Best Buddies Australia’s former executive director Mark Trevaskis once compared his organization’s technology to a ‘dog’s breakfast.’ “We began small with just one PC and eventually added a laptop,” he says. “It was a mishmash of this and that, including whatever software had come on the computers we had received as donations.”
Founded in the United States in 1989, Best Buddies now has a presence in 50 countries. Best Buddies Australia helps intellectually disabled people develop meaningful friendships by pairing them with non-disabled “buddies” of similar age, geography, and interests. The goal of these introductions is to foster relationships that grow over time and encourage fun interactions that help boost self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills.
Best Buddies Australia Pair of the Year 2011, Liz and Daniel, riding in a Helicopter courtesy of RedBalloon.com
Over the last few years, Best Buddies Australia has added new staff, 15 computers, and a new server. The organization currently has six staff members, 400 volunteers and works closely with more than 30 teachers in local schools. As Best Buddies Australia grew, Trevaskis recognized the need to increase productivity and security by upgrading its technology. Reliable file sharing and the ability to catalogue and store numerous photos, documents, and financial records was essential. Says Trevaskis, “We were looking for solutions to help improve our organization’s overall communication without spending a mint.” says Trevaskis. DonorTec, the donation program of TechSoup Global Network partner Connecting Up, recently helped the organization acquire Microsoft Windows Server, along with Windows and multiple licenses of Microsoft Office.
Among the Microsoft donations it received, the Windows Server 2012 User Client Access License (CAL) has proved invaluable to Best Buddies Australia. This server software authorizes a user to access Microsoft Windows Server from any device, anywhere. “It has given us the ability to easily manage and share documents, link office products, and receive emails on the phone, laptop, or PC,” Trevaskis says. “It’s also given us the flexibility we need to interview kids and adults in multiple locations, offer training sessions, and work one-on-one with families and parents.” Staff members further benefit from more flexible work hours and the option to work from home.
Using the improved technology infrastructure, a Best Buddies intern can now connect to the organization’s network to create documents, add photos, and email them to a manager for approval from a remote location. This makes it easier and faster to create new marketing materials. Trevaskis states, “The donations from DonorTec have made our work capabilities much more robust.”
As it is often the case in a small but growing nonprofit, Trevaskis is responsible for managing multiple tasks for the entire organization. For multi-tasking, “Microsoft OneNote has been the ideal tool,” he states. This note-taking application helps capture, manage, reuse, and store information, which can then be custom-indexed. Microsoft OneNote information can be used as the foundation for reports and presentations.
The Best Buddies team is poised for even more growth over the next five years as they continue to spread the word about Social Inclusion and recruit new volunteers. “Our Microsoft donations from DonorTec mean we can benefit from the latest in technology while we spend our money in a more compelling way to meet our mission,” Trevaskis says.