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.