Shawn Kendrick, Researcher and Blogger

As time goes by, many nonprofits are finding that making the switch to digital is in their best interest. Simply put, digitizing documents is a great way to be more organized and save time in the long run. However, it should be a “look before you leap” situation, so we’re offering some things to consider when making the transition.

Know the Lay of the Land

If you’re thinking about going digital, it’s time to take a critical look at your situation and create a road map. In other words, where are you now — and where do you want to be? You may know where you want to go, but it’s crucial to make sure the way is paved for a smooth trip. To that end, an honest assessment of your hardware and networking system may be the place to start. The first step in your plan might require an upgrade of your technology infrastructure to handle the load of a digitized system.

Also, understand that there may be some prep work involved. Often there’s a need to do some manual uploading and/or scanning of paper records before the new system is in place. Make sure you account for these and other preliminary steps before roll-out.

Decision Time

Now it’s time to decide exactly what records you are going to digitize. Consider how often people in your organization need to view different types of records. Questions like, “How important is itand “What would happen if it were lost or destroyed will help you decide what to turn digital and what stays in hard-copy form. For records you access often, it’s probably a good idea to have them digitized so you can view them quickly from your computer. You’ll also save many hours by no longer trying to keep those physical files in order. If a record is extremely important, you’ll have another reason to store it digitally, because cloud storage is ultra-safe, secure, and reliable. Of course, in some cases you may want to keep a hard copy, too. If records are out of date and/or not important, consider storing a digital copy and then having the original shredded.

Getting Others Onboard

One of the most difficult parts of any new initiative is getting buy-in from those who are going to execute the plan. However, the effort is worth it. If you can get everyone on the same page, the chances of success increase dramatically. The general plan for roll-out should go something like this:

1) Get management buy-in

2) Announce plan to all staff

3) Implement training schedule

4) Official roll-out

Of course, there will be challenges along the way. In fact, most organizations will have numerous steps within each of the four points listed above. For instance, if you have a staff member who is resistant to change, you may want to start selling your idea to him or her before you let the rest of the staff in on the details. It will help pave the way for consensus- building later if you have the biggest potential opponent already on your side. Another strategy is to bring in a “devil’s advocate.” This should be someone who is not involved with the planning phase. His or her job is to be negative and find potential problems before roll-out. If you have a tough devil’s advocate, and you can satisfy the concerns he or she highlights, then you should be able to withstand any scrutiny from other staff members.

As we said earlier, as long as you “look before you leap,” the jump to digital should be an easy one.

 The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program: