In Today’s Media: ConnectVA, RTD, and more.

Breaking News IT4C

Monday, August 17th has been a busy day for us in the office! Between our official 501(c)3 designation and preparing for future events, it’s a wonder we haven’t spent a fortune at the coffee shop across the street.

ConnectVA posted a Spotlight on our CEO and Founder, Tom Anderson, which you can read here.

And the Richmond Times Dispatch gave us a small article about achieving our IRS designation letter, which can be read here.

Even with all of the attention we’ve received from the media and our supporters, we still need  your support to help IT4Causes grow, and make our community a better place.  One great way to do that is to come celebrate with us at our “Happy 501(c)3 Hour“. Located at the Isley Brewing Company on September 1st from 5pm-7pm, we welcome you to come connect with us and other business professionals both in the IT and Nonprofit worlds.  And when helping us help others involves helping yourself to BEER, why wouldn’t you?!?

Throwback Thursday – From Maps to Apps

paper map copy

Do you remember rotary phones, baud rates, or punch cards? (Maybe not😊) Technology has brought about huge shifts in how we do things in just the past few decades. As part of a new blog series, IT4Causes will take you back once a month or so to how some things used to be done and how they can be done now with evolutions in technology. This post will be shared on Facebook so feel free to comment/share your memories/photos there!

Today’s throwback is to the good old-fashioned paper map. Explorers of old developed the maps that have guided individuals for centuries-whether it’s across town, across country, or around the world. While they still exist in places, it is less and less often that you get from point A to point B with their help. Today, cars come equipped with GPS that can get you to your destination while apps can guide you as you travel on foot, whether it’s around a new city or a new event.

I recently attended a special event where thousands of participants navigated their way around a convention center with a specially created mobile app that not only provided background information about speakers but also kept attendees up to date on conference happenings with special announcements. It helped connect a large number of attendees efficiently and effectively.

IT4Causes is using stable, secure, and sustainable information technology solutions to help build a better community right here in Richmond. As IT4Causes helps local small to mid-sized nonprofits, they in turn can focus more on their core missions. To learn more about IT4Causes, visit IT4Causes.org and sign up for the newsletter. IT4Causes is also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

Making the Most of Your Internship

Internships are awesome, even if you do end up getting paid in chump change …or not at all (which will probably be the case for most you come across). No, really! Internships pay you back in a priceless form: experience. It’s the perfect practice course for the adult world. My current internship with IT4Causes not only taught me a lot but gave me a practice ring for current skills I needed to hone. It also led me to great job prospects which have led me to this current entry. This is a bittersweet farewell as I transition from ‘Koren the intern’ to ‘Koren the volunteer’. But before I embark on my new journey, I thought I would impart some knowledge I have learned!

IT4Causes Koren

My starting advice would be to find an internship in your junior or senior year of college (or sooner!). I admit I was a little late on this front and regret it. While things have thankfully worked out, my bank account would have looked better if I would have started sooner. Internships can lead you to job offers and having a job lined up right after graduation is a lot better than eating PBJs every day. I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “I just don’t have time for that!” Be sure to look into your university’s policies involving class credits. Some universities allow you to turn your internship opportunity into class credit. If not, take a good look at your weekly schedule and try moving things around before you decide you don’t have time. While a night in with the roommates playing Settlers of Catan is super appealing, remember an internship is a step forward in securing your future and your friends will still be there on the weekends.

Never back down. If given a task you don’t know much about or haven’t done before, don’t pass it to someone else or decline. Take it on and do your own research first. We are lucky enough to have the world’s information with only one click of a ‘search’ button. Use it! Every challenge leaves the prospect of growth. Though here’s a huge secret involving this piece of advice: you will fail at least one of these challenges.

But the best part is: that’s okay! Most people would appreciate your initiative and being corrected on a task only means you’ve become better today than you were yesterday; that’s the real value or experience. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, seize them. Otherwise, how are you going to learn anything?

Now that you have some basic advice, are you interested in taking my place? IT4Causes is looking for new interns! There are two internship positions open. One is the Nonprofit Management Internship involving responsibilities such as working with staff and volunteers to help the agency grow in many different ways, including marketing and branding, events, business development, networking, partner agency management and more. The second is an IT Implementation Intern, responsibilities include working with our Project Manager and teams of skilled IT volunteers to implement best-in-class small business IT solutions at deserving nonprofit agencies across RVA, learning all about cloud based solutions and more! Be on the look-out for full descriptions of each position. Stipends will be offered for each one. Happy interning!

Cost Breakdown

90+% Off! How IT4Causes Makes Great IT a Bargain for Nonprofits

Cost Breakdown

Information technology can get expensive very quickly! From strategy consulting to project management to hardware and software costs, the price is often insurmountable for small- and medium-sized nonprofit agencies, who end up suffering with inferior systems.

IT4Causes helps solve this problem in several ways, so let’s walk through how we do that. We’ve done a number of projects since our inception last year, and we talked to a local for-profit IT shop to get their rates for similar work. Applying those rates to our work, the total commercial value of what we promised to customers through May ’15 would have been about $90,000. This doesn’t include any overheads or the investments we’ve made in developing our common strategy or playbooks.

