REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 3, 1999 — Justine Selman, a working mother of four, knows the power of computers. Computers mean that she and her children can develop skills critical to their futures. “We are really helped by being more computer literate,
Even my kids’ teachers are surprised by how much they know on the computer. Especially my first-grader — she’s a whiz.”
In recognition of its work to provide low-income families like the Selmans with access to PC technology, Mercy Housing is among 10 recipients of this year’s Nonprofit Technology Leadership Grants from Microsoft. Awarded annually, the Nonprofit Technology Leadership Grants provide large-scale contributions of software to nonprofit organizations that have offices in at least three states.
The grant program is a central component of Microsoft’s mission to equip nonprofit organizations with technology solutions, enabling them to achieve increased operational efficiency, enhanced internal and external communications, and better program and service delivery. Along with the grant to Mercy Housing, Microsoft this year will award a total of $7.1 million in software grants to Habitat for Humanity International, ACCION International, American Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund, Trust for Public Land, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Salvation Army-Cascade Division, American Lung Association, and the Boston-based service organization City Year.
Living in Decatur Place, one of Mercy Housing’s properties in Denver, Selman works as an administrative assistant at the organization, but also volunteers in Decatur Place’s computer lab. Her four children also use the lab to work on homework and explore the Internet. Thanks to the Microsoft grant, approximately 5,000 adults and children like the Selmans will have access to upgraded technology centers at many of Mercy Housing’s properties.
“This grant really is a wonderful thing,” says Mercy Housing’s David Subry, director of management information systems, of the $500,000 award. “It’s difficult for housing organizations to find the funds necessary to provide state-of-the-art technology to residents. But the technology is so important. It enables adults to find employment, and teaches kids computer skills that will help them in school and in life. It helps our residents gain life skills.
But it’s not just at the computer labs where the grant will be used. “We’re doing some great things with Microsoft technology at the corporate level,” Subry says. “Internally, by getting a large donation for information systems, we’re able to divert dollars to things we really need to get in place. To have a grant this size will make a tremendous difference. We’re going to put in an Exchange server for our e-mail, so that we can communicate more effectively with all our residences and staff. And we’ll be using Windows 98 so that we don’t really have year 2000 issues.”
Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is another grant recipient. Known worldwide for building simple, decent, affordable homes, HFHI has built more than 75,000 houses, providing over 370,000 people in more than 2,000 communities with safe shelter.
With more than 700 employees and hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide, including many from Microsoft, HFHI has been working in partnership with families since 1976. The grant of $501,000 from Microsoft will support a much-needed technology upgrade at the national office and 16 regional offices across the country.
According to Paul George, director of information services for HFHI, the organization will begin developing an intranet for regional offices and the national office in order to share information more efficiently. It will also replace 500 older-generation computers with Windows NT-based machines, as well as add 30 Windows NT-based servers. As part of the upgrade, HFHI will use Microsoft Office Professional for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.
HFHI believes these technology upgrades are essential to support its rapid growth.
“Many of the products provided through this grant program are the building blocks that will enable HFHI to begin creating of a communications infrastructure linking regional support centers, affiliates, and even vendor partners and interested media sources,”
“The money saved from the HFHI budget could potentially provide homes for as many as 14 American families in need. As you can see, there is a benefit in terms of impact on people’s lives in addition to the benefit the software provides to our employees and partners.”
For Habitat for Humanity, it’s all about building houses that turn into homes.
Microsoft’s Nonprofit Technology Leadership Grant program, now in its third year, has donated more than $18 million in software to 20 nonprofit organizations nationwide. “Microsoft is proud to help these organizations,” says Kimberly Ellwanger, senior director of corporate affairs at Microsoft. “Each year the grant program is growing, attracting more and more applicants. This reflects the growing demand for technology at nonprofits. Just like businesses, they need the technology in order to continue to provide their services into the 21 st century.
Prior recipients have included the National Urban League, The Nature Conservancy, The March of Dimes, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.
The largest microlender in the Americas, ACCION International is a $248,000 grant recipient this year. Since 1961, it has provided $2.2 billion in loans as low as $100 to people who have the inventiveness and desire to be entrepreneurs but lack access to any kind of financing. Says Robin Ratcliffe, ACCION’s vice president of communications: “What we’ve found is that our clients have the creativity and a huge amount of know-how, plus the willingness to work hard, to run a successful business, but they are credit-starved.”
n represents a typical ACCION client. A single mother working to support her family in San Antonio, Texas, Alarc
n came to the U.S. from Mexico City in 1986.
“I came here with my husband and two-year old son looking for opportunity,”
“We started a business in 1988 selling used clothing and tapes and CDs at a flea market. During the day, I also cleaned houses.”
By 1995, Alarc
n had four children. When her husband left her that year, he took half of the business with him.
“I had to fight for my business. It was what fed my children.”
Two years later, Alarc
n learned about ACCION from a friend.
“I had never borrowed money before,”
“I didn’t speak much English, I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t have papers. I was so nervous when I went to ACCION Texas, but Lorraine, a loan officer at the time, gave me confidence. She talked to me like she knew me. We talked about my family in Mexico.”
n used her first loan of $1,000 to buy tapes and CDs to strengthen her business, ERA Tapes, located in the Farmer’s Market in San Antonio.
“I remember, I paid it back quickly,”
“I worked all day and night, getting only a couple of hours sleep.”
n has since borrowed a total of $13,500 from ACCION, each time repaying her loans in full.
“This grant is enormously important to ACCION. We have been hampered in the past by outdated servers and software,” Ratcliffe explains. “Having a uniform technology throughout our network of microlending agencies means that we won’t run into glitches.” It will also help ACCION’s affiliates communicate among themselves, sharing information and best practices, furthering ACCION’s mission of reaching more people across the United States and Latin America. Thanks to the cost savings achieved by networking, ACCION will be able to direct those savings into programs for its clients.
“This is what the Microsoft Nonprofit Technology Leadership Grant program is all about,” Ellwanger says. She notes that during the years the NTLG program has been in place, grant recipients have remarked on the enormous benefit of having access to the latest technology solutions and being able to put more resources into direct services for their clients. “This year’s grant winners showed leadership and creativity in working to help others,” Ellwanger says. “Microsoft is pleased to be a part of that.”