Photo courtesy of TECHO
For some, the knowledge that 165 million people in Latin America are living below the poverty line (ECLAC), might leave them wondering how they could ever make a difference.
Yet for a group of young volunteers and professionals (most of them “millenials”), the reality that millions of people live in slums, often in overcrowded and makeshift homes lacking basic services like water and electricity, served as the foundation for what would one day become the nonprofit TECHO (formerly known as Un Techo Para Mi País).
TECHO, which means “roof” in Spanish, was founded in 1997 in Chile. At its core, its founders believe in a poverty-free society in which everyone has opportunities to develop their capacities and fully exercise their rights. The solution to overcoming poverty in slums throughout Latin America, they decided, was to partner passionate youth volunteers with the residents who live there.
With TECHO’s support, volunteers and residents work together to identify the needs of the community, from stable housing to a new road. Once those needs have been agreed upon by the community, TECHO runs community development programs to help residents understand the process for accessing resources and advocating for better solutions with local leaders.
Marcos Cavanaugh, who is tasked with overseeing TECHO’s finances as CFO, speaks with pride about the organization’s incredible growth over the last 17 years.
Since its founding, TECHO has expanded to 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has offices in the United States and the UK. Each year, the nonprofit mobilizes more than 80,000 youth volunteers to work in close to 700 communities. Within these communities, residents and TECHO volunteers built more than 100,000 transitional houses and 5,885 permanent housing solutions. In addition to housing, TECHO has helped communities gain access to critical infrastructure like plumbing and clean water.
While TECHO’s tremendous growth and impact is worth celebrating, it has also come with its share of challenges. For Marcos, country-specific accounting applications across 19 countries resulted in months-long delays and costly administrative work to close financial periods and give TECHO’s leadership a global view of where the organization was headed. Marcos shared that TECHO lost out on opportunities for corporate and governmental grants because of outdated financial information.
Improving Social Impact with NetSuite.org
In 2010, TECHO applied for a software donation through the NetSuite.org corporate citizenship program and began using NetSuite to manage its finances. With a NetSuite.org donation and discount, Marcos says NetSuite was half the cost of competing Oracle J.D. Edwards and SAP Business One solutions. Implementation by NetSuite Solution Provider partner 3Ksys helped TECHO align NetSuite to its unique international business needs.
In a multi-phase rollout, TECHO has extended NetSuite OneWorld across six of its offices in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Guatemala, with three more to be brought on before the end of 2015. With OneWorld, TECHO has reduced its semi-annual financial close to just 10 days, compared to four or five months in the past.
NetSuite OneWorld has enabled TECHO to seamlessly transact and report in multiple currencies, including the Euro and those of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Guatemala and the U.S. In Argentina, this real-time visibility and well-managed balance sheets and cash flow enabled investments that generated $200,000 in interest, which supported construction of 250 shelters.
“The time that NetSuite saves us is channeled into our mission to alleviate poverty,” Marcos says. “We’re finding many valuable uses for our information in NetSuite to improve our social impact.”
Looking forward, TECHO intends to have all of its offices live on NetSuite OneWorld except for Haiti and El Salvador, which use single instances of NetSuite, by 2017. The transition will align well with TECHO’s move to add more individual donors to their mix of donation income, half of which comes from about 4,000 corporate partners.
For more information on TECHO’s journey toward a world free of poverty, including a link to donate, visit www.techo.org/en/.