It will only hurt for 2 years

Posted in financial management / office operations / policy

It will only hurt for 2 years

It happens. You’re working on a grant application and the computer starts to get a little glitchy. No problem. It’s old. Probably just needs to do an update. You could use a break to stretch and wander over to the staff room to find a snack. 10 minutes later you get back to your desk and, that’s strange, the update is still running. …and it keeps running. You try to force a restart but that doesn’t help. You phone a tech friend and find out your computer is done. Finished. It just got too old. He can look at it, but you are not getting it back any time soon and probably a new computer will be required. Suddenly that grant application deadline in two weeks feels like it’s tomorrow.

The stigma of the admin budget.

Non-profits have tight budgets, working very hard to stretch every dollar to deliver the very best for their clients. An executive director can wrestle with some serious guilt when wanting to include computer replacements in an annual budget. There is a stigma about putting budget dollars towards operations, especially technology. Funders can cut grant allocations if they feel administrative costs are too high, and there always seems to be that helpful volunteer who knows a guy that can get you a good used computer for 30 bucks.

Regular replacement has benefits.

Implementing a rotating computer replacement policy will hurt – but only for 2 years. Initially, budgets will feel tight and executive directors may need to tweak the replacement schedule depending on the size of the team. Hanging in there for 2 years will start to reveal the benefits. Tech support costs will go down, efficiency will change, and digital security will improve. After 2 years, the challenge will be less related to the budget and more about the annoyance of scheduling the switch.

What to do with the old computers?

A new non-problem will emerge quickly with implementing a rotating computer replacement policy – what to do with the old computers. In those first few years, the old computers will likely be recycled/destroyed. After a few replacement years, however, some of the old computers might have been new only 3 or 4 years prior, still with plenty of life left, just not in the office. This is a good time to consider if you want to donate the old computers to the staff team. We all know the employees of non-profits are paid low wages. Absorbing a few extra dollars when upgrading computers, to re-set the old computer for donation to an employee, is tiny affordable perk the non-profit can provide, and may just translate into better computing both at home and at the office. Better computer is good for everyone.

No more insurmountable tech replacement costs.

With a rotating computer replacement policy in place, the pressure an executive director feels to find big lump sums of budget dollars, every 5-6 years, to replace several pieces of technology will become a non-issue. Computer replacement simply becomes a regular part of every operating budget. Working with current technology becomes an integral part of operations, not a barrier.

Your turn.

Yes, those first 2 years are going to hurt. But once the cycle become a regular part of each operating year, the frustrations of the past will become funny stories to share at coffee break. “Remember when the ED’s computer died two weeks before our major grant application was due?”

What’s your funny (I'm laughing with you) computer tech story? Please use the form on the side of the page to let me know, ..or send me an email, ..or message me on socials.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts doesn’t provide practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation. Leadership development tips don’t really resonate when you are also taking out the recycling and cleaning the washroom.

I created so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job – no matter how big or small that job is.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is the real, operational, and practical solutions I use every day.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

© Christie Saas 2024 All Rights Reserved

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