Microsoft has announced that it is to make its Office 365 productivity software available for free to qualifying non-profit organisations and NGOs in 41 countries, including South Africa, with immediate effect.
Microsoft South Africa’s Office Business lead, Uriel Rootshtain, said the donation would allow non-profits and NGOs to spend fewer resources and time on IT and focus on their missions addressing issues like disease eradication, education and literacy, and environmental sustainability.
“Non-profits and NGOs operate in the same way as any other organisation or business, but many lack the resources to implement the latest technology. The donation of Office 365 allows them to be more effective and efficient in the work they do,” said Rootshtain. “The beauty of this programme is there’s no cap on the number of employees who can get on board, whether the organisation has 10 employees or thousands.”
For non-profits with offices in multiple locations, Office 365 simplifies collaboration. Staff can view their colleagues’ calendars to find ideal meeting times, share documents without worrying about version control, and hold group meetings with video conferencing. The added benefit of a cloud-based product is the ability to access documents from anywhere.
One of the first non-profits in South Africa to use the software is the Wildlands Conservation Trust, which works to create a sustainable economy in communities across the country through “green” activities.
Andrew Whitley, Strategic Manager of Ecological Restoration at the Wildlands Conservation Trust, says much of his team’s work is project-based, with teams located in remote areas across the country.
“As soon as we started using Office365 across the organisation, our problems with capturing data and storing it safely became a thing of the past. Our operations depend on collaboration, and we have been better able to upload and work off the same documents, whether you are in head office or in the field,” says Whitley. “In fact, our whole staff has found value in the many features such as calendar overlays, desktop sharing and group video conferencing that help them efficiently stay connected to each other and their work.
“To do the work we do, we rely on the right technology to help us channel our efforts to achieve the best outcomes possible, such as nature conservation or saving the rhino. The financial benefit this donation by Microsoft will bring to our business is tremendous. It means we have that much more funds to spend towards the things that matter for us, to make the world a better place,” he said.
In a study by Microsoft’s software donation partner TechSoup Global, non-profits reported that the top four advantages of cloud computing are easier IT administration (79 percent), cost savings (62 percent), improved collaboration (61 percent) and data security (54 percent).
Office 365 provides non-profits and NGOs with access to Microsoft’s Office cloud service, tailored to the needs of non-profits through the following benefits:
- Ability to access information from virtually anywhere, with access to documents and files from Office applications optimised for use across PCs, smartphones and tablets.
- Easy collaboration. Non-profits are able to work together easily across an organization by using familiar Office applications with email, shared calendar, document sharing and videoconferencing.
- Easy IT implementation. Office 365 for Non-profits includes access to easy-to-use administrative controls and the ability to install Office without uninstalling previous versions.
- Reliability and up-to-date technology. Office 365 allows organisations to spend less time on IT maintenance, while providing access to always up-to-date technology that is simple and easy to use.