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In Business for the Not-for-Profits

by Paul Knowles, Exchange Magazine, May 2015 Edition

Even the name of the business suggests that there is something unusual going on: “Peaceworks Technology Solutions”. It’s as though two significant Waterloo Region worlds have collided – the peace-making, philosophy rooted in the local faith-based community, and the high tech business world that has put Waterloo region on the map.

And that analysis would be spot-on. Peaceworks is indeed a for-profit business, but one specifically designed to serve the not-for-profit sector. It’s also a company entirely owned by its own employees.

Joanne Young Evans is CEO at Peaceworks; she came to the company in November, 2013, succeeding Peaceworks founder Nolan Andres,who launched the company in his basement, 20 years ago. Andres left to become Chief Information Officer at the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union.

Young Evans has a history in not for profit organizations.Most recently, she had served as Executive Director of Guelph Independent Living.

She explains the raison d’être of Peaceworks. “We focus on not for profits. Our client base is mostly not for profit, although we do some for-profit. The for-profits that come to us, they come because of our philosophy and also because of our reputation in the field.”

Peaceworks’ clients include organizations involved in environmental concerns, health, social justice, education, government, some political parties, faith-based groups, and churches. Specific clients include Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), Ten Thousand Villages, CMHC, Community Health Centres, Alzheimer Society, Kin Canada, Stonehenge (the mental health and addiction service in Guelph), and KW Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Young Evans says that her company has a two-pronged-plus approach to providing service to clients. Asked what Peaceworks does, she flips the question, replaying, “What don’t we do? We literally are a one-stop shop.”

She goes on to explain that,“Organizations are usually software development or infrastructure services.What we offer is everything from hosting and backup, we offer re-selling, we have custom development software, we do data and engagement – customer relations management (CRM), fundraising, charities, all that kind of work.Then we have all our infrastructure services,which is all our tech services. Then we have consulting in all of those areas as well.”

In the case of two clients, including MEDA (which has an international footprint), Peaceworks is their complete, outsourced IT department.Young Evans says,“MEDA doesn’t have an IT department, and they’re global.We’re it.We have an expertise across the board, and that’s what you get when you out-source.”

According to the CEO, human relationships are at the heart of all they do.“When it comes to IT, we’re client-relationship focused. You’ll have some IT firms where you never know who’s going to walk through your door.”Whereas at Peaceworks, a tech support person is assigned, individually, to each client. “We match up on personality, on need, based on experience, on skill base, and he will be your partner for life. We always want to be sure that relationship is number one. You want to be able to trust him, to work with him. You don’t have a revolving door of tech.”

She claims this is one of several key elements that make Peaceworks unique. And she adds, “Also, we have a not for profit experience. It’s 20 years that we’ve been working with not for profits.We understand how they function,we understand cash flows, staffing, privacy issues – that’s our knowledge base, we pride ourselves in that.”Young Evans claims that the ethical high ground demanded by the not for profit world is the reason some for-profits also seek out their services.

Peaceworks has two offices – about 22 team members are based in KW, another six are in Winnipeg. Both groups are seeing increasing interest from businesses involved in the relatively new “B Corp” initiative. The B Corp (“b” for “benefits”) movement promotes the idea that business has a responsibility to look beyond its own bottom line, and to focus on a “triple bottom line” – profits, people and planet. There are 1,200 B Corp registered companies in 35 countries, including about 125 in Canada; Peaceworks was one of the founding businesses.

Young Evans says,“B Corp was very new to me. It’s much more prominent in the States, but it’s coming along in Canada. It espouses the same philosophies that we do. Our owners are concerned with social justice.” In fact, she insists that this fundamental commitment is so strong,“There are clients we would not work with.”

Peaceworks is happy to be primarily active in the not for profit field. “With 80% of our clients being not for profit, that’s who we go after.We believe their impact is our impact. Our not for profit is really what our core is.” She adds, “We do have for-profit clients who come to our door. They believe in what we do, they’re B Corps, they fit into how we function.We’re good, and our reputation precedes us. So we want to work with them.”

Peaceworks’ management structure is unusual, in that the board of directors is made up of employees. The CEO points out that none of the board members report directly to her. Young Evans herself is not yet an owner – staff must be employed for two years before they can become part of the ownership structure. But when that deadline is past, she will definitely join the ownership group, she says.

The CEO believes that employee ownership is an important contributor to the success of the company.“This is an awesome, awesome organization, because you know that when our employees are going out to work with your staff, their reputation is on the line as well. They work here because they are proud of what we do, what we stand for, and the kinds of organizations we work with.”

At PeaceWorks, we know how to set up your organization with technology that drives your mission. Together, we define a technology vision for your organization and recommend the best ways to support that vision.

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We provide effective and affordable migrations, installations and upgrades that better manage your infrastructure. We focus on solutions that meet your needs, not solutions that are unnecessary or outside of your budget.

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We collaborate with you to create solutions that turn ideas and data into information that you can use, analyze and distribute.  We build the technology solutions that equip you to better engage and manage your staff, your clients, your volunteers, and your donors.  We simplify data collection, intelligence and management.

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PeaceWorks provides the management and sale of hardware and software solutions. We always discuss your needs and provide you with the most preferable options.

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About PeaceWorks

PeaceWorks provides first-rate technology solutions that enable organizations to achieve their mission with increased ease and efficiency. We focus on genuine client-focused relationships, connecting client needs with sustainable and reliable technology solutions.
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