Case Study: Community Servings

Learn more about how an ongoing partnership with Exponent Partners has allowed Community Servings to increase their efficiency to support their rapid growth thanks to a smart, sustainable information systems strategy.

Introducing Community Servings:

Community Servings, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization, is committed to the astonishing healing power of food. The organization is the only statewide provider of home-delivered medically tailored meals (MTM) to thousands of people across Massachusetts who are experiencing a range of chronic and critical illnesses. Their mission is: “We envision a world in which everyone has access to the nutritious food they need for health and wellbeing as a fundamental right.” Since the onset of the pandemic, in response to unrelenting community need, the organization has undertaken the largest programmatic expansion in their history, increasing the production of our meals by 120% (from 40,000 to 88,000+ meals produced each month) and doubling the number of clients served (from 983 to 2,200 individuals served monthly). In 2020, they looked for a professional services partner with extensive expertise in the Salesforce platform to help them gain a big picture view of their use of the system and how it can support them in their serious growth phase.

The challenges for Community Servings:

Five years of technical debt: Community Servings began their journey with an initial implementation of Salesforce in 2015. In the subsequent years, in-house staff incorporated many customizations, tweaks and changes to the system. This is a very common scenario in organizations without specialized in-house expertise. ‘Accidental admins’ with very good intentions do the best they can to accommodate internal requests. The result of all these ‘tweaks’ over the years at Community Servings was a large amount of technical debt and a lack of a big picture view for how they would scale their Salesforce instance to meet their ambitious strategic plan. 

Lack of in-house resources: As mentioned above, many organizations lack specialized in-house Salesforce administration expertise to make the best strategic decisions for their organization’s use of the platform. In this sense, Community Servings was no different. Gavin O’Brien, long-time staff member at Community Servings, assumed the role of ‘accidental admin’ for the program side of the organization. Gavin often spent up to 80% of his time working on their Salesforce instance with only a limited amount of technical training under his belt. While juggling data and reporting requests, integration requirements, and dashboard design on a daily basis, Gavin felt there really must be a better way for them to move forward and scale up.

Extensive integration requirements: Community Servings has extensive integration needs for their large-scale and specialized organization. As many of their clients come from insurance company referrals, an integrated intake portal was identified as an important component of their information systems strategy. Other integration considerations include the process for reimbursing the cost of meals and data sharing with physicians and hospitals conducting studies on the effectiveness of medically tailored meals. Considering these complex integration requirements, looking beyond their in-house capabilities and resources meant finding the right partner to help them achieve their goals.

The solution from Exponent Partners: 

Extensive evaluation and clean-up: After five years of using only internal resources and without a specialized support partner, Community Servings had accrued quite a bit of technical debt in their Salesforce instance. After some conversations with their account executive from Salesforce.org, the team at Community Servings was introduced to Exponent Partners. Throughout the introductory and discovery process, Exponent Partners demonstrated their expertise and collaborative approach. The project team Exponent Partners started their engagement with an extensive evaluation of the organization’s data model in order to align it with best practices, their business processes, and goals for future growth and expansion. Another big area of focus in the initial engagement was a direct integration with a referral partner, something that was critical to increasing efficiency and supporting future growth. 

Smooth and efficient integrations: A big focus in the project scope with Community Servings was identifying the most efficient ways to consolidate and integrate systems and processes. As a result of their engagement with Exponent Partners, the client data intake process is much smoother and more efficient. The client services and nutrition teams no longer have to log in to separate systems and manually copy/paste data when working on a client record. Additionally, referral partners can now log into the referral portal, run reports, see which clients they’ve referred, and get up-to-date information. The user-friendly, self-serve portal also supports email alerts so partners can remain informed of their client’s trajectory and health outcomes. 

Ongoing support and virtual admin services: A big pain point for Community Servings was the amount of time and energy spent on maintaining their Salesforce instance using internal resources, and the challenges that came with the role of ‘accidental admin’. Tapping into the team of experts at the Exponent Partners Customer Success Center has allowed the organization to continually grow and evolve their Salesforce instance and stay totally aligned with best practices. Having ongoing support to maintain their system has been a huge help to the program team at Community Servings.  

“Now, instead of relying on just one person, we have a whole team of experts we can call on to provide the best possible advice. Everyone in the Customer Success Center is just great to work with and they all have deep expertise.” Gavin O’Brien, Community Servings 

Information systems strategy to support their growth trajectory

Community Servings has an ambitious growth strategy with plans to triple their capacity in the coming years. Their information systems strategy and use of Salesforce is an essential part of how they are going to support this massive shift. In addition, having an ongoing relationship in place with the Customer Success Center at Exponent Partners allows them to tap into expert advice when they need it. The future looks bright for the thousands of patients experiencing notably improved health outcomes thanks to Community Servings’ medically tailored meals.

Case Study: South Ward Promise Neighborhood

South Ward Promise Neighborhood Positioned for Long-Term Success Thanks to Strategic Collaboration with Exponent Partners

South Ward Promise Neighborhood (SWPN) is a powerful collaborative of 26 organizations working together to lift up and invest in families in the Newark, New Jersey area. Their mission is to “provide a coordinated pipeline of services and resources that guides and supports families so that their children can live in healthy homes, succeed in school, contribute to their communities, and thrive in life”. The Promise Neighborhood program is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education. The holistic vision of the program is a future where all children growing up in these supported neighborhoods have access to strong systems of family and community support that will enable them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. A future free of generational poverty is truly the goal.

South Ward Promise Neighborhood Boy Smiling

SWPN, together with its backbone agency BRICK Education Network, was awarded a $30M grant from the Department of Education in 2017, to be distributed over five years. The organization grew very quickly because of this funding and was able to dramatically increase the services they were providing to families in Newark. This grant focused on promoting the collaboration of multiple agencies to support families. BRICK’s contribution to this is to provide wraparound services using the two generation approach. This concept focuses on strengthening the family so the child can perform better in school and increase their chances of attending college. SWPN’s partner network of organizations include maternal wellness initiatives, early childhood education programs, charter schools, youth leadership, legal assistance, grief support, college readiness and healthcare access. 

In 2018, the organization identified a need to invest in an information system that would help them increase their effectiveness and promote collaboration with the 26 partners that make up the Promise Neighborhood. With this in mind, they reached out to Exponent Partners to help them chart a course for future success.  

The Challenge for Exponent Partners

Discovering the possibilities

SWPN and Exponent Partners initially began the first phase of the engagement in September 2018 with a project that focused on launching a portal for partners. The success of this phase allowed the organization’s leadership to see the possibilities for the system and the second, bigger, phase of the project began.  The senior team had a vision of leveraging the Department of Education grant to create a Newark-wide database to strategically position the collaborative to continue their critical work even when the grant expired. 

Unfortunately, almost as soon as the second phase of the project work kicked off, it began to stall. The team realized there were concerning unknowns in their long-term strategy that were impacting their ability to make practical, tactical decisions about their information systems. It became apparent that taking a step back to address key business process details and strategies was necessary.  

Managing complex partner data

SWPN’s network of 26 partners meant a complex web of data relationships. The organization needed a way to gather and consolidate partner data  in order to generate the critical data they needed to report on outcomes. Their mission is based on collective impact, not about the impact of an individual organization. As such, their long-term data governance plan and how to incorporate data collected from partners had to be carefully and thoughtfully considered, documented and vetted.

The journey: crisis, stability, thriving

BRICK Education Network, as the backbone agency of SWPN, had a strong reputation in the community of providing immediate, direct support to families as they faced crises. Ready to build on that experience, the BRICK team asked themselves some vital questions: “What if we partner with families before a crisis to proactively work together in a way that helps avoid a crisis in the first place? Additionally, how can we strengthen their resources so they are better equipped to weather a storm?” This was a big idea, and one that the team at BRICK wasn’t sure how to put into practice using their information systems. 

The Solution for South Ward Promise Neighborhood 

Strategic Advisory Consultation 

The Exponent Partners team identified the critical need to strategically engage with SWPN and their backbone agency BRICK. Exponent Partners worked with BRICK for over a year to help them refine their vision and help bring it to reality. The kickoff of this strategic advisory engagement included an on-site planning session with the goal to help SWPN identify the long-term needs for their information systems and subsequently develop their five year vision. The meeting, which was held over two days early in 2020, allowed for the coming together and engagement of both their leadership and front-line staff with the Exponent Partners project team. The goal was to collaborate in strategic advisory work and lay the foundation for their information systems plan.

Focus on Milestones

Exponent Partners’ strategic advisory work, which unfolded over the course of a year after the on-site planning session, included working with Brick to bring the SWPN partners together to build on their deep expertise in key areas of a student’s life cycle and begin the conversation about how to best prepare the family for success at each critical juncture. Next, focus groups were held with the families in the community to hear directly from them what support they would find most valuable.  Guided by the Exponent Partners team, Brick was able to bring a wide breadth of service providers, parents, grandparents, and students together to inform the creation of an innovative and proactive milestone-based model for the important outcomes-focused work to support families in Newark. This work allowed them to identify key developmental milestones in each phase of a child’s life and build the plan to capture data accurately in order to tell the most impactful stories. Exponent Partners additionally provided logic models, process maps, guidance on staffing, and training to support this new vision. At the end of the day, data-based storytelling is extremely powerful and allows the collective to truly demonstrate their impact on families in the neighborhood.

Implementation of Exponent Case Management

As SWPN and Exponent Partners began to work together in a trust-based partnership, an important component of their needs came to light: a flexible and powerful case management system. To meet their complex needs, they chose Exponent Case Management: a fully-featured, customizable case management solution built specifically for human services agencies. The system allows SWPN to streamline referrals, consolidate data across programs and partners, and reduce the time and energy spent managing manual processes.   The flexibility of ECM allowed SWPN to easily incorporate their new milestone model into their data collection process and to create a way to proactively stay engaged with families for the long haul – from prenatal to career.  

A True Success

South Ward Promise Neighborhood’s investment in strategic advisory consulting and information systems design allowed them to build a proactive model for serving children and families throughout their community. Their progress is being looked at as a model for other Promise Neighborhoods throughout the country. The way they capture data makes it possible for them to tell powerful stories of the impact their work is having on families in the South Ward. As a result of this work and their leadership team’s clear vision, they were awarded another five year, $30M grant from the Department of Education in late 2021. This will allow the organization to continue their growth trajectory and ultimately serve more families in alignment with the goal of ending generational poverty. 

Into the Future

What’s next for SWPN and BRICK Education Network? Armed with a strong case management system and the data to better understand the effectiveness of interventions that low income families face, they are ready to tackle the next big challenge they set for themselves: “How do we move past getting families to stability and really set them up to fully thrive?” Exponent Partners is incredibly proud of the work they’ve completed with South Ward Promise Neighborhood and looks forward to continuing its support of this impactful organization.

South Ward Promise Neighborhood Pregnant Women

All photos provided by SWPN, learn more here.

Case Study: Orleans Public Defenders

Introducing Orleans Public Defenders

The devastating impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans in 2005 is almost immeasurable. One of the many effects of the deadly hurricane was a complete criminal justice system breakdown at every level and the failings in representation for poor people. There were people who were incarcerated who didn’t know when they would be released and others whose release dates had come and gone, but yet remained imprisoned with no one advocating for them. Katrina highlighted the incredible need for legal representation and advocacy work for the thousands of marginalized men, women and children stuck in the cycle of the broken system. The Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) was founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it brought. Their mission is to fight for their clients by providing excellent client-centered representation, reforming the system and partnering with the community. With their unwavering commitment to this cause and the clients they serve, OPD has created a new standard for public defense in Louisiana.   

Alexis Orleans Public Defenders

The Right-Fit Partnership

The Orleans Public Defenders, a pro-bono client of Exponent Partners, needed a way to more efficiently and effectively capture, integrate and consolidate client data in order to dramatically increase the efficiency of their advocacy work. They needed the right partner to truly understand their mission and build a powerful, scalable system to allow them to measure their impact and more effectively do the critical criminal justice work they do. As a B-Corporation with a strong commitment to corporate values and social impact, Exponent Partners is committed to investing in work that fosters true systemic social progress. The company demonstrated this commitment by taking on Orleans Public Defenders as a pro-bono client partnership. Their project kicked off together in early 2021.

The Challenge for Exponent Partners 

The Orleans Public Defenders were facing multiple challenges at the start of their project with Exponent Partners. The most critical challenges relating to their information systems were as follows:

A fragmented system

Before starting their project with Exponent Partners, OPD’s Client Services Division was using a combination of Google Sheets, Excel and other files to track their program intake and client data on an ongoing basis. They were able to report on baseline metrics only and doing so involved many repetitive, manual processes. It was challenging for them to surface holistic, big picture trends to demonstrate the impact of their work.

Intake… and intake again

Staff and volunteer turnover and challenges with their systems resulted in many team members repeating the client intake process due to issues with continuity of records. This meant a lot of lost time and frustration in gathering information that had already been captured at some earlier point. This was particularly challenging as criminal justice advocacy work involves building trust with clients. There were many examples of clients having to repeat and relive their story multiple times as a result of data loss and staff transition. Not having continuity of records definitely worked against them and cost them critical time.

Challenges scaling up

The Orleans Public Defenders has established its organization as a criminal justice reform leader, and they have a lot more work to do. The challenges they faced on a daily basis with their fragmented, manual system cost them precious time and resources they could otherwise use to do more work and serve more clients. The time they spent tracking only the baseline metrics meant they were not able to easily access the data to report on the big picture trends. This made it hard to quantify the impact of their work and tell their stories effectively.

The Solution for Orleans Public Defenders 

From Excel to Exponent Case Management

The organization consolidated various data collecting and tracking mechanisms (approximately 18 separate files) into a purpose-built system: Exponent Case Management. Their client services staff members can now manage client referrals, complete intakes, coordinate complex service planning and tracking, and conduct a new assessment with a single, user-friendly system. 

Ensuring continuity and preservation of records

OPD’s team can now easily access the full data collection picture for their clients, allowing them to focus their time and effort on the go-forward plan instead of repeating sometimes painful data intake processes. Having a system with consolidated data allows them to pick up where they left off, even with the possibility of staff or volunteer turnover. This has allowed the team to greatly increase their efficiency and deliver more services to clients in need. In 2020, CSD worked with and advocated for 633 clients in more than 650 cases.

Focusing on systemic change

OPD’s new system allows them to measure and track all of their critical advocacy and increases their ability to report on the big picture trends they’re seeing. With Exponent Case Management built on Salesforce, they’re able to easily pull data and reports to demonstrate how much money they’re saving the system, how many clients they’re serving, and what holistic trends they’re seeing in criminal justice in New Orleans. This will allow them to advocate more strategically at a systemic level, helping to create more equity in the system for New Orleanians and beyond.

Insights for Social Justice Organizations

The Orleans Public Defenders is the only public defense office in the state of Louisiana that takes a holistic approach to their representation. Like many social justice-focused organizations, their ability to generate data and provide insightful reports on the impact of their advocacy work is critical to them achieving their vision of reforming the system. Exponent Case Management, built on the foundation of Salesforce, allows them to both increase efficiency at a tactical level while providing critical high-level visibility to the full extent of the work they do. 2022 marks the start of a new era for the Orleans Public Defenders, where their information systems will fully support the critical work they do to serve their communities. 

Red Sign Representation is not a luxury its a right Orleans Public Defenders

Photos courtesy of Orleans Public Defenders

Case Study: The Exploratorium

How the Salesforce platform improved team collaboration, donor engagement, and data compliance at The Exploratorium

Founded in 1969, the Exploratorium is a beloved San Francisco Bay Area institution and global leader of informal, interactive science education. The Exploratorium creates joyful learning experiences— both online and in-person. The facility offers hundreds of exhibits throughout six spacious indoor and outdoor galleries. More than a museum, the Exploratorium trains educators and collaborates with partners worldwide on global-exhibit design. With a mission to transform learning worldwide and a vision towards increasing their impact, the Exploratorium embarked on a long-range effort to replace their data infrastructure, systems, and software.

The Need: To create new opportunities for the Exploratorium to engage with visitors and stewards members using a data-informed understanding of the visitor experience.

The Solution: A new platform CRM that integrates with the Exploratorium’s marketing and communications activities as well as its Point of Sale operations.

Graphic with callout text

Solution highlights include:

  • A 360 degree view of supporters has unlocked previously untapped multi-channel marketing and fundraising potential
  • Customized reporting has empowered development staff to create and track new fundraising metrics
  • New cloud capabilities ensured a seamless pivot to remote work during the pandemic and have eased the organization’s compliance burdens
Photo: Exterior outdoor installation at the Exploratorium with the San Francisco skyline in the background.
Photo credit: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

“In the constituent management systems area, most nonprofits are not going to have the resources in-house to manage these types of sprawling, extremely complicated implementations. You need someone you can trust, who you can lean on and turn to when you run into trouble, when you have to do a complex thing. Exponent Partners turned out to be that trusted partner. That was the difference between success and failure for us.”—Chris Axley, Director of Information Technology, Exploratorium

Situation

Static and inflexible constituent CRM
The Exploratorium’s legacy constituent management system was rigid, static, and inflexible. This made efforts to integrate systems and data across departments difficult, if not impossible. The organization needed a robust solution that could flex and grow over time. The right solution also needed to be customizable and easy to use by a diverse group of stakeholders within the organization.

Fragmented and siloed data
Various teams within the organization were using different CRMs with limited integration. The result was a jumbled mix of disconnected systems—spreadsheets, databases, forms, workshop applications, ticket lists, and printed materials—that often had to be manually uploaded or undergo a cumbersome conversion to carry out fundraising and marketing activities. These manual processes negatively impacted productivity and often led to a duplication of effort between departments.

Limited visibility of the customer journey
Data silos between departments impeded the organization’s ability to have a 360 degree view of its supporters. For example, how much did they donate, did they come to events, did they utilize other Exploratorium services, and the numerous other touchpoints that were important to identifying prospects. This led to missed opportunities to cultivate new relationships and steward potential donors.

Clunky and static reporting
Weak data and reporting capabilities made it nearly impossible for the organization to develop and track useful fundraising metrics. Development staff were also hampered in their ability to design an appeals campaign structure for each need. The Exploratorium needed a customizable solution that could provide meaningful insights into development team efforts and facilitate the development of more robust appeals campaign structures.

Photo: Young boy smiling enjoying a science exhibit at The Exploratorium.
Photo credit: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

Solution

The Exploratorium engaged in an extended discovery process and needs analysis aimed at the long term goal of linking its payment transactions, constituent management, and communications and marketing systems. Its most pressing need—and a key first step towards proof of concept—was to implement a new constituent CRM. The desire to have one shared platform that could enable a holistic understanding of the constituent journey across its operations ultimately led the Exploratorium to select Salesforce.

According to Patrick McKeever, Information Technology Manager at the Exploratorium, “We needed help painting a vision of the platform, how to build an object, and create a process to populate data in that object. Exponent Partners was able to come in and really listen to what people needed. And then put that through the whole process of what does that look like in Salesforce.” Exponent Partners also worked side by side with the Exploratorium’s IT department to plan and implement the successful migration of its data. This was especially challenging, as the old and new systems had a fundamentally different database architecture.

Photo: Two women smiling looking through the prism glass at the Exploratorium.
Photo credit: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

Importantly, throughout the project, Exponent Partners engaged in a practical team-based approach that allowed the Exploratorium to gain the expertise it needed to take ownership of the new platform. From the start, Exponent Partners and the Exploratorium utilized a collaborative approach across departments, contractors, and stakeholders. The result was a process that was flexible, adaptive, and seamless.

“The process was shockingly smooth.” —Kati Platt, Senior Manager, Development Services.

Results

360 degree visibility of constituents
When the Exploratorium first switched its constituent CRM, the fundraising team started seeing immediate connections that were previously obscured. “With more visibility, development staff can group people together in more nimble ways and see how they are behaving,” said Kati. As a result, the fundraising team is now able to surface and track more prospects. In less than a year, The Exploratorium identified and successfully voted in eight new Board members thanks to insights gained from integrated prospect research applications combined with the centralized activity tracking capabilities of Salesforce. This was vital growth for the organization’s governance body, especially during a tumultuous year due to the pandemic.

Customized reporting and metrics
Salesforce integrations like Apsona have allowed the Exploratorium to customize its data reporting and data transformations. As a result, the development team now has the ability to track specific metrics and capture supporting data to identify which fundraising activities have the most return on investment. With the numbers now at their fingertips, development staff have clear visibility on their progress towards fundraising goals.

The ability to face technology and compliance challenges with confidence
Although remote working capabilities were a low priority when the project first started, having a cloud-based platform became a critical factor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Exploratorium staff was able to seamlessly shift from exclusively onsite to entirely remote operations within days. As Chris explained, “We don’t want the technology to be a barrier to people being representatives of the Exploratorium. Salesforce is a huge part of that.”

Using Salesforce to manage its constituent data has also eased the organization’s compliance challenges. Bringing the organization’s data into one system ensures a single source of truth; one that can be effectively managed to protect sensitive data and comply with the growing number of global data privacy requirements.

Photo: A woman and boy interact with an exhibit at the Exploratorium.
Photo credit: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

A vision for the future
The Exploratorium’s successful implementation of Salesforce as its constituent CRM has proven the promise of an integrated organization-wide CRM and what it can achieve for the nonprofit.

“Now people can see the promise of the Salesforce ecosystem linked up with our transactions systems….the overarching goal of being able to follow and communicate with people on their journey…and how that can be accomplished.” — Chris Axley, Director of Information Technology, Exploratorium

Importantly, as a science-based organization, the Exploratorium strives to empower its people to find new solutions to nascent problems. As Kati explained, with the new system in place, “people are excited about things they find online that Salesforce can do.” The organization’s new constituent CRM provides the foundation for endless experimentation and limitless possibilities.

Download a printer-friendly PDF version of this client success story.

Photo credits: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

Case Study: Big Shoulders Fund

Organizational Transformation Using Salesforce

Big Shoulders Fund was founded in 1986 to provide support to Catholic schools in the economically disadvantaged areas of Chicago. Big Shoulders Fund has helped Chicago’s children in need achieve their dreams through access to a quality, values-based education. The organization accomplishes this by investing more than $30 million annually in scholarship support and academic enrichment for students, operational improvements for schools, leadership development programs for the next generation of school leaders, and academic programs and professional development for teachers.

“Exponent Partners has truly been a partner to us. They have brought best practices of Salesforce into our organization. Their in-depth understanding of Salesforce has allowed us to optimize and enhance our use of the platform, so that we can harness it fully to support various efforts across our organization. They have taught us how to fish, making us more self-sufficient moving forward.” – Kate LaMantia, Senior Systems Analyst, Big Shoulders Fund

Simplified processes led to YOY increases
289% increase in applications received, 93% increase in scholarship funds requested, 60% increase in scholarship funds awarded

Enhanced ability to handle large volumes of applications in short timeframes
Year 1: Processed 6,000 applications in the first hour; Year 2: Processed 6,000 applications in the first 9 minutes

Automated processes translate to savings in both time and money
Over 4 years, have saved 30,000 hours of staff time and significant personnel costs due to automation

Situation

Scholarship applications managed using spreadsheets and paper applications

Big Shoulders Fund was using a manual system of spreadsheets and paper applications to receive and award approximately 5,000 scholarships to students annually. These labor-intensive efforts meant staff spent a significant amount of time completing data entry. Moreover, the amount of manual effort involved made human error more likely.

Donor management solution fell short of needs

The nonprofit had been using a server-based system for donor management, primarily to record transactions. However, the system’s limitations were negatively impacting productivity. Big Shoulders Fund had created workarounds for some of the solution’s shortcomings, but this meant that some data was being tracked in spreadsheets, limiting the ability to get an accurate historical view of a donor’s profile and impact. According to Christine Sweeney, Director, Development Operations and Donor Services at Big Shoulders Fund, “We wanted a solution that would give us more agility in our fundraising and that would provide a single view of what engagement looks like over the life of a donor, so that they could build even stronger relationships.” The fact that the donor management system was on an installed server created additional challenges. “Staff in the field had to call the office regularly and ask for data to be pulled and emailed,” explained Christine. “We wanted a solution that was cloud-based, so that staff—no matter where they were—could easily access the data they needed and be more productive when they were outside of the office.”

