Recent research shows the extent to which nonprofits are taking up online systems. In 2015, a survey found that 100 percent of responding nonprofits were using at least two cloud services. Compare that with research from 2011, in which many respondents didn’t realize their tools were in the cloud. As usage increases, so do opportunities for technical roles in nonprofits organizations of all sizes and missions.

With cloud services so central to nonprofit operations now, experience and comfort with these tools will become more of a requirement in every job, while expanding the types of technical roles available. Based on research and the trends we are seeing across the sector, here are three areas where we see increased or emerging technical roles working with cloud services.

1. Security

It shouldn’t be surprising in an era of online hacking, Wikileaks and identify theft that nonprofit staff are concerned about the security of their data. Given that many nonprofits, especially social service providers, maintain personally identifiable health records and other critical information, it is clear that security is one of the key deciding factors for nonprofits when selecting a service.

However, developing a deep understanding of online security best practices, measures and strategic options is new to many organizations, particularly those small organizations that have not had many fully technical staff previously. There is a huge opportunity for professionals with online security experience to transition into the nonprofit sector, supporting activism, fundraising, content sharing and system management.  

2. Training

Social media and mobile applications launch and change frequently and often cause frustration for nonprofit staff who use the platforms in their work. The pace of change is slightly slower with other operational tools like document management or databases, but the changes can be just as cumbersome for staff. Nonprofit staff consistently report having the tools that they need but lack the training to use them effectively.

As nonprofits migrate more services to cloud systems offered by various vendors, there is an increased need for regular staff training. The emerging need in nonprofit organizations is not simply that someone on staff can train others, but that there is a technical leader or champion on staff advising other teams in the organization on the decisions around budgeting and planning, and that the work of helping shepherd adoption and effective use of systems is a component of all organizational leadership positions.

3. Data analysis

Roles in database administration or data management are not new in the nonprofit sector. However, data analysis is a quickly emerging role bolstered by the increase in cloud services and the adoption of priorities for data-informed planning and return on investment measurement. Data scientists are now sought after in nonprofits, helping with internal evaluation of program and service effectiveness and in crunching data to make programs and services smarter and more responsive.

Whether it’s the analysis of large data sets like those done at Crisis Text Line to help understand and anticipate community needs, or comparison of public and organizational data to surface successful strategies and interventions, cloud services enable more robust and real time analysis that can inform organizational leaders and support program staff in delivering the best possible services.

For nonprofits, the benefits of cloud services are clear. They’re quick to adopt the technology and comfortable connecting their services, but it’s also vital that nonprofits are able to quickly pinpoint skills deficits in their organizations and develop the tools and people they need to fix them.