Written by: Stephen Fowler
We often speak about how technology can change the way we work. From a business perspective, the technology behind Microsoft Dynamics has helped companies improve their efficiency and productivity. But you may be surprised at how non-profits can also activate the power of enterprise software for far-reaching impact beyond the world of business.
The Smith Family is one such organization. An Australian charity, the Smith Family started in 1922 when five businessmen took Christmas gifts to a children’s orphanage. Having discovered that poverty was more widespread than they first thought, they donated anonymously, providing only the name ‘Smith’. Today, The Smith Family has grown into one of Australia’s most prominent charities. They help more than 117,000 disadvantaged Australian children and their families so that these children can get the most out of their education, and create better futures for themselves.
With over 520,000 Australian children living in jobless families, the need for support is greater than ever. The number of jobless dual-parent families in Australia has seen an increase, from 78,700 in 2008 to 96,000 in 2011. Like many nonprofit organizations, The Smith Family felt an urgency to boost the effectiveness of their program, increase the number of children they can reach, while also growing their supporter base.
To do this, the organization needed to find a system that would pull together the disparate donor and sponsor details and analyze data more efficiently in order to better manage and resource their programs. After a year-long evaluation process, The Smith Family chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Dynamics AX, because of their confidence in the product capabilities and reliability. “Greater transparency and accountability would help us strengthen our relationships with donors,” said Ishbel Sterrick, Chief Financial Officer for The Smith Family. “We felt confident in the capability and reliability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX; these systems best met our needs as a charity organisation.”
The Smith Family staff is now better able to coordinate programs, maintain supporter data and manage volunteers, as well as to support fundraising campaigns and appeals. The CRM system allocates sponsors to students, manage corporate contracts and records correspondence with supporters and students. Donations are uploaded monthly into the financial system. The Smith Family is managing its programs, students, donors, sponsors and volunteers in one system, ensuring a unified view of all its data.
Although The Smith Family staff is still learning to use the new system, the organization is already seeing benefits, from the ability to provide more timely and meaningful reporting to its donors to better assessment of program performance and improvements in staff productivity. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM will adapt to our changing needs and help us for a long time to come,” said Sterrick.
But at the end of the day it is the children and families under The Smith Family’s care that are the true beneficiaries. As Sterrick notes, “The CRM system is giving time back to our workers so that they can spend more time directly with students and families, rather than on administration… ultimately, it all leads to us being able to help more children and provide them with more consistent support.”
Just as The Smith Family provides disadvantaged Australian children with the opportunity they need to change their lives, our solutions enable The Smith Family and its staff to perform at their best. The change that Microsoft Dynamics has brought to The Smith Family will aid the organization in reaching out to more children, and in turn change their lives for the better. With a little help from technology, we’re not only changing the way we work, but the way we help those in need too.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/29A3CF0D42678E8CCA25791800129C47?opendocument
 Whiteford (2009), Family Joblessness in Australia, 9-10. Commonwealthof Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/sites/www.socialinclusion.gov.au/files/publications/pdf/family_joblessness_Jan2009.pdf
Post originally written for Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/microsoftdynamics/2013/02/01/changing-lives-through-technology/