Limited reporting capabilities for both scholarships and donor management

The organization wanted to move towards a more effective data management and reporting solution. The data was housed in multiple places, making it difficult and time-consuming to create reports, and the organization wanted to more efficiently collect additional data points. As a result, the organization was challenged to create meaningful metrics that they could easily track.

Tracking volunteer engagement was challenging

Spreadsheets were being used to track volunteer engagement based on estimates of hours completed. There wasn’t an ability to easily drill down into the data by school, volunteer, or engagement type.

“For the Tax Credit Scholarship, made possible by the Illinois Invest in Kids Act, we were given a two-month window to implement a completely different model than the one we already had in place in Salesforce. The nimbleness of the Salesforce platform allowed us to work with Exponent Partners and apply two models in Salesforce within the tight deadline. It was truly transformative.” – Kate LaMantia, Senior Systems Analyst, Big Shoulders Fund

Photo: Big Shoulders Fund student points at classroom chalkboard.

Solution

Salesforce was implemented as part of a pro bono project that was donated by PwC. After the consulting firm completed their generous engagement in mid-2016, post-configuration, Big Shoulders Fund engaged Exponent Partners to provide training and support on their new Salesforce instance. Over the years, Big Shoulders Fund has continued to work with Exponent Partners on several consulting projects with a view towards optimizing the nonprofit’s Salesforce instance with improvements and configurations that are specific to nonprofits.

Big Shoulders Fund Scholarship Program: Big Shoulders Fund selected Salesforce in early 2016 as a solution to its challenges related to processing and tracking thousands of student scholarship applications received from 75 schools annually. The system was also configured to receive and award approximately 5,000 scholarships to new and returning students annually.

Tax Credit Scholarship Program:When Big Shoulders Fund was approved as a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) in 2017, the nonprofit quickly identified Salesforce as the best tool to facilitate the related processes under the Illinois Invest in Kids Act. With only two months to launch, the application was created in-house using FormAssembly, a form building platform designed for Salesforce. Then Big Shoulders Fund engaged Exponent Partners to configure the organization’s Salesforce instance to allow for the capture of required data using processes that followed State-mandated rules.

Donor Management: In January 2019, Big Shoulders Fund decided to migrate their donor management database to Salesforce. Exponent Partners designed and configured a donor management system using the Salesforce platform, and also migrated the nonprofit from Salesforce Classic to Salesforce Lightning. In July 2019, Big Shoulders Fund started using Salesforce, exclusively, for both gift and donor management.

Photo: Big Shoulders Fund Children writing at classroom desk.

Results

Simplified processes for scholarship applications

The move from paper-based applications to online applications using Salesforce allowed for a 289 percent increase in the number of scholarship applications received from FY17 to FY18, a 93 percent increase in funding requests received from FY16 to FY17, and a 60 percent increase in scholarship funds awarded between FY15 and FY20. “The dramatic increases in applications and funding requests reinforced the fact that it was much easier for people to apply online instead of going through the cumbersome paper application process,” explained Kate. The organization also saved more than 43,000 pages of paper during one year thanks to the transition away from paper-based applications. Additionally, with the help of Exponent Partners, Big Shoulders Fund reduced the number of data points collected from 45 on the paper application to 15 on the online application, focusing on those that are truly of value to the organization. These improvements have been possible as processes and flows are now used, reducing the number of steps required to complete certain tasks.

Improved efficiency due to automation

With the automation of many processes using Salesforce and Form Assembly, Big Shoulders Fund has saved 11 work weeks per year of data entry for application processing and 67 hours per year for award processing, while eliminating errors caused by human entry of data. “We have saved more than 7,000 hours annually from automating our scholarship processes from paper to electronic,” stated Kate. “This reduction in hours has yielded significant personnel savings. Bigger picture, FY20 marks the fourth year of automation via Salesforce and Form Assembly, resulting in almost 30,000 hours saved, since the inception of the program.” With the help of Exponent Partners, the nonprofit also integrated Apsona, a Salesforce app which saves the organization even more time thanks to more robust and streamlined batch data entry, the ability to produce merge document for acknowledgement letters, and mass update and mass deletion capabilities that have equipped the nonprofit to significantly improve data integrity.

Configured Salesforce to receive and process Tax Credit Scholarship Applications

Big Shoulders Fund became the only large-scale SGO in Illinois to successfully launch the Tax Credit Scholarship application three years in a row. Salesforce enabled the nonprofit to efficiently accept thousands of applications in short timeframes, and then process them on a first come, first served basis. Year 1 resulted in over 12,000 applications, with more than 6,000 applications received in the first hour. Year 2 resulted in over 14,000 applications, with more than 6,000 applications received in the first 9 minutes. Year 3 resulted in further successes with almost 14,000 applications, 7,500 of which were received in the first 9 minutes. These results were achieved while ensuring compliance with program legislation and providing a high-quality customer service experience.

Enhanced donor management and insights into relationships

The cloud-based Salesforce platform is easily accessible to staff in the field, and now houses all data related to contributions and pledges, including donor history and notes. “Not only have we become more productive when it comes to donor management, but we now also have a deeper understanding of our community of supporters and how they are engaging with our organization,” stated Christine. “We are better equipped to manage and analyze our robust historical data of fundraising events and appeals, and then using it to inform decisions.” In parallel, thanks to the ability to capture donor permissions in Salesforce, schools now have the ability to steward their donors and cultivate renewal of vital contribution revenue.

Gained more sophisticated reporting capabilities

Access to real-time data is a game-changer when it comes to providing reports to various stakeholders, including the organization’s executive team. “Before Salesforce, most of that data wasn’t available to us, or if it was, it was difficult to aggregate and report on,” explained Kate. “We can now report on any data that we collect. For scholarships, we can report on the number of applications received, the top 10 elementary schools, the top 10 high schools, the grade level that is most in need, the breakdown of applicants by population and more. For the Tax Credit Scholarship, staff can now easily report on the cumulative history of the program, including the number of unique donors and total contributions.

Started to accurately track detailed volunteer information

The nonprofit can now track details about volunteer engagement at a granular level. For example, staff will be able to see accurate data about the total volunteers engaged by school, the cumulative hours over the life of a contact relationship, the engagement history with a given school, and service hours by service engagement type, such as mentoring, school service days, tutoring, and test prep.

Able to nimbly support the organization’s needs and growth with a flexible platform

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, staff at Big Shoulders quickly released an application for emergency support, thanks to the infrastructure that was in place in Salesforce. Following the application’s release, the organization was able to easily report results to donors, giving them specific details about what percentage of scholarship recipients were positively impacted by the donations received.

Moving forward, Big Shoulders Fund will continue to expand its use of Salesforce as the organization grows, with a view towards taking full advantage of the platform’s capabilities.

 

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Photo credits: Big Shoulders Fund  

Case Study: Pace Center for Girls

From Point Solution to Platform

The Pace Center for Girls (Pace) mission is to provide girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. Pace applies a set of gender-responsive, trauma-informed and strength-based prevention and early intervention practices, including academic and social services, with the purpose of ensuring girls’ future opportunities and success. With a statewide network of 21 Pace Centers in Florida and supporting a system of care for girls in Georgia, Pace annually helps more than 3,000 girls, ages 11-18, get back on track to graduate from high school.

Graphic with callout text

Decreased amount of time to create reports: Reports that took 2 to 3 hours to create now produced in less than 30 minutes

Streamlined processes: Ability to document relevant metrics aligning social and academic services

Improved data accuracy: Easier to quickly identify and rectify data issues, which might have have gone unnoticed with the legacy solutions

“We wanted to have our program model and processes drive the system design, rather than having software dictate our program and processes. After evaluating several options, we realized that Exponent Partners offered a flexible solution that would meet our case management needs, as well as our academic requirements.”– Lymari Benitez, Director of Program Evaluation, Pace Center for Girls

 

Photo: Young girl wearing PACE t-shirt and smiling.

