Initiative linking nonprofits with tech firms pays off

Cause We Can, a charitable initiative that connects volunteer technologists with New Hampshire nonprofits to help them solve their technology challenges, logged more than 400 volunteer hours in its inaugural year, paving the way for a larger undertaking involving more New Hampshire nonprofits and techies next year.

In its first year, the initiative — which was the brainchild of Jason Alexander, managing partner of the Bedford-based BANK W Holdings LLC — connected five greater Manchester nonprofits with 41 volunteer technologists.

Over the project's 60-day duration, the techies logged 417 volunteer hours, which its valuation committee pegged at a worth of more than $86,000, Alexander said.

So many volunteers were interested in helping that they actually had to turn away about half of them, said Alexander, who hopes to leverage those volunteers to make the project larger next year.

At the beginning of the initiative, the techies sat down with the nonprofits to assess what needs they hoped to address with technology. For the YWCA New Hampshire, the state's largest crisis center for victims of domestic and sexual assault, that meant building a new database to help track donors and to make it easier for volunteers to schedule their shifts.

And for the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire, the state's second-largest animal shelter, that meant a redesign of its website and mobile solutions to make adoptions more user-friendly and efficient.

The abi Innovation Hub, a Manchester business incubator that runs the TechOut startup competition, received a database that made it easier for prospective resident companies to submit their information directly online.

Computer Technology Assistance Corps — a two-year-old nonprofit that collects donated computers and reimages them for low-income families — received a Microsoft SharePoint solution that cut back on the large amount of paperwork involved with computer donations.

And Families In Transition, which provides housing and supportive services for the homeless, received a Microsoft Access database that cleaners from its for-profit cleaning business can use to compile data in real time.

Even though the project technically lasted only two months, many of the volunteers said they intend to keep working with the nonprofits on developing the solutions.

"It's just great to have these relationships continue forward and perpetuate themselves," said Alexander.

Volunteers participated as individuals outside of work hours, but many recruited coworkers to help. Among the companies for which the volunteers work are WhippleHill Communications of Bedford, Long Term Care Partners of Portsmouth, Blue LAN Group of Massachusetts, Oxbow Software and Granite State Management and Resources and the NHHEAF Network in Concord.

Categories: Technology