Does it make sense to cut your IT budget during a downturn?

Charity IT expert Sue Fidler on why it pays to ask questions about IT budgets during the recession

We are all worried about the impact of the recession on the sector. Now more than ever, charities need to be cost-effective. It is crucial that we take a sensible approach to budgeting for IT, database and web development during the crunch. Too many organisations have underinvested in IT.

We must assess what we already have. Does the system or hardware need upgrading? Can it be improved? Is it actually cheaper to reinvest? In the area of hard IT, it might seem good sense to keep old hardware rather than spend money. But beware - after a certain point, your old machines are wasting more money in terms of staff time than the cost of new kit. An hour a day of staff time costs far more than one new PC a year.

Websites and databases should be enabling you to work in a more efficient way, facilitating processes rather than causing staff problems.

It is crucial that we make the best use of the web's opportunities for brand promotion, online giving and volunteering. Using the web and email are by far the most cost-effective ways to communicate with donors and have the highest return on investment apart from giving by high-net-worth individuals.

Databases should speed up processes and remove boring, repetitive tasks, allowing your staff to do more useful work and giving you timely and accurate reporting.

Now is also an ideal time to reassess support contracts and invite suppliers to tender. Compare the support you use to what you pay for, and push suppliers to provide a contract that meets your needs exactly.

So before you write off the IT, database and web development you were planning, or cut the budgets, consider seriously whether spending money now will save time and stress - and will be a good investment for the future.

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