Upic Solutions: Customer Story


For any United Way that wants to harness the power and potential savings of cloud-hosted servers and applications to run leaner and do more in their communities they serve, the technology is getting cheaper, faster, and simpler all the time.

And while these trends are definitely exciting in terms of the possibilities they create, many of the options that are now literally at your fingertips can actually create more problems than they solve.

Many commercially available applications for non-profits that look sleek and simple in demo mode may not be scalable, secure, or suited to the needs of your United Way. At least not without significant modifications.

The United Way of Central Ohio

At the same time, with competition for donations on the rise, a variety of “1-click” fundraising apps flooding donor screens, and front line staff clamoring for faster more intuitive digital tools, choosing the right technology—and technology partner—is a critical strategic business decision for every United Way.

At Upic Solutions, we make it our business to stay abreast of trends in technology and fundraising and only bring to the table those solutions that have been first subjected to rigorous testing and then embraced by users with needs very similar to yours—actual United Way clients.

While it’s undeniable that hosting solutions from companies like Google and Amazon can offer attractive pricing, they can also force you to make serious trade-offs. For example:

  • One-size fits all FAQs that don’t address your specific question, for your specific United Way
  • Less than priority responses when experiencing an issue with an online giving site
  • Difficult if not impossible to speak with a dedicated support engineer during business hours

Upic’s unique co-op business model offers members affordable access to innovative technology and a partner who can help you leverage it to reduce complexity, increase efficiency, and deliver a great user experience for staff and donors alike.

As you’re about to find out, sharing expertise and resources offers some powerful advantages.


– Rick Collins, AVP, United Way of Central Ohio

*(click the links below to expand the story)

The United Way of Central Ohio has transitioned from a local, PC–based system with no remote access or mobile connectivity to a modern enterprise that uses technology to operate more efficiently, connect staff to the data they need, and improve the donor experience.

By leaning on the resources of Upic Solutions, they’ve been able to put more dollars to work in the community by maximizing their IT budget. For Upic, it’s about more than delivering creative IT solutions.

jr_howardTo quote Upic CEO J.R. Howard:
“We’re here to help the United Way build and empower communities.”

Before we share how we partnered with the United Way of Central Ohio to make this happen, let’s clarify what kind of “technology” we either provide directly or counsel members about the acquisition and integration of:

  • Shared and hosted applications
  • Online giving support tools that provide real-time accessibility to the data that different functions need for strategy and action
  • Solutions that function seamlessly across all the devices that staff use in their jobs
  • Managed networks with technical support
  • Hosted IT infrastructure with remote users

While commercial hosting services and “off the shelf” applications can and should play a role in your information management strategy, Upic understands the technology needs of United Way organizations in way that eludes most for-profit companies.

That’s because we approach technology investments from the perspective of a fellow notfor-profit corporation. One that, like yours, has to be run like a business.

rick“They get us. And that saves more time, money and frustration than you can possibly imagine.”
-Rick Collins, AVP, United Way of Central Ohio

In 2001, we were chartered as a 501-c-3 tax-exempt enterprise to serve the needs United Way and 15 years later we’ve grown to serving 2400 users at 59 United Ways across the country.

In the for-profit world, sharing the benefit of one client’s innovation with others would be considered a breach of privileged information. It works differently for Upic’s United Way membership.

Upic’s sole focus on United Ways puts us in a unique position to make solutions available to many that few could afford on their own, even if we’re not hosting applications or data.

Howard puts it this way: “We provide technology expertise and resources that a local United Way would not otherwise have.”

For United Way of Central Ohio’s Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Nelson, those resources have helped the organization become more collaborative and nimbler. “Upic provides us the tools to work more efficiently and communicate more effectively with donors.”

Unlike a for-profit enterprise where savings go to profits or shareholders, Nelson redirects them to supporting their mission. “Every dollar we don’t spend on technology is a dollar that can fund a mission-critical activity or go back into the community.”

The partnership with Upic has allowed her organization to integrate essential workflow solutions such as Upic’s Virtual Office without having to pay a premium.

Created specifically for the needs of United Way leaders and staff who may need to work or collaborate remotely, the app allows access to any application or file (pending permission levels), from any location with Internet access, on any device.

