We all know the story. A donated product sits unopened in a nonprofit’s janitor’s closet. A social enterprise never actually goes live on their discounted software. A nonprofit uses 15% of a platform’s functionality because they don’t have the resources or know-how to fully understand it.
Discounted and donated products to social change organizations are increasingly popular. These donations can include software, hardware, subscriptions, or platforms. TechSoup, a nonprofit that provides technology solutions, digital platforms and in-person experiences that support nonprofits, public libraries, and NGOs worldwide, saw double-digit percentage increases among both organizations served (117,197 in total) and donation requests processed (205,000 in total) in 2014. To date, TechSoup has partnered with over 100 companies and has generated over $5.5 billion in product savings to the nonprofit sector.
Isn’t it all good then? Why do we even need a Product Donations + Pro Bono Service Playbook?
Recipients of product donations (typically nonprofits and social enterprises) are increasingly understanding that these donations cost money. While this money is not paid directly to the donor, recipients are paying for these products in staff time and consulting fees that are necessary to successfully use and adopt the donation. Since product donations are usually positioned as free, and sometimes even as a cure-all, organizations that don’t properly plan for the donation end up struggling with unbudgeted expenses and unbudgeted time that turns into a distracting boondoggle for the organization.
On the donor side, product donation programs aren’t meeting their goals either. Donors can’t achieve their citizenship, brand, or market development goals if no one is requesting or using their donations. All companies would agree that paid clients need training, customer service, and implementation support. Why then do we not assume the same for product donation recipients? In the worst case scenario, some product donation programs can end up negatively affecting a company’s brand or community reputation.
Taproot Foundation and NetSuite.org see an opportunity to maximize the social impact of every product donation program and meet both the goals of the donor and the recipient. When social change organizations receive pro bono support in concert with their product donation, they can successfully implement and use donated products to achieve their mission. We aim to help companies better understand nonprofit customers and develop nonprofit customer strategies and support that ultimately generates high-impact product donations and services.
We developed the Product Donations + Pro Bono Service Playbook for companies interested in combining pro bono service–donated professional expertise from their employees–with a product donation program.
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