Microsoft Products Creating Community Impact Through Affordable Housing

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Northwoods Habitat for Humanity
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Our mission is to build simple, decent, afforable homes with those who lack adqueate shelter.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Northwoods Habitat for Humanity has built 30 homes in our community and sold them to low income families, who do not qualify for conventional financing, with a no-interest loan. These families earn between 30 and 60 percent of county median income and contribute at least 250 hours of sweat equity per adult in lieu of a down payment. An affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, providing affordable homeownership opportunities for families in need, and eliminating poverty housing is our mission.

From 1990 to 2006, we built 20 homes with an all-volunteer staff and Board of Directors. Since 2006, we have built 10 more homes (2 in 2006, 4 in 2007, and 4 in 2008), hired staff, opened a ReStore and expanded our service area to include 2 Northern Minnesota counties – Beltrami and Clearwater – which rank among the highest in the state for those living in poverty. Our efforts to eliminate poverty housing have increased significantly to meet the need of those less fortunate in our area.

With the hiring of staff in 2006, the need for sophisticated tracking methods for many aspects of our operations was evident. Increasing our volunteer base for office support, ReStore operations, and construction was paramount to our success in increasing our building efforts. With the purchase of MS Office Pro, we were able to develop professional brochures, flyers, announcements, and newsletter to market our efforts. In just one year, our mailing list increased from a mere 150 to over 1200, and our volunteer database increased from just over 100 to over 500. We launched our first Home Builders Blitz Build in 2008, building a home in just one week. Our current mailing list is managed through an Access database and number over 1500.

In 2008 we launched our website – ReStore customers are able to view product, sales items, and specialty items on the website, construction volunteers are able to access the build schedule, and potential partner families are able to access information about our program as well as get application material. This allows us to more easily manage volunteers and assess areas of need. Family partners have engaged 83% more often than prior to 2006. We attribute this to the technology we have acquired that allows us to easily send letters and announcements using MS Word mail merge. We use Excel to develop housing loan application material and then use Adobe Pro to convert it to an editable document and download it to our website, making it readily available applicants who may not be able to access it otherwise. These programs have significantly increased our ability to more quickly get information into the right hands at the right time.

We use MS Publisher to develop safety manuals for construction volunteers, annual reports, brochures, quarterly newsletters, fundraising flyers for our annual spaghetti dinner, soup luncheon, and our current Women Build campaign. Women Build is a project that allows women from all walks of life to come together to raise funds and provide volunteer labor to build a home.

PowerPoint has been a useful tool for developing presentations for homeownership orientation, family partner education workshops, church relations meetings, and collaborative community events to increase awareness of lack of affordable housing options in our area.

We have developed several brief movie clips using Windows Movie Maker to provide volunteers a memento of their experience and for us as an educational tool. These clips have allowed us to demonstrate not only the impact of our volunteers in our community, but also the spirit of our mission – building simple, decent affordable homes with families in need – families who need a hand-up, not a hand-out.

We can directly attribute our success in increasing our home building efforts to Microsoft’s many products that allowed us to professionally market our affiliate in our community. Therefore, we can proudly say that Microsoft products are creating community impact through affordable housing in Beltrami and Clearwater Counties.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery