Doing More With Less: The Impact of Microsoft Products on Sexual Violence in Itasca County

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Itasca Alliance Against Sexual Assault
City & State:
Grand Rapids, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To educate the community about sexual violence and provide support to survivors.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Itasca Alliance Against Sexual Assault (IAASA) is a private, non-profit organization that was created in 1989 to serve the distinct needs of victims of sexual violence within Itasca County. We are located in rural northern Minnesota, in the state’s third largest county. Our mission is to educate the community about sexual violence and provide support for survivors. We hope to enhance the quality of life for our clients through supportive and advocacy services, as well as the provision of prevention education and awareness within our community. We provide services to anyone who has been victimized by sexual violence. We provide free and confidential services 24 hours a day 365 days per year. We offer crisis intervention, basic counseling, follow-up support, medical and legal advocacy, support groups, and various prevention education programming. Each year we attend to 600+ calls for assistance related to sexual violence victimization and provide over 125 presentations reaching over 7,500 participants. In fact, during the first quarter of 2009, our client contacts have risen 72% when compared to the first quarter of 2008. Sexual violence is an incredibly private and sensitive issue and is often times misunderstood and goes undetected. As a result of this, our agency struggles to get our message out and provide services to such a large community. A good portion of the work we do within our community is in the form of outreach to outlying areas and vulnerable populations. One of the many barriers that we encounter in our work of promoting awareness and assisting victims of sexual violence is that people in general shy away from the topic. Agencies like ours must put great thought and effort into developing materials that will grab our audience and inform them of relevant and up to date information. Last year, IAASA was able to purchase Microsoft Office Professional software from Techsoup, which has greatly increased visibility and demand for our services. We have utilized this software in numerous ways throughout our work including agency administration and fundraising, victim support services, prevention education and awareness, and recruiting and training agency volunteers. IAASA has used our Microsoft Word and Publisher software to easily create forms to streamline our client advocacy information such as case progress notes, client contact sheets, and support group intake forms. We have found that the ability to quickly and easily create new agency forms allows our advocates to focus where on what is most important to us – our clients.

With our new software, we have recreated over 25 handouts that are eye catching and contain updated statistics and information. In addition we were able to develop a wonderful brochure outlining the educational presentations and trainings that we offer. This brochure has been given to all of our schools, service providers, and group homes in Itasca County. We plan to continue giving the brochure to our prevention programming partners to give them some ideas of the programming that we provide – this will be helpful as staff in those agencies change from time to time.

About a year ago, IAASA created a satellite office on our local two year college campus, Itasca Community College (ICC). Through advertising with flyers, posters, and brochures at ICC, IAASA was able to secure six volunteers who attended a 40-hr training to become sexual assault advocates. Our SWR office promotes IAASA’s services and makes the office location known through flyers and posters created by advocates and volunteers with Microsoft Office and Publisher. IAASA has obtained several new clients who called an advocate or stopped in either office for help after reading our materials posted at the ICC campus. We hope to obtain more clients and volunteers in 2009 with similar promotional ideas.During presentations related to sexual violence, it is imperative to be able to grab the audience’s attention to be able to educate and promote internal thought process related to sexual violence. With the help of our new software, IAASA is able to create power point presentations that are fun and interactive about a sensitive and taboo topic. Most recently, we created an agency slideshow that is packed full of our agency services, statistics and facts related to sexual violence. Advocates can take their laptop to presentations and community events and are able to loop the slideshow so it plays over and over for the duration of the event. With Microsoft Publisher, we have created flyers and brochures for trainings and community events. At events, those passing by are attracted by the format of our materials. We have also used this software component to develop materials for our local two year college campus, including agency posters and brochures related to date acquaintance rape, the use of alcohol in sexual assault, and statistics related to sexual violence. Recently, IAASA was holding our yearly fundraiser, the Mexican Fiesta. During the award ceremony, IAASA provided four awards to local community members. Each of the awards were created with Microsoft Publisher software. After they were printed, we placed them in frames so our award winners could show off their accomplishment. IAASA has also been able to publish a quarterly newsletter at a fraction of the cost of a media developer or printing company, with comparable results. Newsletter topics have included volunteer information, sexting, staff updates, child sexual abuse, agency updates, and agency resources. IAASA has heard from community members, clients, and other agencies that our newsletter is eye-catching, educational, and informative. Microsoft Publisher has also cut down on staff hours spent working on the newsletter because of Publisher’s simplified format. Similarly, IAASA’s Executive Director also used Office One Note to organize this year’s annual Mexican Fiesta Fundraiser. Lastly, with the addition of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Outlook, staff are able to complete their program tasks easier and with precision. Excel allows IAASA to compile victim assistance and prevention education statistics quickly and accurately. These statistics are of utmost importance because IAASA uses them to report to our funders and our community. Microsoft Outlook allows staff to communicate with professionals and clients throughout Itasca County, but it also allows IAASA’s staff to communicate with each other. As sexual assault advocates in a large county, we are often out of the office giving presentations, watching court cases, or assisting clients. Outlook allows staff to catch up on cases and clients through email. Recently, IAASA’s Executive Director went to speak at a conference in California. While she was gone, staff were able to exchange emails with her through Outlook and continue the quality of care our clients rely on.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery