California Arts Council

State of California

Got Tech?
A California nonprofit offers inexpensive technology solutions and tools for other nonprofit organizations

Published: 08-13-2008

The administration of any business these days requires technology, and arts organizations aren't exempt. But computers, software and related equipment and services can be expensive. Glenn Hirsch of the nonprofit TechSoup wrote to the California Arts Council how his organization can help any nonprofit with technology needs, and gives an example of a success story in the arts.

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As the economic downturn deepens and competition for audiences and volunteers increases, arts organizations need assistance in obtaining and managing the latest technology. San Francisco-based nonprofit TechSoup can help. TechSoup offers 501(c)3 organizations and libraries the most up-to-date software donations for a small administrative fee (as little as 5 percent of cost) through partnerships with the largest software companies.

TechSoup also provides on-line training and "webinars" about innovations in social networking to help arts groups grow their audience, raise more funds, and recruit more volunteers. (See example on the TechSoup website.) In the 8 years since TechSoup launched its product donation service TechSoup Stock, 13,248 arts and other culture groups worldwide have realized total technology savings of $109,942,516. These donations support visual, music and performing arts, libraries, museums and other cultural, historical and educational activities. The assistance can be invaluable, as a southwest dance company recently found out.

Moving People Dance Santa Fe was founded in 2001 by artistic directors Ronn Stewart and Layla Amis, who formed a nonprofit board. In 2003 Elaine Hausman joined the board, determined to help build a stable administrative structure with a foundation for growth. She understood that artists need an opportunity to do what they do best--create and teach--without the distraction of inefficient administrative tasks. First up? Establishing an accounting infrastructure.

Until 2002, the organization depended on spreadsheets and an old version of a check register program for their needs. Elaine, a former CFO, knew that an up-to-date accounting program would provide the needed level of control and organization.

Moving People Dance's budget lacked the funds to purchase an adequate accounting package at the commercial price. Fortunately, Elaine was already familiar with TechSoup and the assistance the organization can provide. She registered Moving People Dance, beginning a longstanding relationship between the dance company and TechSoup.

The first purchase made for Moving People Dance was QuickBooks, an accounting software program that can streamline a small business's accounting and other financial tasks. It marked the first of many tech transactions through TechSoup. To date, Moving People Dance has acquired Microsoft Operating Systems, Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, Adobe Acrobat and three refurbished computers.

The new software and hardware greatly increased the efficiency of the Moving People Dance staff. Within five years the organization's budget grew to $800,000, the dance school moved into a larger studio, four administrative staff came on board, and the number of youth served increased from 60 to over 300. This summer the company will be getting server software to more efficiently network their growing office. The organization estimated that they saved $17,000 by working with TechSoup for software and hardware -- and gained efficiency on the administrative side as well.

Nonprofit arts organizations interested in registering with TechSoup can visit the website, email or telephone 800-659-3579 x700.

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