Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

free the childrenMany nonprofits struggle with administrative challenges that prevent them from optimizing volunteer time and assuring donations get out to the field. Toronto-based Free the Children is one small charity that’s figured out how to leverage enterprise technology to keep administrative costs low and ensure that at least 90% of its donations go towards fueling its mission. 



Free the Children began with 12-year old Craig Kielburger and eleven 7th-grade classmates. Together, they shared a vision of bringing positive change to the world’s neediest children.  Fast-forward two decades, and Free the Children is now a global charity with operations in more than 45 countries and field offices in twelve. We Act, FTC’s domestic operation, delivers education and service-learning to 7,000 schools while Adopt A Village, its global initiative, works to bring sustainable practices to villages across the world. FTC also hosts We Day, an annual 13-city tour that unites 160,000 children to celebrate the power of service at venues in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Free the Children strives to pass at least $0.90 of every dollar raised to its programs, a formidable goal that it has been able to achieve by using technology to slash administrative spending.  As any charity knows, paperwork quickly adds time and costs to even the simplest transactions.  FTC was no exception; its document management was analog and costly. “We were pouring money into paper, ink cartridges, and toner, not to mention the expense of fixing or replacing broken machines,” said Kielburger.  “When the process was over, we were spending even more on filing cabinets and storage space.”

Kielburger recalls “Our process was onerous. If we needed to fill out documents for a new partnership or sponsor, this meant faxing, printing, scanning — lots of back and forth.”

Beyond these hard-dollar costs, staff at Free the Children were devoting precious time to tracking, chasing, and filing documents. “As a charity, we’re already spread thin. There already aren’t enough hours in the day and we were losing precious time to paper-chasing.”

In an effort to save both time and money, Free The Children looked to enterprise technology for a way to uncover new savings.  In the end, it selected DocuSign, a fast-growing Digital Transaction Management (DTM) company based in San Francisco and Seattle, as its partner. Free the Children adopted DocuSign as its document management solution for all transactions requiring signatories and approvals, including contracts, release forms, volunteer applications, and procurement agreements.

The implementation of DocuSign brought immediate benefits to Free the Children’s paper-heavy processes.  With DocuSign’s DTM platform, users create and send customized forms using any desktop, tablet, or mobile device. Signers then fill out these forms digitally, sign, and send them back. After the forms are completed and returned, they are stored securely and are digitally accessible in Free the Children’s DocuSign account from anywhere at anytime.

“Digital Transaction Management helps us keep administrative costs low,” says Kielburger. “Pennies and dollars add up to change lives. DTM enables us to put every cent where it counts —schools, clean water, health — instead of toner and filing cabinets.  And we have our time back. Time is our most precious commodity, and now we can put it back into doing what we do best: transforming kids’ lives around the world, every moment of the day."


By:  Devin Gleeson, University of Washington

Last modified on Friday, 19 September 2014
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