Leveraging Mobile Internet Access: Nonprofit Stories of Leading by Leaving The Desk

If you or anyone in your organization has a laptop or tablet, I want to encourage you to leave your desk. Go on. Get out. Increase efficiency. Decrease costs. Get things done. Thanks to wireless technology, your staff can do more, communicate more, be more efficient simply by leaving their desks.

Gone are the days when wireless technology was simply a tool for sending an email or presenting a website. Nonprofits from across the country share their stories for successfully leveraging wireless, or specifically mobile internet, as a powerful tool in each and every area of their organizations: community outreach, programs, fundraising, communications, operations and IT.

A Tool for Enabling Community Outreach

Native American Youth & Family Center’s homeless youth staff, healthcare youth advocates, gang outreach staff and foster care staff all meet with youth and case workers where they live and work. With an internet-based documentation system and case management tool, mobile internet allows for easy access to their systems from the field. Online assessments are done offsite — at schools, homes or coffee shops — immediately, with no driving back to the office to enter notes. Productivity goes up and costs go down. Responsiveness goes up and idle time goes down.

A Tool for Extending Programs

Philadelphia FIGHT’s mission is to deliver social services via consumer education, and mobile internet access is one of the most powerful information-gathering tools available to them. Unfortunately nearly half of the individuals Philadelphia FIGHT serves do not have access to the internet. Using low-cost mobile internet, Philadelphia FIGHT rolled out 2 mobile computer labs to bring services and education to under-served communities.

For Feeding America, saving more meant serving more. One-third of Feeding America’s national staff is on the go, and with all that mobility and all those devices, mobile internet costs added up. By cutting their mobile internet costs by 75%, they are able to extend their programs to feed more of America’s hungry. For every dollar saved, Feeding America now feeds eight more people in the community.

A Tool for Boosting Fundraising

When Heart of Hope Ministries International needed to boost marketing and fundraising activities, they turned to mobile internet. High-speed mobile internet made video streaming via Skype possible, connecting attendees of their fundraisers with the people who benefited from their program – Romanian orphans, widows and families in desperate need of social services.

Illinois Action for Children needed to establish a temporary office in order to act on and fully maximize a new grant award. Within days, not weeks as with other more traditional alternatives, they were able to quickly and cost-effectively bring 10 people on board to administer their two new programs: ‘Putting Illinois to Work’ and ‘Sprout’, a healthy food initiative for low-income school children.

A Tool for Improving Communication

Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook is dedicated to promoting informed involvement in Philadelphia’s public schools. Their nonprofit writers often attend meetings throughout the city, providing immediate content and analysis of interest to constituents. When the content is visual, high-speed mobile internet makes it easy to upload video files. In addition to contributing blog content, their reporters monitor and update relevant social networking sites in real time because of their easy access to the internet wherever they go.

A Tool for Increasing Staff Efficiency

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago is a community-based mental health provider helping clients in crisis. More than 20 social workers criss-cross the city delivering support services on a daily basis so their work is more ‘on the go’ than in the office. On the go internet gives staff mobile access to internal systems including medical records and case histories allowing them to work more efficiently from the field.

For other organizations, mobile internet allows for easy telecommuting policies. When staffers have the same access to applications and files as they do in the office, they can work more productively off-site. This is particularly important for the Ronald McDonald House where there is a very strict health policy for staff – stay home if you’re sick to help prevent transmission and protect the families in the House.

A Tool for Overcoming Infrastructure Challenges

The Anti-Cruelty Society received a grant from Humana Chicago Benefits, enabling them to upgrade their animal intake and tracking process. Great news if they had the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately their 1933 office building, with a poor data infrastructure, presented a challenge. The renovation needed to implement traditional technology was going to cost up to $55,000. With affordable mobile internet, the Anti-Cruelty Society accepted the grant and got back to their mission.

Today’s nonprofits, including these examples, always need to be connected, even when they are not in the office. So, regardless of the role they play in the organization, we encourage nonprofit employees to leave their desks. Travel to provide valuable services to residents and groups. Go out to recruit new volunteers and new forms of support. Build awareness and advocates by getting out of the office and into the community.

When your mission is mobile your tools should be too. If the goal is to work more productively and cost-effectively, nonprofits leveraging wireless to work wherever and whenever they need to have more options.

It’s all about what you can do when you’re connected. To read more about how these and other nonprofits stay connected while on the go, visit http://mobilecitizen.org/nonprofit-case-studies.


Michelle Warner
Mobile Citizen
Michelle Warner is the Director of Mobile Citizen, a nonprofit organization providing affordable mobile Internet. She has spent her career helping nonprofits of all sizes, and is passionate about helping them build their capacity so they are able to innovate and grow.