This post originally appeared in Philanthropy Front and Center San Francisco and was modified for this blog.

While nonprofits are directly tackling social issues, the barriers to positive social change can be significant. Many corporations have found donating resources to be a strategic way to efficiently and effectively support more people in need. Companies that have product donation programs believe that they can create shared value by meeting business objectives and goals while addressing social issues.

How can your organization find out if a company donates any products? A good first step is to check a company 's website for information. Browse or search for keywords like "corporate responsibility," "community," "product donations," or "in-kind gifts."

If you're approaching national retailers, contact the manager of the store(s) in your area. For local businesses, contact the owner(s). See also our Knowledge Base Article on this topic, which lists several clearinghouses for product donations and additional resources.

If your organization is looking for a tech donation like software, hardware, etc., one valuable resource is TechSoup, a nonprofit that works with more than 50 technology companies to connect organizations with the tech products and know-how that they need to be successful.

In this post, Arti Sharma, Associate for Corporate Responsibility at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, talked with two TechSoup partners about their product donation programs: Jaime Barclay, Manager of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, and Jessica Weare, Philanthropy and Civic Engagement Manager at Microsoft.

Product Donation at Symantec

Symantec is a technology security company whose products are used by companies and organizations to protect and manage information. Symantec donates to organizations both domestically and internationally, having reached more than 23,000 organizations in 30 countries over the program 's lifetime.

Arti: How is the product donation program and philanthropy a part of Symantec's corporate culture?

Jaime: It used to be that corporate philanthropy and product donations were side programs in our field, but that's not the case anymore. Symantec's philanthropic goals are a part of the company's overall mission, which is to help customers of all sizes to secure and manage information. Our product donation program is the largest mechanism we use to support the community and nonprofits.

Arti: What should organizations think about when applying for a product donation?

Jaime: Nonprofits need to know about their current IT structure and what operating systems they are using. They should also know the number of users and computers that need to be protected. Since Symantec allows two product donations a year, it's very important for a nonprofit to know which product they will need. Do they need a consumer-based product that will be installed on each individual computer? Or do they need a networked-based product that can be shared amongst users?

Arti: Have you noticed any trends in product donation needs from nonprofits?

Jaime: As more organizations are storing and sharing sensitive/private information around the world, more organizations are requesting encryption products to protect client and donor information. Also, as more nonprofits raise money online, there is a greater need for payment security products to ensure donors' information is protected.

Arti: Human challenges are among the most frequently cited barriers to better IT adoption. A survey of 10,500 nonprofits and NGOs found that 60 percent claimed lack of knowledge as the single greatest barrier to new technology adoption. Has Symantec encountered the same feedback from organizations? If so, how is Symantec addressing this challenge?

Jaime: Given the nature of Symantec's products, many of them are very sophisticated. We have worked with TechSoup to provide support to nonprofits if they have questions about installation or how to utilize a product. We want to make sure that if an organization calls Symantec's support team or TechSoup, they are being taking care of. Also, our employees volunteer their time to create webinars that are available to the public, and to discuss IT security and Symantec products that nonprofits can utilize.

Product Donation at Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Microsoft donated $949 million in software to more than 86,000 nonprofits worldwide in fiscal year 2014.

Arti: Why is it important to Microsoft to have a product donation program?

Jessica: Through its products, Microsoft helps to empower people and companies around the world every day, so leveraging our products to support nonprofit organizations is a natural extension of that work. It's our goal to support nonprofits in building their capacity and making them more efficient.

Arti: What makes Microsoft's donation program different from other product donation programs out there?

Jessica: Microsoft has a variety of products available to suit the needs of individuals and organizations. It's exciting to see our products overlap and work across platforms. Also, our products like Office 365 for Nonprofits and Skype make it easier for nonprofit staff to collaborate and communicate with each other.

Arti: If organizations are interested in applying for a product donation from Microsoft, how should they go about it?

Jessica: At Microsoft, we have three levels of engagement:

  1. If an organization wants the latest version of a Microsoft product and can self-manage the product, TechSoup is a great option.
  2. Last year Microsoft made Office 365 for Nonprofits available and free to organizations in 92 countries around the world. Office 365 is ideal for organizations that collaborate often and share files. This program allows nonprofits to grow because users can be added without purchasing additional licenses.
  3. For organizations that are looking to update their entire IT system or similarly large-scale projects, we offer Microsoft Unlimited Potential, a software grant program through Cybergrants. Around the globe, members of Microsoft 's Citizenship team work with local nonprofits to customize the right mix of software to meet their needs.

Product donations give nonprofits an opportunity to use more financial resources for programmatic work instead of purchasing equipment or supplies. Not only do product donations show a company's commitment to supporting the community, but they also allow nonprofits to continue doing what they do best and with greater efficiency.

Visit TechSoup to learn more about product donation programs from Symantec and Microsoft.


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Learn more about corporate giving with these items from our collection:

Introduction to Corporate Giving (Multiple Formats) This introduction to the world of corporate support for nonprofits includes research tools and a case study of a corporate-nonprofit partnership.

Unlocking Gaming Potential (Podcast) How do organizations approach corporations and other organizations when partnering on a new project?

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