Situation

Needed a scalable solution to accommodate the organization’s growth

Pace’s growth was pushing the limits of the non-profit’s legacy system. With 21 day programs (four of which had opened during the last five years), 12 outreach programs (11 of which had opened in the past three years in Florida and one in Georgia), Pace needed the ability to easily integrate data across centers to gain an organization-wide view of programs and outcomes. “In our previous system, each of our centers was a separate entity,” said Lymari Benitez, Director of Program Evaluation at Pace. “We had to go through many steps to pull together data across all our centers for predictive and in-depth analyses.” Forecasting more growth in the future, Pace needed a solution with a flexible architecture that could keep data f rom each center separate, yet also provide the ability for management to easily aggregate information as needed.

Limited ability to track important metrics impacted reporting

Pace’s legacy system allowed the organization to document details related to social services and counseling sessions. However, most of the data in the system was qualitative. According to Lymari, “The system was designed as a big journal. We were capturing important information, but not in a way that we could translate to good measures or behavioral progress.” Similarly, goal completion was difficult to track. The legacy system also made it difficult to capture key metrics related to academic services. It was difficult to produce reports about grades and school credits. Managers were creating their own spreadsheets outside of the system to track academic information and had to do manual counts in order to aggregate the data needed for reporting.

Shortcomings related to data collection and accuracy

“One of our biggest issues was the ease of data collection and data accuracy,” stated Lymari. “Sometimes we would make changes to demographic information in our legacy system, but had to wait 24 hours for those changes to be reflected in a report.” Such a delay was problematic when Pace needed real-time data.Batch uploads were also a source of f rustration for Pace. According to Lymari, “We need to do a lot of batch uploads, especially for attendance. These uploads were painful because they not only took a long time to complete, but they were usually full of errors and error messages.” As a result, staff would have to manually and painstakingly review the imported data to verify its accuracy, and then spend time making corrections.

“The Exponent Case Management (ECM) and the Salesforce platform integration will play a key role in facilitating our long-term growth. Thanks to their architecture we have the flexibility needed to adapt and support our ongoing expansion of Pace’s centers and programs without compromising our program model.”– Lymari Benitez, Director of Program Evaluation, Pace Center for Girls

 

Solution

Pace worked with an external consultant to conduct a technical assessment of their legacy system, and to identify a replacement solution that would better meet the organization’s immediate and long-term needs. According to Lymari, “We were looking for a cloud-based solution that would allow us to do case management, while also capturing academics. It was also important for the solution to be easy to learn as we would need to train staff across our many centers to be self-sufficient.”

Pace selected Exponent Case Management (ECM) and Salesforce for the ability to include social and academic services, allowing the organization to move away f rom a standalone point solution and spreadsheets to a fully integrated platform. This combination provided Pace with the flexibility to customize objects to track academic information. “The alignment between social services and academics was essential for our program model and the integration of ECM and Salesforce provided the flexibility needed to capture and access all our key data in one place,” explained Lymari.

After selecting and working with Exponent Partners to configure ECM and Salesforce to meet Pace’s needs, the organization did a phased rollout of the platform. “Change management was a priority for us as we were deploying the solution to 375 users and we wanted to make sure we maximized buy-in without overwhelming our administrators,” said Lymari. This strategic approach has been instrumental in the successful adoption of the new platform.

Photo: PACE students sitting on a bench talking and laughing.

Results

Scalable and flexible solution

“The architecture of the platform is one of the biggest advantages offered by ECM and Salesforce, as it allows us to easily make changes when we add a center or program, or create a custom object to capture a Pace-specific service like our Growth and Change System,” explained Lymari. “We now feel confident that our technology will scale with our organization, facilitating the future growth of our centers and programs, while enabling us to focus on the girls.” The ability to adapt the solution to reflect Pace’s language has been greatly appreciated and has further boosted user adoption. According to Lymari, “ECM and Salesforce offer us considerable flexibility, including the ability to integrate our own language into the system, which makes it easier for all staff to use the platform.”The ability to streamline some processes and ultimately automate others is also a significant step forward for Pace.

Track and report on metrics for individual centers, and aggregate data across centers reporting

ECM is helping Pace document key metrics across its 21 centers and 13 outreach programs. Pace now finds it easy to track key metrics and compare the results with plans and projections, both at the center-level and the organization-level.Moreover, the system structure allows for easy documentation as participant information is connected. “Everything is centralized into what we call the case record,” explained Lymari. This provides Pace with several advantages. “Instead of having to access multiple places to document information, participants’ information is organized in one place providing a holistic view of our girls. In addition, because key information is located together, it is easy to create a report type, select indicators, and develop a report that has the information we are seeking.”

Less time required to create reports

With ECM and Salesforce housing all of Pace’s Centers’ data in one place, the number of flat file reports required has decreased significantly, as has the amount of time spent creating reports. “I used to need two to three hours to run 21 reports, followed by SPSS or Excel to merge all the data into one place,” explained Lymari. “Now, all the data is available in a single report that takes me less than 30 minutes to create.”

Easier to collect data, plus enhanced data accuracy

“With our legacy system, batch uploads were time consuming as we had to go through the data to identify errors,” said Lymari. “Now, the batch upload is completed in two minutes, the changes are reflected instantly, and any errors are flagged and can be immediately corrected.” Administrators can also quickly identify if a problem with data is a center issue or a training issue, and plan accordingly to address the root cause.

Improved collaboration among teams and widespread use of the platform

ECM has significantly improved collaboration between social services staff and academic staff. This benefit is a direct result of members from both teams working closely together on important processes that are facilitated by the platform. According to Lymari, “Team members have clear motivation and specific goals for working even more closely together to benefit our girls.”The usability of the system has also been valuable. “ECM and Salesforce are so user-friendly that more people understand the system and are using it in their daily activities,” said Lymari. With 375 users on the platform, it is also helpful that more than one person can document information in the system at one time.

Facilitating a shift from accounting and performance management to research and evaluation

Looking forward, Pace expects ECM to allow the organization to move beyond the measures that are being tracked every month and shift towards research and evaluation. This change will allow the organization to answer more important questions about how the programs are operating, integrating information across departments.

 

Photo: Cover page of PDF case study

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Photos courtesy of Pace Center for Girls  

Tracking Breakthrough’s Impact with Data

The launch of Breakthrough was prompted by a need in the community. According to Arloa Sutter, Executive Director at Breakthrough, “I founded Breakthrough just because people were in need, and they were coming to our church wanting help. So, I put on a pot of coffee and started getting to know people, heard their stories, and then did what I could to come up with an appropriate response to the challenges to help them to come alongside and help them achieve their goals.”

Making an Impact on People’s Lives

As the organization grew, data became increasingly important. “We want to have an impact,” explained Arloa. “We can’t do that without the numbers and without the data. We can tell a lot of good stories, but are we really making an impact in the community and in people’s lives? For that, we need data.”

In an effort to better support Breakthrough’s programs, the organization selected Salesforce and Exponent Case Management (ECM). “Like most grassroots organizations, we’ve used a variety of different methods to manage our data,” stated John Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Breakthrough. “The main reason we chose to go with Exponent Partners was the scalability of the platform. We needed something that would adapt and grow with us, and that’s what we find in the Salesforce platform and in the ECM app.”

The organization chose to do a phased rollout of ECM. “We engaged Exponent Partners for our first three or four programs. All of the services that we need to collect, we’ve built out for probably for another five or six programs,” said John.

Starting with the Most Crucial Program Data First

Choosing which programs to focus on first was an important decision. “We started our ECM implementation with the programs that we thought it would be most crucial to have data for right away: homeless intervention, support centers, shelter programs,” explained Yolanda Fields, Chief Program Officer, Breakthrough. “It was a process that wasn’t easy, right? But I think what made it manageable was our ECM implementer was available. The people that we had assigned to our team really took the time to understand our environment.”

Breakthrough’s reach is impressive, and its programs are now better supported with ECM. According to Arloa, “We’re working with over half of our community. Last year, we served 13,000 people in a community of about 20,000 people.”

Photo: Breakthrough staff member sitting with partner and entering data into laptop.

