Benetech is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the explicit goal of using the power of technology to serve humanity. Benetech develops technology focused on helping people through four targeted program areas: human rights, global literacy, environment and Benetech labs.
The Sheridan Group first began working with Benetech in 2008 to help craft a government relations strategy for one of their products, Bookshare. Bookshare’s organizational mission is to reach a point where the world doesn’t need Bookshare because publishers develop materials for print disabled students at the same rate they publish materials for the general population. Benetech needed resources to scale Bookshare. After winning the a large competitive award from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in 2007, which had until then been an earmark, competitors were quick to build opposition against Benetech and paint the picture that Benetech was a money-making contract bandit. The Sheridan Group provided the strategy, counsel and advocacy support to build key congressional and agency relationships, develop necessary external allies and neutralize opposition to Bookshare.
The Sheridan Group identified opposition on the Hill; developed a broad-based champion building program for Capitol Hill, which consisted of local site visits, regular meetings with Members and congressional staff, events for policymakers, and regular meetings with the White House and the Department of Education; tracked relevant funding opportunities, including appropriations bills; and helped facilitate partnerships for Benetech in the publishing industry.
After a multi-year champion building process on Capitol Hill, and within the Department of Education and the administration, Bookshare successfully competed for the largest award given by the Department of Ed: $32 million over five years. With this award, Benetech has increased its membership to over 400,000 and boasts a collection of nearly half a million titles. Today, TSG and Benetech are continuing to pursue an appropriations strategy on Capitol Hill and explore resources to allow Bookshare to continue serving higher education and vocational education students and expand its outreach to the hardest to reach K-12 students.