Sunday, June 26, 2022

Non-profit tech supplier transforms model to better serve NGOs

The non-profit TechSoup, a supplier and distributor of tech equipment and financial resources to non government organizations (NGOs), is partnering with consultants at the Alexander Group to continue evolving their model to more holistically support NGOs around the world.

Beginning in 2019, San Francisco based-TechSoup, whose Canadian partner is the Centre for Social Innovation, and Scottsdale based-Alexander Group have worked together to support NGOs globally such as the Houston Area Women’s Center and West Africa’s Tostan. Currently, TechSoup’s non-profit network and social enterprise spans 236 countries and provides tech solutions, skills training, and community building to 1.3 million NGOs.

“We’ve gone through different kinds of needs that this sector has, but the market demands are changing in some ways. When we started off, organizations needed access to technology, they needed access to affordable technology. That’s kind of how our ecosystem started,” Shruti Ramaswami, vice president of Strategic Relationships at TechSoup, explained.

Ramaswami said that due to changes in the industry, and limited resources that come with being a non-profit, TechSoup began working with Alexander Group, who helped the company create new market strategies and meet customer demands.

“What we were trying to do is, how do we create a border market strategy that allows us to get to the next level of engagement that we needed with the organizations, with the resources that we have? So where do we have more of a technology led approach? Where should we have more of a human to human connection? And how do we do that in a way that allows us to really recognize what services we have to deliver based on where an organization is,” she said.

For example, if an organization is looking for help in figuring out which technology solution they should use, versus an organization that’s looking to do more with the technology that they have, different strategies and resources need to be applied. 

While Alexander Group usually works with for-profit companies, the company has expertise and go to market strategies that can be revamped to fit a non-profit organization perspective. 

“it’s interesting, because while the problem statements are the same, and the approach we took works, the culture and the organizational structure, where we picked up with TechSoup versus where we pick up with a ‘normal commercial’ is really really different,” Ted Grossman, tech principal at Alexander Group said. 

Grossman said Alexander Group worked with TechSoup on strengthening their skills when it came to being more customer-centric and seeing this from a customer point of view rather than just a product offering point of view. This included training TechSoup’s customers on the products they were offering them. 

A study by TechSoup revealed that only one in eight NGOs have the financial resources required to implement the digital strategies they need to succeed. 

“That’s a huge gap. If organizations don’t have a strong digital transformation or strong digital needs that are met, then they lack the resiliency and the effectiveness that they need to be able to support communities,” Ramaswami said.

Speaking on the study, she added that without digital strategies, non-profits won’t have the ability to use technology to serve their communities in crisis, which is fundamental.

To help solve this problem, TechSoup has worked with corporate partners and technology companies who want to be able to serve the communities that they’re operating with and do more to support the non-profit sector. The company has worked to create a model in which corporations could help out in that way more effectively.

“We need to reduce the barriers that exist for NGOs to adopt technologies. I think a lot of the work that we did with The Alexander Group helped us refine how we do that and how do we structure that a little bit more effectively,” Ramaswami said. “We serve a lot of non-profits, but we need to be a little bit more segmented in what the non-profit needs and where a non-profit is in their own digital transformation to be able to understand what resources they require.”

Grossman and Ramaswami echoed this, saying NGOs can use technology to more thoughtfully structure their models and maximize the impact on the communities they serve. 

According to Grossman, the two companies are not just working to provide affordable technology anymore, but are additionally working to provide access to courses and to other organizations that can help non-profits with different aspects of the technology. 

“There’s a whole bunch of different processes that have to come together from an end customer or community point of view,” Grossman said.

Additionally, Ramaswami gave an example of how even just simple technology is alleviating stress for non-profit organizations. 

She said a food bank in Hawaii that TechSoup was working with said that being able to have a QR code that quickly captures the information from somebody’s mobile phone when they’re getting food, versus having them verbally answer questions, simplifies the process for people who are coming in and looking for services. 

“Technology can do really essential things, but it can also provide a level of dignity and support to be able to help people who are trying to get services,” Ramaswami said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at sbalsara@itwc.ca

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