GRAND RAPIDS — For Rita VanderVen, executive director of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, the passion to help women start businesses is there, but the technological expertise to help her organization run more smoothly is not.
When VanderVen needs help with updating and understanding technology, she calls Rodney Minch, IT director for GrandNet Services, an IT solutions provider and affiliate of Grand Rapids Community Media Center.
Minch is currently working with GROW to assess its technology needs and create a plan to meet those needs over the next few years.
“It gets us on top of those expenses and keeps us more current so we’re working at optimal capability,” said VanderVen. “It’s so valuable to make sure that you have that and everything is operating.”
GrandNet provides technology services for all Community Media Center affiliates, as well as nonprofit organizations, at a cost that is lower than most area service providers. Minch said GrandNet also will work with nonprofits that may not be able to afford their services. That is in accordance with the Community Media Center’s mission statement of connecting the community through media.
“We don’t necessarily turn anyone away because they can’t afford $50 an hour,” he said.
VanderVen said paying for technology can be a problem for nonprofits, which is why GROW is a member of the Women’s Technology Consortium, a group of area women’s organizations that receives grants and funding for technology from the Nokomis Foundation. GROW recently received a grant from the foundation to have the network assessment from GrandNet, as well as a year of service and maintenance from the organization. VanderVen said Minch already has a laundry list of projects to help GROW run more smoothly, including explaining some technology to the staff.
“We understand Rodney,” she said. “When he explains things, we get it.”
VanderVen said the technology information and training she and her staff receive from Minch also helps them better serve their clients.
“The more we know, the more they know and the more efficient all of us operate,” she said.
VanderVen said more people should take advantage of GrandNet’s services, especially new organizations that may not be aware of what they do and do not need.
“It’s wonderful that we have something like GrandNet here; if you really don’t know and you need someone to guide you, it’s a great resource,” she said. “It can really save you a lot of money in the long run.”
Besides on-site support, training and consulting, GrandNet also offers Web design, hosting, e-mail and mailing lists.