Literacy Matters: Microsoft Products Creating Community Impact

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Read To Succeed
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Read To Succeed, the community literacy collaborative in Rutherford County, will promote reading, with an emphasis on family literacy. This non-profit initiative supports literacy programs and fosters awareness of the importance of reading.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Read To Succeed says, “Literacy Matters!” and so does having the right tools available to create and share that important message to our community in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Rutherford County is located in middle Tennessee, approximately 30 miles south of the state capital, Nashville. Rutherford County has been named one of the fastest growing communities with a population that easily exceeds 250,000 and is the home of Middle Tennessee State University, which now carries the proud distinction of being the university with the largest enrollment in the state with over 24,000 students. The county’s growth has created a diverse business base and provided a wealth of resources and opportunities to our community. Once a predominantly agricultural community, the county is experiencing growing pains with traffic, education systems, and crime. Read To Succeed, a local non-profit literacy initiative, was created in 2003 in response to these changes, needs and opportunities, by a group of dedicated community leaders who knew the importance of literacy to families, community welfare, businesses, and education in Rutherford County.

Read To Succeed received its 501c3 charter in 2005, thus, we often refer to ourselves as being in the ‘toddler’ stage, and like newly walking toddlers, we search to hold on to solid and reliable support systems that will help us move forward and gain steady ground. Tech Soup and Microsoft Office products have been that reliable and steady support system. As you may know, raising a toddler, as well as a non-profit can be expensive! Read To Succeed, strives to optimize the impact of operational dollars to directly benefit the community, therefore we do not have standard office space or use any funds for rent or utilities. Instead, the Read To Succeed staff relies on home based offices and the generous use of a room donated through a faith based organization to use for meetings and a fundamental base for office operations.

Home-based staff creates a low cost organization, but also creates some logistical problems with data, files and managing information. Groove has been the optimal solution to this problem. Utilizing Groove has provided our biggest gain in momentum, productivity, and performance. Groove is a phenomenal program which has created connectivity, consistency, and effective information management. This innovative program has allowed staff members’ easy access to real time information, enabling us to respond quickly and never have to worry about material being updated or not having access to important documents. Groove not only allows us to speed up our process and accomplish more tasks on a day to day basis but allows us to work as a more efficient group. With the help of Groove, all staff members can be a part of the whole project by accessing the same material and putting important program ideas together to create the absolute best result.

In addition to Groove, Microsoft Office products have been beneficial for the day to day operations of the organization, but the use of these products has made a significant impact on our Adult Literacy Program. The ALP program began in 2006 to fill a tremendous gap in education and literacy services for adults who were reading at a third grade level or below. Microsoft Office products have been used to create Power Point presentations and documents that are used to train volunteer tutors to work with adults one-on-one in reading development and skills. Excel helps us track budget and program information. The use of Word has been instrumental in creating a new standard funding proposal template that has enabled us to apply for and receive more grant funding to sustain the program. Publisher helps us create fliers, cards and achievement certificates which are effective pieces in the recruitment and retention of volunteers and learners.

The access of affordable software through Tech Soup has enabled us to extend the use of Microsoft Office products externally to our client base by offering a computer lab for our adult learners. With the continued layoffs which employees are experiencing, the demand for literacy assistance among adults has reached an outstanding high. Over the past six months, Read To Succeed has had a 50% increase in the demand for services under the Adult Literacy Program. Not only do these adults need the basic reading skills, but even literate adults who are laid off do not know the proper way of creating and building a resume. With assistance from volunteers, the new computer lab enables adults to learn to use Microsoft Office products and develop a proper resume. Unemployed adults gain valuable computer skills and create self marketing tools to put them back into the work force quicker.

The written word is important to our organization. From July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008, Read To Succeed had over 1,000,000 (one million) contact points with the community through newspaper articles, billboards, presentations, direct programs, community events, distribution of brochures and informational pieces, trainings, monthly e-newsletters, website hits, and volunteer involvement. Our vision and mission is to reach out to the entire community about the importance of literacy and provide services to help families support the reading process at home and to assist adults with low literacy skills to improve skills for personal and career development. The use and support of Microsoft Office gives us the ability to make a bigger and broader impact on our community on a very basic and powerful level—reading. Microsoft Office products have helped our organization in numerous ways to promote literacy and to inspire and encourage others to join us as we cultivate a community where “Literacy Matters.”

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact