By Todd Cohen
CompuMentor, a San Francisco nonprofit that distributes donated technology to nonprofits and publishes technology information online, is expanding in new directions.
With nonprofits in the United States receiving all but about 1 percent of the $150 million in products its TechSoup Stock program will handle this year, CompuMentor is looking to expand its distribution system overseas.
“We can make a difference internationally,” says Daniel Ben-Horin, founder and president. “This is an opportunity to put American resources and technical intelligence forward in a truly helpful way.”
CompuMentor also aims to create a series of online “rich commons” designed to connect people who share interests in particular fields.
Overseeing the global expansion is Jody Mahoney, who was development director for CompuMentor until being named in January to the new position of senior director of international development.
Technology is a critical tool for international nonprofits looking for ways to help plug their countries into the global economy, and CompuMentor already has a global reach, Mahoney says.
TechSoup, CompuMentor’s technology-information site, has attracted visitors from 130 countries, she said, and TechSoup Stock already is distributing technology products abroad.
TechSoup Stock began distributing donated Microsoft software in Canada a year ago, and this fall plans to expand to Latin America a program it already administers in the United States that distributes donated Microsoft software to nonprofits that refurbish computers.
It launched a pilot project last November to distribute Cisco Systems products in Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, plans to expand to Canada soon, and is considering expansion to Poland and The Netherlands.
Helping to spur its global expansion is CompuMentor’s desire to help its vendor partners reach nonprofits in international markets they are targeting, Ben-Horin says.
“They have a big say in where their products go,” he says. “It’s a boiling pot and we’re stirring it.”
Through Close the Gap, a nonprofit in Belgium, TechSoup Stock distributes technology in several countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and South Africa.
And through the Charity Technology Trust in London, TechSoup Stock distributes technology to nonprofits throughout the United Kingdom.
“We really want to understand the area or country, so we partner with organizations,” Mahoney says.
Partners use their websites to announce the availability of technology through TechSoup Stock, and provide it with product orders, and the partnerships help incubate small social enterprises.
TechSoup Stock also launched a French version of its website last summer, and has installed a new customer-relationship-management system that will let it create new versions in other languages.
CompuMentor also is developing its Rich Commons initiative in partnership with Civic SpaceLabs, a nonprofit in Redwood City, Calif., that develops community-building open-source software.
Working with Civic Ventures, a nonprofit in San Francisco, CompuMentor initially plans to create an online commons offering resources and connections to help people treat aging as a source of individual and social renewal, Ben-Horin says.
Another commons likely will focus on organizations that serve youth.
“There’s an amazing opportunity to deploy new but already robust web tools to enable both information retrieval and very focused,
effective interpersonal interaction,” Ben-Horin says. “We see the Rich Commons as way to organize these tools for specific nonprofit subsectors and their constituents, and in the process support much more effective
organizing and advocacy.”