3 Ways Nonprofits Can Extend Their Reach and Enhance Impact in Human Services
Nonprofits partnering with human services agencies play a crucial role in supporting people managing food insecurity, housing disruptions, family counseling needs and other welfare-oriented outcomes.
This is not easy work, and the persistent pandemic over the last two years has made it more difficult, introducing new challenges and complexities into ongoing support efforts.
According to a The British Journal of Social Work survey, support staff report increased work-loads, redeployment to new settings and increased client complexities as three of the most impactful changes impacting the sector in the past 24 months.
At the same time, human services agencies and nonprofits are struggling with exceedingly high turnover and job vacancies, with some states reporting vacancy rates as high as 60%. Meanwhile, demand for nonprofit and human services support is surging.
“Charities working in health and social services reported being particularly affected,” according to the BBC. “Some said they would not have the capacity to meet the anticipated rise in demand over the next three months.”
While there isn’t one switch that can be flipped as a quick fix to every challenge, nonprofits and social service agencies can increase their capacity and improve their effectiveness by implementing new, innovative practices, including streamlining the process of connecting with new individuals and families in need, enhancing collaboration of cases between agency departments and nonprofits, and empowering communities to create better outcomes for everyone.
1. Adopt a One-Front-Door Intake Policy
Asking for help is hard. Even when people really need it, seeking support takes courage, opportunity, and, at times, perseverance.
Simply put, the process of bringing new individuals and families into the fold of collective services they need (also known as onboarding) is a hindrance to highly-effective client support if it is conducted in a silo for one support service at a time.
Nonprofits and social support agencies in the human services sector can reduce the barrier to entry by adopting a one-front-door intake policy. This approach allows people to tell their stories once while unlocking access to various support resources and services.
People rarely struggle with isolated challenges. For example, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (pdf) report determined that more than a third of people experiencing homelessness also demonstrate substance abuse or mental health concerns. By understanding the whole person and the unique, interrelated challenges they face, nonprofits and social support agencies can create better outcomes for people by building an alliance of support for their collective needs, while implementing sustainable practices for their organizations.
Adopting a one-front-door intake policy makes this possible. It’s a powerful improvement that upgrades an organization's care capacity. It also makes enhanced collaboration more critical than ever before.
2. Innovate Case Management to Be Collaborative With Integration
To maximize impact, no single agency, team or person can operate alone. Especially when accounting for a variety of client needs, social support organizations must develop the capacity to seamlessly collaborate with nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations.
Collaborative case management software facilitates this process, allowing social support organizations to automate reports and referrals, connect with the community, and align resources appropriately.
Integrated collaborative case management also helps support teams assist people who are transient or difficult to track. Their support system can go with them wherever they go, ensuring continuity of care even in shifting circumstances.
At the same time, collaborative case management creates a single record of truth, allowing support agencies to remotely access information that reflects the whole person and their multifaceted needs in real-time.
3. Empower Communities to Create Better Outcomes
When social services organizations, nonprofits and government agencies have comprehensive case records that account for the whole person, they are best positioned to empower people to improve their lives.
In other words, change produces change, and marginal improvements can have a cascading effect on whole communities. For instance, when people get help overcoming addictions, they are better positioned to be engaged parents, productive employees and healthy people.
This is the desired outcome for nonprofits and social service agencies, and it’s the best way to enhance long-term effectiveness.
Nonprofits partnering with human services agencies are doing essential work at a critical time. Their services are in high demand, and people rely on their efforts to support often-interrelated challenges. That’s why right now is the right time for nonprofits to enhance their effectiveness by revisiting the way they onboard new people, collaborate with other organizations and empower communities to enact sustainable change.
Gary Pettengell is CEO of Empowering Communities Through Integrated Network Systems (ECINS), a social enterprise dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable people and empowering the practitioners who serve them.