A car repair or flat tire may be an inconvenience to most people, but for single moms, it can be a devastating financial blow. Without reliable transportation, getting to work or transporting kids to childcare is a logistical nightmare. So, what happens when a crisis event suddenly comes up? How can single mothers gain the help they need to weather an unexpected expense that threatens to destabilize a household?
Sometimes, life’s most challenging moments can spark a dream— an idea to use one’s experiences and lessons to help others. That’s what happened to Eddie and Ginny Brown. After a series of life-altering experiences—divorce, single parenthood, housing instability, financial hardships, re-marrying, blending two families, becoming caretakers to a grandchild and aging relatives—they wanted to use their experiences to make a difference in the lives of moms struggling to live, work and parent alone. They started Giving Words, a nonprofit dedicated to helping single mothers overcome sudden financial obstacles. They wanted to find ways to help moms successfully parent and not be burdened with worrying about basic needs like transportation.
It’s a ministry that has grown into more than 60 active partnerships with businesses committed to helping ease some financial burdens that would otherwise derail a single mom’s ability to take care of her children. But Giving Words doesn’t only provide cars and financial guidance to single moms. They connect mothers to a greater community, giving them a sense of purpose, belonging and hope. They help moms emerge stronger and able to help their communities. Brown has a model for growth that can be replicated anywhere, and Social Solutions’ Apricot offering is a customizable, modular, plug-and-play structure allowing for expansion.
Founded in 2017, the organization began to see real growth in recent years and address significant community needs. For each mother that requested help, Giving Words coordinated a monumental amount of information among participants and a mission-driven partner organization providing products and services. Organizing intake forms, tracking the needs of participants, logging services, and simply being able to clearly see what you’re doing for the community and reporting those outcomes are all critical to client success.
Emergency car needs are just the entry point for helping families. Once a mother’s situation is stabilized through access to a reliable car, Giving Words also helps identify other needs supported by businesses, churches, schools or other groups.
But with all the excellent work, Giving Words was beginning to experience growing pains. Time spent on intake and service coordination was increasing, which prevented them from growing and serving more people. Staff did not have uniform access to the partnership database, which would allow them to assign repairs efficiently. And volunteers would spend 1-2 hours of valuable time logging intake information for each client.
In the beginning, there was one spreadsheet. But as community needs grew, the spreadsheets began to multiply. According to Brown, at one point, the organization was tracking client and service data in as many as five different spreadsheets. Administrators needed to know specific information about their program participants and data on cars available for donation, car repairs that have been performed or need to be scheduled, contact information for partner car repair shops and much more. Giving Words logged information about a mother’s financial status and other pertinent information to help assess current needs and provide practical personal finance and auto maintenance education.
Additionally, the organization needed to track when parts were ordered or replaced, when a car was ready or if the service center could work on more cars. They even had to track the basics, like whether or not a specific vehicle had already been donated to a mother in need. Brown says “messing up” even one field on any of those spreadsheets could become a speedbump in the tracking process and waste valuable time that could otherwise be used for providing services.
With Social Solutions’ Apricot, tracking became seamless and automatic. Using a robust data management system ended the stress of human error. In addition, it allowed administrators and volunteers to have a clear and accurate view of their participants and the goods and services partner organizations provided.
The second part of conquering the spreadsheet complexity comes with customization. Giving Words offers help that requires personalized data management—the sort of organization that a spreadsheet or turn-key software solution simply can’t provide.
Before working with Social Solutions, Giving Words took printed intake forms to moms directly. After moms filled out the forms, Giving Words scanned them and then uploaded that information to Google forms. It was a time-consuming process.
When Brown began transferring data from spreadsheets to Apricot, he was a little nervous about managing a new system. Sure, he knew all about spreadsheets but upgrading Giving Words’ technology platform might be a considerable undertaking that offered a significant learning curve. After he sent over the organization’s existing spreadsheets, Social Solutions quickly transformed that complex data into a manageable dashboard that could instantly track car inventory, intake information about the single moms seeking help, and the organization’s multiple additional services. The Social Solutions team worked directly with Brown to address any issues and customize the dashboard and workflows to meet Giving Words’ needs as a vital community resource. The dashboard provides a birds’ eye view in one place. The automation feature issues important notifications to team members when participants and partners complete activities, prompting next steps.
Before, case management and partner relations came with the need to consolidate, track and share vast amounts of data. But when volunteers, partners and administrators try to provide a seamless and dignified experience for vulnerable moms, the process can be clunky and sometimes unpredictable. For Brown, things needed to evolve in the organization so his vision could eventually scale to meet the needs of women not just in his immediate area but anywhere help is needed. That’s the ultimate goal. But how can small and growing nonprofits reach such an ambitious goal when the level of administrative tasks becomes untenable?
Giving Words improved processes by customizing and automating administrative tasks like data entry and getting every team member on the same page. As a result, the organization saved valuable time and redirected resources to work with more single mothers, recruit and onboard more volunteers, and forge more relationships with businesses eager to help. More efficiency means the ability to help more people. It’s that simple.
Giving Words has a mission to provide services to single mothers to help them through difficult, immediate financial situations that could become significant barriers to success. As part of this mission, Brown visited another nonprofit using Apricot and was impressed by how the organization used Apricot to manage workflows and expertly track client data. Brown decided that it was time to invest in technology to help grow Giving Words into a national initiative.
According to Brown, “Apricot is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because we received the support we needed. Apricot has enabled our growth and is built out to support future growth. It is configured to grow partnerships from the east to the west coast to help single moms nationally.”
Social Solutions provided Giving Words with an easy-to-use case management tool that helped them leave spreadsheets behind and consolidate their data and reporting in one place.
It’s easier now to harness data for more comprehensive reporting to prove impact and pivot services when necessary. With smart form creation and easily accessible reports generated from configurable dashboards, Giving Words has a better handle on their data. This helps them fill in service gaps, stay organized, free up time to provide services and grow the organization
All of their program participants, partnership services, planning and delivery are in one easily accessible place. Administrators can cross-reference case notes with actual outcomes making managing teams less stressful and more streamlined. Giving Words saved time on both data entry and data integrity and maintenance. As a result, they could increase services to additional clients and forge more mission-driven partnerships with national organizations because of these added efficiencies.
Social Solutions helped Giving Words automate their intake process, grow their organization and save time they can now spend serving more single moms.
Giving Words is ambitiously, and with great heart, helping single mothers overcome immediate financial and logistical obstacles to make sure their paths to success are wide open.
Many mothers Giving Words help need access to reliable transportation to go to work and provide for their children. By adopting the customizable Social Solutions’ Apricot platform, Giving Words can put more energy toward directly helping single moms and spend less time on performing demanding administrative tasks.
Now, they have a deeper understanding of how case management software increases the capacity for the organization to grow programs and the number of people served through efficiencies gained in reducing administrative staff time. Giving Words can utilize existing funding to get 100% impact/value.
Giving Words’ foundational principle is to multiply impact. Brown has mastered this by converting every dollar by 100% or more. Every time. This ripple effect has created triple and quadruple growth in the number of people Giving Words serves. In addition, Apricot helps automate program implementation, streamline processes and create efficiencies that the organization can seamlessly replicate. Now, Giving Words can fully realize their capacity and work more effectively to reach their goal of serving people from East to West coast.
“We decided to invest in technology to grow, and we needed a solution to increase efficiencies in time and people. With Apricot, we can grow with volunteers and automate several tasks that help us save time and resources. Before Apricot, that wasn’t possible.”EDDIE BROWN, FOUNDER, GIVING WORDS
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