This probably comes as little surprise considering the grand steps the industry has taken in the last few years, but everyone is seeing the benefits of cloud computing, at least to some extent or another. Even non-profit organizations. According to a recent study from j2 Global, non-profits are looking to the cloud for increased efficiency, especially for those with staff in multiple locations (which is true of a lot of non-profits).

Based on a survey conducted on behalf of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, non-profits are changing the way they do things after several years of struggling through economic hardship. In fact, 30 percent of survey respondents indicated they took some action to upgrade technology to increase services or improve service efficiency in the last 12 months.

Our good friends at the Internal Revenue Service reported there were more than 1.4 million non-profit organizations registered in the United States in 2011, and it looks as though cloud services have become a key factor in helping those organizations transform their diverse workforces into "cohesive and efficient mobile teams." That's a huge step from the traditional stereotype of non-profit organizations being far behind the times in terms of technology (don't laugh; your humble blogger volunteers for a location of a large non-profit organization that still keeps records mostly in hard copy).

However, research suggests non-profits are moving ahead and adopting cloud services to be more efficient and to save some cash. As part of this trend, teleworking is becoming more common. According to the "2013 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey," one-third of 588 non-profits surveyed reported having a telecommuting/virtual work policy.

Of course, moving to the cloud has no guarantees, so j2 Global offered five tips to make the shift to the cloud as painless and productive as possible:

  • Reinforce a professional image when on the go. Stay connected with key contacts while traveling or working virtually without sacrificing professionalism. The company recommended a virtual phone system.
  • Get big company features on a DIY budget. Customizing the call menu means non-profits can use call forwarding to have their callers routed to the right person or department. A virtual receptionist can help screen calls so important calls are given immediate attention, while routine calls can be sent to voicemail and addressed at a more convenient time. Calls sent to voicemail are transcribed into text and delivered via SMS or an email so no calls or messages are ever missed.
  • Save a tree every day. Even if you don't work at an environmentally focused non-profit, a virtual fax service empowers employees to be Captain Planet every day (oh, someone at j2 is dating themselves). Online fax allows offices to significantly cut paper usage, eliminating the need for bulky fax machines while saving trees daily without having to rely on reams of paper to send vital documents.
  • Sensitive documents stay secure. Non-profits often handle documents that may include sensitive customer information or a patient's confidential details such as names, addresses, social security numbers or health issues. They also have to send contracts or fundraising documents with financial information. Using an online fax service means this information stays private and secure as it can be sent directly to the intended recipient via fax from any iOS or Android mobile device.
  • Archive without the paper headache. Documents and faxes sent and received electronically can be archived online and easily accessed via date or keyword tag search. Non-profit workers won't need to dig through giant filing cabinets in the office looking for the right paperwork; with the cloud, it's accessible from any location in just a few keystrokes.