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Making a Case for Mobile Internet: Nonprofits Share Best Practices In Interesting Case Studies
Michelle Warner, Director Mobile Citizen

November, 2012

Today’s nonprofits are mobile:

·         Needing instant access to online databases when on field visits

·         Delivering valuable services to the community

·         Canvassing activities and reporting

·         Online, on site event registration

·         Monitoring and updating social media sites out of the office

·         Streaming video for use in outreach, fundraising and training

·         Virtual office or telecommuting policies

 

And their tools need to be too.   With affordable mobile Internet, nonprofits can work more productively and cost-effectively, using a laptop, tablet or smart phone wherever and whenever they need it.    If your nonprofit needs to be more efficient, or effective, while on the go, it’s time to make a case for mobile Internet. 

Mobile Citizen's recently launched its reduced-price, lightning fast Internet service in Texas.  Nonprofits in other parts of the country that have already made the case for mobile Internet in their organizations share their best practices:

Feeding America (CASE:  Save more, serve more)

Feeding America's mission is to feed the hungry through a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Approximately one third of Feeding America’s national office staff are on the go, working with food banks, agencies and advocates on the road to raise awareness of the issue of hunger in the United States.

In addition, Feeding America has many staff whom work from home and other at home service providers were considerably more expensive.   And the organization needed a cost-effective alternative to hardwired Internet for backing up mission critical operations.

And with all those devices and all that mobility, Internet costs were adding up.

Feeding America looked at the organization’s Internet bills and realized he could save 75% by working with Mobile Citizen, a low-cost mobile Internet provider for nonprofits.

For every dollar raised, they could provide eight meals to the people they served.  That also meant that for every dollar saved with reduced-price mobile Internet, they could feed more people in need in their community.

Feeding America has built a clear case for mobile Internet as a tool to reduce costs, empower mobile staff and cost-effectively back up mission critical operations.

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago  (CASE:  Community Outreach)

The Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) is a community-based mental health provider with more than 20 licensed clinical social workers crisscrossing the city delivery counseling and support services on a daily basis.

 Mobile Internet connectivity was a must for enabling productivity and true community outreach, but it came at a cost. That is why when C4 learned they could cut their costs from $60 a month to only $10 a month, the business case was an easy one.  With affordable mobile Internet, C4 not only could expand their program to more clinicians and clients, they could afford additional netbooks.

C4 originally signed up for mobile Internet because it gave clinicians instant access to information they needed to effectively do their jobs: internal databases, medical records and case histories. When responding to clients in crisis, it is never in the office, at their desk, tied to their computers. It is at a school, a home or even the hospital. Clinicians now access information when, and where, they need it. And they log service notes immediately so there was no need to drive back to the office to do so.

As soon as clinicians were given mobile Internet, they found new and innovative ways to use it. In working with clients, they could now connect them with 'safety net' resources such as shelter or food bank locations and information such as rules and steps for applying for Medicare and Medicaid.

Philadelphia FIGHT  (CASE:  Digital Inclusion)

Philadelphia FIGHT  delivers consumer education as a key component of the social services they deliver in the community. So what happens when nearly half of the individuals you serve do not have access to the Internet, one of the most powerful information gathering, consumer education tools available?

You bring the Internet to them!

That is what Philadelphia FIGHT did as a part of its Critical Path Project. Since 1987, Critical Path Project has harnessed the power of the Internet to get the latest information to the wider community. Having access to the Internet and the Critical Path AIDS Project website means easy access to the full range of potentially life-extending or life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and referral information. Research showed that more than 40% of Philadelphia residents did not have Internet access. To complement their 27 public computer centers providing digital literacy training and information, Philadelphia FIGHT knew that a large percentage of people still did not have access to education and the reliable health information and resources they provide. Low-cost mobile Internet from Mobile Citizen helped FIGHT’s Critical Path Project roll out two mobile computer labs bringing services to these underserved communities.

With a list of 10 locations with the greatest unmet need, Philadelphia FIGHT is diligently working to close the digital divide by ensuring all those needing access to reliable healthcare information have it.

 

Servicios de La Raza (CASE:  Delivery of community services, cost control)

For Denver-based nonprofit Servicios de La Raza, delivering on their mission -- to provide comprehensive, culturally-responsive human services to Colorado communities in need --  often has them ‘on the go’.

Program coordinators frequently conduct offsite visits in the delivery of their services and that means they rely heavily on laptops and having mobile Internet access. 

·         The youth programs coordinator can reach more Denver youth to provide services in schools, rec centers and other nonprofits spread throughout the city. 

·         The health benefits acquisitions program (ENTRA) coordinator can reach more clients and therefore enrolls more individuals in our benefits programs.

Having mobile Internet helps Servicios de La Raza address a wider scope of service delivery and flexibility when meeting clients.  Thinking ahead to the future, Servicios de La Raza now keeps mobility in mind as they consider and create new programs to serve Colorado communities.

Heart of Hope (CASE: Powerful fundraising tool)

Heart of Hope Ministries International needed a different way to boost marketing and fundraising activities.  High-speed mobile Internet made Skype, an application allowing for phone calls over the Internet, possible at their off-site fundraising event.  This tool connected fundraiser attendees with beneficiaries of their program – Romanian orphans, widows and families in desperate need of social services. 

Heart of Hope also uses mobile broadband in its outreach efforts with potential volunteers.  Staff make a more personal connection with volunteers by having access to the organization’s website, program information and success stories while meeting outside the office.

Ronald McDonald House (CASE: Affordable telecommuting or mobile office policies)

The Ronald McDonald House has a very strict policy for sick employees --  stay home to prevent transmission and protect the families and children in the House. The ability to have a true ‘mobile office’ including Internet access ensures staffers have the same access to applications they had before, enabling them to work productively off-site. 

Mobile Citizen is a nonprofit organization providing low-cost mobile Internet ($120/year or $10/month per account) for schools and nonprofits.  For more information, call 877-216-9603 or visit www.mobilecitizen.org.



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