Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Today at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, we’re announcing the “What’s Your Cause Challenge” which will help support the fantastic work our partners have underway with nonprofits around the world. We believe that together we can have a greater impact, so we are committing to provide free Microsoft software to youth-focused nonprofits nominated by the Microsoft partner community. To kick start this effort, we are challenging our partners to nominate 500 youth-serving non-profits by August 31, 2012.
The initiative is an extension of our existing software donations program which is designed to give nonprofit organizations access to the technology they need, when they need it. We currently provide software to more than 40,000 nonprofits around the world each year.
At Microsoft, the success of our business depends on working closely with our business partners around the world. Many of these partners are already investing significant time and resources in working with youth-focused nonprofits in their local communities and we want to support that work.
So here’s how the Challenge works:
You can follow all the latest news from the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference at the Digital WPC or on Twitter use the hash tags: #WPC12 and #mspartner
Not a Microsoft partner but work with a nonprofit?
If you’re not a Microsoft Partner, but have a nonprofit you support, please find out how they can access a software donation from Microsoft here.
Fast and efficient communication is often the backbone for any large nonprofit. This is especially true for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC), a quickly expanding and diverse organization that spans more than 120 agencies. It is committed to matching mentors with Canada’s youth in 1,000 communities throughout the country.
BBBSC believes in the value and values of mentoring.
As it grew, BBBSC realized that it needed a better way to keep volunteer mentors, participants, and donors in the loop — and to ensure clear communication with staff when they were out in the field. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM clearly met all of our needs, even if they were to shift later in a dramatic fashion,” says BBBSC’s Dynamics CRM system manager Malcolm McAuley. “It’s a very flexible, scalable, and robust system.”
Because BBBSC functions as a federated model, mapping technology to the organization’s mission is often a complex team effort. “No technology frameworks or requirements are set,” says Jonathan Leard, program manager for the Annapolis Valley and Halifax agencies. “Each agency makes its own decisions according to the specific needs of local demographics. And while some are more progressive and eager to embrace new technology, others don’t have the staff or the funds, or might not be aware of the benefits.”
McAuley consulted with individual agencies to help them assess their needs and illustrate how upgrading their technology could have wide-ranging benefits. Challenges proved not only financial, but also practical. Training and maintenance — having an employee who is skilled at performing upgrades, for example — are important considerations, especially when many agencies serve large territories with limited staff. The Annapolis Valley agency covers 7,000 square km with just four employees. “Having access to the right software, especially on the road, factors largely into an agency’s success,” says Leard, who managed technology upgrades for two agencies.
Recently, more than 80 of the organization’s agencies adopted Microsoft Dynamics CRM, representing a user base of 745 people. “This solution allows staff to access important case information from their tablets or mobile devices and get what they need on the go,” explains Leard. “This kind of flexible and immediate access is invaluable to our work.”
Prior to implementing Dynamics CRM, much of the organization’s technology was far from cutting edge. To meet the new system’s basic requirements, a number of agencies were challenged with having to simultaneously upgrade their Microsoft operating system and Office suite software. Many of the agencies turned to TechSoup Canada for help. “TechSoup Canada’s donation program made upgrading our system possible,” says Robin Benedict, the Annapolis Valley agency’s executive director. “We were able to affordably acquire Microsoft Office, Simply Accounting, and Windows 7 and are now prepared for any future CRM upgrades and are fully up-to-date.”
McAuley is especially excited by the prospect of having more agencies utilize TechSoup Canada. “It frees up time and money so staff can focus on what is most important — finding the right match for the thousands of children and youth across Canada waiting for mentors,” he says. Today, more than 28,000 mentors are building positive relationships with more than 33,400 children and youth in 1,000 Canadian communities.
Unlocking a child’s true potential creates a future where anything is possible.
BBBSC has provided technology support for participating agencies in a variety of ways, including monitoring the new CRM system performance. It also serves as a liaison with Microsoft to ensure the system is reflective of the needs of the organization’s collective mission. Leard heads up a Dynamics CRM committee, which helped establish a core set of organizational standards. He also created a mediated monthly CRM forum where staff can get answers to their questions.
“Thanks to Microsoft upgrades acquired through TechSoup Canada and Dynamics CRM, all of our information is in one place,” says Leard. This translates to easier access by agency employees, as well as increased security and protection. “We can see in our notes what was said in the last call with a donor or mentor, which makes our customer service that much more effective and consistent.”
One of BBBSC’s next big CRM-related ventures will be exploring if and how they can apply this technology to its donor management system. “Having important information about our program participants and donors all one place is crucial.” There’s also a lot to explore in terms of HR management. “Technology now plays a key role in our day-to-day operations, and we’ll forever more be reviewing how it can best serves our needs,” he says. Together, Microsoft and TechSoup Canada are committed to supporting BBBSC on its journey, every step of the way.
