Tracking features on Solve: a step-by-step guide

When using Solve, there are many time-saving benefits built right into our software via our tracking features. We’ve done our research to understand the difficult, and often cumbersome, aspects of tracking clients and measuring impact for organizations and case managers alike. Consequently, our software conveniently places tracking tools throughout the process from intake to goal-attainment in order to help individuals, case managers, and organizations stay on the most efficient path to positive outcomes.

To aid in familiarizing you with the tracking features Solve has to offer, here is a step-by-step guide on how tracking functions work on the Solve platform:

Step 1: Recording information in the client intake process

For every new client, there is an immediate way to establish a starting point for their journey on Solve: a survey. In order to understand and best address the client’s needs, they fill out a survey of questions to assess where they are now. This serves as the very beginning tracking process, the start of recording the client’s progress.

Before the individual even completes the survey, they are asked to upload a resume, if possible. This helps to determine their skills and interests. This feature is valuable down the line when sharing client information with potential service providers and employers, making that leg of the journey quick and easy.

Step 2: Profile and barriers

On the Profile page, case managers and organizations can see the client’s qualifications, past work experience, resume, contact information, and education history (if client consent is explicitly given).

Using the Case Reports tab, located right next to the Profile tab, a case manager can see detailed information on the client, complete with graphs and numbers. Here’s a mini breakdown of what info is available on that page:

  1. Here it’s possible to view the barriers specific to the client, and whether or not each barrier is being addressed. Progress in overcoming barriers is denoted by three classifications: Not addressed, In progress, and Solved.
  2. In the second portion of this page you can locate the Activity Reports of the clients. In this area, case managers can directly input small progress reports, in the form of notes, on the client’s journey. For example, a case manager could write “this week [client] got a driver’s license!”. Because of this feature, the client’s progress is recorded all in one place.
  3. The last section of this page tracks the Program Status of clients. Under this heading, the case manager can clearly see the programs and correlating organizations in which the client is enrolled. An organization can only view a client’s program status if the client’s consent is explicitly given. A requesting organization can click the button Request Status Consent in order to send the client an automated text/email that confirms or denies their consent.

Step 3: Making and tracking referrals

Case managers can easily make referrals with our features. On the referrals page, each nonprofit and service provider on our platform is listed and categorized by type of service: workforce, housing, case management, financial literacy, education, and social work. This makes it easy for case managers to navigate the page and refer their candidates to organizations that can meet their needs. When perusing potential good fits, information about each organization pops up so that a case manager can choose organizations that are well suited for their clients.

After the case manager refers a client to an organization, the referred organization receives a notification that a client has been referred to them. If the client gives explicit consent, their profile will be shared with the referred organization. From there, the referred organization has the option to accept or decline the referred client. When the referred organization does either, the client’s case manager receives a notification informing them of the referred organization’s decision. This way, all who need to be in the loop are definitely updated with progress reports about the referral process.

Step 4: Organizations tracking and measuring outcomes

Organizations on the platform are able to track their outcomes easily, with information  displayed on a color-coded, data-driven page. On this page, an organization and case managers can view their quantified outcomes, organized into easy-to-read buckets:

  1. Total number of jobs placed, total number part-time, total number full-time
  2. Total combined salary, average salary, average hourly rate
  3. Projected cost savings to government
  4. Projected new revenue to government
  5. Types of jobs
  6. Retention rate for jobs placed
  7. Client demographic (age, race, gender, education, family size)
  8. Referral partners
  9. Recent jobs placed

This ready-to-go data serves as an advantage in many ways. An organization can use these already calculated numbers and graphs to realign employee goals, show impact to potential donors, or to even bolster grant applications. Whatever you use this data for, Solve’s platform does the heavy lifting and delivers the beautiful data-filled package straight to your device.

Our tracking software can be a huge asset to your organization and employees. Besides increasing work efficiencies, Solve’s tracking capacity can help an organization identify areas for improvement and areas of success, simultaneously revealing directions for growth and development. We get the fundamental importance of proven outcomes and want to help your organization reach your objectives.

 

Why proven outcomes matter to nonprofit funders

Amongst the high volume of organizations applying for grants to fund their nonprofits, it’s imperative to stand out. The question becomes, why do grantors choose specific organizations? Is it an organization’s mission? Is it the trustworthy team members of an organization? Is it an organization’s potential for growth? Well, many would argue that what really matters to funders is an organization’s proven impact.

In the nonprofit world, hard data becomes incredibly meaningful for those reading the application. Many nonprofits disregard the power of proof and struggle to achieve financial stability because of it. In the mass of nonprofits in the world, all of which have admirable missions, tangible outcome is at the head of consideration for grant-readers. Below maps out a few reasons why that is the case.

Proven outcomes predict the future.

History predicts the future and is undoubtedly reliable in detecting patterns. Because donors already know this, data is king when it comes to securing funding for your organization and getting people to invest in your goals. In the words of a nonprofit advice article from The Muse, in order to get funding, an organization must present data from an outside research institution or from past program success to prove that an organization’s approach is sound. Without data, how are funders supposed to trust that an organization can and will incite real, positive outcomes?

According to a 2017 report from BDO on nonprofit data, “55% of [nonprofit] organizations said that some portion of their funders have required more information than was previously required.” Specifically, funders demanded  information on “outcomes and impact.” This is the information that funders need in order to commit to your organization. An organization has to prove that their goals are realistic before a donor can proceed financially.

Proven outcomes make donors more comfortable with their donation.

In a comprehensive research report conducted by Guidestar and Hope Consulting, titled Money for Good II, the two entities explored what funders look for in a grant application. According to Guidestar, 90% of donors told researchers that they “would support high-impact nonprofits if they could readily find information on organizations’ effectiveness.” Meaning, numerical transparency, particularly when it comes to impact, should be a priority for your organization when searching for funding sources.

Think of it like this: the primary way that a funder can discern if an organization is doing the most good that they can, is through exact numbers attached to that organization’s outcomes. There are few other concrete way for funders to trust your abilities. Furthermore, that same report from Guidestar and Hope Consulting shows that an organization’s impact reports often serve to justify a donor’s contribution. Of the donors that conduct research on an organization before giving, 63% said that they use data to “validate their donation.” Past proven outcomes can make benefactors more confident in their decision to give you money.

Proven outcomes show that you’re on the right track.

Nonprofits are, at their core, mission-driven entities. Consequently, achieving one’s mission should be held central to nonprofit leaders, and proven outcomes can ensure if one’s organization is on the right track.  That doesn’t mean that an organization has to be the best in their field, rather they just need to show that they’re making upward movements to their goals.

However, attaining outcome data can prove to be difficult. McKinsey & Company discusses the hardships that come with measuring impact, as there are frequently intangibles involved in an organization’s mission. So, the consulting firm makes a three suggestions for nonprofits in remedying these challenges: 1) to make an organization’s mission quantifiable, 2) to invest in research that reveals which methods work, or 3) to create smaller goals that correlate to larger success. All of these can lead to greater clarity when displaying  proven outcomes, which is important to prospective funders.

The main takeaway: invest in acquiring impact data and, in turn, get others to invest in your organization.

 

Three ways tracking data can improve your community-based organization

Keeping track of data can prove to be difficult for community-based organizations, especially if they are lacking the tools. The services, processes, and costs associated with tracking data can be intimidating, so it’s put on the back burner. Still, tracking data is incredibly important for an organization’s growth. Fortunately, managing data can be affordable and easy with the right programs, so that community-based organizations can continue to thrive!

Here are a few big benefits that come with tracking data:

Tracking data proves worth to funders

When it comes to getting funding, data exhibiting proven outcomes are a sure way to get noticed. Measuring success clearly shows that an organization values its impact, which in turn creates a stronger grant application for a community based organization. Being able to establish performance indicators through tracking data will demonstrate to funders that an organization is worth the investment. Funders take this to heart and, according to Salesforce, “more than half of funders require outcome data from their grantees, but less than 70% ever cover the costs associated with measurement…” Consequently, the responsibility of data management is left up to the organization.

Evidently, nonprofits that go the extra mile are the ones that acquire funding sources. We live in a world so fueled by data that it becomes a prerequisite for advancement. Although the data process can be a a weighty one, there are alleviating solutions, like Solve, to make an organization’s relationship with data easier. Solve is less expensive, more user friendly, and an easily accessible option for any community-based organization’s needs. That way, a nonprofit has a better shot at winning that funding.

Tracking data aligns staff on client statuses and interactions

Tracking data, in any given organization, helps to align staff around the same goals. When each employee knows the details of an organization’s outcomes, he or she can then structure their own objectives around that unifying goal. Under this system, each employee gains a sense of accountability. This provides employees with an understanding of how their individual contribution fits into the wider scheme of overall company outcome.

Tracking data also pinpoints the exact status and progression of clients, which keeps an organization centered around its purpose. For example, Solve software alerts community based organizations when one of their clients moves closer to a goal–such as the client being referred to a social service or getting a job interview. According to npENGAGE, “By tracking outcomes and indicators using an automated process and aggregating the data in one place, organizations are able to spend … more time on important decisions that drive operational effectiveness.” Having up-to-date information, like the kind offered by Solve, helps keep organizations both efficient and on the same page when it comes to the individuals they serve.

