March, 2011

  • Supporting relief efforts in Japan

    We have all been shocked and saddened by the images and reports coming from Japan.

    It is a human tragedy on a massive scale.

    To help support ongoing relief efforts, Microsoft is making an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions such as software.

    We already have a range of support efforts underway including:

    1. Activating our Disaster Response protocol and team - a dedicated group that mobilizes our company during crises such as this - who is leading outreach to customers, partners, the local government, and relief agencies.
    2. Providing customers and partners impacted by the earthquake with free incident support to help get their operations back up and running.
    3. Providing free temporary software licenses to all impacted customers and partners as well as lead governments, nonprofit partners and institutions involved in disaster response efforts.
    4. Making a cloud-based disaster response communications portal, based on Windows Azure, available to governments and nonprofits to enable them to communicate between agencies and directly with citizens.
    5. Issuing an appeal to our employees to support the relief organizations working in Japan - we match our US based employees donations dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $12,000 per employee per year.
    6. Helping to drive awareness and donations for relief efforts through our Disaster Response Website, MSN and Bing.com.
    7. Committing to support the immediate relief and rescue efforts in Japan, working with our nonprofit partners to provide the necessary support.

    There are many opportunities to help. We invite you to consider supporting any of the following relief organizations in the work they are doing to help the people in Japan:

    • The American Red Cross is accepting donations for Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief. Individuals can also text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to donate $10 from their mobile phone.
    • Save the Children is responding to the needs of children and families affected by the earthquake and its aftermath. Donations can be made to Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund.
    • International Medical Corps is responding to the health needs of the disaster's victims.
    • World Vision has announced mobilization in response to the earthquake and tsunami.
    • NetHope, a collaboration of the world's leading humanitarian response organizations, is mobilizing efforts to support aid agencies responding in the region.
    • Mercy Corps is working with its partner Charity Peace Winds Japan to accept donations.
    • AidMatrix is working with its partners to connect resources and material for various response efforts. Needs for in-kind and transportation donations are being assessed and will be posted to the AidMatrix network as they become available.

    We will continue to monitor the situation in Japan and do what we can to help.

  • Transformed by technology: Right To Play receives $750,000 software grant from Microsoft

    Cross posted from the Microsoft Canada Blog

    clip_image003Using the transformative power of sport and play, Canadian-founded international development organization Right To Play is improving the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

    Today, RTP is running about 50 projects across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, and in 2009 its programs reached a total of more than one million children in regular weekly programming and special sports events and festivals. By the end of 2009, RTP was also reaching more than 700,000 children in weekly, regular sport and play activities.

    But as a rapidly growing organization, RTP was facing several challenges: communications between staff members and with donors wasn’t working well, and financial tracking wasn’t very time efficient. RTP asked an external consultant to review the organization’s technology infrastructure and based on the recommendations from the resulting strategic IT plan, RTP decided if it was to truly improve its day to day operations, it would need to implement a major technology overhaul.

    “We really needed to take an overall look at our technology needs and catch up to where we should be in terms of providing our staff and volunteers with the type of infrastructure that is required to run an organization approaching 500 employees across 26 countries, and a donor-base that is equally as geographically dispersed,” says Robert Witchel, RTP’s National Director.

    clip_image001RTP decided to reach out to Microsoft for support and Microsoft provided enough software for the team to realize a significant portion of its new five-year plan.

    “Microsoft quickly pointed us in the right direction,” says Witchel. “We were absolutely thrilled to receive a grant of software in the amount of $750,000. It allowed us to accelerate our technology plans at a rate that was, just a few months earlier, unthinkable.”

    Witchel says the improved technology has directly impacted the organization’s day-to-day operations.

    “It has already transformed the way that we work,” says Witchel. “It has freed people to manage their time more productively, operate more efficiently, and improve communications and donor outreach.”

    “This is just an incredible thing for us because the impact that we can have on children around the world is directly related to our ability to raise funds,” he says.

    Here is a quick snapshot of just some of the key benefits Witchel shares:

    · Improved communications: Microsoft CRM Dynamics was deployed so the charity would have the tools and technology to improve communications with its donors. One office was even able to triple its campaign letters from the year before and double its campaign revenues, because the solution improved the team’s ability to organize its contact-base.

    · Websites: Microsoft SharePoint allowed RTP to design an externally facing website that could easily be duplicated across each of its national offices, giving the teams the flexibility to populate their own sites while staying within the RTP brand.

    · Intranet: RTP now also plans to build its intranet portal on Microsoft SharePoint, making it possible for RTP staff and volunteers from all over the world to share stories from the field, as well as photos and reports, with the entire organization.

