Guest Contributors

When it Comes to Technology, Do Charities Lag or Lead?

IBM donates services and software to NGOs around the world to support their work in addressing issues related to social services, education, disaster recovery and workforce development. In 2012, IBM made 25 grants of SmartCloud for Social Business, amounting to approximately $500,000 in value to organizations doing exceptional work in these areas. In the article below, the Head of Technology Services at UK non-profit Lasa writes about how her organization uses IBM SmartCloud technology to help other non-profits serve their clients more effectively.


Lasa is a medium sized non-profit based in London, UK. We provide strategic and innovative training and services to organisations who in turn provide expert independent welfare rights advice to citizens. In addition to this, one of our passions is helping other small and medium sized non-profits make the most of the benefits that the strategic use of technology offers – to enable the delivery of services that create positive social impacts.

Whilst it is widely acknowledged in the government, non-profit and commercial sectors, that huge efficiencies can be gained by delivering information and services digitally, there is also plenty of evidence to support the need for support and advice in this area. In many ways, the non-profit sector is seen as lagging behind the business sector when it comes to using technology. However, many small and medium sized businesses face similar difficulties to non-profits in overcoming the challenges of making the most of technology to deliver business goals. And actually, there are many great examples of non-profits excelling at using technology creatively to deliver innovative services, raise funds and create operational efficiencies in a way that many parts of the commercial sector are yet to embrace effectively.

For example, YouthNet is a completely digital non-profit that offers a range of advice, information, support and volunteer matching services to young people aged 16 – 25. And the child’s i foundation, an organisation that reunites abandoned children with their families instead of sending them to orphanages, ran a highly successful fundraising campaign back in 2010. Through the thoughtful use of social media, child’s i raised £10,000 in 38 hours to fund a life-saving operation for a child.

In November 2010, The Pennies Foundation launched a service which allows consumers to donate a few pence of their “electronic” change when they use payment cards in-store or online. In the first few months, more than 440,000 consumer donations – totaling well over £100,000 – had been received. Other charities such as The Charity Service exist almost totally in the virtual domain. Through their MyGift initiative, The Charity Service enables smaller charities to set up appeals, collect funds securely online and integrate their appeals with their social media activity.

Lasa has made great use of digital tools on award-winning projects such as our rightsnet and revenuebenefits website, which won the Technological Innovation award at the LexisNexis Taxation Awards 2012. More recently, we have used crowd sourcing to gather thoughts from digital charity leaders in the sector. The related slideshow, posted on the social media websites SlideShare and Storify, had over 8,000 views during October 2012, and trended on SlideShare. This is not to minimise the challenges that a huge number of charities and non-profits face in their day-to-day strategic management and use of technology – which is why sites like our ICT knowledgebase remain an important resource to the sector.

As one of the first charities in the UK to benefit from IBM’s generous donation of its SmartCloud for Social Business collaboration software – part of IBM’s portfolio of SmartCloud services – we’ve also been able to make good use of the platform to get the technology message out more widely through delivering webinars and instructional videos. Internally, the SmartCloud platform has helped us manage remote meetings, and has given us the chance to experiment with delivering our services in new ways.

During the latter half of 2012, we ran six webinars (serving nearly 140 attendees) on a variety of topics including social media, cloud computing and data protection for frontline organisations working with children and young people. Having access to enterprise-level software that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford has strengthened Lasa internally, and has enabled us to extend our impact and reach, and ultimately benefit the non-profit sector.

Aba Maison is Head of Technology Services at Lasa.

More Articles About How IBM SmartCloud Technology Improves
Delivery of Non-Profit Services:

SLIDESHOW: Digital: What Every Charity Leader Should Know

Doing More With Less: Why Professional Management Is Essential for
Social Services Providers

Moving People from Survival to Self-Actualization

Helping to Transform Healthcare in the Poorest Regions of the World

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