How technology can help spread literacy

July 14, 2010: 10:55 AM ET

This is one in a series of articles leading up to Fortune Brainstorm Tech, which takes place July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo. The articles will look back at the progress of companies that presented at Brainstorm in 2009 as well as look forward to those that will present this year.

John Wood, Room to Read

John Wood, Room to Read

By Benjamin Snyder, contributor

With over 10,000 libraries opened worldwide and 7.4 million books already distributed to children in its 10 years, Room to Read -- a nonprofit that promotes global literacy -- aspires to curb the staggering figure of 759 million illiterate adults living in emerging nations.

"If every charity was run with more of a business focus, the world would be a better place," says John Wood, a former senior executive at Microsoft before founding Room to Read in 2000. "We've created what I consider to be a hybrid organization -- the best of charity merged with the best of business."

The organization's goal is to raise $30 million in 2010. In 2009, Room to Read raised $28.3 million in cash and stock -- well above its $23 million goal and a 28% increase over its 2008 contributions.

Technology is key for the company to achieve its goals. The Foundation has donated Salesforce CRM licenses to help Room to Read build their Global Solutions Database (GSD), a tracking system for the nonprofit's projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia. The GSD keeps tabs on Room to Read's implementation timeline, the number of students and teachers being supported, and the percentage of community contribution. This technology helps the company report figures to its donors.


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