Summary: Building Complete IT Confidence

For more than 75 years, Animal Friends has been saving and enriching the lives of the pets and people of the Pittsburgh area. But one element of this nonprofit was growing too fast for its dedicated staff to keep up with – its IT needs.

The Animal Friends team needed a Pittsburgh IT Managed Services partner who could level up their technology to amplify the work they do for their pets and local community. In December of 2021, the nonprofit organization hosted an extensive interview and RFP process of several IT MSPs in the Pittsburgh area.

A member of Animal Friend’s volunteer IT committee personally contacted Ceeva to participate. Ultimately, Ceeva came out on top in their technology competency, reliability as a trusted advisor, and cultural fit. Since then, Ceeva has supported Animal Friends with upgrading its hardware and network infrastructure, and providing technology to power events.

“I can fully depend on Ceeva and fully trust that we can work seamlessly together. I won't even use the word vendor with Ceeva, because they're truly our partners. I know that they have the best interest of Animal Friends at heart in every decision they make.” - Stefanie Zukowski, Director of Administration & Specific Projects at Animal Friends

Challenge: How to Use Tech to Further This Non-Profit’s Mission

As a non-profit, everything Animals Friends does underlies its mission, which is rooted in offering “a humane and compassionate future for every animal friend.” So even its people-focused endeavors, like IT, are tied back to enabling that mission. Animal Friends sought out a IT firm with that in mind – someone who could not provide technology solutions, but who would also serve as a partner in helping them better fufill their mission.

Animal Friends needed a partner who fulfilled this objective while helping them solve both historical IT challenges along with emerging new challenges.

One of Animal Friends’ historical IT challenges centered around geographical location – their two large buildings are adjacent to a densely wooded area. This caused spotty cell reception and Wi-Fi signal across the campus. And, as a non-profit, its events and fundraisers are vital. Improving the technology behind these events was another key priority.

But Animal Friends was also facing technology challenges from the emerging “work from anywhere” trend – needing day-to-day support to enable lifesaving remote work schedules.

While Animal Friends had many MSPs offering to help overcome these obstacles, the challenge was finding the right partner who could offer custom IT services and collaborative values to further the organization’s mission.

Solution: Thinking ‘Outside the Cage’ for Animal Friends’ IT Needs

Animal Friends chose Ceeva because of Ceeva’s willingness to embrace Animal Friends’ mission and unique needs as a non-profit. Ceeva immediately began helping the Animal Friends team with their IT challenges in support of Animal Friends’ broader goals. The initial groundwork, such as replacing network infrastructure, was just the beginning of the new age of technology for Animal Friends.

Daily Support with New Network Infrastructure & Devices

When Ceeva joined the organization, Animal Friends had received a donation of hardware for their wired and wireless network to enable secure remote work. Ceeva jumped in side by side with those working to integrate it into their system, and within 20 days after Ceeva joined, Animal Friends had a completely new and stable network.

Besides helping Animal Friends more efficiently process adoptions and paperwork, the network had extra access points that were saved specifically for major fundraising events, like the annual Black Tie & Tails gala.

After the initial network infrastructure was added and a secure remote connection was activated, Animal Friends was empowered to continue their lifesaving work from anywhere on campus, as well as remotely.

While vendors secured hardware, door locks, and camera systems, Ceeva made sure they had the networking availability that they needed for those devices to be installed and operated. Once these critical first steps were finished, Ceeva removed outdated users from Animal Friend’s active user accounts, further increasing the network’s security and efficiency.

Ceeva now supports Animal Friends and its IT committee on-site once a week, along with an all-day on-call IT help desk. This ensures questions and issues are swiftly handled.

Adding an Expert Resource for Volunteer IT Committee

Throughout the initial groundwork projects, Ceeva collaborated with Animal Friends’ volunteer IT committee. Committees like these are a key part of how non-profits like Animal Friends operate. Animal Friends, the committee, and Ceeva regularly brainstorm and discuss strategic recommendations to help Animal Friends best serve their animals and community.

“One of the things that makes our relationship with Ceeva so strong is that they fully embrace and respect our IT committee. Everyone's just collaborating together for the greater good of Animal Friends.”

This partnership allows Animal Friends to focus on its mission – to provide a humane and compassionate home for animals.