Data is critical to Breakthrough’s ability to provide people with the support they need. “Recently, there was a woman who came into our support center,” said Yolanda. “I think our staff recognized that she had co-occurring disorders of chronic health problems with mental illness. And so, we started down the path of helping her to ensure the income that she needed. In order to do that, you cannot even imagine the amount of documentation and dates that are needed.”

The implementation of ECM had immediate benefits not only for Breakthrough’s staff, but also for the people it serves. According to Yolanda, “Because we were able to document her episodes of homelessness, we were able to say to the attorney, ‘Here is all of the information that’s needed to help her secure disability income.’”

The benefits of ECM have been far-reaching. “The use of ECM helps us to manage the data and then really to make real-time decisions and programming,” stated Yolanda. “It helps us to decide how we are going to use our resources, and so I think all of that is a part of helping us stay organized in our work, but also impactful and effective.”

Finding a Real Partner in the Social Services Sector

Breakthrough appreciates the partnership that they have with Exponent Partners. According to John, “With Exponent Partners, I found that we had a real partner in the social services sector who knew best practices from the field and could understand our needs as we were talking about our programs. If there were questions about how to do things, you know that they have the expertise in-house in order to come up with a real solution.”

Now, more than ever, Breakthrough’s executives are motivated by the tangible impact that the organization is having on its community. “What keeps me going is the people that I come in contact with every day,” explained Arloa. “We have staff who are flat-out heroes here, who I wish I could profile and tell their stories. We get to see people get up after they have fallen, and we get to see the glow in their eyes.”

John shares similar sentiments: “I don’t come to Breakthrough because I’m punching the clock to get a paycheck. I come to Breakthrough because I feel called to be a part of helping this organization become more effective and more faithful in what we do, and ECM is part of that. Exponent is definitely open to partnering with you as you use their product.”

To learn more, watch the video on YouTube or Vimeo and join our next Exponent Case Management webinar.

Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative

The Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative (CBC), launched in 2009, is an alliance of five education and human service agencies that collectively work with low-income individuals throughout some of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods. Christopher House is the Collaborative’s Project Manager. The CBC’s goal is to increase impact on low-income children and families through the sharing of data and effective practices.

Graphics with text summarizing Case Study Overview

Greater transparency and insights: By sharing data-driven best practices and strategies, partners can learn from their peers and make improvements that increase impact

Streamlined reporting: Centralized, interactive dashboards reduce the amount of time spent producing query reports, and enable staff to conduct indepth data analysis

Cost savings: New partners joining the collaborative benefit from a fully designed case management system and reporting platform, rather than building one themselves

“We wanted a more streamlined process for data collection and easy to navigate pages for data entry, so that we could produce cross-agency reports on a set of common outcomes and outcome indicators that partners use for comparative insights. We now have a shared platform with interactive dashboards that are a huge timesaver, and that allow partners to drill down on specific data points within those outcome results.”– Traci Stanley, Director of Quality Assurance, Christopher House, and Project Manager, CBC

The CBC identifies three key triggers of success in establishing their data collaborative. First, partners that see the value each member brings to the collaborative and share a common vision to increase their impact by making data-informed program improvements that will be more likely to deliver on outcomes. Second, leadership holds the most important role in sponsoring change to organizational culture to become data-informed. They communicate the vision and expectations to staff, establish a sense of urgency for the work, and make resource commitments to ensure change happens successfully. Lastly, there is a need for accurate data and a software platform to effectively evaluate programs and for learning groups to discuss how to improve based on data.

Photo: Two school children sit at table playing with cards.

Situation

Need for a streamlined process for data collection

For some partners, depending on which software platform they had in place, data collection wasn’t user friendly. The process for inputting data often involved multiple pages and navigation challenges. By streamlining the process, partners would be able to spend more time analyzing data and making comparative insights.

Desire to improve data quality and empower individual partners

Higher quality data would lead to more valuable analysis and insights that could be used to inform plans for data-driven improvements. With better quality data, organizations would also be able to learn from other partners, and implement strategies and practices in their own programs.

Goal to reduce the amount of manual work required to aggregate data

Reports that detailed numbers and percentages were easy to create, but data visuals had to be created outside of the CBC’s software by copying and pasting information  into PowerPoint. This manual process was cumbersome, time-consuming, and introduced room for human error.

“We are now in a position to help new partners get up and running, and support them as we expand the Collaborative. The more partners we recruit, the bigger the data set that we have to benchmark with, which is exciting.” – Traci Stanley, Director of Quality Assurance, Christopher House, and Project Manager, CBC

Solution

After the CBC decided to replace its existing solution, the organization issued an RFI to understand the functionality, capabilities, and pricing of four vendors. The information provided by the vendors was then used to complete a comparative analysis, which was supplemented by input from peer agencies.

The desire to have one shared platform that everybody could access ultimately led the CBC to select Salesforce and Exponent Case Management (ECM) from Exponent Partners. “The combination of the Salesforce platform and ECM would enable us to create dashboards and data visuals for our outcome results,” explained Traci. “We would gain the ability to easily aggregate those outcome results by different demographic types and results for students in specific neighborhoods.”

The discovery process with Exponent Partners involved a deep dive into the organization’s requirements, including the target population, assessments being tracked, and day-to-day activities of different functional roles.

“The discovery process was very thorough and captured our collective needs, some of which were in alignment, whereas others were agency specific,” explained Traci. From there, Exponent Partners went through the design phase, where collaboration with the CBC enabled them to solidify details about what would get built and for which programs. According to Traci, “We went from having many different programs, each capturing a few participants, in our previous system to fewer, larger program buckets that capture more participants.”

Photo: children at Christopher House walk down hallway with instructors.

Results

Simpler data capture

When doing an intake, partners using ECM now have the ability to capture all intake information and demographics in one place, providing a complete picture of a family. With  the intake process being more efficient, staff time is saved and can be used to analyze data, look for trends, and determine ways to use the data to increase the CBC’s impact.

Streamlined reporting

The Collaborative can create detailed reports and data visuals in one place, using ECM and Einstein Analytics. “Einstein Analytics will take some of the mystery away from program staff who, in the past, have been looking at aggregate data reports that may show they’re not doing well in a certain area, but they can’t drill down to see which kids are struggling,” explained Traci. Partners have a greater ability to drill down on the de-identified data and access information for their own agency related to a specific program. “Having that information is crucial because each partner can individualize their approach in a program based on how specific kids are doing.” Partners also gain the ability to aggregate results in more meaningful reports to meet their unique needs.

Enhanced ability to consolidate multiple databases and ensure data integrity

Staff can now upload data from non-ECM users onto the Einstein Analytics shared platform and incorporate that data into dashboard reports for the Collaborative. The ability to be solution-agnostic when it comes to data sharing makes it easier for the Collaborative to recruit new partners. Data integrity is also better as manual work related to the creation of charts and visuals has been eliminated.

Increased cost savings and cost efficiencies

New partners benefit from design and configuration savings, and, if they choose to adopt ECM, they will also benefit from a fully designed case management system and reporting platform, which can be configured to meet the needs of their individual programs. Cost savings will also be achieved with Einstein Analytics, which will allow Christopher House to build dashboards for multiple organizations that can then login and access their outcome reports. Cost efficiencies have been achieved as Exponent Partners can configure multiple systems in an uninterrupted period of time as a single project, rather than as separate, standalone projects.

Established effective practices

The Collaborative uses the data to inform decisions related to the establishment of program practices and strategies. For example, rather than working in silos, members can now examine data, hold group discussions to explore what contributed to those results, and then determine best practices that can be shared and implemented by partners to increase impact on children, youth, and families.

Improved quality of services

Thanks to programmatic changes or professional development that is instituted based on data, the Collaborative is seeing better outcome results and an increase in the overall quality of the program, which ultimately benefits students and families.

Increased transparency and insights

By using a standardized set of measures, partners have access to valuable benchmark data, and can easily see how their program results stack up against those of other partners. The sharing of data, best practices and strategies is a game-changer when compared to partners’ past attempts to benchmark against their own data from the previous year.

