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Desktop Assistance

by Marshall Mayer last modified Jan 04, 2012 12:05 AM
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Remember when computers were going to "change the world" for the better?



Desktop Assistance is a nonprofit that makes technology accessible and affordable to citizen-based nonprofits that are building powerful constituencies to protect and enhance our quality of life.

Our Niche

Desktop Assistance is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization—serving nonprofits exclusively—established in 1989 to research cutting-edge information and communications technologies, adapt them for use by nonprofits, and help nonprofits use these technologies creatively. We focus on building the human capacity of organizations to succeed using new tools.

When Desktop Assistance was founded, nonprofit organizations were just discovering that there was an Information Age. Initially, Desktop Assistance was focused on getting nonprofits "teched up" with hardware, software and basic training on productivity software (word processing, spreadsheets, databases, email). Since then, Desktop Assistance began to work exclusively with nonprofit organizations that were actively growing constituencies for social change.

Desktop Assistance services include developing communications and information management tools and methods—using electronic networking and the Internet, nonprofit database management systems, and geographic information systems—that enable nonprofits to succeed in their strategies to develop and service their constituencies. Desktop Assistance programs respond to needs that are consistently articulated by nonprofit organizations by translating and adapting modern technologies to help them accomplish their goals.

Our Accomplishments

Desktop Assistance has a timely and compelling mission: to empower nonprofits with information technology. Desktop Assistance serves organizations all over the United States.

  • We developed a free database template—ebase—that any nonprofit organization can use for managing interactive communications with their constituencies. Best of all, ebase is free to download.
  • Desktop Assistance was a pioneer in the burgeoning field of conservation databases and list enhancement projects. We helped establish the Northern Rockies Campaign Conservation Database, containing data on thousands of conservationists and citizens in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming who are active in conserving the region's world-class natural resources. For example, we used the database to build solid public support for what evolved into the Clinton Administration's proposed roadless policy initiative.
  • Desktop Assistance led the strategic development of the conservation database movement. We authored the Conservation Database Report, an overview of developments in the field, as well as a set of recommendations about how foundations can constructively support the creative development of this emerging field.
  • We co-authored with Interrain Pacific of Ecotrust and Sierra Biodiversity Institute (along with us founding members of the Conservation GIS Consortium) the Conservation GIS Starter Kit, a beginning tutorial on how to use geographic information systems for conservation. The tutorial (without data) is freely available to explore.
  • On behalf of the Conservation GIS Consortium, we founded and managed the Conservation Technology Support Program (CTSP), a national grant-making program which each year supports conservation GIS efforts with $1 million of in-kind grants of Hewlett-Packard hardware and software from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Desktop Assistance researched and prepared the strategic plan for the Brainerd and Bullitt Foundations that led to the founding of ONE/Northwest (Online Networking for the Environment), establishing the Pacific Northwest as the nation's leading region in getting conservation organizations and activists online and using the Internet to protect the environment.
  • We founded and operated WestNet, an online conferencing system and internet service provider (ISP) that connected hundreds of environmental and social activists throughout the intermountain West for several years. It was also the first public access point for internet email in Montana. WestNet was sold to when Desktop Assistance merged with the Rockefeller Technology Project in 1999.
  • Desktop Assistance sponsored the Computer Camp, an annual donor education event that provides access to information technology to our supporters in a retreat atmosphere. The Rockefeller Technology Project of the Rockefeller Family Fund co-sponsored the 1997 Computer Camp.

Our Supporters

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, our programs are supported by foundations, corporations and individuals. Our donors agree that investing in the human capacity of nonprofits—empowering them with information technology—is an effective way to change the world in the Information Age.

Our Status

Desktop Assistance granted its assets to the Rockefeller Technology Project of the Rockefeller Family Fund in 1999 to form TechRocks as a supporting organization to the Rockefeller Family Fund. The Rockefeller Family Fund discontinued operations at TechRocks at the end of 2002, and all it's assets were transferred to Groundspring.



this website is for sale

This website will undergo significant changes in 2020.  First, the domain name has been sold. Visitors will not be able to find the site at after the new domain owner publishes their new website. In the meantime, we are looking for a buyer for the content, someone who wants to continue the mission of the website. If that is you, contact marshall [at] I will provide details.


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