The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) recently joined Social Solutions in a webinar hosted by Chronicle of Philanthropy to explain how our Apricot 360 software has revolutionized data at the organization, allowing the New York City nonprofit to enhance reporting and thereby increase its impact.
Let’s dive into the specifics and discover how your organization can achieve similar results.
Before implementing Apricot 360 two years ago, Maia Dillane, director of research and evaluation at AAFSC, said the organization struggled with what many nonprofits deal with: Managing many different data sources while also juggling varying reporting requirements from a range of funders.
“After implementing Apricot 360, we were able to provide a resource for our staff and our development team that brought together data across all of our 12 programs into one central location that could be used by staff who had a shared understanding of a single platform,” Maia said. “Information can now be extracted readily and easily across a number of different analytics and formats to serve both internal and external reporting purposes.”
AAFSC rolled out our software at an interesting—and as it turned out—perfect time. Maia and her team had Apricot in place shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic started. The nonprofit suddenly saw a great expansion in need across their communities and programs. Their new database enabled her team to understand where the need was growing and where that utilization was highest in demand.
“A key component of our operational expansion to these needs was our ability to very quickly turn around to bring data points to funders who were committed to providing more support to the nonprofit sector to support communities most in need as a result of the pandemic,” she said. “Nimbly and in a nuanced way, we were able to describe to them in real time the challenges that the community members that we serve were facing, what impact our programming was having on the ground, and what that scaling looked like.”
Maia noted that the analytical thinking that was thrust upon her organization at the height of the pandemic has now become part of the lifeblood of the organization. It’s one thing to have data at your fingertips, but it’s another thing to be able to understand how to utilize your data and create a data-driven culture in your organization.
“It needs to be a long-term strategy and in order to make these processes a success, it requires a lot of buy-in at all levels,” Maia said. “Ultimately, if you’re a data manager, what you’re asking is to have staff, whose number one priority is providing services, to take time out of their day to record data or to look at data. And that’s not an easy task.”
Maia says when getting buy-in across your organization, your messaging should not be “one size fits all.” Different staff members are motivated by different things, and it’s critical to craft your messaging accordingly.
“For some, they’re really inspired by the narrative that the data that they’re inputting is going to help the organization grow, that it’s going to better articulate the needs of the individuals that they’re serving, and that it’s going to enable the organization to tell their story,” Maia said. “But that’s not going to be motivating for everyone. In some cases, it’s about helping folks to understand the expectation that funders need this to meet requirements. And they don’t always have to see that as the reason that they wake up in the morning, but that’s an expectation that they need to meet so that they can focus their time on bettering the lives of the individuals that they work with.”
In other cases, you can motivate employees by allowing them to see their individual work and contributions actualized and shown in a report. Apricot’s visual and easy-to-create reporting features can help facilitate this part of the buy-in process.
Maia says that one of the barometers that she uses to indicate where AAFSC is in its data reporting journey is the number of data points she can compile at the end of the year for its annual impact report. Since implementing Apricot, she has been able to increase the number of data points in that important report from 22 to 59.
“Before we started, we really were able to only confidently share about the number of people that a particular program impacted by enrollment numbers,” Maia said. “Where we’ve really been able to shift is supplementing that with a host of other data points that provide that nuanced story.”
At AAFSC, those data points include the total hours a participant received services, the average time they spent engaging with those services over the course of a program, and what portion of the participants are frequent attendees.
Through Apricot, AAFSC staff members administer a community needs assessment when intaking each new participant. Using that information, AAFSC evaluates trends in community needs on a quarterly basis.
“It allowed us to see over the course of 2020, 2021, and now 2022, what have been the most acute increases in need,” Maia said. “And for us, we saw that largely included security and mental health support.”
Internally, identifying these trends allowed the staff to understand where they needed to scale programs. It also allowed them to bring that information to funders in order to get the money needed to grow those programs.
“A lot of this can be really specialized to a particular conversation with a particular funder, and it can be really helpful to have data staff well integrated with development teams, so that, for instance, if a funder is interested in providing support to increase your team from six to seven individuals, that data can allow you to say, ‘Okay, based on past data we can project that that will increase our impact by this much through that data,’” she said. “And then you can turn around when that year is over and tell them exactly how much your program was able to scale as a result of that funding.”
Are you ready to take your data management and reporting to the next level at your nonprofit organization? Get an Apricot 360 demo today.
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