Celebrating Technology for Good in Washington State

After years of working to build the technology capacity of nonprofits, I have to admit: great examples of technology for good can be elusive. I often hear nonprofit organizations say, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” They want great examples from their peers for both inspiration and to share in the lessons learned. They don’t have time to find these examples. Nonprofit case studies seem to elude us all.

It is for this reason that Microsoft decided to work with our long-time partner, TechSoup Global, to sponsor the 2011 Tech for Good Contest for Washington State nonprofits and public libraries. We wanted to help highlight organizations using technology to engage their communities and create real impact. More than 50 Washington State nonprofits and public libraries stepped up to share their stories of technology for good. And they weren’t just good, they were great...

With so many wonderful entries, selecting three winners was not easy. But today, at our Tech for Good Leadership Summit in Redmond, Washington, we were pleased to announce the Tech for Good contest winners and share their inspirational and savvy examples of technology use with the 200+ nonprofit staff in attendance.

And the winners are…

Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project

Densho is a Seattle-based nonprofit that promotes awareness and critical thought about civil liberties through the preservation and examination of the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Densho needed a better way to capture, preserve and widely share the stories of a disappearing generation of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. In lieu of operating a physical museum, Densho was able to use SQL Server, Visual Studio, and ASP.NET to digitally collect, preserve and – most importantly – share these personal stories on its site, which includes over 10,800 photos and documents and over 450 interviews of Japanese Americans. Today, Densho has more than 150,000 web site visitors from all 50 states and 123 countries, a reach they couldn’t have dreamed of achieving without the help of technology.

Read Densho’s full contest submission >>

Visit densho.org >>

Seattle Works

Seattle Works' mission is to connect volunteers, develop emerging leaders and inspire dialogue. When the economy hit rough times, Seattle Works, like many organizations, saw both corporate and individual gifts decline. They knew they needed change how they were spending money in order to survive. So they gathered their courage and took a leap – to the cloud! To reduce high fixed costs related to their physical office space (rent, parking, phone service, hardware, and data storage, to name a few), Seattle Works implemented Microsoft’s cloud solution, Business Productivity Online Suite (“BPOS”). They now use SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, LiveMeeting (online meeting software) and Communicator to collaborate virtually. In their words, “Staff can go from an in-person meeting with a community partner in the U-District, to a staff meeting via Microsoft Live Meeting at a coffee shop across the street, to a training on the other side of town all without skipping a beat. No snow storm, car troubles or anything short of a real apocalypse can stop Seattle Works from connecting volunteers, developing emerging leaders and inspiring dialogue.” Seattle Works shifted its notion of what a workspace could look like, and shaved nearly $20,000 off their expenses in the process.

Read Seattle Works’ full contest submission >>

Visit seattleworks.org >>

YWCA Seattle, King & Snohomish County

The YWCA Seattle, King & Snohomish County advances the quality of life for women of all ages, races and faiths, and their families. But with offices and services spread over 32 geographical locations, they were struggling with efficient communications, collaboration and work processes. According to Cathy MacCaul at the YWCA, “Every minute wasted looking for or recreating a file, document or process was time wasted from the service of our clients.” Using Active Directory and SharePoint, they were able to network all locations together and create a robust intranet. “The ability to bring all locations into a centralized medium for information, document sharing, and collaborative tools has revolutionized this organization.” Further, they used InfoPath to automate more than 50% of their processes, moving key organizational processes from manual, paper-based processes to dynamic, electronic workflows hosted in SharePoint. Staff is collaborating more, better able to share mission-critical information, and can shift focus to what matters: the mission.

Read YWCA Seattle’s full contest submission >>

Visit ywcaworks.org >>

Congratulations to all of our winners, who will each receive a $5,000 cash grant, up to $100,000 worth of donated Microsoft software, and consulting services donated by NPower Seattle to help them continue their journey of IT adoption. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Finally, while our winners will provide inspiration to many nonprofits who want to “know what they don’t know,” I hope you’ll also take a look at the other stories in the Submission Gallery, each is a winner in their own right.

On a personal level, I hope these stories will encourage you to learn more about what technology can do for your nonprofit.  Why not to visit our software donations page to discover how you can receive software donations from Microsoft. 

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest, we all now have a fantastic gallery of nonprofits using technology for good. Here’s to continued learning from and with you!

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