October, 2013

  • Breaking Barriers with Technology

    Citizenship has always been an area that Microsoft holds close to its heart. Beyond the myriad number of programmes from software donations to reaching out to youth, Microsoft also actively encourages its employees to do their bit for the community. To kickstart the year of employee volunteering in Microsoft
    , a group of employees, together with their family and friends, went to the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled for a day of interaction and fun.

    Very often, the intellectually disabled are scorned for being unable to communicate effectively. We fail to understand the challenges they face, and never put in the effort to look at the world from their point of view. As part of the American Chamber of Commerce Corporate Community Day, Microsoft Singapore organized a half-day activity with the residents from Bishan Home to facilitate interaction with them as well as to take a peek into their lives. Our volunteers brought along some touchscreen devices as “companions” for the event.

    After a series of icebreaker games, volunteers and residents were divided into small groups with the touchscreen devices. Together, they engaged in games on the tablets and even painted their very own virtual art pieces!

    Residents and Microsoft employee, Darryn, drawing a plane together.

    Through this activity, residents were empowered by technology to connect with others and express themselves through fun games as well as paintings. It was their first time getting in touch with touchscreen technology and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They were also able to unleash their undiscovered potential in the area of art.

    One of the many amazing virtual art pieces by the residents and volunteers.


    Wrapping up the day, not only were the residents treated to a day of fun, but the volunteers also left the home with a clearer awareness of how the intellectually disabled function and play. Khoo Sang Chin, Principal Field IT Manager, who attended the event with his wife and two children, said, “The visit to the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled was a very fruitful experience for my family and me. Although what we did was just spending time, playing games, working on simple tablet activities and having lunch with them, we could tell how happy the residents were. We have also learnt and have a better understanding of their plight now.” Sang Chin’s family agreed that it was a very memorable activity and a good reminder to treasure their health and abilities.

    Thinking toward the future, Sang Chin concluded, “We can definitely do much more for the less fortunate.”

    It was indeed a meaningful activity with takeaways for both residents and volunteers, and we look forward to engaging our employees in more future volunteering events in the community.

  • Five Online Fundraising Best Practices for Small NGOs in Developing Countries

    The full article was originally posted 10 September 2013 on the Nonprofit Tech for Good Blog by Heather Mansfield.

    Thanks to Microsoft Citizenship Asia Pacific, I’ve had the great honor to present a series of online fundraising and social media trainings to over three hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout Asia Pacific over the last three years. The experience has made me acutely aware that access to information about trends in nonprofit technology, online fundraising and social media often do not reach small NGOs – especially those in rural areas. Many lack access to information about how to create their own websites, publish an email newsletter, accept online donations and use social media effectively. It’s not for lack of desire or technical capability, but simply due to a block in information flow. Many small NGOs are also unaware of the services and resources offered to the NGO community by TechSoup Global, SANGONeTNASSCOM FoundationMeedan and FrontlineSMS.

    Here is a list of the top five Online Fundraising Best Practices for Small NGOs in Developing Countries:

    1) Launch a new website that is mobile-optimized
    Globally, smartphones now outsell feature phones, so in the near future the majority of your website traffic will occur on a mobile device. Therefore, launching a new website that is mobile compatible is important. Fortunately they are not that difficult or financially challenging to create provided your NGO is willing to invest the time to create a new website and has access to a credit card as most of these services only accept credit cards as the method of purchase.

    Using a Content Management System (CMS) makes it very easy to update and edit your own website. To effectively raise money online, NGOs need a website that makes a good first impression.

    Tools such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace enable small NGOs to launch modern, well-designed websites that are mobile compatible and easy to update. The website templates include social media integration and fees can be as little as USD $8 a month for a website absent of advertising, with some templates offered in multiple languages.

    NGOs can also use WordPress.org as a CMS for your website and download a free or low-cost theme to design a mobile-optimized website. To do so, you’ll need a web hosting service such as BlueHost.com. If that’s too complicated, then your NGO could set up a free blog on WordPress.com which offers numerous, easy-to-install mobile-optimized templates. If you decide to go with WordPress.com, you should purchase a ‘.org’ website URL and have it forward to your WordPress.com blog. However, ‘.ngo’ and ‘.ong’ will be available soon.

    Finally, if you need custom graphics or a new logo, but do not have the financial resources to hire a designer or the graphic design knowledge to create them yourself, contact a university in your area to find a graphic design student and offer to promote their work in exchange for volunteering their services. Or, you could post the volunteer position on your website, blog or Facebook Page and share it on volunteer boards in your country or on Idealist.org, CraigstList or in LinkedIn Groups.

    2) Launch an e-newsletter
    For over a decade e-newsletters have been the driving force behind online donations in developed countries. Invest the time and financial resources into publishing an e-newsletter at least twice monthly. Web-based email communication services such as iContactConstant Contact or MailChimp make it very simple to launch an e-newsletter with fees starting at USD $15 monthly for email lists of 500 subscribers or less. This can be financially challenging, but is an investment well-made (especially if your goal is to acquire donors in developed countries). If funds are limited, consider asking a major donor to sponsor your e-newsletter for a year in exchange for occasionally promoting their business or service in your e-newsletter.