Of course, since we are a nonprofit, we don’t charge the same rates as our for-profit peers Where the peer organization charges over $150/hr for consulting and project management services, we charge $100/hr and $65/hr for these services, respectively. We also provide most of the hours on our projects with volunteers, which have zero net cost to our nonprofit partners.

We also use community donations, grants, and events to raise funds to cover services provided directly to our partner nonprofit agencies as well as overheads. Gifts from individuals and unrestricted grants from foundations enable us to further reduce what we have to charge for our services. And sometimes, we are able to connect our partner charities to grant sources like Flashpoint Fund, so they don’t have to pay for any of the service directly.

After accounting for all of these factors, our total charges to our nonprofit clients will only total $7,100 for the $90,000+ in services they are getting, representing a 92.1% discount from commercial rates. While we expect these savings to vary based on the amount of funding we can raise, it’s clear that our client agencies are getting a great bargain on the IT services they need to serve their clients and missions.

Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Cowdrey

Emily Cowdrey

My name is Emily and I volunteered with IT4Causes. There is often more than one event on the horizon for this organization but volunteering is easily balanced with full time work. I helped organize a volunteer extravaganza where non-profits were introduced to skilled volunteers. The attendees were featured in the shooting of a new video to promote IT4Causes. Another event I participated in was a showing of the movie Office Space at The Byrd Theater. It was fun to watch the creativity of the team in the planning of this event and the movie-goers appreciated the fun activities (like smashing a printer)! Since volunteering with IT4Causes I have begun a three year management development program with Hajoca. We are a multi-national wholesale distributor for plumbing and HVAC supplies. I will spend time in each position at the company before running my own profit center. IT4Causes helped me to polish my networking skills while job searching and was a fun and rewarding experience all around!

We’ve Joined Club 501(c)3!

Approved

We are beyond excited to announce that our application for 501(c)3 status has been approved and we are officially a certified tax exempt organization.

We want to extend our gratitude to the members of our board; George Welch, Michael Pirron, and Terry Sherman.  And also thank Won-Suk Choi for his counsel on our legal matters, without which we may still be lost in a sea of applications. The combined effort of our board and volunteers along with the low-cost business model we presented to the IRS has earned us our official designation as Richmond’s premier 501c3 technology services provider.

What does this mean?

Nothing has changed in our services to the community, providing low-cost IT solutions to other nonprofits. Having 501(c)3 status allows IT4Causes to fundraise more efficiently. Now all past, current, and future donations can be considered as tax deductible. With nonprofit accreditation comes greater event and fundraising opportunities like involvement in The Amazing Raise and other nonprofit specific assistance.

What can you do?

Everything you are doing! Keep volunteering your time, skills, and support to IT4Causes and your community. If you are interested in becoming a part of the team as a volunteer helping Richmond area nonprofits with IT needs, assisting with marketing and branding, or other behind-the-scenes work, reach out to us at info@IT4Causes.org.

Setting Sail for Lighthouse Labs

IT4Sailing

IT4Causes has applied to Lighthouse Labs Accelerator program. This is Richmond’s premiere incubator program for nurturing new, tech-based startups. If accepted into the program, IT4Causes will receive $20,000 to help us grow, co-working space among the other chosen start-ups to help each other flourish, invaluable mentoring sessions from some of RVA’s best business and start-up leaders, and participation in a launch day where we will present our ideas to potential investors, the media, and the community.

Through this innovative program we seek to hone the Information Technology services we provide, learn to advertise our work better, and to strengthen our strategies to benefits the RVA community. This will help us immensely in promoting our cause and helping Richmond become a better place, but we need your support! Go to the link below to follow our page on the F6s site, which will show the Lighthouse judges that you support us!

https://www.f6s.com/it4causes2015?fb_ref=app_share

Partner Spotlight: The Beacon Tree Foundation

IT4Causes-SLider-BeaconTree
Beacon Tree was founded in 2008 by parents Tom and Diana Leahy who were motivated by their own children’s struggles with clinical depression. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with mental health which can make it hard for children to get the resources they need. For the parents who do get past the stigma, the mental health field can be very hard to navigate. However, with the right guidance and help from agencies like Beacon Tree, mental health can be treated effectively.  
 
“It’s scary because it has no shape, no color. You can’t mend it with a cast, or close it up with a suture. You can’t isolate it under a microscope or see it with a x-ray. It’s a ghost. And it’s a matrix of genetic predisposition, environmental triggers and harmful, even monstrous manifestations. The severity and breadth, from minor attention deficit disorder to severe depression and schizophrenia; from lack of productivity to mass murder and suicide. It’s messy and it’s ugly.”-Founder Tom Leahy
 
1 in 5 children in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder. A statistic like that can seem daunting, especially if you find yourself as a parent in this situation. Beacon Tree Foundation is dedicated to being an advocate for the family, providing support and financial resources to help children struggling with mental health issues.
 
IT4Causes has set up Beacon Tree’s Office 365 program and also currently working on their donor management system. In the future we will help them implement even more effective campaign management. For more information on Beacon Tree Foundation and their initiative please visit their website www.BeaconTree.org.

