial 15 courses offered through the Digital Skills Center will help them more easily train volunteers in the future, she said.

"The majority of our volunteers have smartphones," Carlisle said. "They know tech, so it was a natural transition. But we have some volunteers with us almost 50 years who struggled with the change."

By removing manual data entry, adding mobile management capabilities and automating volunteer scheduling, the nonprofit was able to expand, Carlisle said. Microsoft 365 Business saved the nonprofit time and money, giving them the chance to initiate a partnership with two local agencies that added 400 to 500 meals a day to their food supply, which had been serving 1,500 meals a day. They were also able to source the food from locals, rather than distant organizations, and began to send extra meals to a local school for children with specials needs and disabilities.

Meals on Wheels looks forward to the new changes, Carlisle said.

"One of the best things a nonprofit can do, but often doesn't do, is to operate like a business," she said. "We need to make business decisions to make sure we're around for the future, looking not only at making investments here and now, but also for the future."

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