In 2015, when Anne Carpenter became Director for the Florence County Disabilities Foundation (FCDF), she knew she’d found a fit for her retail and fundraising expertise. What sealed the deal was meeting the staff and members of the disabled community.“I knew that this was the perfect place for me,” she recalls. What no one yet knew was how this match would transform lives in Florence County and the role ACS Technologies (ACST) would play in accomplishing the nonprofit’s mission.
A Slow Start to Meeting a Critical Need
FCDF was born when families with members affected by disabilities began looking for services that simply didn’t exist. Together they formed the Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs Board. The Foundation, now headed up by Anne, was created to fund and resource those efforts.
Only 75 consumers were served in those early days. Hopes for expanded services came with the introduction of a thrift store. By the time Anne arrived, FCDF had a handful of staff and volunteers, two understocked stores, and subpar technology.
“We were working with thrift store equipment ourselves—hand-me-down computers and printers so old we couldn’t even get ink cartridges for them. It was clear we needed to rebuild from the ground up.” – Anne Carpenter, Director
A Transformative Reboot
As it happened, a member of the Foundation’s board worked with ACST and stepped in to jump start the process of modernizing their operations. Soon every computer was upgraded, internet services expanded, printers replaced, a new phone system installed, and a solution acquired for store payments and online giving. As a result, profits doubled and online donations grew significantly.
“ACST totally changed everything.” – Anne Carpenter, Director
To keep their IT updated and maintained, FCDF became an early customer of Higher Ground, a managed IT service that provided on-call IT services. Thus began the next phase of the FCDF success story. According to Anne, having knowledgeable, friendly, and accessible IT assistance made all the difference. As that relationship grew, their IT contact came to understand their challenges and to anticipate solutions. Improving internal and external communications became the next top priorities.
Higher Ground Managed IT joined the ACS Technologies family in 2021, centralizing systems, IT services, and support for FCDF and other non profit organizations.
Greater Efficiency Yields Greater Impact
With the help of ACS Technologies and Higher Ground Managed IT, visitors to the FCDF website can view fundraising events, purchase tickets, make donations, receive alerts for thrift store “specials,” and identify volunteer opportunities. Internally, accounting, reporting, and communications were streamlined for optimum efficiency.
One particular story illustrates how improved visibility and accessibility has opened up still greater opportunities to meet needs in the disabled community. As Anne relays, one family was inspired to turn their personal tragedy into something positive after learning about the work of FCDF on the news. “The family made a donation that has enabled us to offer a monetary award each year to a ‘consumer’ who made great improvements in their job performance,” Anne explains. “The award money can go toward the recipient’s retirement fund or needs down the road.”
Beyond the powerful FCDF vision is a story of finding and utilizing resources with big impact. Today FCDF serves 1,400 people providing quality of life experiences from music and exercise to long-term solutions for housing and employment, including thrift store positions.
“News of what we do here now reaches those who need our services, it’s made a huge difference in the community.” – Anne Carpenter – Director