Stand Up and Make a Difference!
A group of volunteers with vast expertise in technology is working to help local nonprofits transform often haphazard back-office systems into solid computer-based foundations for success.
The group, called Technology Solutions for Non Profits, or TS4NP, analyzes an organization’s software and hardware capabilities and then builds solutions for an array of deficiencies, including networking, fundraising and accounting support, and security. Two part-time staff members handle client support and developing education materials.
TS4NP is the brainchild of the Greater Danbury Non Profit Resource Center, the Danbury Area Computer Society, the local Funders Group and The Network Support Company and has been in operation since July 2010. It is chaired by 30-year IBM veteran Sandra Rankin, who in addition to soliciting nonprofit customers is developing relationships with funding agencies.
“It’s a cookie-cutter offering to clients, a canned back-office suite,” Rankin said. “We provide programs that our research shows they ought to use. We store and back up information, manage their IT and provide training on how to use the programs. And we can’t find anyone else in the country who is doing this.”
TS4NP sets up nonprofits with Microsoft Office, email and a calendar, a donor management program called GiftWorks that helps with fundraising, and QuickBooks to manage finances. Data for each participating nonprofit are protected behind a firewall, stored on a remote server and backed up every night.
“Most of these agencies have part-time bookkeepers who send information to the treasurer,” Rankin said. “In many cases, the bookkeeper has all the information on his personal computer. They are one hard-drive failure away from a major disaster.”
Four agencies — Renewal House, which provides transitional housing, support and services for older (58-plus) homeless individuals in the Western Connecticut region; Housatonic Valley Cultural Alliance; Danbury Youth Services; and Ives Concert Park — have signed on for services.
The Meserve Foundation and Union Savings Bank have each contributed $12,000 to pay for assessments of nonprofits’ computer capabilities and solutions that include software, hardware and training. Western provides the server, the secure data center and some training materials for the nonprofits to use as their computer operations are improved. Other local funders providing support for program delivery costs are United Way of Western Connecticut, JP Morgan Chase, Savings Bank of Danbury, Pitney Bowes Foundation and First County Bank.
These financial supporters are part of the Greater Danbury Funders Group, a voluntary association of government, private sector and nonprofit organizations who collaborate to positively change the local community and who support TS4NP. Karl Epple of the Meserve Foundation, co-chair of the Funders Group, said the financial support will help small nonprofits achieve IT independence.
“The funders feel it’s a great way to leverage the funding, to improve the capacity,” Epple said. “Anything we can do to help capacity building we favor and fund. The process of putting technological capability into the individual nonprofits allows them to become more efficient, to gather more data and analyze it more effectively. When you look at the typical small nonprofits, they struggle to get the right information. Usually they are making decisions on gut feeling. TS4NP can change that for nonprofits.”
The Funders Group also supports software training as a key component.