Partnering to Strengthen Nonprofit Operations
As volunteers with local organizations ranging from the Dubuque Rescue Mission to Dubuque County Right to Life, Dave and Liz Cushman noticed many nonprofits faced a common obstacle: technology challenges including outdated hardware and lack of expertise that prevent them from operating and communicating efficiently and effectively.
With this need in mind, the Cushmans worked with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque to create Grants for Tech, an innovative grant program that funds technology improvements for Dubuque nonprofits.
The Community Foundation partnered with the University of Dubuque computer science program to assess nonprofit applicants’ needs and create three- to five-year technology plans. This “community-based learning” is a win-win, giving nonprofits a roadmap for future tech improvements and students hands-on experience.
During their first semester, the students provide a prioritized list of purchases, upgrades or training as well as cost estimates. Nonprofits can then choose to apply for grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 to assist with the cost of the projects, and are required to contribute matching funds based on their annual operating budgets.
Once grants are awarded, the students provide project management during their second semester to implement the recommended improvements.
“The Grants for Tech program was a game-changer for us,” says Rick Mihm, executive director of the Dubuque Rescue Mission. “Our computers were outdated and slow, and we could not share information via email. Now, we are able to share documents and information that previously was done by picking up the phone or walking down the hall. It has literally brought us into the 21st century.”