How can nonprofits tap into expensive technologies to help clients and boost their bottom lines?

A new survey of more than 180 Minnesota nonprofits provides clues. Coordinated by MAP for Nonprofits in St. Paul, the survey found that nonprofits have embraced technology in ways big and small.

• United Way of Olmsted County created a scannable photo ID card for human service clients, implanted with the basic information needed to register for services at many locations.

"The amount of time to do an intake when a person comes in for a monthly visit at the food shelf was diminished to a few basic questions," said Steve Brumm, project manager. "And then the individual could be on their way to do their shopping.''

• Faced with constant phone calls from probation officers checking on their client's progress, the Domestic Abuse Project of Minneapolis created an online database available for the probation officers -- freeing up phone lines and dramatically reducing staff time answering the calls.

• HOWA Family Center in Walker, which runs a mentoring program pairing high school students with younger students, was having a difficult time reaching the teens by phone or e-mail. Their simple solution: Text messaging.

"Now, if I need to give them a reminder about an activity or ask them a question, I send them a text, and they are typically very quick to respond," said Jane Furuseth of the family center.

Judy Alnes, executive director of MAP for Nonprofits, said the organizations that best used technology found specific challenges to address and went after them. They didn't necessarily use IT staff or spend a boatload of money.

"The big thing we found was that using technology for innovation is accessible to all nonprofits,'' Alnes said. "You don't have to have a big budget or savvy organization.''

To see the report, go to

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511