Remote Work and Nonprofits: What You Need to Know

November 8, 2019 | Grace Duginski
Remote Work and Nonprofits: What You Need to Know

Nonprofits are no stranger to pinching pennies, but whether an organization is for-profit or not, when faced with a difficult financial or operational situation the first response is usually, “where can we cut costs?”. This question is often a fraught one for charities, after all, you’re likely already getting by on a shoestring budget! One growing modern solution to this problem is remote work – which offers perks like the ability to cut down on office space rental, greater flexibility for those affected by and involved in your work, and more consistently updated technology. In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways that nonprofits can benefit from increasing their flexibility for remote work, and some of the questions you’ll need to ask if you’re considering making the shift.  

1. Remote work doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing. 

Remote work and in-office work don’t need to be a binary system! Here are some ways to incorporate telework or make the switch entirely: 

  • Transition some teams to part- or full-time remote work, and rent out the resulting free office space; 

  • Transition some teams to part- or full-time remote work, and move to a more affordable office in your area; 

  • Transition some or all teams to full-time remote work, and keep a more affordable, smaller main office in a less expensive city or town; or 

  • Transition all staff to full-time remote work, and eliminate a brick-and-mortar office entirely. 

2. There are financial benefits to your organization. 

If your office doesn’t currently allow remote work, you could be missing out! Some positive effects of downsizing or eliminating a brick-and-mortar headquarters in a big city might be: 

  • Savings for your organization – Global Workplace Analytics reports that if telework-compatible employees worked remote just 50 percent of the time, businesses would save an average of $11,000 per employee per year. 

  • Specifically, savings on high rent for office spaces – in a major city, you’re likely paying an arm and a leg in rent. 

3. Getting the organization closer to those you serve. 

Some organizations establish their headquarters in a major city because they serve populations right there. Others, however, choose a major city for their headquarters based on other factors, and later find themselves facing significant travel from their major city in order to meet in-person with program participants. As you consider remote work, evaluate how your organization could become more accessible to those most affected by your issue area if you were to move to a different city or perhaps have remote employees based in different locations, cutting down frequent travel costs. 

4. Happier staff, bigger hiring pools. 

If staff are mostly or exclusively remote, they’ll have much greater flexibility in choosing where they live. This is great for your recruiting efforts and can lead to employee benefits like: 

  • Savings for employees – in the same report, GWA states eligible employees could save $2,000-$7,000 a year by teleworking 50 percent of their hours. 

  • Lower cost of living – cost of living in an expensive city can be a barrier for many people who’d like to apply when you have open positions. The possibility of remote work opens up your hiring pool to skilled applicants from a wider geographic area. 

  • Eliminate long, stressful, and/or expensive commutes – let’s be honest, nobody likes those. It’s better for the environment too!

  • Greater flexibility when scheduling internal and external meetings (no more fighting over the one conference room!); and 

  • Greater overall work/life flexibility for staff – especially for those with family and caregiving responsibilities; if staff are required to be present in a physical office during set hours, this means you may not get the biggest, most qualified applicant pool for open staff positions. 

5. More consistent tech upgrades and implementation. 

One secondary consequence of infusing remote work into your office rhythms might be that you develop more robust tech and cybersecurity practices – after all, you’d make sure your brick-and-mortar office kept its lights on, bathrooms clean, and door locks in good condition; if your primary workspace were to shift online, those efforts would naturally translate to maintaining the shared online workspace. This might look like replacing tech equipment with expired warranties; investing in staff anti-phishing and cybersecurity training; moving documents from on-site servers to the cloud; and other measures toward safety, comfort, and good stewardship of your online space. 

6. Putting it Into Action 

If you’re seriously contemplating remote work as an addition to or replacement for your current office set-up, you’re probably going to begin by budgeting for these changes. Ask yourself what it would cost to: 

  • … Break lease on your current office space, or wait it out? 

  • … Find and move to a smaller office within your city? 

  • … Pack up and move to a more affordable city, town, or region? 

  • … Eliminate a brick-and-mortar office, but pay for storage as needed? 

  • … Invest in regular face-to-face staff get-togethers in order to provide remote workers with opportunities to get to know one another and build a sense of community? 

As with any major change, your staff may have strong feelings about remote work. Discuss your options honestly with employees and keep them apprised of what changes will take place over time, and you’ll chart a smooth course forward. 


Curious about the data and technology aspects of a cloud-based workspace? Check out our Nonprofit’s Guide to Data Security!