October, 2013

  • 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.

  • 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. 

     

  • Ministry of Youth and Sports & Microsoft Malaysia Partner to Nurture Future of Malaysia’s Youth

    Microsoft YouthSpark, a vital catalyst for driving the nation’s push towards an innovation economy, spearheaded by young entrepreneurs

    Today, in Kuala Lumpur, at the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Microsoft Malaysia and the Ministry of Youth and Sports today announced an intent to partner through Microsoft YouthSpark to address the opportunity divide facing young people in Malaysia – a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not.

    This partnership will be part of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over three years through partnerships with governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses.

    YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Youth and Sports Minister, Malaysia and Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Corp

    “The launch of this partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports reflects our commitment to supporting and nurturing youth with innovative technology and with the goal of empowering them to realize their full potential through opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship,” said Carlos Lacerda, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia.

    Microsoft Malaysia and the Ministry of Youth and Sports will kick off their local partnership by providing training, mentoring and networking opportunities for Malaysian youth, creating a local alumni of Malaysia’s brightest young talent. From this bright young ground they will search for local YouthSpark Stars who will be recognized at the next National Youth Day in May 2014.

    The YouthSpark stars will then receive additional support and mentoring to achieve their ambitions ahead of the ASEAN Youth Day in 2015 where it is hoped they will be able to present their stories to the broader region.

    Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia, echoed Lacerda’s statement, “The Government is committed to supporting young people to gain the skills required for success in the 21st century. We have a responsibility of nurturing and training young people, but this role is not exclusively the Government’s but is also a shared responsibility with the private sector and other key stakeholders. We are glad that Microsoft has been supporting youth with initiatives like YouthSpark, to enhance the development of employment, entrepreneurial and IT skills through training opportunities and mentoring programs. YouthSpark supports the Government’s push towards an innovation economy, with young people driving efforts to achieve the nation’s aspirations of a high-income, knowledge-based economy by 2020.”

    Globally, Microsoft YouthSpark celebrated its first anniversary in September announcing new opportunities had been created for 103 million young people in more than 100 countries in the first year. As part of the announcement, five global YouthSpark Stars were showcased, including Malaysian youth John-son Oei for his innovative work using technology to bring housing to people from the Orang Asli, Malaysia’s indigenous community.

    “This recognition of one of our young people is testament to the strength of our local talent and why we want to uncover and nurture even more Malaysian YouthSpark stars in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports,” said Lacerda.

    After discussion with the Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Seri Mohamad Najib Tun Razak at the Microsoft YouthSpark booth at the event, Akhtar Badshah, Microsoft Corporation’s Senior Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs reemphasized the commitment of Microsoft to Malaysian youth.

    Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Finance Minister II - Najib Razak, Prime Minister Malaysia - Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Corp

    “This partnership is very important to us, Malaysia is not alone in identifying a growing gap between the skills of unemployed workers and the skills needed to perform the jobs of today and tomorrow. Beyond the overall risk to economic growth, this is a growing personal crisis for our young people who face an increasingly uncertain future. Closing this opportunity divide is one of the most important actions we can all take – together – to secure the future of our youth and as a result, the future of our global economy,” Badshah said.

    Microsoft YouthSpark is focused on three core areas:

    1. Empowering youth by helping transform education and expand digital inclusion;
    2. Unleashing future innovators by giving youth the inspiration and tools to imagine new opportunities; and
    3. Helping youth realize new opportunities of employability and entrepreneurship.

    “Microsoft YouthSpark goes beyond just philanthropy. It brings together global Microsoft programs including Imagine Cup, Innovate for Good, Skype in the Classroom, BizSpark, Office365 for EDU, DreamSpark and Partners in Learning. We know we can have the biggest impact when we bring our solutions, services and partnerships together to provide young people with access to technology and education, inspire them with opportunities to realize their potential, and help them find a job or start their own business,” added Badshah.

    “For over 20 years here in Malaysia, Microsoft has continuously created opportunities for youth to take the lead in changing their lives and making a real impact in their local communities through initiatives in entrepreneurship and education. This has been our ongoing commitment in transforming Malaysia together. With programs such as YouthSpark, we are encouraging innovation and creativity among young, talented entrepreneurs and start-ups. We are committed to supporting the Government’s efforts in building knowledge and innovation-based human capital, and our presence at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2013 is evidence of that support,” said Lacerda.

    A year ago, Microsoft announced its collaboration with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), on a partnership entitled “The Spark of Transformation”. Three components are covered under this partnership, each designed to be part of what is hoped will be a robust education system that is essential to develop a knowledge-driven workforce. This would entail working from the ground up on incorporating IT into the school education system, curriculum revision, teacher training and investing in building out the infrastructure.

    For more information on Microsoft YouthSpark please click here.

    Join in the conversation! Follow Microsoft Malaysia on Twitter @MYMicrosoft and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MicrosoftMalaysia.

  • 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
    Singapore
    , 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.

  • 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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