Teaching adults to read, feeding the hungry, providing disaster relief: not-for-profit organizations are experts at delivering their missions. In order to help those in need, not-for-profits also rely on computers, networking, software, telephony — which all require special skills. “While a charity may know their volunteer database could be more effective, most don’t have a software professional to tackle the challenge. It’s a case of ‘who you gonna call?’ which can be expensive for a charity with a limited budget,” says Marva Bailer, board member of TechBridge, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping other not-for-profits use technology to do more and serve more people.
Bailer, an IBM business unit executive in Atlanta, Georgia, understands that technology has great potential to save money and create more capacity for organizations to deliver services to the community. “TechBridge is able to use technology innovation to transform a local charity in a way that furthers their work. The for-profit world uses technology to create an advantage for ourselves and our clients. For not-for-profits, TechBridge uses technology to create capacity…which is our way of saying ‘doing more good.’”
Enabling “more good”
Bailer tells how TechBridge helped the Tommy Nobis Center (TNC), which provides job training, employment and vocational support for people with disabilities. TNC’s client intake process was entirely manual and took more than three hours to complete. After assessing the center’s needs, TechBridge automated the process, eliminating the majority of the paperwork required for intake and reports on the center’s results.
TNC was able to increase the number of clients they could serve and reallocate personnel to areas with a direct impact on their mission—all without a budget increase. The new approach enabled TNC to save time and money, and provide better information to donors, while helping more individuals get into training programs.
Bailer considers the project with TNC to be an excellent example of how TechBridge understands the motivations at a not-for-profit. She explains, “At a non-profit, the impatience to succeed—to make the most of every single available resource, including technology—is driven because people’s lives or communities or health are often at stake. Sure, a system that doesn’t manufacture a widget the way it should is not a good thing, but a system that doesn’t get food to the hungry as quickly as possible is unacceptable.” Bailer adds, “It’s uplifting to be on a team and a board that gets that, and is giving of their time and expertise.”
Getting on-board with the board and having a ball
Always wanting to be prepared, Bailer made use of the IBM On Demand Community offering called, “Becoming an effective not-for-profit board member” to help her get ready to serve when she was elected to TechBridge’s board of directors. “We are a fairly formal board, in that everything is buttoned-up and professional,” Bailer says. “I knew that while I had a lot to offer there were some areas I just didn’t have much experience in yet. The On Demand Community presentation was a huge help to me.”
This year Bailer is co-chair of the committee which puts on TechBridge’s biggest event and fundraiser called the Digital Ball. While the ball gives TechBridge its most potent opportunity to create and deepen relationships with the more than 800 attendees, Bailer is equally excited about the Technology Innovation Award given at the ball.
Since 2002, TechBridge’s Technology Innovation Award has provided a grant to an area not-for-profit that best demonstrates how an improvement in technology has enhanced or will enhance its ability to deliver its mission. “For me, it’s a double benefit—we’re helping TechBridge do what it does so well, and we’re also directly empowering another charity to be the best at what it does,” says Bailer.
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.