Do iPads have a place in nonprofits?

Posted by Saaib Uppal, Staff Accountant

Ipads in nonprofitsSince our childhood, we have always been fascinated by THE new toy that you just had to have. While we eventually grow, and like to say we’ve matured, that mindset tends to stay with us.  The only difference now is that while before we just had to have it because all of our friends did, now we provide justifications that are more convincing.  The latest seems to be “Our business or nonprofit just has to have an iPad.”  Does this hold any merit, however, when speaking in the context of a nonprofit?  What is the true value added for this investment?  Let’s investigate.

Nonprofit Technology

We’ll start with the main cons so that we can end on a good note.

  • First, an iPad is not a computer.  It WILL NOT replace your laptop.  It would be a serious mistake to believe so.  An iPad is more of an accessory than a substitute.  It was not developed to view content or create it from scratch.
  • Second, it goes without saying that an organization would be dealing with third party software, such as accounting software, on a daily basis.  While a few iPad apps can be found that are accounting-specific, trying to pay invoices, prepare tax returns or prepare financials is something that will be severely impaired.  Although, applications are changing daily.
  • Lastly, like a laptop, the costs do not disappear once you make your purchase.  Depending on your preferences, you would have to purchase peripherals such as covers, stands, and keyboards.  Also, if you wanted 3G coverage instead of relying on Wi-Fi, there are additional charges.

You’re probably thinking, “Then what’s all the fuss about?”   Well, there are several items that the iPad does excel in.  With the paperless environment that we are all gradually moving into, the iPad becomes more valuable by the day.  The iPad is excellent for reviewing PDFs, financial statements, and synchronizing email.  Even with the expanded screens on the new smart phones that seem to be outdoing themselves day by day, there are times when it becomes impractical to match footnotes to financial statements by frantically swiping our fingers in various directions on our handhelds.  Also, when in travel mode, the iPad is as convenient as it gets.  It fits easily into a briefcase or onto your lap.  How many times during a meeting have we grunted and strained while taking our laptops out of our bags, waited for them to boot up, and then fired open PowerPoint?  With an iPad, this literally turns into a process that lasts a few seconds

That leads to my final conclusion on the role that iPads can play in nonprofits.  While I wouldn’t recommend making a purchase if you plan on using it as a smaller laptop (it would be as useful as a paperweight), the iPad is ideal for having as a communicator and for presentations.  If a co-worker has a presentation to give at a client, instead of dragging over their laptop in their briefcase, they can simply carry their iPad, plug a VGA cable in, and start right away.

So in the end, will it have a purpose for every member of your nonprofit? At this moment, the answer is no.  When conducting general partner level work in reviewing documents and presenting at a meeting, however, it is far more efficient than carrying a laptop with its bag around on the road.

This will undoubtedly lead to an intangible benefit that can’t be measured, and that is the impression you will leave on a client.  There is the chance that they will see you as innovative and on the cutting edge of technology.  On the other hand, there is also the chance that they overlook your presentation and are instead fascinated by the shiny new toy that they just have to have.

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