More Resources

The CBC is launching a newly published guide, which is titled Increasing Mission Impact through Collaborative Learning, and serves as a toolkit for the nonprofit sector with strategies and best practices the CBC has learned over the past 10 years. For more information about the CBC or to purchase a copy of the guide, visit christopherhouse.org/cbc.

 

Image: Cover Page of PDF case study

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Photo credits: Christopher House   

Video: Helping SparkPoint Impact Student Success

College student, Eric Torres, knows all too well the challenges of being a single parent. “I’ve been taking care of my son since he was two months old, and he is my ambition to get through school,” explained Eric. “It has been a really tough struggle trying to pursue my degree here because I didn’t have any childcare. So, if I didn’t have someone to watch my son, then I simply couldn’t go to school.”

Achieving financial stability

Eric became a client of United Way Bay Area’s SparkPoint program, which serves students and community members, one-on-one, and helps them complete their financial goals. According to Chad Thompson, SparkPoint Program Director at Skyline College, “When someone comes to SparkPoint, often times they are coming because they have no other recourse. They are coming because they are hungry, because they have no place to live.”

“School just started and we have an alarming amount of homeless youth. I have the privilege of being able to work with students and community members one-on-one and help them complete their financial goals,” said Flor López, SparkPoint Program Services Coordinator and Financial Coach.

Tracking impact on student success

United Way Bay Area uses Exponent Case Management (ECM) to help track students in SparkPoint. “We want to make sure we are reporting accurately the work that is actually happening on the ground,” stated Nicole Harden, Vice President of Economic Success at United Way Bay Area. “We want to be able to tell their stories. The tool we had before wasn’t able to do that for us. We had multiple databases that we were using, and anyone can tell you that that is super difficult!”

After making the move to ECM, the benefits were clear. “One of the reasons ECM works so well for us and our model is that each service builds on the other, so a student can come in and be experiencing food insecurity, and we can provide groceries to them and then we can talk to them about how saving money on these groceries can be a starting place for opening a bank account or saving money for an apartment,” explained Chad Thompson, SparkPoint Program Director. “If we didn’t have ECM, we would probably use spreadsheets to track what we were doing or try to use some software that wasn’t customized or built for us to use. It would take a lot more time and our coordinators and our financial coaches wouldn’t be able to spend that time working with our clients.”

Getting students the help that they need

ECM enables the organization to track behavior change. According to Nicole Harden, VP of Economic Success at United Way, “We are able to track all of the services that folks are being referred to or that they are receiving when they are working with our centers.”

With ECM, SparkPoint program service coordinators and financial coaches can easily track key information about a student and ensure they are getting the help they need, be it in the form of public benefits, counseling, financial aid, or other areas. “We can customize our ECM software to make sure our reports are already tracking information that we have to include in our grant applications and end of year reports, making our job much easier,” said Chad.

Growing with Exponent Partners

The partnership with Exponent Partners is something that is greatly appreciated by Jacqueline Chan, Director, Data and Evaluation at United Way Bay Area. “Exponent Partners has been great to work with and has tailored their solutions for our program so we can really maximize Exponent Case Management to meet our needs and aspirations,” explained Jacqueline. Shee adds, “their team has been working with us since day one to ensure our needs are met and empowering us through training and technical support. We now feel confident and training others on how to use the database and reporting systems to understand trends in the data.”

Photo: Students walking around Skyline College campus.
Photo: Eric entering Skyline College campus.

Eric’s path hasn’t been an easy one. “Given all the obstacles that I’ve been facing, it does get to the point where you feel like quitting sometimes. I don’t have that option because I know if I quit, I’m not helping my own situation or the situation with my son. I’m doing a lot of this for him,” stated Eric. SparkPoint is ensuring that he gets the help that he needs to thrive in the future. “It is a lot of support that I’m getting here, and here I am pursuing my dreams and trying to build a better foundation so that me and my son can have the best future possible.”

Exponent Case Management in action

To learn more, watch the video on YouTube or Vimeo and join our next Exponent Case Management webinar.

Attending Dreamforce 19? Check out the session Dashboards with an Equity Lens: Improving Outcomes for the Underserved featuring Norman Cheng, Data Analyst at United Way Bay Area on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 11am PT.

Photo: Trainer standing in front of room talking to rows of trainees sitting at computers.
Norman Cheng of United Way Bay Area leading a staff training on Exponent Case Management (ECM). 

After the session, be sure to stop by the Exponent Case Management booth in the Dreamforce Salesforce.org Lodge. Visit our blog for more nonprofit success stories and customer sessions at Dreamforce 19.

Case Study: The William Penn Foundation

Established in 1945, the William Penn Foundation’s mission is to help improve education for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creative communities that enhance civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region. Each year, the family foundation reviews over 200 grant applicationss and awards $110 million in grants.

“Our old system required a lot of passing of the baton—one person had to complete their work before another person could do theirs. Now, work can happen simultaneously—financial review, legal review, deliverable review, and more. There is more transparency into what others are doing and how they can support each other.” – Samantha Shain, Database Administrator, William Penn Foundation

Situation

Grant data housed in three separate databases

Spreadsheets that lived on a network drive were used to manage early pipeline entries, whereas MicroEdge GIFTS was used for transactional records. These databases were supplemented by a custom-built solution for workflow and portfolio management. Ongoing maintenance of the custom solution—which struggled to handle cross-programmatic grants—was cost-prohibitive, so when it was announced that GIFTS was being sunsetted, the foundation decided to investigate options for a scalable and stable platform that would streamline grants management.

Multiple bottlenecks negatively impacted productivity

The foundation’s previous solutions required staff to “pass the baton” in order to push a grant through the process. Employees were unable to simultaneously access and work on the same grant, resulting in bottlenecks that impeded progress. This issue was compounded by a lack of transparency caused by emails being housed on individuals’ computers, rather than in a central location where key stakeholders could quickly access important correspondence and documents.

Time-consuming manual work required to manage the grants pipeline

Grants pipeline management was cumbersome and labor-intensive. In order to forecast grant payments, senior staff had to update a spreadsheet daily, introducing the possibility of human error. Consolidation between the grants pipeline and details about grants already awarded required an intensive de-duping effort that was only feasible to complete once per month, due to the time commitment involved.

Limited visibility into the grants management lifecycle, post-approval

Grantees would submit their results, milestones, and activities (RMAs) in a Word document, but staff didn’t have easy access to this information for tracking purposes. As a result, version control was a problem, as was visibility into progress on specific aspects of individual grants.

“We worked closely with Exponent Partners to make important decisions that made it possible for staff to use the system as-is today, but that will also enable us to develop the platform in the years ahead, ensuring that it continues to meet our evolving needs.” – Samantha Shain, Database Administrator, William Penn Foundation

Solution

William Penn Foundation was committed to finding an extensible grants management solution that could be customized to meet the diverse requirements of the organization’s key stakeholders. Having a cloud-based solution was important too as it would give staff timely, remote access to data via a phone, mobile device, or computer.

Salesforce and foundationConnect quickly surfaced as the frontrunners during the evaluation process as the integrated solutions met the organization’s short- and long-term needs and requirements.

In November 2017, William Penn Foundation deployed Salesforce and foundationConnect, marking a milestone in the transformation of the organization’s technology infrastructure and grants management. The organization implemented foundationConnect’s budget and program modules, payment schedules, reporting, and Grantee Portal. This standard, out-of-the-box functionality was enhanced with customized features that were implemented by Exponent Partners.

Centralized grants management data: Reduced number of databases from 3 to 1, allowing key data to be accessed through a single sign-on Enhanced collaboration: Grantee portal allows staff and grantees to collaborate on grants and the related results, milestones, and activities to achieve better outcomes Improved efficiency: Automation of tasks and reports has increased productivity and freed up staff time for value-added projects

The new system, known internally as the “Grants Unified System” and fondly referred to as “Gus”, also includes third-party apps. “Our system is now considered best-in-class by other peer foundations who are striving to streamline and optimize their grants management,” explained Samantha.

Photo: Youth in a canoe rowing together on a river.