Tracking data provides valuable research

At its core, tracking data is just one of the many steps to conducting research. So when a person asks “why track data?” it’s synonymous to asking, “why conduct research?” According to McNabb, research is a process of acquiring data to either help solve problems or answer specific questions, and that research should always be purposeful.

Not only do community-based organizations need data to prove themselves to funders, but they also need that information to help them meet their own goals. Analyzing outcome data functions as a method of research that helps organizations to discern two huge things: where they are doing well and where they can improve. Impact data, which Solve puts in an easily readable format, makes it simple to identify and address the issues that may interfere with your organization’s business.

The main purpose of tracking data is to assist with finding solutions to problems, big or small. A little bit of data can go a long way.

 

Rush Hospital: A paragon of community engagement

Established in 1837, Rush Hospital is a staple of Chicago healthcare and education. As it’s connected to the Rush University school system, the institution is a destination for learning and academia, alongside quality treatment that extends to the wider community. This excellence is largely recognized—Rush University Medical Center has been ranked number 4 on a list of the top academic medical centers in the U.S. for several years. At its core, the Rush family is a paragon of true community centeredness in the
greater Chicago area.

Michael Jones, the Manager of Community Programs at Rush University Medical Center, attests to Rush’s focus, particularly around talent, in Chicago’s local communities. Jones states that his role in Rush is to help build out strategies around hiring efforts to provide the greatest access for community members. This effort has been branded as Anchor Mission. Through its employment endeavors, Rush continues to stand with Chicago’s communities, which is one of the main reasons Rush chooses to utilize the Solve platform.

Jones cites Solve’s ability to connect Rush University Medical Center with other community-based organizations in Chicago as the leading factor for incorporating Solve into its hiring process. Rush uses Solve as a tool for engaging with the community, reflective of the medical hub’s macro mission statement: “to improve the health of the people and the diverse communities it serves through the integration of outstanding patient care, education, and research and community partnerships.” With Solve integrated into Rush’s Anchor Mission hiring practices, the health entity is able to continue to positively impact the community and continue to improve their already fantastic quality of care for each and every patient.

Michael Jones believes in the power of Solve to help attain Rush’s larger goals. He believes that  “providing employment opportunities is not just about filling an open position, it is about impacting your community—both internal team members and external candidates.” With this overarching conviction, Rush uses Solve as a data collection resource to improve candidate experience, inform growth decisions, produce influential reports, and ultimately change the lives of community residents and company employees.

Solve is more than just a software, it can be an essential means to improving community, both inside and outside of your organization.

Brand new features on Solve!

Hi Solve-ers!

We’ve been busy at Solve the past few months! You know what that means? Hot-off-the-press newfunctions, shortcuts, and tools! We have a bunch of cool updates, all designed to make your life even easier. Take a look below to see the latest in our software:

1. Client invitations

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Now you can decide whether or not you want to contact a client when you create their profile. If you do want to contact them, you can select the preferred method (phone, email) and create a customized message to the client.


2. Group activity report

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Track interactions with many clients in a single place. So, if 20 clients came to a meeting and you want to record that in the system, you don’t have to create 20 different separate activity reports. Log it once and you’re done!


3. Separate inactive clients

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You can now see which clients are active and which are inactive in side-by-side lists. Ah, clarity.


4. Referral descriptions

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We wanted to increase transparency in the referral process, so now when you make a referral, you  can share the specific needs of your client. This way, you can help your counterpart quickly get up to speed on your client’s case.


5. Outgoing referrals

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Outgoing referrals have been a little difficult to keep track of previously. We heard you, so we added a section where you could see all your outgoing referrals, located right next to your incoming referrals. Keep track of who you referred, where you referred them, and whether or not your referral has been accepted.


6. Outgoing referral cancellation

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Made a mistake with your outgoing referral? No problem! You can now cancel an outgoing referral before it’s accepted.


7. Job-specific resumes

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Remember how you could only upload one resume for your clients? We fixed that. Now, you can upload resumes for specific jobs. Tailored resumes rule!

Other updates include:

8. Client assignment notification: We’re all about keeping your organization informed, so we added a new feature that notifies staff members when a client has been assigned to them.

9. Client phone numbers: If a text message to a client’s phone doesn’t work, we will alert all everyone connected to the client of the number’s failure, keeping everyone involved on the same page.

