TechSoup Sees Upside for Nonprofits in Downturn
March 22, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle — Social entrepreneur Daniel Ben-Horin, whose multimillion dollar San Francisco business TechSoup Global connects charities to computer companies, sees an upside to the economic downturn.
Ben-Horin, who launched his company in 1987 as stock markets around the world collapsed, believes today's recession will prompt laid-off workers in technology and finance to volunteer more and companies to increase donations.
"I'm a child of the '60s and I believe in the phenomenon of a social zeitgeist," Ben-Horin said last week. "This is a time that will actually be good for nonprofits. It's a time that will be good for reinvention. It's a time when a lot of talented people will reexamine how they spend their time."
For TechSoup ( www.techsoup.org), which charges an administrative fee to make donated technology affordable to charities and public libraries around the world, it is a time of growth.
The company has expanded from 20 employees in 2000 to 170 today, and has seen its income rise 17 percent this year over the same period last year. It manages product donations of commercial hardware and software to more than 80,000 organizations in 23 countries.
"We are looking at the world now and seeing how we can expand our basic platform," said Ben-Horin, who shares the title of CEO with Rebecca Masisak, who manages the company's growth and corporate donations, and Marnie Webb, who focuses on systems technology and research and development.
In light of the depressed economy and high unemployment, Ben-Horin has begun exploring the idea of establishing a "technology peace corps," with TechSoup serving as matchmaker between skilled technologists looking to volunteer and nonprofits in need of systems help.
"This idea makes a lot of sense to me," Ben-Horin said. "People are talking now about public service. There might be funding we could get from the stimulus package. There is a field of people who want to help on a technological level, but right now it's totally aggregated. It's like when a disaster hits, everyone wants to help, but there is no coherence to bringing everyone together."