    Email communication services offer reporting metrics, such as who opened your email and what links they visited, and eliminate the need to manually manage your email list as your subscribers are stored in an online database and unsubscribes are automatic.

    To help build your email list, all three services suggested above offer the ability to add e-newsletter opt-in forms to your website. Ensure that the opt-in is prominently featured on your home page and in a sidebar on every page of your website and blog.

    Finally, it’s important to be aware that e-newsletters that are sent BCC often trigger spam controls and are blocked by email servers.

    3) Accept donations online
    Accepting online donations can be difficult for many NGOs. Regulations vary widely from country to country and NGOs in some countries can’t accept online payments at all due to a limited online banking infrastructure or sanctions based on perceived terrorist threats. That said, if it is possible for your nonprofit to set up an account to receive credit card payments on PayPal (view list of countries), then no matter how tedious or time-consuming the sign-up process may be, accepting online donations is a huge step forward for your NGO. There’s also Ammado.com which enables NGOS in many countries to accept online donations in 76 currencies.

    Once your nonprofit has been set up to accept online donations, then add a “Donate Now” button to your home page and every page of your website and blog. You should also create a “Donate” page that details how donors can donate online, wire funds, mail funds or send you mobile money. Also, your e-newsletter design should always include a “Donate Now” button. During times of crisis your NGO should send urgent email fundraising appeals to your e-newsletter list in addition to your bi-monthly e-newsletter.

    Alternatively, if your NGO has a long-term, close working relationship with a large nonprofit in a developed nation, start a discussion about partnering with them so you can accept online donations through their website. In the United States this is called fiscal sponsorship. It’s not easy to secure, but is a possibility for some NGOs that have been in operation for multiple years and have a proven track record of success. For more information, listen to this podcast about fiscal sponsorship hosted by the Foundation Center. You can also explore the possibility of having one of your projects listed on GlobalGiving.

    4) Study and mimic large NGOs
    Small NGOs can learn a lot by studying the online fundraising and social media campaigns of large NGOs. Analyze their websites and donation pages, subscribe to their e-newsletters and follow them on social media. Review my list of Top 100 NGOs to see some great websites.

    5) Create a Facebook Page
    Creating a Facebook Page should be your first step in launching a presence on social media. Telling the story of your NGO through status updates can result in online donations, provided you have the ability to accept online donations on your website.

    To create a Facebook Page, first create a personal Facebook account and then visit facebook.com/createapage > Company, Organization, or Institution > Select the “Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)” category and then set up your page.

    To easily create a Facebook cover image, go to PicMonkey.com > Create a collage > FB Cover.

    For best practices on how to manage your page, please see all posts about Facebook.

    Finally, to make it easier to promote your page in print materials and online, be sure to reserve your Facebook username at facebook.com/username.

    Want to know more? Click here for Heather’s Social Media Best Practices for NGOs in Developing Countries. 


  • Powering Up Small and Beautiful Businesses

    By Supahrat Juramongkol , Community Affairs Manager, Microsoft Thailand

    The future outlook for youth? Bleak.

    The 56-character title Global Employment Outlook: Bleak Labour Market Prospects is all we need to know about the paper released by the International Labour Organization.

    The current recession has hit the global job market in many ways. Not only is the mix of jobs transformed, but so is the way they’re being done. Against this backdrop of uncertainty rises the micro-entrepreneur: self-employed small business owners who use their own skill sets or assets as the base of their business. This person acts as the customer, distributor, employee and employer, all rolled into one. More than ever, micro-entrepreneurship plays a key role in poverty alleviation.

    Last year, the ASEAN Foundation and Microsoft rolled out a new project ‘Enhancing ICT Skills of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in ASEAN’, a spin-off of our earlier project that taught Indonesian farmers ICT skills, to support aspiring entrepreneurs.

    This new project for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs (budding and not) has already kicked off in Vietnam. After Thailand, Microsoft will launch it in Indonesia, then in the Philippines.

    We tend to work with local partners where the project takes place, and for Thailand, that was the Research Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management (CCDKM). The curriculum was developed by the ASEAN Foundation, and delivered by the very experienced Niko Atmadja and Prima Sari who flew in from Indonesia.

    Youth participants in a skills training class

    We held training sessions in Thailand’s largest cities, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where young enterprising people were taught technology tools that can improve the productivity of the businesses they want to run–if they are not already doing so.

    In the beautiful Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai province, we were joined by 18 young people from diverse backgrounds. Some have families running small businesses, and others are interested in starting their own businesses.

    There was an aspiring fashion designer who regaled us with her designs, and a young man who sat us down to figure out how his family’s homestay business can be improved to help the local community. Sometimes, listening to these young people makes me wonder what I was doing when I was at their age!

    The students are very bright and focused. They’re young—the youngest was 19 years old—so they need a little nudge in the right direction toward what the business world and financial institutions need: for example, how to use Outlook to send out invitations, how to use auto-response and how to do remote conferencing. They have to also learn how to answer these questions for themselves: How do I differentiate myself from my competitors? Who is my target audience? Why do I sell what I sell?

