Technology and Flexibility - A Winning Combination

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Believing in the sanctity of the human person and the dignity of human life, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona works to serve all people and make conditions of our Minnesota heartland more fully human:

by calling people to minister to each other,

by reaching out to the disabled, the marginalized, the alienated, and the stranger, and

by laboring for the justice which the gospel of Christ demands.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona has provided services in Southern Minnesota since the 1940’s. It was just recently, however, donations from Microsoft through TechSoup have allowed us to incorporate up-to-date technology to support these long-standing services. From licensed social workers to accounting technicians, every employee within our Agency has benefited from our improved technology.

Prior to 2008, our 40 employees, located in 17 office locations distributed across twenty counties of Southern Minnesota were only connected through technology via email on POP accounts.

Donations from Microsoft through TechSoup have allowed us to increase technology from one Microsoft 2000 server in the administrative office (which was not connected to the outlying offices) to a Microsoft 2003 file server, a Microsoft 2003 Terminal server, a 2003 Exchange Server, and, because of Software Assurance, an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007.

Adding a secure VPN connection to all locations through Remote Access, all employees now have instant 24/7 access to the server. This includes the basics, such as; employee email accounts, Outlook calendars, shared folders and files, and client, volunteer and donor databases – all with the security of backups at a central location.


Gone are the years of emailing and mailing paper documents between employees at separate offices. Catholic Charities employees can now work on the same documents - eliminating dual entry and improving efficiency and communication. Employees access agency information such as employee forms (timesheets, vacation request, etc.), the employee handbook, and an employee database of recommended computer tips – all of which support our efforts to increase efficiency.

With the help of Microsoft, Catholic Charities now has stable and secure technology. This has laid the foundation for Catholic Charities to demonstrate superior organizational capacity to support increased programming as required by various grant opportunities. This is successfully demonstrated by the successful growth of our programs as follows:


· Our Common Good Retired and Senior Volunteer Program expanded from a 5 county service area to an 11 county service area - increasing the number of active volunteers from 600 to 2000.

· Our Clinical Counseling Program to begin documenting case notes into a secure, shared folder and submitting insurance claims electronically - which has increased the programs’ direct service hours by 300 hours with our 2000 plus clients.

· Our Refugee Resettlement Program was recognized as a “model program” with the U.S. State Department and became the only refugee program in Minnesota approved to accept free cases (refugees with no family support system in the Minnesota).

· Our Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Program secured a grant through the Minnesota Department of Health which allowed for expansion of services which provide alternatives to abortion and increased the programs’ pregnancy counseling clients by 25%.

· All Catholic Charities programs have a reliable Microsoft Access database for managing client, volunteer, and donor information and creating instant, customized reports.


Improving our technological infrastructure has not only supported program efficiency and growth; it has also provided an infrastructure which provides employees with increased flexibility in the workplace. Our Agency was honored to be awarded the National Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2008 and 2009. The Alfred P. Sloan Award recognizes organizations using flexible and effective practices to achieve employee and business goals. It is national award offered through the Families and Work Institute- in partnership with Institute for a Competitive Workforce (an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce) and the Twiga Foundation. Without the donations of Microsoft through TechSoup, we would not have met the most basic requirements for this award. Improving on this techonology has allowed us to receive the award for two consecutive years.


Our employees regularly share their personal stories about how our improved technology has enhanced their work with our Agency:


“I love being able to check my email and work on projects from home. I visit with clients at the office all day so I don’t have the time to get to my computer. I remember the old days of having to stay at the office until the late hours of the night because I couldn’t get my email anywhere else.” - Mary Alessio, Director of Refugee Resettlement

“There are four other caseworkers in my program. In the past, we emailed every document back and forth until it was finished. I never knew which one was the most current. Having a shared folder is the best thing and it is a great feeling to know that I don’t need to worry about losing it if my computer crashes because it is backed up.” - Becky Laqua, Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Caseworker.


“Some of our employees are early risers, I see emails coming in at 5 in the morning and this is the time when they are on top of their game. If that is what fits their schedule, why not allow them to take advantage of that?” - Jennifer Halberg, Director of Senior Services


“Being able to see other employee’s calendars online has been so helpful. In the past, we faxed our calendars to all the offices once a week and you never knew if there were changes. If a client calls now, I know exactly where our staff members are now.” - Kathy Mahaffey, Support Staff Specialist.


“The addition of the remote connection has made it much easier for all staff to share documents created by my co-workers. I am not recreating the wheel.” - Deb Johnson-Schad, Common Good RSVP Coordinator


“Our employees are what drive the flexibility. Our work does not start at 9 am and end at 5pm. By offering a supportive environment, our employees can manage their own time. They are more willing to go above and beyond to get the work done knowing they have the ability to adjust their schedule as needed for their family life.” - Robert Tereba, Executive Director

Supporting Documentation:

Attached photo <<CCSloanaward.jpg>>, Photo is the 2008 presentation of the Alfred P Sloan Award. From L to R, Mike Kreiling, Winona Chamber of Commerce Committee Chair, Robert Tereba, Catholic Charities Executive Director, Sonya Ganther, Catholic Charities Director of Administrative Services, Greg Roth, United States Chamber of Commerce.

CharitiesUSA – Technology and Flexibility - Magazine Article written by Sonya Ganther, Director of Administrative Services, on the technology changes within Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona. Article is located on page 11 and 12 of the pdf (page 18 and 19 of actual magazine)

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
Project Image
Supporting Work Files
Supporting Work URL