Investing in Tech for Nonprofit Sustainability
Having a tablet to work with has been great and a big help to myself and our clients. I was able to help a client that does not have a computer and internet access complete his virtual job training orientation. I was also able to help two other clients in the same situation complete their leases online. Having a tablet also enables me to do some case notes while I am in the field instead of waiting until I am near a desktop. – Inspiration Corporation staff
It is really unimaginable how we would have navigated the pandemic without it when our old client database would crash if too many people were logged in at once. – WINGS Program, Inc. staff
Many nonprofits operate on tight budgets, so the cost of up-to-date technology can seem prohibitive. Available resources are prioritized for the day-to-day needs of programming. But, the effective use of technology can spawn innovation, improvements in efficiency, and better delivery on mission. More than justifying the costs, investing in tech can better prepare a nonprofit to better handle change.
The Thierer Family Foundation started with the simple mission: to increase the impact of nonprofit organizations by helping them leverage innovative ideas and technology in order to be more effective, efficient and sustainable. For us, this means more than just funding. Our team is composed mostly of technologists who work with the nonprofits to understand their vision and use collective knowledge to solve problems while amplifying impact.
Done effectively, technology adoption isn’t gadget chasing; its strategically selected digital tools and projects that empower staff and other stakeholders to deliver on the organization’s mission. It’s a culture of innovation that welcomes new solutions and ways of thinking. The Thierer Family Foundation is proud to have partnered with several Chicago nonprofits to help these tech dreams be realized.
During the pandemic, these investments in tech helped several of our grantees pivot their programming faster, expand their reach, and keep staff healthy while continuing to fulfill their missions. Essentially, these projects became their business continuity plans when the worst happened. As one of our grantees recently shared, “the impact of even just some of the solutions has been monumental, especially during the pandemic”.
Updating infrastructure with Inspiration Corporation
Inspiration Corporation is an organization that helps individuals overcome homelessness and poverty by providing social services, employment training and placement, and housing. They came to our team with a need to update and upgrade their technology. Their team of housing retention specialists were tied to old desktop computers, adding hours of travel time when they went out into the field to meet with families and landlords. Often times, they were visiting locations with unstable WIFI and were forced to make additional trips to the office to complete their work.
The Thierer Family Foundation team worked with the team at Inspiration to understand the gaps in their current system and to update their technological infrastructure. We provided tablets and cell phones while also helping to secure a cloud-based online data storage solution. This project has enabled their team to leverage technology in real-time at their visits and increased the efficiency of their team.
Moving to a cloud-based system with WINGS
WINGS is an organization committed to ending domestic violence. They approached our team with a big challenge. They needed to overhaul and update their data system. Their previous database was over 15 years old and prone to crashing. Staff would hand write notes while meeting with clients and later enter the information into the database. Additionally, data from the reports was not always reliable, so staff to manually double-check information. Doing the work twice was a huge burden and took time away from clients.
The Thierer Family Foundation team were able to help the team at WINGS implement a new cloud-based system that allowed for digital signatures, paperless intake, and tablets for their staff while ensuring client privacy. The project was completed prior to the pandemic. So when they needed to go remote, the process was much easier for all. Instead of needing to solve for a remote working experience, they were able to focus their efforts on their programming and ensuring the safety of their clients.
Ultimately, it’s not about technology, per se. It’s about strategic use of technology that lets the organization increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its work and the impact on its mission. The team at the Thierer Family Foundation are proud to support this important work and to see how technology can help to expand their impact.