Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly series from Microsoft’s Citizenship team that appears at 6 a.m. PT on the second Wednesday of every month. Pulse on Citizenship provides insight and commentary on topics and trends in corporate citizenship.

Posted by James Rooney
Program Manager, Technology for Good, Microsoft

In less than a month, Microsoft will host the annual NetHope Summit here on campus. More than 150 IT officers from 34 of the world’s largest international development agencies will attend, including World Vision, CARE, Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy and many more. It gives everyone a chance to listen, learn, share information, and think about how the power of technology can change the world.

When looking at this year’s agenda, it’s clear that the nonprofit technology space is changing. It’s not immune to some of the complicated side-effects of the fast pace of innovation. The shift from on-premise to the cloud for, well, everything. The democratization of IT with every employee wanting his or her personal devices connected to the network.

But it also benefits from the positive symptoms. Organizations of all sizes and budgets are taking advantage of these new technologies to more effectively and efficiently deliver their programs and services. Information and communication are now everywhere thanks to mobile devices. Collaboration across the world is easier. And supporters and donors have never felt more connected to what their favorite nonprofits are up to.

And here on the Microsoft Citizenship team, we want to solve gnarly social problems using technology. Part of that is helping nonprofits get from a stable platform to where they can use technology as a way to transform and optimize the way they operate. So supporting NetHope and its members, partnering with them on innovative projects, and hosting the summit aligns with our desire to evolve our thinking and solutions to ensure effectiveness in the future. We think the agenda at the Summit will reflect many of these challenges and opportunities organizations of all sizes and types are working through.

Specifically, there are three broad areas:

New Products

The next 12 months will be big ones for Microsoft with the release of Windows Server 2012, Visual Studio 2012, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, SharePoint and the new Office. Nonprofits will be evaluating these new products and trying to understand how they can leverage them to better deliver their services and programs. At the Summit, we’ll share information on each of the releases, providing demos, and illustrating the benefits of these new products to nonprofits. 

Cloud

One of the ways we support nonprofits is with software donation grants, but it takes more than free software for nonprofits to realize their full potential. To really transform and optimize their business, nonprofits are looking to the cloud. NetHope and its members have been early cloud adopters, implementing Office 365, building solutions on top of Azure, and more. And this year’s Summit promises to have plenty of knowledge sharing and discussions about how Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM and InTune can help organizations realize their goals.

Solutions

Having the right infrastructure, whether on-premise or cloud-based, builds a strong foundation upon which organizations can build. But to truly take it to the next level, organizations are exploring solutions that address specific nonprofit and social needs. These can take the form of mobile apps, CRM accelerators, cloud-based tools, or others. There is a greater focus on solutions that can be broadly adopted and NetHope, its members and Microsoft will play a key role here.