young girl at a computer

Where You’d Least Expect It

A culture of innovation keeps Mercy Housing at the cutting edge of affordable housing, making the organization secure and adaptable in an ever-changing world.

Nonprofits aren’t always known for having cutting edge technology, but Mercy Housing is challenging this outdated stigma. With eyes on the horizon, Mercy Housing’s IT team is eagerly pursuing new technology and partnerships that will continue to foster a future of security, innovation, and success for residents and staff. Being an early adopter is intimidating for many nonprofits — with potential for hefty price tags, lengthy staff training, and implementation fears.  Changes to software and technology aren’t always easy, but Mercy Housing is paving the way for the affordable housing industry.

Mercy Housing’s Chief Information Officer & Senior Vice President, Gunnar Tande cites one simple ingredient that’s fueling his team’s ability to lead the industry — organizational culture. Mercy Housing is goal-minded and mission-driven, and Gunnar wants to always foster that sentiment. With the lack of affordable housing across the country at alarmingly historic levels while rents rise and the homeless population climbs, Mercy Housing is serious about increasing capacity. “We’re advancing a continuous improvement culture across Mercy and we are becoming more of a data-driven organization.  We are using information and reporting to inform our decisions, help us learn more about what is going on in our business, measure our progress and drive results in alignment with our core values. We look at what’s going on in our organization and the outside world, and ask ourselves, ‘is there any way that we can do better?’” Gunnar says.

mercy housing employee and microsoft employee in denver
Mercy Housing’s SVP Chief Information Officer, Gunnar, showing Will from Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact (TSI) team around our home office in Denver.

Resourcefulness is the reoccurring theme. Like all nonprofits, Mercy Housing constantly thinks about ‘how can we do more with less,’ and that’s where the idea for the conversion to the Microsoft Cloud came from. It improves Mercy Housing’s ability to add storage capacity to support growth, includes an arsenal of security tools and removes ongoing costly hardware updates. According to InformationAge, by 2025, worldwide data is expected to increase ten-fold, and nonprofits must ensure that they have the capacity necessary to stay with the times. Many of the tools available to Mercy Housing employees are cloud-based and mobile-enabled.  The workforce can access the tools and information they need to do their jobs from any device and anywhere they are connected to the internet. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive, show a level of sophistication and flexibility that inspires confidence internally and externally. This shows donors and partners that Mercy Housing is capable and able to scale easily to support Mercy Housing’s growth.

Additionally, Mercy Housing must comply with all the complex local, state, and federal regulations to maintain the necessary affordable housing financing, and this leaves no room for error. Their conversion to RealPage, a leading property management software solution, is helping to keep them on top of the very complex task of affordable housing property management. A multifaceted, highly regulated field makes detailed data collection and monitoring paramount to Mercy Housing’s success as a leader in the industry.

Constant vigilance on security trends and an eyes-on-the-future approach is what’s attracting for-profit interest in the tech world. There’s potential for Mercy Housing and its partners to learn and evolve together in a mutually beneficial partnership. Mercy Housing sees partnerships between the for-profit IT world and nonprofits as an opportunity for evolution for both sectors. Companies like Microsoft are taking an interest in Mercy Housing’s model of affordable housing with Resident Services. “Our Microsoft Tech for Social Impact team is dedicated to ensuring technology is affordable and accessible to nonprofits. It’s not enough to just give away technology – we know we must also provide guidance, services, and training to get the most out of the solutions,” says Justin Spelhaug, General Manager, Tech for Social Impact regarding the team’s recent Mercy Housing property visit in Colorado. “We are proud to partner with Mercy Housing on innovation projects in part because they are early adopters and on the leading edge of utilizing the latest Microsoft technologies to further their mission and positively impact their beneficiaries.”

Security is a big part of the equation when it comes to potential partnerships. “Our conversions to RealPage and Microsoft Cloud are big investments, but essential. Mercy Housing is happy to share and teach what we’ve learned with other nonprofits and even beyond. As we improve and grow, we want to see other nonprofits do the same — it’s an open book that’s still being written,” says Gunnar. He is very focused on long-term solutions — “Too many nonprofits think that the time and effort it takes to incorporate cutting edge security is a luxury, not a must. Just one hacker getting in the door of an organization’s system can immediately cost around $3 million in damages. How many nonprofits do you know that have $3 million just lying around?”

mercy housing employee explains resident services to Will of Microsoft
Mercy Housing’s Mountain Plains VP of Operations, Jennifer, explains the importance of Resident Services to Will in the Aromor’s computer lab.

The challenges facing nonprofits encompass complex systems, intricate social networks, and the need for creative solutions. When matched with the right technology, nonprofits can broaden their scope and impact while teaching valuable lessons to the for-profit world. With a culture of resourcefulness and creativity, Mercy Housing will continue to be a mentor and leader by helping both for-profits and nonprofits to grow their technology capacities and social impact.