10. Direct job referrals: You can now directly refer your clients to jobs! That means no more sending clients a job opportunity and waiting for them to accept or decline it (but, don’t worry–those options are still available).

11. Organizations can add multiple addresses: We took into account that many organizations have several locations for different programming. Now you can specify locations to show where your programs are located.

12. Clients filtered by program: Before, case managers defaulted to seeing all the clients of their organization, even those in other programs. We heard you that this sometimes made it hard to find the clients you needed, so now you default to seeing only clients most relevant to you (in your programs, or assigned directly to you, depending on your permission levels within your organization). But don’t worry, you can still change the filter settings if you need to see other clients.

Onward and upward,

Reid Compton
Head of product

Beyond Job Training

The path to securing employment can be difficult to navigate. Job training services can be instrumental in helping people qualify for open positions and learn interview skills to land job offers.

Metropolitan Family Services, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides services to strengthen families and communities, offers clients a variety of job readiness programs to help clients secure jobs. Their services help people improve the quality of their work, lifestyle, and finances, including resume coaching and interview practice. They also offer a suite of programs designed to assist with personal finance and income support. In addition, Metropolitan Family Services offers training and certification programs to help people gain skills and credentials for technical jobs.

However, job training is often not the only service their clients need. Many times, people are looking for services beyond their scope — such as counseling, domestic violence support, entrepreneurial training, and more.

As a member of Englewood Women’s Initiative, Metropolitan Family Services is part of a strong network of partner organizations that provide comprehensive services, with the intent of referring clients to partner organizations to fill gaps.

Judith Scott is the lead for the Englewood Women’s Initiative program at Metropolitan Family Services. She works with clients to see what needs they have beyond job training and helps ensure that they get connected to other services.

One challenge that Scott faces is keeping track of which services clients need and following up after clients are connected with partner organizations.

Solve can help organizations address this challenge. Solve facilitates these types of interactions between nonprofits to improve communication and tracking across service providers. Our digital platform helps streamline referrals between organizations and measures their collective impact. We make it easy for nonprofits to connect clients to all of the services, jobs, and resources available throughout the city.

To learn more about Solve visit www.solve.is.

Solve Is a Connecter

How Solve helps bridge the gap between people and the resources they need

Meet Akia: Akia landed her dream job in the technology field and found housing by working with Solve’s partners, i.c.stars and the Chester David Group.

Akia was working as a call center representative when she first heard of i.c.stars. The program, a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training curriculum, seemed like the perfect way for her to transition from a customer service job to a technology-focused career.

Throughout the program, Akia learned hard skills, like coding, website and mobile application development, javascript frameworks, and business planning, while also gaining critical life skills such as personal finance, leadership, and interview practice. Akia was also able to develop a better understanding of how working in the technology field would differ from her prior experience in customer service.

i.c.stars connects participants with career opportunities in the technology industry through their social enterprise and partner organizations, internship placements, and daily discussions with employees in the field. This helped Akia gain experience in the industry and exposed her to new types of jobs to explore after the program.

For Akia, the program was life-changing but also full of sacrifice. The days were long—12 hours of learning, studying, and team-building. And on top of long days, Akia was commuting to Chicago from northern Indiana, traveling two to three hours each way every day.

But the long days paid off. After graduating from i.c.stars in February 2017, Akia worked as a freelance web developer at a media production company in Bronzeville, where she had a hand in developing and running the company’s website. This gave her an opportunity to implement the new skills she gained and provided her the experience she needed to take her career even further, landing her dream job as a technical specialist at Apple where she has worked since the fall.

Despite her career growth, Akia still had long, daily commutes and faced difficulty finding housing. She tried to find an apartment closer to work, but hit countless barriers—she’d been living with family in Indiana so her name wasn’t on any prior leases, she didn’t have any rental history, and had some credit issues.

“Nobody wanted to give me a chance because I didn’t have any history,” Akia confessed as her long commute continued to be a strain on her productivity and well-being.

She confided to mentors at i.c.stars and Solve CEO, Matt Strauss, who knew that together they could help Akia solve this issue. Through Solve’s partnership with the Chester David Group, Matt and her i.c.stars case manager were able to connect Akia with a property manager who quickly helped her find an apartment to rent in South Shore, shortening her commute and alleviating unnecessary stress. Reflecting on her experience, Akia recounts:

“The connections I made in the last year have been a blessing dropped into my life. If I hadn’t gotten the call to come sign this lease I don’t know where I would be.”

Chester David Group founder, Todd Smith, says “Meeting tenants like Akia and being able to help them with the most basic need, housing, gives us purpose and a sense of community with the neighborhoods that we serve.  It also allows tenants like her to be successful because the stress of finding and residing in a quality apartment has been taken care of.”

