[This post is the 5th part of my preparatory work before applying to the Echoing Green (EG) fellowship program. You can help me earn 60.000 US dollars for the take-off of wecena by commenting this post with suggestions about how to best make my case to Echoing Green (EG). You can follow the latest posts for that work using the echoinggreen tag on my blog.]
Echoing Green suggests the following steps before applying to their fellowship program :
Find at least three other organizations that work in your field, work with the community you will serve or work in the same way that you hope to. You can find these organizations by talking to experts, reading articles, and searching the Internet. […]
Wecena services are pro bono information technology services offered to non-profits by IT services firms with additional consulting and support from us. Wecena services aim at filling the digital divide between innovative non-profits and modern corporations, with a focus on big IT projects (more than 1 man.year of staffing needs) and on non-profits with some presence in France. Who’s trying to address similar issues and how do we differ from each other ?
- NTEN: an international nonprofit organization based in the United States, NTEN is the trade association for nonprofit technology assistance providers. We share similar values and goals. But NTEN does not provide non-profits with access to pro bono IT services. And it has no strong presence in France.
- CompuMentor provides technology assistance internationally to other non-profit organizations. Its TechSoup website provides non-profits with access to donated IT products (software and hardware) but not to pro bono service.
- Some IT corporations directly offer non-profits pro bono IT services. For instance, Accenture France donates about 10 full-time equivalents of IT engineering or consulting work to non-profits organizations. The TechSoup website lists at least 2 smaller US firms offering some pro bono services. Several others private pro bono IT initiatives probably exist elsewhere but may not be publicly advertised. Wecena services and Accenture France pro bono missions are similar in nature (IT engineering, integration, training or consulting). They differ in some of their characteristics. Accenture France dedicates consultants for individual missions that may last up to 6 months. Individual interventions for wecena services offered by other IT firms may be much less shorter because they are based on the « on-the-bench » periods of time consultants go through when they are not yet assigned to a new commercial project. As a result of this constraint, wecena services introduce a huge rate of staff turnover in the pro bono team. This cause of lower individual productivity is partially compensated by the use of specific management methods and tools, by the additional support and consulting we directly offer to non-profits and by the rate at which individual consultants are turned into volunteers when their pro bono intervention ends. Note also that all IT firms can’t afford offering pro bono work the Accenture way: smaller firms can’t afford dedicating 6 months of a consultant to a non-profit ; and firms offering engineering services rather than consulting services have much shorter « on the bench » periods of times (the cost of pro bono work for them in therefore higher). Wecena services are costless to IT firms because they are funded by « on the bench » costs and tax savings. Long-duration pro bono missions cost much more to donors. Wecena services allow IT firms to give a try at pro bono services and invite them to go further into corporate philanthropy at their own pace. It lowers the barrier to entry for would-be philanthropist firms.
- Other IT firms in France (for instance Steria and its corporate foundation) offer grants to innovative non-profits with strong IT needs. However they don’t offer pro bono consulting but rather encourage employees to volunteer on their free time (optionnally with a yearly couple of work days donated by the firm as a complement).
- The Taproot foundation is an American foundation. It aims at engaging the America’s business professionals in pro bono service. It offers 4 practices : marketing, HR, strategy and… an Information Technology practice. This IT practice offers 3 possible pro bono projects : a donor database, a simple website or an advanced website. Each of these projects have an estimated value between 30.000 $ and 35.000 $ which may include some software licensing cost. It does not offer pro bono grants out of a limited number of US cities. Wecena services have a primary focus on French non-profits. Wecena services are limited to IT projects (no other practice). The lowest value wecena services can offer per non-profit is twice bigger (50 000 EUR) and even aim at delivering a value of 100 kEUR to 150 kEUR per non-profit in IT staffing (software licenses not included). The Taproot foundation model of pro bono services probably does not have a specific focus on the « on the bench » periods of time for IT consultants whereas the wecena model does have such a focus which allows lower cost for IT donors and therefore, potentially, a higher volume of donation and a high number of donors.
- Betobe, Coobalt, Passerelles & Compétences are French organizations which offer matching systems between volunteers and non-profit organisations to foster collaborations online or offline, with or without a focus on IT needs. None of them target IT firms and pro bono service.
- Mobee and Koeo are French web platforms matching non-profit needs with pro bono donors. None of them have a particular focus on IT needs. None of them specifically focuses on marketing IT pro bono service as an ideal pro bono solution for IT firms. They don’t offer additional IT consulting services to non-profits. Similarly to the previous category of organizations (Passerelles & Compétences-like), they usually grant support for short missions (a couple of weeks long) rather than focusing on « big » projects whereas wecena services are designed for IT projects with a big staffing need (at least one man.year). Other similar platforms are emerging with a focus on complementary or redundant niche non-profit markets (environment, culture, poverty, education, …) rather than a focus on industry-specific (or skills specific) pro bono solutions.
Note to commenters: for this post, don’t spend too much time on my English spelling/grammar/style because this post may not be included in my EG application. I’d rather like to know what you think of the clarity of how wecena services relate or differ from each of these other actors and models.