Collaborative Case Management Initiative

We’ve all had this experience:

You go to your doctor and fill out the forms. Your doc says you need to see the specialist, so (hopefully) you make the appointment, show up, and the first thing you have to do is fill out more forms, asking you for the same information. In your anxious state, you might forget some information, and the person entering the info into the new practice’s system might misread your handwriting when entering the data. The system is inconvenient, error prone, and inefficient.

In the nonprofit world, this happens for all kinds of services, not just for health services. Most agency provides services to clients in a case management model, where an intake process is used to collect information about the client, which helps the agency determine the best services to provide, either directly or through referrals. The agency then tracks the client’s progress, adjust services as appropriate, and hopefully documents the outcome of the client when they no longer need the agency’s services. Of course, funders are very interested in knowing how effective specific programs are, so case management can also help an agency demonstrate how its efforts affect the outcomes.

CM final

All of this requires a lot of information to be collected, maintained, and summarized for reports. Many small and midsized nonprofits use Excel spreadsheets and even paper forms to try to track all of this data. While commercial case management systems are available, the price and complexity are beyond the means of smaller agencies.

IT4Causes is working to change that. We’ve formed a Task Force of agencies in and around Richmond to select and deploy a Case Management system that can help not just one agency but several local nonprofits. We’ve gathered requirements, surveyed the market, evaluated many options, and have narrowed the viable field down from dozens of possibilities to a just a couple of the best systems. We’re also exploring options that will allow participating agencies to collaborate and share information appropriately and securely to streamline processes and improve outcomes. We’re looking for more agencies to participate with us, so we can lower the cost per agency while increasing collaborative opportunities to improve outcomes.

We are envisioning a scenario that looks more like this:

A parent working multiple part-time jobs walks into an agency because they are still having trouble paying their bills. The parent completes an online form to document their employment status, income, job skills, number of kids, daycare arrangements, transportation, etc. A caring case manager meets with the client to discuss options, and together they agree that the following services would be helpful:

  • More affordable daycare
  • Money management classes
  • Employment counseling

The case manager knows local programs that can help in these areas, and asks the parent if it’s OK to share their info with those agencies and they agree. The case manager goes into the case management system, finds available time slots at those agencies that fit the client’s busy schedule, and creates appointments. The client goes to the appointments, and is greeted not by more complex forms, but by staff members who already knows their circumstances, and who have already come up with suggestions they can discuss. The staff members make notes in the system, which then go back to the case manager, who is immediately updated on the progress. Soon the case manager can see that the parent has arranged for better daycare, is taking better care of their finances, and has found a better job with the help of the employment services. Of course, the agencies are doing this for many clients, and are using the case management system’s reporting tool to prove the effectiveness of their programs.

If you work or volunteer for an agency that could benefit from this type of system, or if you are an IT professional who would like to help us build a better data ecosystem to help RVA nonprofits provide better services, please let us know by contacting Thomas.Anderson@IT4Causes.org

Networking Nuggets

This week, IT4Causes intern Koren Dodd provides some insight into the art of Networking.

Working at IT4Causes has exposed me to a variety of networking groups like Career Prospectors, Synapse, IT4Causes’ volunteers, and more. IT4Causes is all about networking, and we are always working to connect with new agencies that would like to improve their IT systems as well with volunteers who want to help us deliver great solutions.  I started out with the bare minimum level of networking skills and worked my way up. I want to tell you what I learned during my experience and what worked for me! However, remember these are just tips from my own personal experience. Every person beats to the rhythm of their own drum. I’m hoping you’ll find this information helpful when establishing your own networking rhythm.

 Koren Networking

The first thing I noticed which works with any type of networking is simple: appearance. Put on that outfit that makes you feel like a queen. If you feel good, you will perform well. This also helps with the confidence tactic. Confidence is everything. I apply this to the tone of my voice, my body language, my words and even my clothes. People are drawn to confidence. In one of my first networking meetings I walked into a crowded room, knowing no one. I decided to jump right in and started conversing and navigating the room. A person approached me almost immediately asking how this meeting operated since they were new. When I told them I also was new to the meeting, they were shocked. They thought I was one of the administrators in charge!

 

Starting conversation can be tough and sometimes a little awkward. Typically, it’s good to start out with someone who is standing alone, looking around. Both of you could probably use a good warm-up before delving into the crowd. It’s always best to put the spotlight on the other person first. Everyone loves to know you’re interested in them. Ask them questions about what they do or maybe even their hobbies. Remember, you’re trying to establish a relationship-not make a sales pitch. That’s for later!

 

Lastly, there is the follow up. You should have obtained the other person’s business card at some point during the conversation. I typically start out with an email during the same week:

“Good morning, my name is Koren we had met at the Synapse meeting on Monday. I’m really interested in learning more about your company. Would you want to meet up for coffee sometime?”

 

Keep it brief and if they haven’t responded in about a week’s time I would call, leaving them a voicemail if need be. The important thing is to not let the other person feel like you are crowding or bombarding them.

If you’re interested in reading the full article I wrote on networking, please visit my LinkedIn page here. If you have any questions please feel free to comment or send me a message. Happy networking!