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Tech think-tank – Incubating tech-help models

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By Todd Cohen

Creating model tools and strategies to help nonprofits make better use of technology will be the focus of a research-and-development center being formed by two groups in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

The new center for nonprofits and technology — a joint project of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in San Francisco and San Jose, and HandsNet in San Jose — aims to be an incubator of technology assistance for nonprofits.

The center will study the technology needs of local nonprofits and develop tools and strategies to meet those needs. Those could range from customized software to sharing tech staff among several nonprofits.

The center then will test its tools and strategies by providing technology assistance to nonprofits in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

Ultimately, the center hopes to offer models that can be used by nonprofits throughout the U.S.

The idea is to create “a locally grounded center that does real work with real people,” says Michael Saunders, executive officer of HandsNet, which provides tools and training to help nonprofit professionals use online technologies.

Saunders says the concept behind the new center has long been advocated by Jan Masaoka, executive director of CompassPoint, a nonprofit management support group.

The new center, which will have a name and Web site soon, also plans to enlist the support of high-tech companies, funders and groups that provide technology assistance groups to nonprofits.

Scott Walton, a long-time nonprofit executive and tech veteran, is working as a consultant to coordinate center’s startup.

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