PurchasingPoint for National Assembly Members

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
National Human Services Assembly
City & State:
District of Columbia
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To engage leaders of the national nonprofit health & human service sector in collective efforts to advance the effectiveness of health & human services in the United States.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

PurchasingPoint for National Assembly Members

Conceived, developed, and implemented using Microsoft technology, in 2008 this program redirected $10 million from nonprofit overhead spending and into the hands of mission-related programs instead. That was just the beginning.

National Assembly Savings Program

The National Human Services Assembly is an 87-year old national association of nonprofits in the health and human services sector. Its 70 members include, for example, the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girls Scouts of the USA, United Way of America, and YMCA of the USA. From chapters to troops to councils, member networks include 150,000 local 501(c)(3) affiliates. This entire web of nonprofits has access to the National Assembly’s savings program, provided through membership in a group purchasing cooperative: Consorta/HealthTrust. The result of this program is a level of pricing available to nonprofits that is otherwise unavailable to all but Fortune 100 companies. It produces savings that help nonprofits to cut overhead costs and free up resources for mission.

Program Development

Beginning with the program’s launch in 2004, its sole staff person called, emailed, and visited as many of the eligible nonprofits as possible, but only 11 of the National Assembly’s 70 members and 14 local affiliates joined the program by the end of the year. The method for communication clearly needed a transformation to increase the program’s impact, and Microsoft technology provided the solution.[1]

From the initial sketch, to the final coding, Microsoft products enabled the construction of an interactive website, PurchasingPoint, which brings information about the program to all National Assembly members and their affiliates. PurchasingPoint was created by teaming up with website designer and developer, Webitects Inc., in 2006. The partnership was based on a general concept and a simple schematic, both created in Microsoft Word on a LAN using Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 with Microsoft Exchange 2003. Webitects then created their initial sketch using a Tablet PC, and fleshed out the design in Visio. They chose ASP.NET for the final coding, as the code’s scalability allowed for separate, customizable portals to be built on the same underlying code, pages, and server. The objects and methods created with the code would also allow the National Assembly to manage and create new PurchasingPoint portals (through Microsoft Internet Explorer) as the program grew.

The result of this coordinated effort between the National Assembly and its web partner is a series of PurchasingPoint portals that are dynamic, customizable websites designed to effectively reach out, not only to the National Assembly’s 70 members, but also to their nonprofit affiliates (see attachment for screenshots). Each participating portal member has its own branding on its customized version of the portal: messaging from its organization, popular vendors set according to its needs, and the means to communicate with others in its network.

The National Assembly also uses Excel Pivot Tables with an embedded Microsoft Query function to display and analyze utilization of the program and purchasing trends (see attached for sample report). Using the online database of portal users that was created using ASP.NET, it is possible to reach out to the users delivering relevant information and keeping them engaged in the program.

The innovative use of Microsoft Office, Tablet PC, Visio, and ASP.NET, makes development of the PurchasingPoint portals, and the program in general, easier and less costly. The National Assembly now markets the program in a more tangible manner by sending interested users directly to a portal. Here they can access all program information, whereas no such tool existed previously. In essence, the portals increase the program’s ability to both touch a greater number of nonprofits and manage the message to all. It has immensely transformed a small operation into one with incredible reach and capacity for even further growth.

Program Impact

While program staff has grown from one to two, the number of National Assembly members using the program has jumped from 10 in 2005 to 30 in 2008, and the number of nonprofit member affiliates has exploded from 14 to 1,400. In the last three months alone over 200 new affiliates from member networks have joined the program via one of the PurchasingPoint portals. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as an example, currently has over 500 local clubs signed onto its portal, and Girl Scouts of the USA has 127 of 135 councils on its portal.

The program’s impact on savings directly reflects this burgeoning participation. Annual purchasing through the program has increased from $240,000 in 2005 to $27 million in 2008. With savings averaging 33%, the 2008 purchasing translates to $10 million in savings. This directly equates to $10 million that has been freed up from overhead and made available instead to mission: serving more meals to the homeless, sending more children to camps, providing more after-school care to children, and expanding a wide array of other mission-related activities. With this Microsoft enabled access to savings and the resulting impact, it is easy to quantify the beneficial effect the National Assembly’s PurchasingPoint portals are having on the nation’s nonprofits.

Going to Scale

The Purchasing Point portals’ facilitation of easy access to information about the National Assembly’s savings program has had an upwardly cascading effect on nonprofit savings. Yet, this is just the beginning. If 1,400 nonprofits redirected $10 million towards mission in 2008, just imagine the possibilities if all remaining 148,600 nonprofits in the member networks were to join this program! Thanks to the portal and TechSoup’s Microsoft products used to build, maintain, and grow it, this savings program has been transformed in ways that exponential growth can now become reality.

[1] The National Assembly purchased the following Microsoft products through TechSoup: Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition, Small Business Server 2003 Add-On Pack, Windows 2003 Server Standard, Windows Server User Client Access License, Visio Professional 2003, Office 2003 Professional, Visual SourceSafe 6.0, Project 2003 Standard

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact