When it comes to thinking about data in innovative ways, Social Solutions’ customer Local Investment Commission (LINC) has long been a nonprofit trailblazer. Since the organization’s founding in 1992, LINC has been pushing the boundaries of public-private collaboration in the name of supporting families across the Kansas City community. And, by leveraging data and technology to increase efficiency and meet the community’s needs around after-school care, LINC continues to increase its impact by improving the lives of Kansas City families.
“My last name has 13 letters, so you can imagine how many different ways I’ve seen it spelled over the years,” says Brent Schondelmeyer, the Deputy Director of Community Engagement at LINC. “Then, when you add in the issue of handwriting, my own name is an example of how challenging it can be to ensure data integrity across sets of paper-based forms and records.”
Brent’s is just one name. Now, imagine needing to crunch through paper enrollment forms for more than 6,000 students – with 6,000 handwritten names – within six weeks. That’s exactly what LINC needed to work through each summer to get local children and families enrolled in after-school programs for the upcoming school year. If we consider a 3-page enrollment form for 6,000 students, that’s 18,000 pieces of paper to collect and process over the course of a few weeks – a daunting task for LINC and time-strapped families alike.
Or, it was, until Brent and his colleagues implemented one key process improvement in 2019.
From 18,000 Sheets of Paper to One Online Form
For the 2019-2020 after-school program enrollment period, LINC introduced an online form to allow parents and caregivers across the area school districts to pre-enroll their child or children in after school programs ahead of the late-summer dash. LINC’s web-based form asks parents to submit key information related to the child, family, emergency contacts and health considerations, along with two signatures.
When LINC announced the availability of the after-school program pre-enrollment intake form – easily accessed via a mobile device or PC and available in both English and Spanish – the response from parents left Brent in disbelief.
Delivering What Parents Wanted
“I was stunned,” he says. “We sent an email around in July, when we typically don’t have as ready access to parents, and had a 49% open rate, which is very high. As soon as we sent that first email, people were acting on it immediately. Then, we sent a follow-up in early August, and we saw a 56% open rate. The immediate response to the pre-enrollment intake form was extraordinary.”
The instantaneous uptake was proof that Brent and LINC had implemented a major improvement in the enrollment process that parents welcomed. “To me, the success of the new pre-enrollment form showed that there was pent-up demand for an online option,” Brent explains.
What LINC’s web-based after-school program pre-enrollment form has achieved for parents and adults is two-fold: greater convenience of enrolling children in programs and greater peace of mind knowing that children are set up for the school year ahead of time.
As Brent puts it, “We were able to give parents confidence that their children’s after-school arrangements were in place for the school year. We wanted to make this experience better for families, and the online intake form powered by Social Solutions’ Apricot enabled us to do that.”
Reclaiming 17 Weeks’ Worth of Staff Time
The online form results were equally impactful for LINC internally.
In previous years, the after-school program enrollment process would be a tedious 6-week process for LINC staff, taking thousands of handwritten paper forms and entering the data into the organization’s Apricot data management system, powered by Social Solutions.
By having parents and caregivers enter their children’s enrollment information directly into LINC’s Apricot system through the electronic form, this eliminated the need for staff to run through manual data entry. As a result, LINC staff were able to save the equivalent of 85 days’ or 17 weeks’ worth of time. And this meant that staff could focus more on meeting families while organizing and optimizing programs for the upcoming year.
“As our trusted technology partner, Social Solutions has the capacity and desire to help us meet the needs of our community in new ways,” says Brent. “Everything we do in human services should be shaped by community needs – but you need data to be able to get to, understand and respond to those needs. At LINC, we continually look at ways to stretch our Apricot system to help us increase efficiency internally, enhance services and programs externally, and optimize the way we collect and use data to drive impact.”
Thank you to Brent Schondelmeyer and the team at LINC for sharing this success story where Social Solutions’ Apricot data management system played a role in delivering key outcomes.