Keeping Up with the (For-Profit) Joneses
Modern nonprofits can't afford to seem like technological backwaters
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Since 1999, Brainshark has been providing on-demand presentation software solutions to the corporate world. By the end of 2008, the company had grown to a point of relative stability, and decided it was time to lend a hand to those in need. 

In October 2008, Brainshark launched its quarterly Nonprofit Program designed to give away free (or heavily discounted) renewable licenses to nonprofit organizations. The first recipient was the Special Olympics for its February 2009 World Winter Games. Using Brainshark, the Special Olympics was able to train remotely the 4,000 event volunteers from around the world—a process that would have required 20 trainers 12 weeks to conduct in person, not to mention expenditures on travel, meeting space, materials, and logistics. 

“Operating a world-class sporting event as a nonprofit is an interesting challenge,” says Heather Hill, the Special Olympics’ vice president of marketing and communications for the Winter Games. “There are expectations of a world-class event but the funding isn’t nearly what you’d see for something like the Super Bowl.” 

Spence-Chapin Adoption Services, an agency that finds homes for children in need, was another Brainshark recipient. Since receiving its grant in the spring of 2009, the organization has already created presentations for adoption programs that target a variety of niches: international, African-American, and special-needs adoption programs. 

“People today are very savvy about using the Web,” says Sabra Larkin, director of communications at Spence-Chapin. Creating Brainsharks has helped the organization raise public awareness of its activities and furthered its educational outreach. Without the grant, Larkin says, limited funds and a hiring freeze would have forced the organization to be far more conservative in its approach. But especially in a down economy, she says, “It’s important for us not to be left behind.”

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