Assessing Technology Needs

Apparo
City: 
Charlotte
County: 
Mecklenburg
Member Since: 
2004

What do children’s rights, crisis assistance, and the arts have in common? More than 100 nonprofit organizations in these and other fields turn to Apparo, formerly NPower Charlotte, for technology expertise to help them boost their services to the community.

“We are honoring Apparo for its innovative model of collaboration that links corporations’ technology expertise to support many nonprofits’ vital work in the Charlotte region,” said Jane Kendall, president of the N.C. Center for Nonprofits. “It also sets an example as a nonprofit that carefully evaluates the results of its programs.”

“Whether our clients serve homeless neighbors, bring arts and culture to the community, or protect the environment, they all need innovative technology solutions in order to achieve their missions,” said Tom Walsh, executive director of Apparo. “Our technology expertise allows us to contribute to the impact that nonprofits have in the Charlotte region – and the hope that they bring to our community.”

Strong business practices allow Apparo to draw support from a wide range of corporate partners, such as Accenture, Microsoft, and SunGard Global Services. It convenes a council of chief information officers (CIOs) from area companies to learn about the technology-related needs of nonprofits and help Apparo raise funds for its work.

“Apparo serves as an enabler of success,” said Rob Watkins, chair of the CIO Council and Chief Information Officer of Compass Group North America. “It gives us a great opportunity to have an even larger influence through the important work of the nonprofits in our community.”

Apparo’s mission is to empower nonprofits through information technology. Its name means “to provide” in Latin. It provides one-on-one consulting, managed services, and help to implement nonprofits’ technology and business solutions. It also matches corporate volunteers with a nonprofit organization for one to two hours of in-depth IT coaching assistance.

Apparo brings together groups of nonprofits to address common business challenges and create reusable solutions that can be shared across the nonprofit community. It recently assembled a group of nonprofits interested in using Apple® iPad™ technology to improve operations. The group included organizations with divergent missions, but it used a common technology platform to solve different problems.

“We have had an incredible time learning about other organizations' efforts to use new technology, and have enjoyed all of the discussions,” says program participant James Martin from The Mint Museum. “The iPads have transformed the way we orchestrate the many events here at the museum, and we couldn't be more thankful for these devices and support.”

Apparo also has created technology solutions that many nonprofits can use. In 2011, it launched a solution called VolunteerConnect that is available to any nonprofit that wants to manage all of its volunteer information in one place.

Apparo asks both nonprofit and business leaders to evaluate its work. Advisory boards examine each program’s results, operational expenses, and program process. Apparo’s Client Quality Assurance Program holds the organization accountable to deliver high-quality assistance to its clients. Accenture in Charlotte provides its own company employees as volunteers to run this program for Apparo.

“The N.C. Center for Nonprofits expects nonprofit organizations to evaluate the results of their work,” said Center Board member Joni Davis, a board member of the N.C. Center and vice president of large account management at Duke Energy. “The Center publishes a checklist of specific benchmarks to help nonprofits be effective and accountable.”

This checklist, called “Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence,”outlines good practices in nonprofit management, governance, and leadership. It is available at www.ncnonprofits.org/resources/principles

“Through these external reviews, we build trust among nonprofits, corporate partners, and funders,” said Lindsay Jones, Apparo’s communications and public relations manager. “The best way to assess the benefits that technology provides to our clients is to share their results.”

“Our clients’ stories are our stories,” added Jones. “Were they able to serve more families? Did they provide relief faster? Did they raise more funds?”

“We also noted that Apparo has an annual independent audit,” said Walter Davenport, a Raleigh CPA who serves on the N.C. Center’s statewide Board of Directors.

“Good financial management is important for all nonprofits, which must continue to earn the public’s trust every day,” said Davenport. “The N.C. Center lifts up these good practices and trains nonprofits to do the right things the right way.”

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Assessing Technology Needs