“There’s no one right way to grieve,” says The Dougy Center’s executive director, Donna Schuurman.
That’s why this organization in Portland, Oregon, provides children, teens, and young adults with a safe place to process the loss of a close friend or family member. The Center allows participants to openly and honestly talk about how they feel about death, one of our culture’s most taboo subjects. Staff offers peer support groups and a variety of interactive activities — from art and music to exercise in the high-energy “volcano” room.
With several locations — including an administrative building, a training center, and two satellite offices — six program coordinators, a dozen full-time employees, and more than 50 ongoing peer groups, remarkable organization and clear communication have always been paramount to the center’s success.
But on the night of Father’s Day 2009, the efficiently run organization was dealt a heavy blow: an arson fire burned its 5,000 square foot administrative office to the ground. “It was a huge tragedy and the building was beyond repair,” says Schuurman of the converted 1920s wooden home. “Our lives changed overnight.”
Staff members salvaged what they could and quickly set up shop in what had been the primary training center. They recovered the Center’s servers, which had luckily been housed in the basement, while satellite offices in West and South Portland took on more trainings to compensate for the missing building.
“Scheduling meetings and sharing information can be a challenge for any organization, but after the fire, it became a nightmare for us,” says Schuurman. The question of who was where, when, became a constant hurdle. The situation was amplified by Schuurman’s busy travel schedule, who frequently leads offsite trainings around the globe.
But with challenges come opportunities. Staff recognized that upgrading the organization’s Microsoft Office Suite from 2003 to 2010 could help keep the Center running smoothly during the uncertainty of the fire’s aftermath. With the help of TechSoup, they made a donation request and planned for the software’s implementation and staff trainings.
“The new version of Office has made tracking the comings and goings of staff and coordinating meetings so much more manageable,” says Schuurman. “And the new, user-friendly features in Word and PowerPoint have made a huge difference in the creation of our fundraising presentations and training manuals.” Schuurman calls being able to outline these often-dense texts with a table of contents “nothing short of miraculous.”
The Dougy Center’s new administrative office broke ground in April 2012.
After a year of back and forth with insurance companies, the organization broke ground on its new 11,000-square-foot facility on April 18, 2012. The administrative offices will be upstairs, while the bulk of programming and training will happen on the first floor. Schuurman hopes staff will be able to move in by the end of the year.
“Our Microsoft donations will continue to help us as we transition into our new space,” says Schuurman. “We have minimal technology needs, but having the right tools in place means being able to deliver even more programming to youth and their families in need — now and well in the future.”
By Microsoft Disaster Response Team
Recently our team had the opportunity to attend the Computerworld Honors Program which recognizes organizations that use information technology to promote and advance public welfare, benefit society and change the world for the better. Event attendees came from organizations big and small spanning industries from financial services to transportation and everything in between.
It was a wonderful opportunity to hear how others are using technology to create change. We were honored to have been invited to participate and receive an award in the collaboration category for Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal. Used in the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami as well as the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado, Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal is a solution designed to give government agencies a single location that fosters information sharing and collaboration among first responders, and is used to disseminate public information to individuals and the news media.
During the Japanese crisis, food shortages and distribution issues were a significant problem. The shelves in markets were empty as people in the community stocked up in response to the nuclear situation. Additionally, transportation challenges delayed delivery of food to shelters. Second Harvest Japan, Japan’s food banking network, with the help of Aidmatrix, used Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal to communicate rapid updates to the government agencies, relief organizations, shelters and individuals. In addition, the flexible structure of the portal enabled them to integrate several solutions into a single website making it easy to find a local food bank using Bing maps, make donations of goods and services and volunteer at a Second Harvest Japan food bank.
Following the Joplin tornado, the portal was, as it always is, hosted on Windows Azure in Microsoft data centers, eliminating the need for first responders to run it on local computer servers. Responders used the portal to identify safe driving routes, integrating a Twitter feed and Bing Maps to track team members and leveraging it to disseminate information to the public. The portal became a one-stop workshop for action plans, site photos and progress reports.
As the number of natural disasters continues to grow, the Microsoft Disaster Response program views technology as a driving force behind empowering government responders and NGOs to quickly react, delivering critical relief services, bringing families back together and ultimately saving lives. The Microsoft Disaster Response program is aimed at improving the response capabilities of lead response organizations during times of disaster while remaining committed to developing long term solutions, strategies, and relationships that can foster faster recovery and lasting stability.
As a result of these efforts, Microsoft has been able to turn its technology expertise into solutions, including the Disaster Response Portal that address some of the biggest challenges emergency service organizations face.
We were honored to be chosen as an award recipient by Computerworld for Microsoft’s Disaster Response Portal. A full list of winners can be found here.
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