In the News
Serve IT in the IU Newsroom
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"Passionate about mission but short on IT funding, nonprofits benefit from IU's Serve IT."
April 12, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Youth in need of mentoring, an environment challenged by human impacts, victims of domestic violence, and families working to enrich the lives of their developmentally disabled loved ones: Four Bloomington nonprofits serving these impacted groups each received a boost over technology hurdles they faced thanks to a new IT clinic at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing (SOIC).
Both student volunteers from SOIC's new Serve IT program and representatives from the four nonprofits -- Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington, Sycamore Land Trust, Middle Way House, and Christole Inc. -- will gather Wednesday (April 13) to socialize, review accomplishments from their pilot semester together, and do some visioning for the future.
Serve IT was designed by faculty at SOIC, with continuing support from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Kelley School of Business, to provide Bloomington-area nonprofits with information technology services such as database development and website design in a sustained way that, through the clinic design scheme, can offer continuity from semester to semester and from student team to student team. Each nonprofit was paired with four or five student volunteers.
"My teammates and I are working with the Middle Way House to help improve their technology resources," said Lizzi Pomeroy, a Batesville, Ind., junior and informatics major. "We recently completed a Strategic IT Plan, which outlines the next steps we will take. Those steps include implementing a network storage system, developing a database, updating software like browsers, MS Office, and antivirus, and providing a plan for a technology budget."
Aspects of Serve IT that allow for a planning period followed by action items and opportunities for semester-to-semester continuity, something that many class-based service learning projects can't provide, resound with Chris Tann, unit director at Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington's Lincoln Street Club. In addition to the team of five student volunteers providing immediate assistance like security and networking upgrades, the club can now plan on a new website going live this fall.
"Without their involvement we would not have been able to do any of this because we don't have the financial resources to go out and hire people," Tann said.
The team at the Boys and Girls Clubs also networked 17 work stations used by kids to a primary server in the club computer lab, and once a week they offer a class for young members, ages 9 through 12, in using creative digital suites.
"The approach is always to do an initial round of planning with the nonprofit, out of which comes concrete actions which may extend into subsequent semesters," said Matt Hottell, director of the Serve IT nonprofit clinic and a senior lecturer at SOIC. "We announced the clinic to SOIC students last November and based on the response, which was tremendous, three times as many students as we could accommodate indicated an interest in Serve IT."
For Bethany Lister and her team working for Sycamore Land Trust, development of a new website and data base were seen as prominent needs for the nonprofit that works to protect pristine forest land in the region.
"Our team is developing a dynamic website and a client relationship management database for SLT," said Lister, a Bloomington graduate student at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "These new tools will give them the freedom to focus on their mission and not on their technology."
"Serve IT volunteers, staff and nonprofit partner representatives will gather from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at IU Informatics East to review academic posters outlining the students' efforts, to socialize and to plan for future activities. The clinic has been funded for its first two years by SOIC, after which a for-credit course associated with the clinic will provide tuition income. The clinic is also applying for grants, and to date has received $8,000 from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and another $20,000 from the Smithville Charitable Foundation.
"We intend to increase our capacity in future semesters," Hottell said of aiding more nonprofits. "Some clients will need substantial help beyond the initial semester, while others will move into a maintenance phase where we continue to provide support and advice but do not devote an entire project team to their needs."
Serve IT in the Herald Times
Link to the article
"Nonprofits getting information technology help from IU clinic" By Dann Denny
April 11, 2011
Like most small nonprofits, Sycamore Land Trust cannot afford to hire an information technology specialist.
So when it learned that a group of Indiana University students would — at no cost — help the agency redesign its Web site and revamp its donor data base, it leaped at the opportunity.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have their help," said John Lawrence, the agency's assistant director. "They are a great bunch of kids who really know what they're doing."
Sycamore Land Trust is just one of four local nonprofits that are benefiting from a new School of Informatics and Computing information technology clinic called Serve IT.
Serve IT, which began operations last January, provides Bloomington-area non-profits with free information technology services such as database development, Website design, and technical support.
Lawrence said when one of the agency's dilapidated desktop computers bit the dust, the clinic went the extra mile, replacing it with a refurbished computer free of charge.
"That saved us from having to go out and buy a $500 computer," he said. "This is great service they're doing, not only for us, but for the entire nonprofit community."
Lawrence said he feels flattered that Sycamore Land Trust is one of the first four agencies to receive services from the clinic.
"Maybe that means we're the most IT-challenged agency," he said, laughing.
How It Works
The clinic has a director and two graduate assistants, plus a group of student teams that provide hands-on assistance to the nonprofits.
Nonprofits must first apply — either online or by emailing email@example.com.
"During our first contact with them, we do a general needs assessment," said Laurie Burns McRobbie, chairwoman of the clinic's advisory committee that includes individuals from the campus and community. "We ask the student teams to do some strategic planning with the nonprofit, and also put in some volunteer hours there, to help them become more familiar with the agency's culture and how it operates."
Then, over a period of several months, the student teams offer the kinds of IT services that can best benefit the agency.
This semester they are working with not only Sycamore Land Trust, but the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington, Middle Way House, and Christole Inc.
"At this point, we don't how long most nonprofits will use our services, but we do know they can get multiple semesters of service," McRobbie said.
Matt Hottell, the clinic's director, said the clinic is already accepting applications from local nonprofits for the 2011 fall semester.
"We'd like to have seven or eight nonprofit clients, but that is contingent on a lot of things, including getting enough student teams together," he said. "At least two of our current clients will continue receiving our services for another semester."
Hottell said priority will be given to nonprofits that initially helped get the clinic get off the ground, and those that will provide a good learning opportunity for students.
"We are looking for strong organizations that just need a little extra help getting to where they need to be."
How It Began
McRobbie said the seeds for the clinic were planted a year ago when students in a School of Informatics and Computing graduate course — co-taught by McRobbie and Maureen Biggers — designed the clinic.
The students, six from the IU School of Informatics and Computing and three from the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, even came up with the clinic's name.
The clinic was developed to provide students with real-world, team-based learning opportunities, and experience serving Bloomington area nonprofits with IT-related challenges.
Hottell said the School of Informatics and Computing has provided space, equipment and funding for one of the two graduate assistants (the other graduate assistant is funded by SPEA) for the clinic's first two years.
After that, he said, it's hoped that a for-credit course associated with the clinic will provide tuition income for the clinic.
The clinic has also received grant funding — $20,000 from the Smithville Charitable Foundation and $8,000 from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.
"We will continue to apply for more grants and have not ruled out some fee-for-service in the future," McRobbie said.