Serving More Families Through Secure Technologies

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida is committed to being the best available Home-Away-From-Home and source of resources and respite for children and families of children suffering a medical crisis.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

For ill and injured children in Northwest Florida to have a chance at a cure or recovery, their best option is to travel to Pensacola. When a room is not available at the Ronald McDonald House in Pensacola, access to healthcare is not an option for low-income and single parent families. The medical challenges faced cripple these families financially and they cannot afford the gas for travel or the cost of lodging and food. Ronald McDonald House provides families with free temporary housing close to their ill or injured children and gives families the opportunity to focus on their children. Unfortunately, we have outgrown our current House’s capacity to serve and have been forced to turn families away a heartbreaking 3,396 times since 2006 because we had no room available. For several years, we have struggled with our failure to serve families from the Panhandle of Florida as we looked for land and sources of funding to build a new House. As we looked to correct our challenges with occupancy and support, we realized our problems are due in part from a lack of support from the counties using the House. All the funding, staff and volunteer support typically come from close proximity to the House. In Pensacola, we own property on the local Children’s Hospital campus. This location near regional pediatric services presents political and organizational challenges stemming from the highly competitive nature of healthcare. We have struggled to educate Okaloosa, Walton and Bay county hospitals and community members regarding the Children’s Hospital and McDonald’s; who have no ownership, operational or funding impact upon the House. Despite our efforts, outlying hospitals and community members are hesitant to support or refer to the House because they perceive us as part of the “competition.” The necessary location presents challenges because the House which serves their residents is located outside their community. We needed a presence in these outlying communities but knew we couldn’t fund a traditional office. So, we turned to technology to help solve our problems relating to brand awareness, staffing and volunteer support. The Microsoft Products provided through TechSoup were the keys to our success. Like most non-profits, we operate on a very slim budget and technology tends to be one of the last “luxuries” we are able to purchase to expand our mission. In reality, technology is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity in today’s word of Twitter, Facebook and a sophisticated donor market. Unfortunately, our pocketbook hasn’t caught up to this trend. Through TechSoup, we are able to relate to our community and our donor on terms they understand. We are able to share a very graphic, friendly and open message with our donor through CorelDraw and are able to operate with more transparency through web products and quick off site access to information through our Microsoft Server. In 2005, we purchased our first CorelDraw program from TechSoup. It allowed us to modernize our brochures, media and presentations. We’ve saved thousands of dollars previously paid to ad agencies or artists responsible for layout and design. Prior to purchasing this program, our flyers, presentation packets and brochures were elementary in nature. Though an outside artist charged us a reasonable $60-$150 a piece to create the materials, staff time was wasted in gathering information, piecing together hard copies of graphics and information or in burning copies to CDs. To make matters worse, once documents were created, we had no ability to modify them as we did not have the program used in building the artwork. So, every new piece of media was a “from scratch” process. Any pdf used was modified by old fashioned white out or creative cut and paste on our copier. At best, modifications were rudimentary in nature. With CorelDraw, we can produce documents as needed, print from our copier, modify as needed; and save an average of $500-$750 on printing and creative. In addition, templates can be saved and accessed by all staff thereby reinforcing our brand and ensuring consistency in our message. Each $750 saved on creative designs allows us to put 6 families next to their critically ill or injured child. In 2007, we purchased a server and 10 CALS as part of our strategic plan to maximize efficiency while taking message to communities who see us as an “outsider.” It has been our best innovation in 25 years! In essence, the server has allowed us to “open for business” in Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties. We now have an Area Manager who can access the RMHC donor, family and document databases through a home office in Niceville. When out in the field or with an important donor, we can easily log on to our website or our secure server and play video messages from RMH families who share how the House impacts them. There is no better way to share the Ronald McDonald House message than through the words of a grateful parent pictured beside their child during or after treatment. The technology keeps data secure so that the Executive Director can work with staff and board members after hours on proposals that help increase revenue needed to build an expanded House. Since office hours are limited and the work environment inside a Ronald McDonald House brimming with families and children is a bit noisy, these nightly hours with secure access to information, layouts, and proposals is essential to our success. For the Board Treasurer who audits our financials through a remote license monthly, the server provides him with the ability to provide the oversight necessary to ensure compliance to non-profit protocols, Federal, State and board mandates. It ensures the utmost transparency and compliance with standards. This oversight contributes to our recent accreditation with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance as an Accredited Charity. Ultimately, better technology allows staff and volunteers to maximize work time so that volunteer and funding bases can be expanded to meet the needs of a new 26-bedroom House. This 20,500sf House will allow us to serve 551 more families a year, but will require an additional $200,000 in donations are generated annually. The Microsoft products we have acquired through TechSoup over the last four years have prepared us for this growth. We have been able to communicate more effectively to our key funders and volunteers and have grown our funding by 60% and our volunteer base by 28% in the last four years. There is no doubt that Microsoft products help us increase our reach and the impact of our services. We can only hope our selection for this award will allow us to expand our technology to meet the needs of an expanded House that will serve more families with your secure technologies.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
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Supporting Work Files
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