Photo: Breakthrough marquee on Familyplex building in Chicago

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.