Last Friday we had the pleasure of announcing Seattle Works as one of three worthy winners of the Tech for Good Contest sponsored by Microsoft and TechSoup. With so many great entries, it was hard to pick just three winners, but Seattle Works rose to the top for their innovative use of the cloud as a way to reduce expenses and rethink collaboration during tough economic times.
Two years ago, Seattle Works – like many nonprofits – was faced with sobering reductions in corporate and individual giving. With an eye on surviving a sustained economic downturn, the organization decided to turn to one of their guiding principles – innovation – to ensure they were positioned to not only survive, but to emerge more agile and flexible than before.
Seattle Works took stock of their expenses to see where they could make cuts to get ahead of the new economic reality. They quickly realized their physical office space was a substantial monthly drain when they considered the total cost of rent, parking, servers, storage, phone systems, and more. Embracing their innovative core value, they decided to take a leap – to the cloud! They traded their more traditional office space for a smaller, more flexible workspace, and added “virtual workspace” by implementing Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite. “BPOS,” as it is commonly referred to, includes Microsoft Exchange Online for email and calendaring; Microsoft SharePoint Online for web-based collaboration portals and document sharing; Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and peer-to-peer audio calls; and Office Live Meeting for web and video conferencing.
Having these tools at their disposal, but not having to host and maintain them on their own servers meant Seattle Works was able to define a new way of working. Now, Seattle Works staff still collaborates, shares files, meets and chats, but instead of commuting to the office every day, they have a flexible workspace. In their words, “We shifted our notion of what a workspace looked and felt like… When all was said and done, the net difference was almost $20,000, which – for a small nonprofit like Seattle Works – is a considerable cost savings!”
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“Microsoft BPOS has enabled our team to work from anywhere in the world – literally! We have sent weekly emails from Washington DC, from 10,000 feet in the air, and even from Egypt!” said Bevin Wong, Communications and Development Coordinator for Seattle Works. “Staff can go from an in-person meeting with a community partner in the U-District, to a staff meeting via Microsoft Live Meeting at a coffee shop across the street, to a training on the other side of town all without skipping a beat. No snow storm, car troubles or anything short of a real apocalypse can stop Seattle Works from connecting volunteers, developing emerging leaders and inspiring dialogue.”
Further, Seattle Works has also been able to use SharePoint Online to engage their board and give them a dedicated space to collaborate and share files. “Our board is comprised of smart, talented and very busy individuals,” said Bevin. “The time that they spend on behalf of Seattle Works is time we want to maximize and use wisely.” Giving them their own space to collaborate on SharePoint helps them access what they need without rifling through old email attachments, freeing board members up to focus their time and talents where it can help Seattle Works most.
You might say that Seattle Works has performed magic with the help of the cloud. Despite shrinking their physical office space and their expenses, the organization has grown its number of volunteers, volunteer hours, and its programs in the last year. They are truly an inspiring example of how technology can help nonprofit organizations do more with less. Congratulations to Seattle Works on their Tech for Good Award, but most importantly for tapping their innovative spirit and the potential of technology to engage volunteers and inspire new leaders in our community!
You may not be ready to downsize your office space, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from the cloud. To learn more about how the cloud could help your organization, attend our free webinar on February 23rd, “To the Cloud: What it is and why it matters to nonprofits and public libraries,” or visit www.microsoft.com/cloud. Also, Make sure you are taking advantage of the technology resources available to you for little to no cost by visiting our technology donations page.
Learn more and get involved with Seattle Works at www.seattleworks.org!
Did you miss yesterday’s Tech for Good Contest post? See how Densho used technology to preserve history.
To see all the entries in our Tech for Good Contest, visit www.showyourimpact.org/microsoft.
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