    But they’re not stopping there. In the future the RTP team hopes to leverage Microsoft technology to distribute program resources to teams in the field, participate in video training, and maybe even connect children of various languages and cultures together.

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    “Our partnership has been wonderful so far,” Witchel says. “We really enjoy Microsoft’s collaborative approach, and we hope that we’re just at the beginning of what will be a long relationship.”

    To learn more about Right To Play visit: www.righttoplay.ca

    Be sure to tune in next week for more Nonprofit Technology stories during #11NTC, March 14-20:

    Microsoft.com/Citizenship will be taken over by KEXP.org, The American Red Cross, The Nature Conservancy, Boys and Girls Club of America, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).

    To stay up to date on the latest Citizenship Stories:

    Twitter.com/msftcitizenship (@msftcitizenship)

    Facebook.com/MicrosoftCitizenship

  • “I Am” – Celebrating 100 years of International Women’s Day

    Guest post by Linda Lockhart – Managing Director, Global Give Back Circle

    The Butterfly Squad

    Participants of the Global Give Back Circle

    1990 – In the outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya, not far from the home of Mama Sarah Obama (as she likes to be called), a baby girl is born to a very young mother. The baby girl is said to have entered the world ‘smiling’ and has not stopped since. Vivian Onano, was born into the Luo tribe, the same tribe as President Obama.

    Although not common for a girl from this rural community to complete high school, Vivian’s mother did, and her education played an important role in Vivian’s journey to ‘I am’. Vivian was raised by her grandmother during the years while her mother worked hard to find employment in the town of Kisumu. Vivian had a happy childhood and loved helping her grandparents catch fish from Lake Victoria to sell in town. They lived in a typical rural area manner – in huts made from dung and mud without electricity or water.  Every day, Vivian playfully walked cows and goats to the lake and on the way back she balanced a colorful container of water on her head.   She made dolls out of mud and balls out of plastic bags.  At night, she slept on the traditional bed of her village - a mat made of sweet reeds.  Vivian was surrounded by love.

    By the time Vivian finished 4th grade, her mother had a stable job selling used clothes in the open air market in Kisumu. Concerned that Vivian was not getting an education fitting her aptitude, she managed every way she could to enroll Vivian in a primary school where she would wear shoes to class and receive an education that would eventually propel her to being one of the highest primary school performers in her province and would secure her a place is a school for gifted, disadvantaged girls in Nairobi called Starehe Girls’ Centre.

    In 2006, Vivian (pictured above) became a member of the Global Give Back Circle. In 2007 she wrote her first Give Back Commitment and learned how to Give Back 'Time & Skills' from reading GIVING. In 2008 she learned that a CGI Commitment for $350,000 came to fruition at the 2008 CGI Meeting and as a result she will not walk back into the circle of poverty when she graduated high school. In 2009 she participated in the 9-month Microsoft IT Course, which was a part of the CGI Commitment, and the computer connected her to the world in ways she could never imagine. She used it to research colleges and landed herself a full scholarship to Carthage College in Wisconsin, as a pre-med major.

    In 2009 Vivian Committed to Ambassador Ranneberger, US Ambassador to Kenya, that she would help him in his efforts to get the private sector involved in societal interventions like the Global Give Back Circle, and she spent 6 months selling to CEOs the importance of ‘Good Economics’ a term she heard President Clinton coin as the sweet spot whereby the business strategy of ‘human capital development’ is linked with compassion as private sector invest in girls as an investment in the economic sustainability of their markets. Vivian figured she could help raise $1 M of private sector investment to enable 100 more girls to continue onto college, employment and global citizenship. She was part of a group of 35 girls who were already invested ‘in’ – thanks to CGI. She wanted to Give Back now.

    P1000159In September 2010 Vivian was the youngest speaker at the annual CGI Meeting in NYC, speaking on the topic of 'Democratizing Education'. She was able to be a voice for how technology is flattening the world. Vivian will always hold a place in her heart for Microsoft and the gift of ICT skills that they bestowed on her through their commitment to the ‘Unlimited Potential’ of women and girls. During CGI week, Vivian attended a reception with Pamela Passman (one of her role models, pictured left together) from Microsoft. She wore a traditional dress from her province in Kisumu. A traditional dress for a Luo. A traditional dress for a woman with unlimited potential.

    In February 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya, Vivian's best friend, Wilkista (lost both her parents and also from Kisumu) rejoiced with other girls when it was learned that USAID joined the CGI Commitment with a $3.5 M GDA Award for the education & empowerment of GIRLS.  This meant that the Circle’s original Commitment of $350,000 for 35 girls would escalate to a $7 M Commitment for 500 + Girls! A miracle created through the vision of CGI and the compassion of the citizens of the United States of America and the support of the people and government of Kenya.