    Writing good business plans, proper document management and other skills are vital for SMEs in accessing formal sources of funds for growth. The participants also learnt how to track expenses, generate finance graphics and create blogs.

    But they are not simply beneficiaries. The training also coached them in using the curriculum to teach other micro-entrepreneurs the same skills, so a multiplier effect can be generated.

    Jirasak Kumwong, a bright-eyed 25-year-old young man who wants to start his own publication design business told me, “I can’t wait to start the next phase where we’ll pass on our knowledge to other young people like us. We’re looking at training 200 people in all. This is very good. It raises skills of the community across the board.”

    Another participant said, “I can now make a brochure to advertise and promote my business. I don’t need to hire somebody for that. This will help me to save money!”

    Spot on!

  • Music and Technology-Passion Meets Solution in Philippines

    Family finances were running low. School grades were not exceptionally high. Facing the pressures of accumulating bills and tuition fees, Gianisse Marie Adamantopoulos (better known as Gigi), together with her passion for music, took a leap of faith and applied to be a Microsoft Student Partner.

    Music and technology just didn’t seem to tie in, but Gigi refused to give in. She surprised Microsoft Philippines interviewers as she presented the missing link, winning for herself an internship which helped cover her education fees.

    Be inspired by other equally amazing youth and find out more about Microsoft YouthSpark programmes.

  • Sodateage Net Boosts Support Services with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

    Sodateage Net is a nonprofit organisation that offers employment support and skills training to young people who face difficulties in making the transition to working life and achieving financial independence.

    Established in 2001 and officially registered as a nonprofit organisation in May 2004, Sodateage Net currently has approximately 70 staff operating in four locations across Japan, including major cities such as Tachikawa and Tokyo. To achieve its goal of integrating young people into the workforce, Sodateage Net organises a wide range of workshops and seminars to provide participants the opportunity to upgrade themselves in terms of work communications and proficiency in information technology (IT).

    The Challenge: Facilitating more efficient information management
    As the number of young people supported by Sodateage Net started to increase over the past few years, its staff faced the issue of having to manually input the information from an increasingly large number of beneficiaries’ handwritten forms. The nonprofit also realised that its existing software were limited in terms of information management.

    Akiko Kudo, a Work Advisor at Sodateage Net, said, “In our daily operations, we deal with a lot of cases and there is a massive amount of information collected from the young people we support. Our work processes can be significantly improved if we are able to access information more easily with a simple click of a button.”

    Kenji Yamamoto, Business Manager at Sodateage Net, said the organisation evaluated a number of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to address the issues at hand.

    “To better serve the community, Sodateage Net required a solution that would help us to easily track, access and maintain the personal records of our beneficiaries. This would allow us to better utilise the data and overcome potential operational issues,” Mr Yamamoto added.

    The Solution: Using CRM software to improve work processes
    Sodateage Net decided to implement Microsoft Dynamics® CRM in 2011 to manage records and provide its staff with more immediate access to critical data during their field work — while utilising a database system that can be easily integrated with the organisation’s existing IT systems. This software adoption further enabled Sodateage Net to compile data from five different youth centres to deliver accurate reporting to the government on the magnitude of its social impact.

    Prior to implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sodateage Net trained its field officers to familiarise themselves with the use of the latest IT devices. The senior management team also ensured that the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM processes were aligned with the organisation’s existing workflow. The ease of integration with Microsoft® Office applications was another contributing factor to the smooth implementation.

    Sodateage Net Director Kei Kudo said, “With the use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to streamline our data management processes, Sodateage has been able to take a significant step towards addressing key challenges faced by underserved youth and creating better solutions to meet their needs.”

    The Benefits: Increased work productivity to expand support services
    With the introduction of Dynamics CRM, Sodateage Net has increased work productivity through the use of a more streamlined data management system, especially among its field officers.

    Mr Kudo explained, "One of the key objectives of the implementation is to lessen the data entry burden for our field staff — and we matched the Microsoft Dynamics CRM template closely to the format of the handwritten form previously used. The time our field officers save from having to manually transfer the information from paper to our database is significant, freeing them to devote more time on face-to-face interaction with the young people and better understand the challenges they face."

    The ability to remotely access and review the beneficiaries’ information from any location is another significant benefit, as Sodateage Net field officers such as Wakako Koga have personally experienced.

    “During consultations with young people and their parents, we are now able to use our laptops to guide them through our various support programmes and follow up with them in a more effective and personalised manner," Ms Koga added.

    The enhanced visibility into the data and records of its service users provided by Microsoft Dynamics CRM has enabled Sodateage Net to build on its strategic vision of improving the quality of its support services and cater to the specific needs of the community it serves.

    Mr Kudo concluded, “By providing more personalised services, we are very confident that Sodateage Net will be able to continue playing a leading role in helping young people in Japan reach their full potential and become active contributors to the society.”

    Read about more customers using Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

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