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HandsOn Tech: Helping nonprofits fight poverty and strengthen communities with technology

With the right technology in place, nonprofits can do a lot to strengthen their communities and solve the world’s problems. They can help improve family literacy, support veterans as they transition out of homelessness, or help communities make information more accessible. Unfortunately, nonprofits often lack the resources to fully take advantage of technology to further their causes.

Two years ago we partnered with Points of Light to address this problem. With the support of the Corporation for National and Community Service, we created HandsOn Tech, an initiative with a mission to develop the nonprofit sector’s ability to use technology to increase community resources and improve outcomes for low-income communities and families.

Fueled by the passion and skills of AmeriCorps VISTA members, HandsOn Tech pairs U.S. nonprofits with individuals who are passionate about technology and looking to make a difference. Through this program VISTA members and skilled volunteers (including many Googlers) deliver training to poverty-focused nonprofits and work one-on-one with organizations to create individualized, comprehensive tech plans to help them achieve their social missions more efficiently and effectively.

HandsOn Tech ATL
Stephenie Lai, a VISTA with HandsOn Tech Atlanta, looks on as skills-based volunteer Jon Whitaker demonstrates the new mobile version of the Cherokee Family Violence Center’s website to Meg Rogers, Executive Director. Click to see more photos.

In the first two years of the program, VISTA members and skills-based volunteers have trained more than 7,700 nonprofit organizations in communities across the country. For example, VISTAs from a HandsOn Tech program in Pittsburgh worked with Naomi’s Place (an organization that provides transitional housing and supportive services to homeless women) to enhance their website, set up Google Apps, and develop a new Facebook page. The program also helps VISTA members and volunteers learn new skills. Alex Green, who served as a VISTA in Seattle, Wash., told us: "Apart from building awareness and ability in the community in terms of IT needs, I have also had the opportunity to grow myself as a person in all aspects of my life."

HandsOn Tech SV
HandsOn Tech Silicon Valley recruited skill-based volunteer Elyse Tager from Constant Contact to lead a training on how nonprofits can use social media to communicate their mission. Click to see more photos.
HandsOn Tech begins its third year this fall with programs in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and San Jose. Prior to beginning their service, VISTA members come together for a week of training at our campus in Mountain View, Calif., where they learn about cloud-based tools from a variety of technology companies including the Google for Nonprofits suite that provides nonprofits with access to premium versions of Google Apps, Google Earth and YouTube channels as well as free online advertising.

A few openings still exist for VISTA members to begin serving in November in select cities. If you’re passionate about technology and helping nonprofits fight poverty, you can apply to join our team by August 31.

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