Technology donations for nonprofits made easy: What has benefited German nonprofits for nearly four years now, is now also available in Austria. As of late September, the online technology donation portal Stifter-helfen.at – IT for nonprofits went online with a press conference in Vienna and media coverage in various print and online titles. It gives Austrian nonprofits access to over 100 products from three software companies.
Among those three: Microsoft. The company was also among the three initial donors in Germany, and it was instrumental in setting up the donation platform in the early 2000s in the US with the American non-governmental organization (NGO) TechSoup Global. In Germany, the online technology donation portal Stifter-helfen.de – IT for nonprofits is operated by Stiftungszentrum.de, a social enterprise that offers support and services to foundations and donors. The platform was launched in October 2008 and distributes software and hardware donations to nonprofits in Germany. Nonprofits only pay a minimal administration fee to cover the operating and development costs of the platform.
In not even four years, well over 8,000 nonprofits received more than 270,000 product donations with savings of well over 71 million euros. In the same period, the number of IT donors grew from three to 19, and the number of products on the platform almost tripled from roughly 100 to nearly 300. When the portal went online, the goal was clear: Enable – with the help of technology donations – as many nonprofits as possible to better fulfill their missions.
The problem for many nonprofit organization leaders is: Ever more difficult funding and budgets getting stretched thin do not make it easy to find ways to maintain internal organization and serve the community. In other terms, nonprofits are increasingly strapped for funds, making ends meet in terms of finance, infrastructure and technology. And this is where the donations via Stifter-helfen.de come in. Yet, when launched it was unclear as to how the nonprofit sector would take to this idea. But soon the numbers, inquiries, and thank-you emails from nonprofits would speak for themselves.
“Thank you so much for supporting, assisting, and fostering our nestwärme network. We are so happy that — with the help of your generous donation — we can now support our families in a more flexible, efficient, and professional manner", wrote, for instance, Petra Moske, Founder of nestwärme e.V., a German nonprofit that accompanies and helps families and single-parents with a handicapped or chronically ill child. And this is a typical comment from one of the more than 8,000 nonprofits in Germany that benefited from the technology donations so far.
When the word of mouth spread about the donation platform, nonprofits often thought the product donations to be too good to be true, as Clemens Frede, the first employee from the German Stifter-helfen.de team recalls. But soon the nonprofits took to the platform and the German team realized that the portal was to take off. This was the time, when the idea was born to bring the donation program to Austria – together with Microsoft and TechSoup Global.
So the search for a local partner began. After months of research and face-to-face talks, the decision was clear: the NGO Fundraising Verband Austria became the partner of choice being responsible for communications, marketing and networking the donation platform to the nonprofit community in Austria. So nonprofits between Vienna and Feldkirch as well as between Salzburg and Villach could benefit from technology donations like nestwärme e.V. in Germany.
nestwärme received via Stifter-helfen.de a comprehensive Microsoft package consisting of, among others, Windows Server 2008 and 2003, Dynamics CRM 4.0 Professional, Exchange Server 2010 Standard, SQL Server 2008 Standard, Windows 7 Professional and Office Professional Plus 2007. It now has the right technology to manage its many services, clients, 80 staff and over 1,400 volunteers in 10 facilities. The Microsoft donations helped nestwärme to upgrade all its PCs and to set up a completely new IT infrastructure.
Above all, the donations improved the countrywide management of nestwärme’s staff and projects. For example, the entire team has now access to the extensive nestwärme database, it can enter a search word and find the necessary information – irrespective of time and place. Microsoft Dynamics CRM software has also helped staff efficiently coordinate and manage employees, projects, and activities across the organization’s different facilities. Employees can now work better together and collaboration with volunteers is easier.
The Stifter-helfen.at and its IT donors hope that soon many Austrian examples such as nestwärme will follow. The team is also keen to develop the donation platform further and bring more IT donors online – similar to Germany. So Austrian nonprofits can help their communities better with the right technology.
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