Frequently Asked Questions

What is STEP?

STEP is the Strengthening and Tiered Evaluation Process. Our goal is to replace “pass/fail” evaluations with a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that focuses on the needs of civil society organizations (CSOs). With a tiered due diligence evaluation and organizational strengthening outcome, STEP benefits beyond a single grant or project. CSOs are evaluations across nine streams and placed in one of four compliance tiers designed to align with funders’ risk tolerance and to pinpoint how a CSO can build capacity and improve risk management.

STEP draws on and collates the existing international standards and due diligence needs of major international donors. The program’s aim is that STEP will be accepted in time by all funders and be "reusable" (passportable). Its goal is to highlight an organization’s strengths and weaknesses to help better manage risk and accomplish its mission.

What is a CSO?

Civil society organization refers to an entity or group of individual actors who pursue a goal of improving the well-being of society at large, or of some identified group within society whose rights or well-being may be at risk. CSOs commonly include non-State, not-for-profit, independent, and nonviolent bodies, whose principal objectives often center around political, cultural, religious, environmental, social, or economic issues. They may operate at local, national, regional, or international levels. They may include pseudo-government agencies, international agencies, social enterprises, tribal groups, and informal bodies. As the needs of society evolve and the legal structures under which organizations operate vary, so may the characteristics of a CSO evolve over time. Organizations that identify as nonprofit, charitable, public benefit, or NGO, for example, are all entity types that fall under the umbrella definition of a CSO.

Is the information a CSO shares secure?

The questionnaire that is used for the assessment is built on Alchemer technology. Responses are sent over a secure, encrypted connection. For more information on Alchemer’s data privacy and security policies, see the Alchemer Privacy Policy, GDPR/CCPA Command Center, and Security Overview. Documents uploaded via the Alchemer questionnaire are automatically stored in restricted folders on Box. Evaluations and other materials produced and shared with the CSO are also stored in restricted Box folders. For more information on Box’s privacy and security features, see the Box Privacy Policy, GDPR Compliance, and Security & Compliance overview.

Who has access to the information uploaded by a CSO undergoing STEP?

All information that a CSO submits is treated as confidential. No information (personal data or otherwise) is shared with a third party without the CSO’s express, informed, and unambiguous consent. We recognize that this may require additional complexity and effort on the part of funders or other partners seeking access to this data. However, a core principle of STEP is that CSOs should have uncompromised control over all of their data.

Does STEP conduct anti-terrorist or other screening checks?

If requested, TechSoup can run a check against the organization, directors, officers, and key employees with a service that cross-checks global sanctions and enforcement lists. The checks may include PEP checks (politically exposed persons), terrorist financing lists, and other screening required by funders.

What languages are offered for CSOs undergoing STEP?

At this time, STEP evaluations can be conducted in English, French, Spanish, and Bahasa Indonesia. We continue to add new languages and are eager to work with those interested in the service to together launch new languages in new regions. Evaluations are conducted by TechSoup and our partners in the TechSoup Global Network, who are themselves local and regional CSOs with longstanding reputations in their communities.

Are there any countries you cannot serve?

STEP may serve any country except those limited territories with comprehensive embargoes and no applicable licenses. For example, the People’s Republic of (North) Korea, Cuba, and Iran are countries in which we are currently unable to conduct a STEP evaluation.

Is TechSoup a nonprofit?

Yes. TechSoup is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) public charity headquartered in San Francisco with regional offices in Warsaw, London, Medellin, Hong Kong, Manila, and Nairobi. TechSoup is also the founder and leading member of the TechSoup Global Network (TSGN). Through this network of over 60 partners, more than 1.3 million organizations worldwide are supported with unique philanthropy programs. Together, the TSGN has a physical presence in roughly 100 countries and provides services in 39 languages.

What is the difference between STEP and NGOsource?

A collaboration of the Council on Foundations and TechSoup, NGOsource is a service for U.S. grantmakers to help streamline and save in their international giving by meeting U.S. Treasury Regulation standards on foreign public charity equivalency determinations. Launched in 2013, it has become the first and largest repository of its kind. Over 550 grantmakers rely on NGOsource for issuing equivalency determinations on thousands of CSOs in over 150 countries. The STEP service is modeled on NGOsource’s compliance-based repository and extends the value of this model to donors and CSOs globally who seek to reduce the time and cost currently expended to complete multiple due diligence reviews.

As a donor I don’t need such deep vetting but want to give at scale. Do you provide any lighter-touch checks?

Yes. TechSoup vets CSOs according to local validation criteria based on local country law. This vetting enables all of our social impact, corporate, and foundation clients to give to valid nonprofit organizations at scale. We validate organizations formed as nonprofits, charities, or NGOs based on local law in 236 countries and territories. We can also help integrate this data into systems that support the donor’s giving programs.

More than 100 of the U.S.'s largest philanthropic and socially responsible corporations, and a number of multinationals and institutions, rely on TechSoup to support validation worldwide. TechSoup is proud to have worked with Okta, Airbnb, Kintone, Walt Disney Company, Google for Nonprofits, Amazon Web Services, Benevity, Sage, World Bank, and more. Learn more about TechSoup Validation Services.

Does STEP provide grants?

STEP does not provide grants or assist with fundraising. TechSoup offers courses that help nonprofits meet their fundraising goals.