An Amazon Web Services Interview to Help Associations and Nonprofits Maximize the Power of the Cloud

August 23, 2022

Brian Scott

Brian Scott, president and founder of ClearTone Consulting, provides executive technology consulting services based on 35 years of technology expertise and 20 years of CIO/CISO experience within the exhibitions and events industry. Brian provides expert technology consultation in the areas of technology strategy, software development, systems integration, data warehousing and analytics, cyber security, data center operations, cloud computing, and end user support. He works with his customers to overcome technology challenges, leverage tech to drive growth and revenue, secure valuable digital assets, and execute projects to meet the organizational objectives.

The geek in me absolutely loves cloud services. I find the capabilities offered by cloud providers to almost be one of the wonders of our world today. So, I’m very fortunate that one of the things I get to do is help organizations move infrastructure or compute to the cloud. It’s because of this experience, as well as my interest, that I realize “the cloud” is a vast universe of services and can truly be quite overwhelming to many associations and nonprofit organizations that may lack the IT team skills and knowledge to lead the way. 

I get it! It’s not like Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone doesn’t provide over 200 discrete services, and then of course there’s Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and about another thousand private cloud providers.  Where and how does any small to medium-sized organization get started with this massive learning-curve mountain staring down at them?

I am fortunate to have a contact within AWS who allowed me to ask some very pointed questions. Rick Buettner is the director of nonprofit sales for AWS, and he was generous enough with his time to dig into some illuminating thoughts on how associations, nonprofits and really any organization can begin this journey. I was introduced to Rick once I became aware that AWS has a division specifically focused on the association and nonprofit market. Admittedly, Microsoft and Google do, as well. This committed market focus provides some unique advantages to organizations in this vertical that should definitely be leveraged while planning and executing a cloud project. Why not, right?

Making the Most of the Cloud 

Rick shared that the AWS nonprofit team is focused on helping these organizations use the cloud to increase their impact and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. 

“For nonprofits, it’s not uncommon to be strapped for resources,” he said. “And when it comes to day-to-day operations, nonprofits need to balance the demands of donors and organizational mandates with managing technology. Leveraging technology to achieve their missions can be difficult with limited resources and staff.”

In addition to providing infrastructure services that can help solve mission problemsthings like computing power, storage options, networking and databases, delivered on demand and available in seconds with pay-as-you-go pricingcloud providers also offer supporting resources that nonprofits can leverage to support their mission, including grants and credits, open data access, cloud training, educational events and more. When it comes to moving to the cloud, believe me, take all the free cloud training and credits you can get! The more the better, and there’s virtually no ceiling to staff education.

An interesting fact about organizations that are still relying on traditional, on-premise data center modalities is that the barriers to begin a cloud journey are far less technical and far more about people, culture and fear of something new. Rick shared the biggest differences he saw between organizations that talk about moving to the cloud and those that actually do it.

Commitment, Training and Planning

First, the senior leadership team needs to be aligned and truly committed that they want to move to the cloud. They need to set the vision as to how the organization will be able to better meet and exceed their outcome goals through use of technology. They need to be setting clear direction and expectations with the rest of the organization to get everyone on the same page and working towards the same thing. 

It’s easy for others to do nothing or block things if the leadership team isn’t making the move a priority and building a culture for change. To help with this challenge, AWS hosts Working Backwards workshops, a no-cost offering that helps customers align on organizational challenges and prioritize solutions to address them. 

Secondly, it’s really important that organizations build their employees’ capacity by training them on the cloud. This will help ensure they are comfortable with cloud concepts as part of the whole process. For example, AWS offers free digital training and trains hundreds of thousands of people a year for that purpose. 

And last, some organizations can get paralyzed if they can’t figure out how to move every last workload. There is no need to boil the ocean. Cloud providers often work with organizations to do a portfolio analysis to assess their data and applications and build a plan for what to move short term, medium term and last. This helps nonprofits get the benefits of the cloud for many of their applications much more quickly, and it really helps inform how they move the rest.

If your organization is considering leveraging the cloud to support your future and mission, whether powered by AWS, Azure, Google or others, it’s great news that these organizations have specific departments designed to understand the nonprofit and association marketplace, and they all offer resources to help the planning and migration phase. That’s great news for all.  Who couldn’t use a little help and support in this area? My advice: Take ‘em up on it!

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