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By September 12, 2017No Comments

By Ryan Santoro, Senior Account Executive, CONNECTComputer

Managing a small to medium sized nonprofit is no easy task. Managing finance, fundraising, operations and culture is arduous and stressful. The list goes on and on. Just ask an executive who manages a nonprofit between 25-100 employees and they will tell you all about it!

When talking to nonprofit executive I love to know what their challenges are and what it is like running their organization and how they solve problems. At some point, the conversation turns and they ask “What do you do?”

Naturally, I say, “Well, I work for an MSP” and 99% of the time they will have this befuddled look on their face and ask me “What is an MSP?”

The correct response from a real MSP should be that their company strives to make yours grow through a strong IT partnership. After another brief look of befuddlement, I have their undivided attention mainly because the expectation usually is they will get asked something like “How is your email delivered today?” or “Tell me about your server environment hosting your core application and some of your challenges.” “What is the backup solution you use?”

BORING! No, No, No! No real MSP asks those questions up front.

Before I explain how to choose the right MSP let me preface by saying that one of the biggest challenges MSPs face when talking to prospects is the IT industry itself. Yes, I’m going to throw it right under the bus. Some competitors are the ones that make it harder for MSPs like us to gain trust, which is what you are ultimately paying for. To keep it simple I’m talking about over-promising and under delivering. Kind of that old mantra of fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… you get the idea. If an MSP DOES NOT offer any of the services below then they are simply not a fit.

  1. If an MSP starts the conversation by talking “tech” this is a red flag. A real MSP will first ask you about your mission goals and your one, three, or five year plan. If they can’t understand what your mission goals are then how can they turn around and explain why their services are beneficial? Once that is understood, then, and only then, should your MSP start to understand more about your IT environment to align with those future plans.
  2. Ask about what their services cost versus what it would take to hire in-house. The results you will find are going to be shocking and the dollars aren’t even close. A real MSP is giving you a team of qualified individuals at your disposal AND…
  3. Ahh, support! Find out if the MSP you are talking to can provide 24 x 7 x 365 remote monitoring and maintenance along with remote AND on-site support. It’s all about being proactive, proactive, proactive! When an MSP can provide this it shows they have made the investment in tools to identify problems before major issues occur. If they cannot invest in their own business how can you safely assume they will invest in yours?
  4. Without a doubt select an MSP that offers vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) services. A relatively new service added by forward thinking MSPs, but this type of service involves corporate strategy, quarterly technology/business reviews, budget planning, and technology road mapping. Leading MSPs are doing this and if you have plans to grow this is a must have.
  5. Does the MSP understand the nonprofit sector? Are they familiar with your industry-based applications? Are they familiar with the compliance standards that must be adhered to and met? An MSP must be able to answer these basic questions or you are probably going to be their first client in your vertical. No one wants to be the guinea pig.
  6. Documentation, documentation, and more documentation. Don’t be afraid to ask your MSP how they track your assets and provide documentation for those assets. This is one of the most uncommon things an MSP will get asked, but if they can’t answer it or hesitate in answering they probably aren’t doing a very good job of it, if at all. In all honesty, there may come a point where your business simply outgrows your current MSP. If there comes a time to move on from the relationship that documentation will become invaluable during an off boarding/onboarding transition.
  7. Checks and balances. After all this wonderful talk from the MSP you are in discussions with ask them to put their money where their mouth is. If the MSP can deliver all these services and help your organization grow and meet your future needs, like they are saying, then have them prove it. Ask for references, call them, and see if what they are saying is true.

Finally, I challenge you to ask yourself one simple question after your due diligence is complete. Do you trust this MSP that they have your nonprofit’s best interests in mind and will deliver what they say they will? If you can answer this question without hesitation then that MSP is the right fit because if you have trust, then you have a relationship to now build that true IT partnership.

Sign the contract. Start the onboarding process and feel good about where your organization is going!

This article has been re-posted with permission from our friends at CONNECTComputer. Join us on November 1 when CONNECTComputer CEO, Lynn Souza, will discuss what nonprofits need to know about cyber security. Visit CONNECTComputer at

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