That is the gap Solve aims to fill: facilitating communication and referrals between nonprofits and businesses to help connect people with the services they need—whether it is housing, workforce training, social work, or legal counseling. A multifaceted digital software, Solve makes it easier for nonprofits, businesses, and agencies to connect clients to services, resources, jobs, and other opportunities throughout the city—and we measure everyone’s collective impact in the community.

Struggling to find housing is a challenge that is not unique to Akia. i.c.stars President and Co-Founder, Sandee Kastrul, observes,

“Housing is an increasing challenge for i.c.stars participants. Partners like Solve help overcome this barrier for interns and alumni like Akia.”

By working together to place more people in housing and jobs, or connecting them with the services they need to achieve financial stability, we know that we can get closer to solving the economic opportunity.

How One Chicago Nonprofit is Connecting Diverse Talent with Meaningful Work

A stable job can empower individuals in many ways. Full-time employment opportunities help close the economic inequality gap and enable individuals to remain financially independent.

The problem is that job opportunities can be exclusive – companies can ignore applicants simply because they lack a college education. But one Chicago-based job training program is working to change the hiring narrative and getting undiscovered talent in front of some big name companies.

re:work is a nonprofit sales training program teaching individuals without bachelor’s degrees how to sell software technology and placing program graduates in full-time sales jobs. Working specifically with Chicagoans from the South and West Side, re:work provides free sales training to help young professionals jump start their careers.

With more than 70 partners in the re:work network, candidates can explore entry-level sales positions that may lead to future roles in sales, business development, marketing, and software development. The Re:Work training program is just over two months long and candidates who complete the curriculum earn, on average, a starting salary of $50,000 plus benefits.

Harrison Horan is the founder of re:work and the go-to guy for everything. Horan’s day-to-day responsibilities include recruiting and staffing, business development, marketing and curriculum development. With re:work, Horan hopes to empower young professionals and to correct the injustices discriminating against equal work opportunities.

But re:work also has its fair share of challenges. A severe lack of exposure on the candidate side makes it difficult for potential applicants to identify what types of jobs are available to them; on the employer side, most technology companies continually draw their candidate pools from universities and don’t consider applicants from different educational backgrounds. And once candidates are placed, inclusion challenges make it difficult for new hires to feel like they belong in their workplace.

With Solve, Horan hopes to increase awareness around the free programs Re:Work offers individuals who are looking to fast track their career, boost their earnings potential, and increase their professional opportunities. To learn more about re:work’s training programs and who is eligible to apply, check out their website here.

Solving for Economic Inclusion Together

We here at Solve consider ourselves to be lucky. We are lucky to be working in Chicago,  an amazing city filled with summer days at the beach and ice skating in Millenium Park in the winter. But like any major city, Chicago has its fair share of  problems. Chicago is stricken with poverty, segregation and inequality challenges. For many Chicagoans, there is not enough food on their table, money in their pockets or safety on their streets. We here at Solve are lucky to be working with so many amazing organizations that strive to fix these problems.

In 2017, we on-boarded dozens of nonprofit organizations to the Solve digital platform. These organizations offer a variety of services in underserved communities across the city, providing resources and assistance to those in need. Our largest partner organization to date, UCAN, serves over 10,000 at-risk children, youth and families across Illinois through more than 30 programs. And our other partners at i.c. Stars, CodeNow, Greenwood Project and Re:Work  train underserved community members to prepare for the technology jobs of the future. Joining the Solve platform this month are Teamwork Englewood, Greater Bronzeville Neighborhood Network and Greater Chatham Initiative. These three lead agencies will bring dozens of more nonprofit service providers to the platform.

The ingredients for socio-economic change are here.  Solve is the platform to unify the hundreds of organizations and thousands of people working to make Chicago a better place for everyone. Together, we can solve for economic inclusion. Together, we can ensure that all Chicagoans live a dignified life. To learn more about the work we are doing, we encourage you to visit us at solvesmartcities.com.  

 

Introducing Client Filters

Continuous self-improvement is important to us. We are always open to criticism and feedback, without it we can’t make the best possible product. We’ve heard it is hard to sort through your contact list. We’re responding to your feedback with some brand new features:

1. Client Filters – easily adjust your client list by filtering by Program, Assigned Staff, Location and Zip Code

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2. Target Population – more accurately describe your target population by selecting from a variety of underserved populations (i.e. homeless, veterans, opportunity youth…)

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3.  Program Location – do you have multiple sites? Now you can add addresses to specific programs

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