Why They Are Awesome: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County is a local charter of a national nonprofit with a perfect four star rating by Charity Navigator. This means that they work extremely hard at making sure their funding goes to helping kids instead of administrative overhead and infrastructure. They background check, interview, and match mentors and children who need mentors in a really unique way that builds communities and helps kids reach their full potential.
With the influence of a caring adult, independent research shows that kids are less likely to skip school, far less likely to use illegal drugs, and far more likely to attend college. The advantages of mentorship are transformative for many children in our community, so it is a joy for us to be able to use technology to help their staff and volunteers be productive.
Challenges: Many vendors who serve nonprofits don’t realize what it’s like to be part of one. A pending project to update some old servers would have taken dollars away from critical programs and threatened their four star rating.
Solutions: Rather than sink money into their aging Exchange Infrastructure, we added some storage, did some load balancing on existing hardware, and leveraged our relationship with Google to get them set up with Google Apps for Nonprofits. For qualifying nonprofits, Google offers free email hosting, spam filtering, calendaring, and cloud storage. Servers running Lotus Notes were consolidated and virtualized and now run on inexpensive hardware as a virtual machine, reducing electricity costs. Significantly, we helped them apply and get approval for access to a state program that provides voice and data services to organizations who help the community. This move alone is projected to save them over $29,000 in telecom and data spending over the next 5 years. With charity licensing programs from Microsoft and other vendors, administrators were able to make necessary upgrades at a very reasonable price point. As a matter of principle, we also discount our branded services, consulting, and helpdesk support by 20% to qualifying nonprofits.
That Isn’t A Circus Tent: Shortly after we started working together, the Tustin office was tented for termites. Key staff had planned to work remotely for a few days during the process. It seemed like a good plan until the internet went down. It turned out that at that time, the office relied on a line of sight microwave wireless transceiver for internet access, and it was literally blocked by the tent. Ignoring signs that said “PELIGRO” with skulls and crossbones on them, ducking under caution tape, and stepping over plastic tubes obviously intended to distribute toxic gas, we went inside the tent and hastily set them up on a cellular device while a team of exterminators waited impatiently in the parking lot to turn on the insecticide. No pressure. Although this might have literally caused a few nightmares, this early experience with them helped us begin to build trust and credibility that we have worked hard to maintain.
You can learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, and how you can donate cash or time to make a difference in a child’s life at www.bigbrooc.org