Founded is 1910, Catholic Charities is a leader in compassionate, community service across the United States and beyond. According to Catholic Charities USA, there are 164 official member agencies across 2,631 U.S. locations serving 8.7 million people. Simon Solutions is proud to partner with over 30 Catholic Charities across the country, equipping them with CharityTracker technology for shared case management, reporting and agency collaboration.
This report features Catholic Charities Biloxi, a vibrant network of programs, assistance and outreach efforts in four locations covering a 23-county service area of Mississippi. Read how CharityTracker is helping them collaborate across offices, and improve productivity and outcomes.
This vibrant force for good in the deep south of Mississippi has both a wide and deep impact on the lives of its residents, operating compassionate service in multiple ways. In 2016 alone, they served over 600,000 individuals and provided over $300,000 in direct assistance through the following programs:
· Twelve Baskets Food Bank: distributing over 1.7 million pounds of food
· Disaster Relief and Recovery Program: where they provided disaster case management and assistance totaling over $13,694 to those who experienced disasters
· Migration and Refugee Center: teaching 147 individuals English, preparing 25 individuals for their citizenship exam, preparing 14 individuals for their GED exam, and providing 288 individuals assistance with immigration issues, interpreting and translations
· Eight Subsidized Senior Housing Complexes: offering 804 hours of service to the residents, helping coordinate their care and well-being in an assisted-living environment
· Three Community Outreach Offices: providing case management to 3,330 individuals, including budgeting and goal-setting, distributing $308,928 in basic needs assistance as well as helping over 600 infants with basic care items and offering 153 pregnancy tests
Making Things Flow with CharityTracker
In 2012, Catholic Charities Biloxi chose CharityTracker by Simon Solutions as a technology solution to their case management, reporting and collaboration between programs. Jennifer Williams, Director of Catholic Charities Biloxi says, “Before CharityTracker, we were using excel spreadsheets and paper to do all of our statistics. All of our case files were hard copies in file cabinets across four offices. There was not a lot of flow between our offices.”
Just five years later, the administrative work has revolutionized. Data that once took multiple days to compile is done in a matter of minutes. According to Williams, “When I have to do reports now I just hit the button. Before, I had to call people and they would do a physical count. Productivity-wise, we have gotten a day back every week that used to be spend on compiling numbers.” And what are they doing with the time saved? “Seeing clients!” she says.
Because CharityTracker is cloud-based, Williams is now able to easily access data from all programs in all locations from her main office. “This is saving us money because we have so much less paper in our office. Our busiest office is in Gulfport. Prior to using CharityTracker, that office manager would call me twice a year asking to buy another file cabinet. At some point, we would have needed another building to house all these file cabinets!” After just two years with CharityTracker, they started downsizing the amount of paper files, only keeping some hard copy signatures as needed from time to time.
When Hurricane Irma was approaching the coast, many in the Biloxi-area were reminded of Hurricane Katrina, and looked at disaster-planning again, just in case. “The one thing I didn’t worry about this time was all of our data and files. The folks at Simon Solutions and CharityTracker keep my files safe. It was one less worry I had on Friday while setting up our disaster plans for our offices. That is very comforting. It is sensitive and important information and we know it’s safe,” says Williams.
Serving Clients Effectively
Not only does Catholic Charities Biloxi find office administration tasks more efficient, they have seen first-hand how CharityTracker, and shared case management among various locations and services helps them work with clients more effectively. Williams says, “From a client standpoint, we are much better at tracking progress because we can see from beginning to where they are now. We are able to adapt our work based on their history.” She also noted the benefit of seeing information instantly on the screen without having to flip through paper, translate bad handwriting, or track files down in another office if the client moved from one area to another. “You can easily lose consistency with a client if you are dealing with a file in a filing cabinet,” she says.
Williams shared one specific storyillustrating the value of easily accessible shared case management:
“We respond to disasters and we are continuing to work with the tornado victims from Hattiesburg, MS in January 2017. We have been helping them return to their homes again. I recognized the name of one particular client who called in for assistance. I looked her up and went through the notes and I found it is someone we started seeing well before we even got into CharityTracker. When I read the case notes and saw her struggles along the way, I could see each time that we saw her over the past five years how a case manager had recommended certain goals for her to complete. As I was looking through her entire history, I could see where she was partially meeting them each time. There was evidence of little moments of growth all along the way.
When I sat down with her at the time of the tornado recovery, she didn’t realize we were the same place that had been working with her all the other times, because this was specifically focused on disaster recovery. In talking with her, she kept telling me things like ‘Well, I used to do things this way, but now I do things this way.’ She was talking about the goals the case manager had set with her! When we started seeing her several years ago, she was very precariously housed. Now, about five years later, she had purchased her own home and was able to completely take care of her own needs. She had made some great choices along the way. I could use that info and success to help her in making the plan on how we were going to help her recover from the tornado. She was so receptive! It was great to see the progress that had been made. And I would not have known all that information had I not have those notes at my fingertips in CharityTracker.”
Tips from the Top
Though a good number of people who work with and for Catholic Charities Biloxi are senior adults, Williams was confident in moving forward with the implementation of technology to solve their complex data, reporting and case management solutions. “When we started implementing CharityTracker,I was working with an older staff with limited computer knowledge. From the beginning, the CharityTracker team made it as user-friendly as possible, helping me communicate the change with my staff. There were not a lot of growing pains from my people at all,” shares Williams.
And Williams knows her staff and volunteers well, having been with the organization since 2000. “You could say I was born into this agency!” she shares. Williams began her career there part-time while going to school, then moved into the role of adoption case worker and manager at Catholic Charities Biloxi outreach offices before assuming the Director role in 2008.
Williams had one request as she assumed the director position—to keep a hand in client work. “I really think that it is important for someone in a decision-making position to know how those decisions are going to flow down and impact the real work because the people in the administrative level aren’t the real workers in any entity—the people with boots on the ground are. I was fortunate that they let me do that and it has really helped in how we design our programs and started using CharityTracker effectively, among other things. Nothing ever replaces on-the-ground field work.”
Krista Petty serves as Community Connector for Simon Solutions Inc, writing case studies and facilitating capacity-building webinars. She is also a speaker, trainer and writer with a background in missions, equipping volunteers, and community collaboration. She resides in Spirit Lake, Iowa with her husband, Steve.