Developed mainly as a convenience, Virtual Office has become a necessity in today’s always on United Way environment.

cheryl-nelson“Every dollar we don’t spend on technology is a dollar that can fund a mission-critical activity or back into the community.” – Cheryl Nelson, CFO, United Way of Central Ohio

Her colleague Rick Collins, Assistant Vice-President of Information Management, has been the driving force behind United Way’s evolution to their current integrated CRM system. His United Way looks and functions very differently than the organization he joined in 2008, and he cites Upic as one of the reasons.

“Today, a successful day is everyone being able to access all the information they need to do their jobs.”

Not only does that describe most days, he goes on to add, “People have gone from resisting change to being able to articulate what kind of information they need, when they need it, and on what device.

“That’s a massive change from even two years ago.”

jr_howard“We provide technology expertise and resources that a local United Way would not otherwise have.”
– J.R. Howard, CEO, Upic Solutions

Regarding the temptation to embrace the bright shiny technology object, Collins sees it as a both a challenge and an inspiration. “There’s no question that what United Way staff can do on their smart phones has led them to expect similar speed and simplicity with work apps.

“Anymore, it’s mobile first and everything else second.”

And while he’s worked with Upic to successfully create a responsive website and user portals, as well as implementing donor-friendly functionality such as text to mobile giving options, he’s now set his sights on creating a uniform experience across all devices similar to commercially available solutions.

While Upic provides the infrastructure and the data access that allows all the parts of the machine to function smoothly, Collins also says Upic plays a key role in helping plan for future innovations. “Upic gets us. And that saves more time, money and frustration than you can possibly imagine.

“We’re not in the technology business We’re in the unlocking human potential business.”

An area many United Ways struggle with, especially those in smaller markets or regions that remain economically challenged, is being able to afford access to hands-on customer support.

If you’ve ever experienced an issue such as an unexpected 404 message when trying to access a corporation’s giving history or your payment gateway suddenly starts rejecting donor credit cards, you know how valuable live support can be.

Upic’s live help desk is one of the ways they help the United Way of Central Ohio fulfill their mission. Available to members weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it’s staffed by carefully screened IT professionals who are not only employed by a 501-c-3 that exclusively serves
United Ways, most are active volunteers in their communities.

Upic’s job is two fold: to support the United Way’s IT infrastructure and their mission.

rick“Smaller donors, especially, want to feel appreciated and part of the mission.”
– Rick Collins

Upic’s commitment to providing a more personalized, authentic experience extends beyond the help desk. According to Collins, “The upgraded CRM lets our staff interact more authentically with donors. Smaller donors, especially, want to feel appreciated and part of the mission.”
At the same time, he’s seen the powerful outcomes facilitated by more efficient campaign management and reporting tools.

“Upic’s knowledge and expertise of Microsoft Dynamics CRM has also allowed us to create more success stories and more immediately connect the impact of those donations on the lives of recipients.”

What can other United Ways expect from a relationship with Upic ?

Howard says “While every local United Way is different, each one is part of a national franchise-like structure whose members face similar challenges with respect to areas such as application and hosting decisions, security of donor information, and creating instant access to data needed for strategic planning and real time campaign execution.”

It’s a view Nelson shares. “The beauty of working with Upic is being able to cost-effectively share in strategies and solutions that can transform the organization into a leaner, more effective force for community empowerment.”

As the one who oversees all aspects of information technology for the United Way of Central Ohio, Collins defines his five “why Upic” bullets as:

  • Deep knowledge of how United Way offices work means no wasted time learning your business
  • Proven strategies for United Way offices to get more done with lean resources
  • No restrictions on sharing “trade secrets” with other United Way clients
  • Strategies for mining donor data to create more engaging and effective campaigns
  • A strategic partner who can help United Ways evaluate which cloud solutions to adopt, and ones to avoid

There are plenty of situations where an animated infographic is appropriate for learning new technology. But when it comes to choosing technology to help you empower and enable the populations that depend on United Way support, you need a team that understands what United Ways are, how they work, and who they serve.

Whether you’re a United Way with immediate technology challenges, or you’re looking at a significant IT infrastructure investment and you want to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your donors’ bucks, Upic Solutions is here to help.

Contact us to schedule a call. And discover the power of working together.

Contact us to schedule a call and discover the power of working together.

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