2020 Public Benefit Report: Tech for Good in a Time of Uncertainty

As a public benefit corporation, we report on our impact every year to the State of Minnesota. We’re proud of the work we were able to do in the challenging year that was 2020, and grateful for the opportunity to keep doing what we do.

You can download the PDF of our annual benefit report here, or keep scrolling to read the full report.

Tech for Good in a Time of Uncertainty

By the middle of the year, just saying “2020” evoked staggering challenges: a deadly global pandemic, uprisings for racial justice in response to police violence, climate disasters, business closures and losses of income for many people, and a presidential election making the future even more uncertain.

When COVID-19 first became serious, Software for Good’s leadership team met to plan for worst-case scenarios, both as a business and for us as people. We found that our services were still in demand, including in response to the pandemic — supporting telehealth technology, emergency housing relief, online learning and events, and more.

With projects like the state of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, for which we partnered with our client HousingLink, we saw the value of tech for good more than ever before.

We had already begun the transition to a fully remote team, with plans to stop working out of a designated office. To keep everyone connected and cope with the specific challenges of being stuck in home offices, we offered more ways to get to know each other virtually.

We also decided early on to prioritize our internship program despite the challenges of working remotely, and were happy to see our summer interns becoming part of the team through video calls and Slack messages.

As the world has continued to face new challenges in 2021, we feel gratitude for our privilege and our services being in demand during this time, and feel compelled to use that privilege to give back to the community and have a deeper impact. In this report, you’ll learn about highlights from the past year and our ongoing commitment to pursue benefit to people and planet as well as profit.

 

Pairing Cause with Craft

Since 2004, our experienced team of engineers, designers, and strategists has developed software applications for organizations working toward positive environmental and social change. We intentionally partner with those who share our belief that technology has the power to engage and motivate people to solve critical global issues: climate change, hunger, human rights, clean water, renewable energy, healthcare, and education.

As a general benefit corporation, Software for Good subscribes to the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit. We put people and planet first — operating sustainably, investing in our community, and donating our time, money, and support to causes like climate action, affordable housing, and inclusion for people with disabilities. The Software for Good team is driven by a shared passion for using technology to make a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work.

Through our mission, we pursue these Sustainable Development Goals as identified by the United Nations:

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities

GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Graphics for Sustainable Development Goals: 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth. 10 Reduced Inequities. 17 Partnerships for the Goals.

 

We bring people and technology together to solve complex world problems.

 

$2.5 million

revenue for purpose-driven software development, design, and strategic consulting

 

$70 million

in housing relief distributed through Minnesota’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program platform built by Software for Good

 

$50,000

raised for Native lands, lives, and economies in fundraising campaign for our client Tanka Fund

 

3

new full-time employees hired

 

4

new software developers employed through our paid internship

 

5 weeks

average paid time off taken by each SfG team member

 

$30,000

invested in internship program

 

2020 Project Highlights

– Launched a new website and began work on the data portal for Shelter Animals Count, which collects statistics from animal shelters and rescues across the U.S. to provide insights for the shelter community as a whole

– Built a new website and online application system for Forest Carbon Works, helping small forest owners earn income through conserving their land and navigating the carbon market

– Launched the Support the Return fundraising campaign for our client Tanka Fund, helping them raise just under $50,000 to help Native buffalo caretakers practice regenerative agriculture and restore the buffalo population

– Built a website for MBOLD, an initiative of GREATER MSP that brings together leaders in food and agriculture to tackle the biggest issues in our food system

– Led research and strategy exploration for the City of Saint Paul, helping inform the service-focused redesign of stpaul.gov

– Dove deep into research and prototyping for Instructiv, a social enterprise using technology to improve the special education experience for schools and families

– Through our summer internship program, developed Vonzella’s cost sharing platform to fight the harmful effects of the cash bail system

– Shared our software development team with social enterprises focused on healthcare services and access, helping them quickly adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Powering a Statewide System for Emergency Housing Relief

As people have lost work and income during the pandemic, the number of families behind on their housing bills has skyrocketed. In the summer of 2020, the state of Minnesota created the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program to offer rent, mortgage, and utility relief.

The nonprofit HousingLink saw an opportunity to build on the work we had already done together on the Housing Hub platform for affordable housing waitlists. We sprang into action to build the software application, crafting a system to support people across Minnesota applying for a total of more than $70 million in assistance.

The tool had to combine clear, accessible forms for applicants with a robust back end to support the approval process. To distribute funding, administrators from 44 agencies across the state log into the system to review submissions, contact applicants for supporting information, and approve payments. The United Way is another partner for the program, inviting people to use the 2-1-1 helpline to sign up for the program and submit their applications.

