Tech help

Nonprofit offers tech assistance to nonprofits, training for tech workers.

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. [07.07.04] — Triangle nonprofits are getting discounted technology help, thanks to a new nonprofit that provides training for unemployed tech workers.

The nonprofit, TechAction, has teamed up with the computer-training unit in the continuing education program at N.C. State University to provide internship opportunities for people enrolled in the program, says Warren Fuson, the group’s executive director and a retired 23-year veteran of Nortel Networks.

TechAction, which had been providing tech assistance for free to nonprofits, now will charge them at deeply discounted rates, Fuson says.

“We’ll be charging nonprofits to cover our overhead,” he says.

Formed last November, TechAction grew out of an earlier nonprofit, TechEngage, that was launched in December 2002 by James White, a software developer at SAS Institute in Cary.

TechEngage sponsored several week-long seminars for unemployed tech workers, charging $95 for training worth $2,000 to $3,000, says Fuson, who also was that group’s executive director.

Trainers for the seminars were donated by the continuing-education computer-training unit at NCSU, and by firms such as SAS Institute and DevelopMentor.

At the end of the end of each seminar, participants were asked to donate $150 to cover TechEngage’s ongoing administrative costs, or to pledge 40 hours of volunteer time working for nonprofits.

TechEngage, which provided a total of 300 to 400 hours of volunteer time to four nonprofits, now has decided to focus on training, and not provide assistance to nonprofits, Fuson says.

So TechAction has picked up where TechEngage left off, drawing on its 450 alumni and currently working with about 15 Triangle nonprofits.

TechAction, for example, has worked with Triangle United Way to improve the efficiency of its program for refurbishing several hundred donated computers it gets each year from businesses before giving them to nonprofits and individuals.

The changes in the program have increased to 180 from about 35 the number of computers United Way volunteers can refurbish in a day, Fuson says.

TechAction also is working with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to create an online database that will automate the way Habitat tracks volunteers and let them sign in online.

TechAction, which has raised $7,000 and has pledges for another $7,000, has a business plan that calls for an annual budget of $380,000.

The plan recently won first place in the social venture category in a business plan competition sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

For information, call Fuson at 878-0763, ext. 232.

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