Guest blog post from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, 2016 Technology Innovation Award Winner.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) hosts two national seminars for survivors grieving the loss of a loved one in service to America. These national events bring together thousands for a time of support and connection with others who have experienced the same loss. It is so important that we begin welcoming our families to the event and integrating them into the process in advance of opening day. This helps us avoid overwhelming them with logistics when they arrive, so they can focus on the many healing resources available to them at the seminar.
TAPS decided that an easy-to-use mobile app would be an excellent way to roll out advance details about the seminar, help our survivors connect with their peers and provide logistic updates during the event. We started the research on mobile app developers six months in advance of our event and are currently waiting for our app to be approved in the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Here are three recommendations for selecting a developer, identifying goals and features, and getting approval for your organization to have a presence in the major app stores.
Guest post from Shana Heilbron, Chief Development & Communications Officer, YWCA National Capital Area. The YWCA National Capital Area was a 2013 Technology Innovation Award winner. Two years later, she reflects on the impact of receiving the award.
The definition of innovation is simple "something new or different introduced" - at least that's what my quick Google research came up with. For us in the nonprofit community, it means new ways of doing things; of executing; of providing the best possible services we can in our community.
For the YWCA National Capital Area, it was offering a distance learning literacy program to our adult students; for others, it's new mobile applications, the Cloud, social media...the list goes on, and on. Bottom line, technology is making a name for itself in the non-profit sector here in the Washington, DC region, and it's helping us to deliver our services better, and improve the way we do 'business.'
WASHINGTON, DC; Nov. 6, 2015 – 501cTECH announced the selection of Hopecam, the Arc of Northern Virginia, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors as the winners of the 2015 Technology Innovation Awards. The announcement was made at 501cTECH’s annual Celebration of Technology Event, held at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center. The Technology Innovation Awards honor DC-area nonprofits with $7,500 to put towards bringing innovative technology projects to life. Now in its twelfth year, these Technology Innovation Awards have helped over two dozen resource-strapped nonprofits overcome monetary restraints and so that they can have a greater impact in the community. A record number of applications were received for the awards this year. Our process focuses on identifying applicants who have a measurable impact on the community. The Awards were the highlight of the Celebration of Technology, which was made possible by generous sponsors including Accenture, CenturyLink, BAE Systems,Clark Construction,Amazon Web Services, Capital One, Deloitte and SapientNitro, who recognize that investing in nonprofit technology is critical to the success of the nonprofit community. Artwork created by students of Project Create, a 501cTECH’s Small Nonprofit Transformation Initiative beneficiary, added to the festive atmosphere. The artwork served as a reminder of how technology can change lives and create opportunities, one person at a time.
Technology Innovation Award Winners
The three winners fell into each of the following categories: PreK-12 and STEM Education, Skills to Succeed and Workforce Development, and Veterans and Military Families.
Questions answered by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association. This follow-up survey was designed to serve as a resource for understanding how grants serve nonprofits, and what obstacles grant recipients might encounter while implementing projects.
The Project was to add a new, crucial feature to a recently launched mobile app, MyMilitaryFamily. According to the application, this feature would allow military spouses to add content and recommend resources to their peers around the country. This was expected to be an essential tool to capture the more informal community support that was currently happening on platforms like Facebook. The hypothesis was that this social feature would increase engagement and habitual usage of the app.
Questions answered by Jim Halling, Director of Corporate Development at Good360. This follow-up survey was designed to serve as a resource for understanding how grants serve nonprofits, and what obstacles grant recipients might encounter while implementing projects.
Good360 was the recipient of $7,500 in grant money to put towards a major new platform, DisasterRecovery360, seeking to prepare for, and address the short and long-term needs that follow natural disasters. The award, specifically, was to be used in the build phase, allowing Good 360 to think through what the portal should do specifically to help communities and organizations, and how it should be set up for the greatest benefit and efficiencies.
Q: How was the Technology Innovation Award of $7,500 used?
The award from the 2014 Technology Innovation Awards competition enabled Good 360 to continue to move forward with our plans to create DisasterRecovery360.
Built and managed by Good360, DisasterRecovery360 ensures that the needs of communities impacted by disaster are met in a timely manner throughout the full recovery process by ensuring the right goods are delivered to the right place at the right time.
Questions answered by Kathy Siefert, Director of Development at Alexandria Seaport Foundation. This follow-up survey is designed to serve as a resource for understanding how grants serve nonprofits, and what obstacles grant recipients might encounter while implementing projects.
The Alexandria Seaport Foundation was the recipient of $7,500 in grant money to put towards STEM on the Potomac, a middle school initiative that uses wooden boats, the natural environment, and technology to improve students' STEM skills. The Alexandria Seaport Foundation's proposal outlined that the grant would support the purchase of SeaPerch kits, containing tools for building Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs); the purchase of tools to build an OpenROV (an open source robot); and the purchase of navigation software. Collectively, these were to serve as the foundation for a unique water-based STEM curriculum that would allow students to build and launch these ROVs, measure a variety of relevant data, and learn navigation skills.
Q: Where you able to use the $7,500 to make the purchases outlined in your proposal?
Yes, the $7,500 went to the purchase of the SeaPerch kits, the software and the execution of the project.
Q: How many students are using the Kits, OpenROV and software (across programs) and what kind of feedback have you received since implementing the program?
The judges represented the collective perspective of both for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. Technology executives from leading companies including, but not limited to, Accenture, Amazon Web Services, and CenturyLink, as well as leaders from Good360, the National Military Family Association and Alexandria Seaport Foundation, 2014 Technology Innovation Award winners, worked together to assess the merits of each application.
The judges evaluated innovative plans put forward by local nonprofits in the cause areas of PreK-12 and STEM Education, Skills to Succeed & Workforce Development, and Veterans and Military Families. Particular emphasis was placed on identifying which organizations presented the most innovative technology projects that would have the biggest impact on the communities they serve.
With a record number of applications this year, the decision was not easy. While the panel sought to select two finalists in each of the three cause areas, seven finalists were chosen due to a tie in the Skills to Succeed category.
This year, the following organizations have been selected:
As a small team we are very fortunate to have a full roster of environmentally focused dev and mapping projects for the year, but when deadlines are tight it’s easy to let best practices fall by the wayside or go out the window all together. Chesapeake Commons and our partners at Viable Industries have been working to design, develop, and deploy open source tech solutions for just over three years. In that time span, three of the major take homes that we’ve learned as a team consist of the following:
Always question why the system is being built in the first place
Plan more so you can code less
Communicate openly and frequently
In nearly all the projects we’ve worked on, our attention to items 1 - 3 have directly correlated with the project outcome.