In August, Team Rubicon underwent a digital transformation thanks to a $4.7 million gift from Microsoft Nonprofits. Philanthropy New Digest reported that the gift included in-kind contributions of technology, services, and training.
Team Rubicon president and CEO Jake Wood said, “We were playing software whack-a-mole where one thing would pop up and we’d solve it but we wound up with these disparate software platforms…Microsoft really challenged us to think about what it would take to convert to an enterprise solution that would rival a Fortune 500 company, which organizations our size typically don’t have the ability to think that big and boldly about.”
Digital transformation, according to the Microsoft Philanthropies paper “The New Imperative of Nonprofit Digital Transformation,” is “a strategic, organization-wide approach that brings together people, process and technology to create exponential impact through free-flowing insight that enables innovation.” For Team Rubicon, this means planning for 10 years in the future and taking disparate systems and making them first, talk to each other, and second, be extremely efficient.
TR Chief Information Officer Raj Kamachee said that moving all TR employees and systems onto a Microsoft platform–to use Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, Teams, and the Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite–will bring all TR data and analytics into one system so “we get more complete stories.” Kamachee recounts that the old way TR deployed its volunteers and kept track of their service was through pen and paper or on a Google spreadsheet, that had been known to crash. He said the way volunteers signed up wasn’t intuitive and since the information was housed in many systems, the data was inaccurate and incorrectly affected the analytics and executive decision making. Moving to one system provides better, more complete information for better decision-making.
For example, in the past, if someone had signed up to join TR, Kamachee said, there was no way to know where he or she came from or what caused the person to join. After the person joined, he was assigned a number that was supposed to help track the person, but because the sign-ups, volunteer deployment, and the training systems were not linked, trying to track a person and what he did or did not do was time intensive and laborious. Kamachee referenced thousands of hours wasted because of inefficiencies like this example.
Kamachee and his team are creating a Volunteer Management System (VMS), and its first phase will be launched at the end of October. “These will be connected to Outlook and the Office accounts and will have native integration with everything in one place,” Kamachee said. “Our foundation in all of this is creating a more efficient workflow” for staff, volunteers and donors.
The Volunteer Management System is unique in a number of ways. First, Team Rubicon brokered a deal with Microsoft that TR would own whatever technology that it would create on the Microsoft platform. While TR will own the rights and IP to the VMS solution, they will make it available at no cost to any organization that intends to use it for societal benefit including the right to build upon and configure the solution as needed. Kamachee said, “One of the most important parts for us is how we can give back to other nonprofits. This is how we give back technology-wise. We innovate for ourselves and for others.”
A second idea driving the creation of the VMS is security. For a few hours during Hurricane Harvey relief fundraising, TR’s website was hacked and this made it impossible to fundraise. Kamachee wants that to never happen again, so his team is building in security measures to the entire platform.
The new, integrated system will also help TR become even more data-driven “so the organization can easily tell donors how far their dollars went,” Kamachee said, “and that data can also increase the experiences of our grey shirts, both the volunteers and the staff, and the survivors of disasters whom we serve.”
And this comment echoes the words of Wood, who was quoted in the Microsoft Philanthropies paper: “I think we’ve become very good storytellers at Team Rubicon but that storytelling is only as good as your ability to get it in front of the people who need to see it.”
Having all of our stories, facts and figures in one place and easily accessible will make that information more easily disseminated, and ultimately will make all facets of Team Rubicon run efficiently.