We are at a momentous inflection point as a society and as an industry. The need for human services is soaring — outpacing the capacity social good organizations have to help and leaving too many of our neighbors in need.
Something must change. Innovation fuels inflection points throughout history, and bold new thinking is required to transform social good and bridge the gap between demand and capacity to serve — a gap that has grown wider throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe that technology and data are the answer.
Technology and data are simply unmatched in their ability to help scale quickly so that nonprofits and public sector organizations can help more people across their communities while tracking progress against outcomes, collecting impactful insights and capturing data-driven stories that result in additional funding.
Yet, the industry is fighting a long-held bias against operational investments, which is limiting capacity and innovation. Private enterprises migrated many years ago from pens, paper and spreadsheets to more sophisticated software that allows them to unlock scale and efficiency. The private sector spent 22.5% of its revenue on technology in 2019 alone, which is an average of four times more than the social sector. Also, nonprofits are often disincentivized to invest in infrastructure because key performance ratings reward nonprofits that have low administrative costs.
As a result, many of the nonprofit and public sector organizations who are on the frontlines addressing communities’ most critical needs — food insecurity, unemployment, healthcare and education access — are still using pens and paper, spreadsheets or outdated technology that limits their ability to meet the growing need for services.
Case management software is essential to scaling services to clients. It allows organizations to track and improve service delivery, adapt to program changes quickly and see results in real time. It helps quantify and clarify the effectiveness of program outputs over time through customizable reporting and analytics. When the case management solution offers a network-based solution, nonprofits can be a part of a coordinated, connected and data-driven network of care that better meets the needs of both individuals and communities.
By implementing case management software, social good organizations can realize an average of 35% reduction in time spent on data capture, a 40% reduction in time spent managing service delivery and a 40% to 75% reduction in time spent on reporting and analysis.
These reductions in the amount of manual effort around information gathering and reporting frees up time for hardworking frontline workers at the heart of our industry to focus on serving individuals, families and communities. In turn, with data and analysis more easily accessible, organizations can assess and optimize the programs they’re delivering to maximize their impact and more efficiently demonstrate that impact to stakeholders and funders.
With relief efforts underway in small and large ways all around the world, this is the time for every social good organization, regardless of size or mission, to harness the unmatched power of technology and data to transform operations, improve outcomes, maximize impact and recover stronger.
We are seeing change happening right before us. We’ve all heard stories throughout the pandemic of communities coming together, individual donors stepping up, and funders changing annual grant requirements. Earlier this year, an unprecedented influx of government funding aimed at relieving the burden of this crisis was proposed through programs like the American Rescue Plan Act, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Equality Act, the Violence Against Women Act and more.
The U.S. administration is calling our current situation a “once-in-a-generation economic crisis” and is hoping to make a “once-in-a-generation investment” to ease the burden for as many people and organizations as possible. I believe this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for social good organizations to utilize additional funding to propel programs and operations forward.
We are relying on nonprofits and public sector organizations to deliver extraordinary impact. We need to make sure they have every tool available to them, including the same kind of technology and data that private-sector businesses have been using to unleash impact for years. My hope is that, together, we will break down barriers so that all community-based organizations are equally able to harness the power of technology and data to amplify the impact of their work. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to work together and create lasting change. The future of social good is now.
Erin Mulligan Nelson is CEO of Social Solutions, a provider of cloud software for public sector and nonprofit social service organizations focused on empowering communities to accelerate lasting social change. Erin will serve as president of the new combined entity once Social Solutions, EveryAction and CyberGrants completes its merger, which will create the second-largest and fastest-growing social good software company in the world.
Erin is a seasoned business leader with a successful track record of championing purpose-driven transformation initiatives, including corporate social responsibility and nonprofit funding efforts to bring data and technology innovation to communities across the globe. Prior to joining Social Solutions, Erin was CEO at Calytera, a private equity-backed government software provider, where she led the company’s growth agenda. Prior to Calytera, Erin held chief marketing officer roles at renewable energy company SunPower, social engagement platform Bazaarvoice and computer technology company Dell Inc. She lives in Austin, Texas.