• February 11, 2010
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Profiting from the Nonprofits

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Tasked with restamping undeliverable mailings, volunteers from enterprise software company SAP were planning on donating some time to the Quest Outreach Society, a nonprofit that operates the Quest Food Exchange in British Columbia. Each year, 25 percent of Quest Outreach Society’s mailings are returned due to incorrect or dead addresses, which meant these were all lost opportunities. Even worse, every dollar wasted was the equivalent of $6 worth of food the organization couldn’t collect. When the SAP team saw the situation, they came up with a better solution than manual labor. 

In its BusinessObjects Information OnDemand store, SAP offers a mailing list hygiene solution called Address Cleansing. An SAP project manager went to the food bank, helped clean its database and eliminated approximately 500 bad and duplicate addresses, reducing the return rate to just 1.5 percent. This translated into $5,000 worth of savings that can now leverage $30,000 worth of food. 

“What really surprised me,” says Steve Williams, director of global technology donations at SAP, “is how much we as a company and our employees can learn from the [nonprofits] we work with—typically, we only think about it the other way.” The project manager leading the volunteer time found the experience extremely valuable. He now has his development manager volunteer so she, too, can learn firsthand from nonprofits and communicate back to the developers. The usual surveys and focus groups have never been as telling, Williams says. In the for-profit space, going on-site could mean entering a high-risk environment where information is highly sensitive and revenue is at stake. With nonprofits, however, he sees they’re often more open about what’s happening and push for the help they need. 

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