Tell us about yourself – I’m the Founder of IT4Causes, a local nonprofit that’s dedicated to delivering low-cost, highly effective information technology solutions to small and mid-sized nonprofits in RVA. I left a long career in technology at places like Capital One and Honeywell because, for me, it was no longer about the money, but about the impact I could have in the community.
What is the focus of your work? So many smaller agencies simply can’t afford traditional IT services, so they do the best they can with what they can learn on the fly and what a few volunteers can do. But to be effective and efficient in our data-driven world, you need an actual IT strategy, solid systems that work together, and people who can help you use them to great effect. Lacking this, so many awesome nonprofit folks in town are spending their precious time fighting technology instead of doing what they are great at: serving their missions.
What do you find most rewarding about your work? I really enjoy seeing the look of relief in the faces of different Executive Directors when I tell them how we can solve a particular IT problem for them. Whether it’s how to manage donors more effectively, making sure their data is secure and backed up, or just showing them a new trick in Excel to make reporting easier, I’m always delighted to find a way to give them back another hour so they can spend it helping others in our community.
What are some major challenges you have faced? When I first started down this road, the biggest challenge to me was how to make things more affordable for nonprofits. But by studying the problem space and talking to lots of people to stimulate ideas, I found we could reduce costs by about 90% from commercial rates by:
- Using a common strategy and solution set for as many clients as possible
- Charging lower than commercial rates for our staff
- Leveraging skilled IT professionals in commitments of 8-hours or less, and
- Raising money from people who “get” the impact of great IT
What’s coming next for you and/or for your organization that really excites you? I’m thrilled that our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was recently approved by the IRS. We’ve got some great things in the works now to raise money so we can keep on delivering solutions for so little investment by our partner nonprofits. To celebrate, we have a happy hour coming up at Isley Brewery on September 1, and we’re planning a family-friendly tech-themed event for the 4th quarter (stay tuned to our Twitter @IT4Causes or ConnectVA for more info on those). We’re also launching a mini-campaign around The Amazing Raise.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission? We’ve used it to post jobs and events. We now have capacity to provide services to more agencies, so we’ll start advertising our services there in the very new future. If you don’t want to wait, you can send me an email at Thomas.anderson@IT4Causes.org to learn more about what we do and if we’re a good fit for your agency.
Anything else you would like to share? Richmond has so many great opportunities to learn about nonprofits; in addition to taking a lot of Nonprofit Learning Point classes, I went through Leadership Metro Richmond (a fantastic program) in 2014 and I’m also taking graduate school classes in Nonprofit Management at VCU. I’m also serving as Board President at The Daily Planet.