January is often a time for optimism and fresh goals.
That being said, we’ve heard anxiety from those we know in the human services sector going into 2017. There is greater funding uncertainty in many parts of the U.S., such as the Bay Area, where many of our clients reside.
Rising costs of living with stagnant wages and changing demographics are putting increasing pressure on communities and associated social services. And that’s not to mention potential shakeups in Federal policy on the horizon.
Increasingly, funding is also tied to proof of outcomes. You’re doing more with less, as the saying goes.
What is a forward-looking agency to do to continue to provide high-impact services, manage cases efficiently, and even thrive in this turbulent climate? Here are our recommendations for 2017:
- Create strong models to make sure you have the right data. To prove results, it’s critical to collect the right data. Revisit your theory of change and program model to ensure you are tracking the most important metrics. Be sure to account for the data your funders often request.
- Observe areas that provide “hidden” information. Some data tends to slip through the cracks: referrals you denied, external referrals, requests for service that weren’t a match. Tracking this data can lead to valuable insights and action. For example, with your in-depth data on frequent requests, you could confidently ask a funder to fund a new program related to those requests.
- Reduce manual processes to maximize your resources. To decrease duplicative efforts and increase process efficiency, you may want to leverage best practices like combining intake forms or consolidating case records. Consider a user-friendly system that case managers can access in the cloud. This kind of system can also help you automate tasks.
- Stop working in departmental silos. A platform that brings together your departments can give visibility into your whole agency. A case manager can see deeper records on clients, program managers can plug in volunteers efficiently, development can pull compelling program results for funders, management can view overall organizational performance, and more.
- Integrate services and collaborate more closely with partner agencies. The sector can provide more comprehensive services to individuals when combining forces. But the key is to collaborate without increasing overhead. Systems with shared case records, automated referral communications, and shared forums to discuss issues can solve this problem. Mission Economic Development Agency provides a good example of such a collaboration.
- Communicate your results better. Ultimately, you want to be able to demonstrate that the change you defined in your program model is happening (and communicate this to funders). A tool to create reports with speed and accuracy will make your efforts here much easier.
To underpin these steps, it’s crucial to incorporate technology into your strategic plan. Having a system to serve as the central source of knowledge and data-tracking for your agency not only saves you time and effort, it can also provide much needed stability and transparency. It can share and safeguard your client and results data in times of staff absence or even turnover. Most importantly, a system helps you efficiently understand client- and program-level outcomes over time, so you can make better decisions about what to prioritize.
Exponent Case Management is a cloud-based case management system informed by the human services sector, and can help your agency serve your clients well and thrive in 2017 (and beyond). Contact us to discuss how Exponent Case Management can increase your agency’s impact.