Software for Good worked closely with HousingLink to manage all of the project requirements. To make the application as accessible and inclusive as possible, we offered recommendations such as simplifying question language and using a single name field instead of “First Name” and “Last Name.” We sent the application out for testing with program administrators to provide feedback before launch — and after the program launched, we conducted usability testing with some of those same administrators to understand how the system could be improved.

The COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program received requests for more than $70 million in rent, mortgage, and utilities relief. And we continued building and refining after the initial launch, working closely with HousingLink and their partners to add new features to make the system more efficient and user-friendly. At a time when many people are struggling, we’re proud to support direct relief for those in need.

“To the team at Software for Good, that built the software programming, thank you all.”

— Minnesota Governor Tim Walz thanking the partners behind the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program launch





 

A Team Effort

Our people are the heart of Software for Good. We have thoughtfully grown our team over time, hiring professionals who are as passionate about our mission as they are skilled in our trade.

While we strive to maintain a flat structure that gives everyone on the Software for Good team a voice in our organization’s growth and impact, we rely on the leadership and counsel of this small team committed to maintaining the balance of People, Planet, and Profit. Their work is guided by the expertise and experience of outside advisors within the business, technology, and social enterprise sectors.

Software for Good’s company values are:

1. Open & honest communication

2. Holding ourselves & others accountable for high-integrity work

3. High employee quality of life

4. Collaboration

5. Social justice & inclusion

 

Striving to Be Anti-Racist

The murder of George Floyd and uprisings in Minneapolis and across the country was a reminder of the urgent need to fight against racism. Some of our employees lived within a few blocks of the protests’ epicenter, making the need for radical change feel even more immediate.

Though we have worked to be inclusive and equitable in the past, we met as a team to explore what more we can do, and discussed ideas like:

– Reevaluating our job postings, hiring process, and onboarding approach

– Supporting more BIPOC business leaders and owners

– Watching our tech terms for oppressive language — for example, renaming the default branch of a project repository from “master” to “main”

– Creating a written statement on what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to Software for Good

Several of these workshops took place during our summer internship, so our interns were fully included in the discussions.

 

First Employee Satisfaction Survey

Creating an inclusive workplace: How are we doing?

We also realized we needed to better understand our employees’ experience, especially those who are more likely to be excluded because of their identities and backgrounds. We sent out our first employee survey and will continue inviting this feedback to understand how we can do better.

We received especially positive feedback when asking team members if they agree or disagree with the following statements:

– I have the freedom and autonomy to decide how to approach my work.

– I feel that I and my colleagues can comfortably speak up and present ideas around social justice and inclusion.

– I feel that I can live my personal values through the work I do at Software for Good.

Though generally still positive, we found that we had the most room for improvement on employees agreeing with these statements:

– I receive feedback from the leadership team that is constructive and actionable.

– I have the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues to make our work successful. – I am satisfied with Software for Good’s incorporation of social justice in our day-to-day work.

We also asked for open-ended feedback in the survey on topics including the overall direction and vision of the company, company culture, living up to our stated values, and feeling supported and/or struggling with burnout.

As a result of the employee survey, we included these objectives in our quarterly company goals:

– Find and create space for more interesting and fulfilling work.

– Provide opportunities for team development/learning in anti-racism work.

– Improve process on projects leading to overall client and employee satisfaction.

 

Empathy and PB&J

Screenshot of tweet by Liz Tupper: Send me your best instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, you heard me PB&J.

While speaking at Twin Cities Startup Week and with the University of Minnesota student group Design U, SfG’s Liz Tupper asked for instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Seems simple enough… but it’s easy to skip a step or two. What if the person making the sandwich doesn’t have the right kind of knife handy? What if they have a nut allergy, or can’t eat gluten?

This conversation starter opened up talks about assumptions, biases, and working to include people who are often marginalized.

Spoke at:

– “Being Inclusive Online” / Young Nonprofit Professionals Network / Colleen Powers / April

– “Empowering People Through Technology: A Case Study on The Arc Minnesota” / Good Tech Fest / Liz Tupper / May

– “Code for Good: Building a Better World” / General Assembly / Colleen Powers moderated panel of tech professionals / September

– Tech Impact Day / Liz Tupper volunteered on team of tech professionals supporting a nonprofit / September

Sponsored:

– Code Switch hackathon for social change, alongside Techquity and Open Twin Cities

– The Coven & The Woke Coach present Brave Space Salons, a series of workshops on exploring your anti-racism journey

– City of Minneapolis Trans Equity Summit

Blue and green gradient background with text 2020 Annual Benefit Report and Software for Good logo.