Li Kin Pang will never forget the first woman her nonprofit organization, Image Mission Ltd, helped. A mother of three, the woman, whom we'll call Mae, had been the victim of domestic violence, and as a result had been forced to move with her children into her mother's one-room apartment.
With so many pressures facing her, Mae kept her goals small, telling Pang that her dream was simply to get a job so she could afford her own apartment. The problem was, Mae had an education equivalent to that of a 14-year-old, which severely limited her potential job choices. Not one to quit, Mae said she wanted to apply for a distance learning program so she could finish her education while working, and eventually get a better job.
"This is the kind of people we're helping," said Pang, who 14 months ago founded Image Mission and launched Dress for Success® Singapore to help women like Mae by providing them with image consulting, professional attire and career coaching. "We're trying to help them achieve their dreams."
Held Back by Limited Resources
But helping people achieve their dreams takes time, and like so many young nonprofits, Image Mission lacked IT resources and was running its business on a combination of spreadsheets and Word documents. That meant data was not integrated and hard to access. Business processes were also managed differently by different volunteers.
It wasn't a model that would allow Image Mission to reach as many people as Pang envisioned — a number that figured to grow quickly after the organization was appointed the operator of Dress for Success Singapore, an affiliate of international nonprofit Dress for Success. As that process was unfolding, Pang began to look for an answer to the organization's technology challenges.
It was about this time, in early 2015, that Pang brought on Image Mission's first volunteer from the U.S., a woman who happened to be married to a NetSuite employee. When she first mentioned NetSuite, Pang had never heard of it, nor the company's grant program for nonprofits. She thought it sounded like a miracle, so she applied and was awarded a software donation from NetSuite.org, coupling it with implementation assistance from SuiteVolunteers, a signature NetSuite.org program that offers pro bono volunteer services from NetSuite employees to nonprofits receiving business software donations.
Primed for the Mission
By October, Image Mission's NetSuite environment was up and running, and while it would take a bit of time to get the hang of it, the organization was primed to expand its reach. Whereas Image Mission was only able to help 12 women in 2015, it has already helped 50 so far in 2016, and Pang hopes that number will reach 400 by March 2017. In all, she's estimated that nearly 9,000 women in Singapore could potentially benefit from the Dress for Success Singapore programme.
Pang says it's too soon to have measured any improvement resulting from NetSuite, but that she's seen the evidence of its impact. The organization has been able to use its database more efficiently to manage client referrals, match clients to volunteers, track volunteer hours and perform a multitude of other operational tasks. It's using NetSuite to generate reports on its nonprofit status for local entities, as well as on its overall performance for Dress for Success.
Business metrics that would otherwise be a monthly challenge to compile are now easily accessible with the click of a button, thanks to NetSuite’s customizable reporting. The integration between NetSuite’s ERP and CRM platforms has also proven to be invaluable in tracking financial transactions down to the specific client, volunteer or donor.
Perhaps slightly more measurable, Image Mission also has been able to create automated online volunteer and client referral forms, replacing a clunky manual process and significantly reducing errors.
"Now the forms automatically populate the database," says Pang. "It saves a lot of manual entry."
More Work to Do
And Pang is far from done; in fact, she says she has a long NetSuite wish list. First up: training more staff on the NetSuite system. In fact, Image Mission already has received another grant to have a SuiteVolunteer team run a training programme for beginner users of back office functionality.
After that, it's on to an online fundraising engine. "The dream is to have a portal that would help us to run our fundraising campaigns," she said.
But all of these dreams, just like those of Image Mission's clients, take time.
Mae, the first woman Pang helped, did get an administrative job, but she eventually moved back in with her husband and again found herself the victim of domestic violence. She was forced to move out on her own one more time, which interrupted her work and her plans to further her education.
But as she seeks to rebuild her life, Image Mission will be there with her, until she gets fully on her feet, just as NetSuite will be there, supporting Image Mission's objectives long after it establishes itself as a nonprofit with staying power.
Learn more about NetSuite software donations and the SuiteVolunteers programs at www.netsuite.org.