    In February 2011 - Wilkista visited Mama Sarah Obama and let her know the good news about the USAID Partnership and that the Global Give Back Circle would be in a position to help girls in the orphanage she runs, as they are just like Vivian and Wilkista, girls who wish to soar. 

    On March 8 Vivian will visit the White House as a guest of the First Lady for a reception to commemorate International Women’s Day. She will wear her traditional Luo Dress. If asked, she will speak about her CGI U Commitment to Action 'Hey Sister, Get Clued-Up' – a peer-to-peer social network website to educate African women and girls on issues related to health, financial literacy and social network protection. She will also speak about her upcoming trip to San Diego to be with President Clinton when she will launch the ‘Hey Sister’ Commitment to Acton with Wilkista, and two other colleagues who will travel from Kenya to represent the Global Give Back Circle at CGI U – a tangible reflection of how a circle of empowerment can become a sustainable model for change as beneficiaries transform into benefactors.

    Wilkista Akinyi

  • How nonprofits can use the cloud, save money and increase impact

    Microsoft Community Affairs and TechSoup recently hosted a webinar focused on how moving to the cloud can benefit nonprofits. If you’ve been paying attention to the latest tech trends - or even if you haven’t - then you have probably heard the term “cloud” thrown around a lot. At a basic level, “The Cloud” describes an approach to computing that’s about taking advantage of Internet scale and connecting to (and from) a variety of devices. It could involve moving IT services such as email, collaboration tools, or constituent management software to the Internet so that those tools do not have to be hosted locally. The cloud delivers IT as a service, freeing you up to focus on your mission.

    Technology is changing and the cloud is opening new opportunities for nonprofits to not only save money on administration costs but deliver new services.

    This was the subject of the recent webinar presented by Anna Jaeger of TechSoup Global and Microsoft Community Affairs. We showed how the cloud can help nonprofits turn their attention and valuable resources from mundane time intensive tasks such as tech maintenance to more inspiring parts of their work that have a real impact in their community.

    Cloud White Board

    If you are feeling slightly apprehensive about your cloud-ward mobility then this webinar is for you. It is a great 101 course aimed at clearing up some of the murky confusion regarding:  data security, measurable costs (learn how one org saved $20,000!), reliability and its benefits.

    Ready to learn more?  Visit http://bit.ly/ngowebinar to download the recording, view the presentation slides and find links to great articles to help you navigate your cloud journey.

    Fear not and embrace it! Cloud computing (like Rock n' Roll) is here to stay.

    Please join us for our next nonprofit webinar Connect, Collaborate & Engage: The potential of SharePoint for nonprofits & public libraries on March 9th at 11:00am PST.

  • How technology is helping distribute food in Japan

    Food shortages and distribution issues have become a major problem in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In many areas, supermarket shelves are empty, particularly as people stock up on food and other items as they face uncertainty around the nuclear situation in the country. In Sendai, people in shelters are waiting for food to arrive, as transportation problems have slowed distribution.

    Second Harvest Japan, Japan’s food banking network is coordinating donations and distribution of food and other grocery items for impacted people of the earthquake and tsunami. The recent events have driven massive local demand for their services and many government agencies, relief organizations, shelters, and people in need of food are reaching out to them for help. Their existing website wasn’t set up for the rapid updates required in a time of disaster.  They needed a site that could not only support real-time publishing, but also provide high performance and the ability to handle large volumes of visitors from around the world.

    Microsoft, AidMatrix and Slalom Consulting have partnered to provide a cloud based community communication portal for Second Harvest Japan. The portal uses Microsoft’s Windows Azure and related Aidmatrix Microsoft-based cloud technologies for coordination across food donors, transportation providers and distributors in the Japan relief effort.

    Microsoft is offering the disaster response portal free-of-charge to government and nonprofit agencies working on relief efforts in Japan. Interested agencies should contact drcorp@microsoft.com.

    Cloud services and applications can be hosted anywhere in the world, avoiding issues such as damaged infrastructure and equipment, power shortages or telecommunications service interruptions. In addition cloud services can actively scale to meet increased demand.

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    The portal provides mass communications and light collaboration. It includes features such as situational awareness through mapping and information overlays, rich search and HTML content editing, social network capabilities, and RSS feeds. It’s particularly effective in disaster situations because it helps customers avoid latency or downtime issues that can be caused by a traffic spike during a disaster and there are no IT back-end and support costs.

    The team at Second Harvest Japan have already noted increased community activity which they attribute to the emergency portal.

    Microsoft is offering the disaster response portal free-of-charge to government and nonprofit agencies working on relief efforts in Japan.

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    Find out more about the resources Microsoft is providing to aid relief efforts here.

    For local Japanese information and contact details please visit here.

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