Inspiring the Pittsburgh Community with Tech-Enabled Local Fundraisers

The Black Tie & Tails event is one of Animal Friends’ biggest fundraisers of the year, and many Pittsburgh local businesses and communities are sponsors.

Due to the importance of this event, Ceeva and the IT committee spent months preparing for the 2022 event. The Ceeva team walked Animal Friends through the new digital registration process using iPads, how they would use credit card swipes for purchases, how the wireless Internet would work, and how guests could use their phones to bid during the silent auction.

“This year when we were planning [the Black Tie & Tails event], I was sitting across the table from our Ceeva team. We were thinking through how we can fill the parking lots with Wi-Fi so that there's no connectivity issues. I thought, ‘What a difference a year can make!’”

Ceeva seamlessly deployed 31 devices around the campus to support both registration and fundraising activities. And, with their new network in place, their Black Tie & Tails event tent had internet access points to ensure everyone had a signal. It was so powerful that guests could reach Wi-Fi back into the woods on the property.

The Ceeva team and members of the IT committee attended the event as guests and also as on-site IT help in case there were any issues. This allowed the Animal Friends staff to focus on their other vital responsibilities on such an important night.


Corey Blystone [Ceeva’s Senior Support Engineer for Animal Friends] & His Wife at Black Tie & Tails Event

September 24th, 2022

With Ceeva’s support, the Black Tie & Tails event in 2022 was the most successful one yet!

“We were wildly successful, I am so proud of the work they did. Ceeva ran the whole deployment checklist, handled the full recall and had us ready for normal operation Sunday morning after our event. During that event, Ceeva and [our IT committee] ran that whole IT ship for me. I was able to do the roles I needed to be in that night, and I never had to worry about technology.”

An Overarching IT Strategy to Support Animal Friends’ Mission

Once Animal Friends had met their pressing technology needs, the team wanted to look towards the future. With the IT committee and Ceeva contributing, Animal Friends soon had a comprehensive 2023 IT strategy.

Part of that strategy includes activating Multi-Factor Authentication for all email accounts by the end of 2022 and creating advanced remote access permissions for user groups.

It also involves innovative technical ideas for helping their animals. For example, Animal Friends now has a new idea to create a virtual room where visitors can see animals digitally. This would help keep the animal’s shelter environment low-stress and improve their quality of life, while also allowing their potential adopters to learn more about them.

With new technology and an expert IT partner, Animal Friends is able to focus on fulfilling its dream of getting healthy animals into their forever homes.

“[When a problem occurs,] Ceeva says, ‘Let's figure this out.’ They ask, ‘What's a creative solution?’ That's what Animal Friends needs in an [IT] provider. We don't need the person who just knows the boxes on the shelf. We want that person who can think a little differently.”

Results: IT Confidence as a Service

Since partnering with Ceeva, the Animal Friends team has felt a sense of security and reliability with their new network infrastructure and range of everyday IT support. More than thirty laptops were seamlessly deployed in the initial few months of Ceeva and Animal Friend’s partnership.

Both Ceeva and the Animal Friends are local organizations in Pittsburgh, so they both truly understand the importance of the nonprofit’s mission. The collaborative values of Ceeva and Animal Friends’ IT committee truly sparked a new age of technology for the nonprofit organization.

“If I'm up to my eyeballs in every-day stuff while wearing my many hats at Animal Friends, I can just call Corey and say, ‘Hey, can you handle this?’ And he's got it. That has a profound impact on our operations.”

Through this collaborative spirit, Ceeva and the IT committee help Animal Friend’s inspire their community. They were able to completely reimagine the digital guest experience. This led to the Black Tie & Tails event in 2022 exceeding budgeted goals with over $774,000 raised!

After the celebration of that event, Ceeva and their IT committee came together to develop a creative and future-looking IT strategy. The goal was to help Animal Friends further enhance how they serve their animals.

Interested in learning how Ceeva can strengthen your organization’s IT security and confidence? Contact us to learn why businesses and nonprofits consider us their trusted Pittsburgh IT managed service provider.

The pros you want with you in the server room, the boardroom, and even the lunchroom.


Free Cybersecurity Essentials Handbook for Small Organizations

Related Posts