When it comes to religious organizations, Carla Langhorst believes a penny saved is much more than a penny earned.
That's why she's excited about the prospect of the United Church of Canada saving about $1 million in software costs in the next year because of a recent move by Microsoft Corporation to donate its products to religious groups.
"As a non-profit, we make a penny stretch (further) than a regular business," says Langhorst, the Toronto-based manager of new initiatives for Edge, the research and development arm of the United Church of Canada.
Last month, the multinational software company expanded its donation program to include churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, denominational offices, camps and other religious institutions in recognition of their work in the community, explains the executive director of Techsoup Canada, the non-profit organization that distributes donated software.
"Microsoft is the biggest corporation that has made changes to their donor guidelines (to accommodate) for faith-based organizations," explains Jane Zhang.
Previously, the software giant had offered its products only to non-profits and registered charities.
To qualify for the latest version of Windows, MS Office, or another title produced by Microsoft, religious organizations need to fill out an online form at www.techsoupcanada.ca and provide proof of their charitable status. Zhang says groups also need to show they do not discriminate when hiring staff or delivering programs.
Approved organizations can receive up to 50 copies of 10 different software programs for free, paying Techsoup $13 per licence to cover administrative costs. An organization with 10 computers could save $8,480 over retail costs by ordering the Windows operating system and MS office software through Techsoup, Zhang says.
And the catch? No marketing emails, no solicitation, just the chance for 30,000 registered faith groups to direct their money to community programs instead of software, Zhang says.
"Our goal is to grow the technological capabilities of organizations and help them grow their mission," says Zhang.
With nine computers in the building at Harrow United Church, including six in a community computer lab, plus a network server, the possibility of free software makes it easier -- and cheaper -- to keep computers up to date, says Rev. Teresa Moysey.
"If we were planning to upgrade all that, it would be huge," says Moysey, who is just familiarizing herself with the terms and conditions of Techsoup.
Zhang says Techsoup is unveiling the Microsoft offer slowly to religious organizations, with the United Church the among the first to sign on.