Technology keeps precious dollars focused on affordable home-building

Two days before Nancy Andrew’s official promotion from Deputy Director to Executive Director of Habitat Choptank, a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Maryland, the organization’s computer server crashed. “Despite the backups and redundancies built into our system, we faced the possibility that we had lost all of our data,” Andrew remembers.

Habitat Choptank, which serves Dorchester and Talbot Counties, helps qualified families become homeowners. Since 1992, it has completed 54 homes and currently has four homes under construction. The nonprofit has just six full-time and two part-time staff and relies heavily on volunteer labor and financial and material contributions to meet its mission.

Following the server crash, Habitat Choptank went without working computers for several weeks. In addition, Andrew and her staff feared that 19 years of donor information, grants, images and other critical files had vanished for good. “We had multiple system failures,” she says. “That’s never something you want to hear from your tech guy.”

Eventually, all but two months worth of data was restored. But the organization now faced another obstacle: coming up with the funds for a new server and software. “This was an expensive proposition we had not budgeted for,” Andrew says, reliving some of the panic.

Although Habitat Choptank’s office manager subscribed to the TechSoup newsletter, the organization had not kept up with TechSoup’s programs. “Luckily they were still there for us,” says Andrew, who requested a new Microsoft server and software, including Microsoft Office 2010 to upgrade the organization’s six computers.

Although the donations arrived quickly, it took nearly two months before the old files were successfully transferred and the new, “and much faster” server was fully up and running. Andrew says using Office 2010 has made document management, file sharing, and email and print mailings to partners, donors, and volunteers a breeze. Plus, the latest version of Microsoft Publisher has enabled staff to create the majority of its marketing pieces in house, including home dedication invitations. Andrew and staff also took advantage of TechSoup’s Microsoft Office tips and tutorials to get the most out of the donation.

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Habitat Choptank aims to get 25 additional families into new homes by 2015. “Receiving Microsoft donations from TechSoup was a huge savings for our nonprofit,” says Andrew. “It has allowed us to keep precious dollars focused on our affordable home-building program and increase homeownership in our community.”

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Microsoft operates a global nonprofit software donations program to bring the benefits of the latest technology to nonprofits everywhere. If you work for a nonprofit or there is a nonprofit in your community tell them how they can get a software donation from Microsoft.

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