Results

Increased automation has eliminated major bottlenecks and freed up resources

Program Officers receive notifications for all incoming inquiries and applications, removing the Grants Management team as the information gatekeeper. This streamlined process ensures that grants reach the right people in a timely manner. Additionally, thanks to the payment approval wizard that Exponent created, Finance staff now automatically receive payment approvals and payment projections are readily available through scheduled monthly reports. With less time being spent on mundane tasks, such as consolidation of information from various spreadsheets or cross-referencing paper and electronic files, staff have time to pursue new or more challenging projects.

Enhanced visibility into real-time information and improved data integrity

Staff can now quickly and easily access real-time information on active grants, due dates, and budget. “Team members are no longer storing data on our network drive and emailing spreadsheets around,” said Samantha. “They can see a representation of all of the payments in the system, and can also modify their own pipeline record, so that it is reflected in the budget at the appropriate time.” This decentralized approach to budget access and updates has increased accountability. Also, with rules in place, data integrity issues, such as mistakes or missing information, are quickly identified and can be addressed immediately.

Increased collaboration between the foundation and grantees with the Grantee Portal

Grantees are now required to create their RMAs in a custom Visualforce page that Exponent Partners built as part of the Grantee Portal. According to Samantha, “Our grant making is now more collaborative with our grantees. Before, it was inputs and outputs, whereas now we have a structured feedback loop that should eventually lead to better grants.” The new method for tracking RMAs in both interim and final reports has given Program Officers more visibility into the progress of individual grantees. Emails between grants staff and grantees are also housed in the Grantee Portal thanks to seamless integration with Outlook. This centralized approach to tracking correspondence, activities, and key documents has enhanced transparency and knowledge sharing, while ensuring that grantees aren’t bombarded with similar requests from foundation staff.

Improved ability to handle cross-programmatic grants

foundationsConnect’s architecture allows the organization to keep a single grant record even when a grant is tied to two different budgets. “We are now able to easily handle cross-programmatic grants in a way that accurately reflects the related budgetary impact in different areas,” explained Samantha. Native foundationConnect functionality was enhanced with a Visualforce page, built by Exponent Partners, to provide more granular details about time spent managing project budgets.

More sophisticated reporting capabilities

Detailed dashboards tailored to end users’ unique needs make it easy for staff to know where they need to take action. Conga reporting enables staff to report on various grant details, including RMAs. The foundation also uses Conga to create a massive spreadsheet for tracking payments—an effort that used to be manual. Director Discretionary and Matching Gifts are also tracked and reported on thanks to a separate, but integrated portal created by Exponent Partners.

Extensible platform that supports the organization’s broader vision

William Penn Foundation will continue to work with Exponent Partners to complete a Communications CRM project. This follow-on effort will give the foundation an enhanced ability to build out contact attributes in a more sophisticated way. This valuable data can then be used for granular segmentation and targeted outreach to people from the general public who might be interested in engaging with William Penn Foundation.

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Photo credits: Race Street Pier photograph by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA ©; Youth rowing in a canoe photograph by Hannah Morales for UrbanPromise.

Case Study: Breakthrough

Highlights

- Improved Staff Efficiency: Reduced weekly report prep time by 50%
- Streamlined Intake Process: Reduced intake processing time by 20%, saving an average of 25 hours per week
- Easier Access to More Data: Able to meet the detailed reporting demands of grants in less time

“We have a strategic goal of improving outcomes measurement and management. With our previous solution, we were tracking all the information we needed, but being able to get it out and compile it in a meaningful way was a huge challenge. It was painful knowing we were tracking all this data, but we were unable to let it tell the story.” – John Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Breakthrough

Client Description

Breakthrough partners with those affected by poverty to build connections, develop skills, and open doors of opportunity. Breakthrough is intentionally located in and works alongside residents in East Garfield Park. Each year, Breakthrough has the opportunity to work with over 6,000 local residents and their families.

Situation

Data was siloed in two separate systems that weren’t integrated
Breakthrough implemented the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack in 2009 for donor management, and also used the solution for its CRM, marketing, and some volunteer needs. In 2011, the organization also implemented a point solution for case management, based on a promise that the product offered the ability to track efforts to measurable outcomes. Unfortunately, this promise never materialized as most of the implementation budget was spent on building out individual programs, and structuring records and assessments.

Case management point solution was closed, inflexible, and obsolete
“We pride ourselves on being a learning organization that tweaks and changes as we learn,” explained John. “The solution we selected and built for case management was obsolete by the end of year one. It didn’t give us the flexibility that we needed to adjust as we evolved.”

Unable to understand an individual’s involvement across the programs and services
In order to see multiple assessments for a single client, as well as the related case management notes, staff had to visit multiple program profiles for that individual. This cumbersome process made it time-consuming to gain a holistic view at the client level.

Manual and labor-intensive reporting
Limited report capabilities required staff to export data into Crystal Reports and try to manipulate it manually. According to John, “We were tracking all the information we needed, but being able to get it out and compile it in a meaningful way was a huge challenge.”

Lack of alignment with business processes
“The model in our case management solution didn’t align with the business processes of our different programs,” said John. As a result, instead of supporting and streamlining Breakthrough’s business processes, technology became a barrier. “Some of our programs just stopped using our case management solution altogether and instead tracked data on our various programs in a massive online spreadsheet.”

Impossible to find an in-house expert for both solutions
Breakthrough needed an administrator who knew both systems well, so that the organization wouldn’t have to rely on consultants to make changes or pull data. “We couldn’t find that unicorn who had technical expertise in both Salesforce and our case management solution.”

Solution

With an expansion planned, Breakthrough was motivated to make a change. “We knew that we were going to have to invest in some sort of system if we were going to improve how we were managing metrics,” explained John. The organization sought a flexible platform with an open architecture that would enable cross-departmental collaboration, while supporting growth without relying on consultants. “We also wanted robust reporting and visualization tools, including dashboards.”

Committed to finding a system that leveraged the “reliable and scalable” Salesforce platform, Exponent Case Management (ECM) was identified as the best option. “This combination of solutions ensures that we don’t have siloed case records,” said John. “It also enables us to have one person—a full-time admin— build the expertise in-house to manage the entire platform.” Breakthrough is now using the Salesforce platform and ECM for numerous departments: Fund Development, Volunteer Engagement, Adult Support Network, and Youth Network.

Results

Gained ability to easily build detailed reports and visually-pleasing dashboards
Staff productivity has increased thanks to the ability to produce reports more efficiently with ECM. “Now, I spend only 5 hours per week creating reports, instead of 10 hours,” explained Yolanda, Chief Program Officer at Breakthrough. The organization can now meet the diverse reporting needs of individual program managers or decisions makers with data on donors, volunteers, and programs. “We can build reports and dashboards that pull together data across programs at the client level to help us try to answer some of those deeper questions and draw bigger conclusions,” said John. Additionally, now that it easier to pull data from a single system instead of two different ones, Breakthrough is better able to meet the detailed reporting requirements of funding partners.

Improved visibility into performance management
By centralizing data on the Salesforce platform with ECM, Breakthrough staff now have all case records and case assessments in one place. “We are able to monitor progress towards outcomes, in real-time, with flexible dashboards and reports that help us understand the impact of our services.” said John. Management can now see enrollments at a glance, so if they are below average at any given time, staff can make course corrections earlier or ask the right questions.

Enhanced data quality
Staff appreciate the improved data management, which makes it easier to identify when there are issues that need to be addressed. “Staff can now see, at a glance, how we are doing. They can quickly identify data quality issues, and immediately take action to resolve them, rather than waiting for quarterly reports to be assembled,” stated John. “They can also see the broader impact of what we are doing.”

Better user experience and improved security controls
Breakthrough’s staff now can see participant data in a more streamlined interface that requires fewer “clicks” to get at the information they need. On the security front, granular security controls allow for permission-based data access. According to John, “Having all data on one platform provides a holistic view of an individual or a family and their engagement with Breakthrough, while giving us the security controls to ensure that, on the backend, staff only see what they need to see.”

Prepared for future growth
Any need for additional functionality between Salesforce and ECM is met through different apps available on the AppExchange. According to John, “There’s generally a pretty affordable app that will meet our needs, easily extending the functionality of the platform. Salesforce offers incredible scalability—the sky is the limit!”

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