TechFoundation is a public charity that strives to bridge the nonprofit digital divide by providing nonprofits with access to the technology, expertise, and capital they need to advance their goals.
TechFoundation grew out of Telecommunications Cooperative Network, a pioneer telecommunications firm founded in 1979 with support from the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation. TCN has served thousands of nonprofit organizations with discounted telecommunications services and information technology support.
In 2000 TCN's Executive Director, David Altshuler, examined the barriers preventing nonprofits from capitalizing on information technology. He identified lack of access to appropriate technology, technical know-how, and adequate financial resources as the critical barriers and created TechFoundation in 2001 to bridge this technological gap.
Through its online TechMarketplace, TechFoundation is building a database of businesses that provide discounted and donated hardware, software, and technology services to nonprofits. The organization is also piloting in Boston a program called Geeks for America — based on the successful Teach for America program — that trains recent college graduates to address a nonprofit's technology needs. The recruits, who commit to work for a nonprofit for one year, will receive fellowships that are supported in part by participating nonprofits and subsidized through corporate sponsorship and other philanthropic donations. TechFoundation hopes to expand the program throughout the United States.
Other TechFoundation initiatives include helping with a subsidized loan program for small to medium sized nonprofits in Massachusetts that enables them to secure funding for the purchase of technology equipment. Dubbed TechDollars, the program is provided by Massachusetts government agency MassDevelopment. TechFoundation also offers a series of seminars in Boston through its TechConnect program that helps nonprofit executives with technology planning, budgeting, and implementation. TechFoundation is working to replicate these programs nationally.
This year, TechFoundation has helped organizations such as ACCION International and the Children's Museum in Boston improve their technology systems. ACCION, which fights poverty by providing microloans to individuals in Latin America, built an organization-wide database with assistance from TechFoundation so that its field workers could access computer files from even the most remote locations. The Children's Museum has upgraded its entire technology system and is now in the process of creating an on-site computer-training center.
TechFoundation's Web site is informative and provides helpful contact information for both nonprofits seeking tech help and for corporations that want to provide expertise or equipment to the social sector.
TechFoundation seeks partnerships with organizations interested in bridging the nonprofit digital divide. It is through these partnerships that they are able to offer donated and discounted products and services as part of TechMarketplace. In addition to partnerships, TechFoundation looks for grant opportunities and donations to fund its initiatives.