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How to leverage technology and data to drive social impact

June 07, 2022
With the right data and technology, nonprofits can drive social impact and support children like this young girl standing in a park.

My name is John Tramel, and I support the employees and volunteers at Drumm Center for Children, a nonprofit organization also known as Drumm Farm. For over 20 years, we’ve aimed to address this issue by providing much-needed housing and support services to children in foster care and young adults who are homeless in the community.

To better serve the youth that relied on our services, Drumm Farm recognized the need to embrace technology and automation. Implementing case management technology would provide us with easier access to participant data and help us better understand individual needs, allow us to more efficiently manage the hundreds of applications we received, and track youth services requests for quicker response delivery.

These realizations led us to Bonterra Program Management’s Case Management solution (formerly Social Solutions), which has allowed us to serve more people and foster community collaboration. If your nonprofit organization has identified a similar need to generate more social impact through technology and data, explore our experience at Drumm Farm to inform your efforts.

Drumm Center for Children Program Overview

Our nonprofit centers on three main programs:

The HOME Program

This program connects to our history as an orphanage—it is a 50-acre village of foster homes that allows families to live full-time in a welcoming neighborhood setting. This model has allowed us to significantly improve the outcomes for foster children by eliminating the institution-feeling other models have, allowing us to keep siblings together, and allowing these children to experience what it truly feels like to be part of a family.

The COMPASS Program

Our second program is a campus transitional program that offers an apartment-style home living environment and delivers intensive support services for young adults aged 16 to 22. The core focus is to help them become independent and emotionally healthy young people. We do this by providing:

  • Immediate services such as healthcare, food, transportation, and stable housing.
  • Clinical services to support mental health.
  • Educational-support services, with certified teachers across Missouri to assist these young adults with achieving sustainable employment and true independence.

Whether these children are with us for a short time or an extended stay, we ensure they can learn in a safe, caring environment where they feel connected to and involved in family life. 

Street Outreach Program

Our third program provides case management support and therapeutic services for homeless youth and young adults aged 14 to 21 in the community who are not living at Drumm Farm. 

We find them housing and support services through our local continuum of care, and our partnership with the Kansas City Work Readiness Center delivers an extra layer of support for young adults seeking even more workforce development programs to achieve long-term independence and self-sufficiency.

Selecting a solution to boost impact

I joined Drumm Farm as Associate Director in 2016. Back then, we didn’t have a data system in place and the team worked mostly from Excel spreadsheets, while using manual pen and paper for all forms and files. I knew early on that we needed to move away from this outdated way of tracking applications and managing services for each individual. For example, it took me four days to create a grant report that could have been done in 20 minutes with an automated process.

Several social services organizations across the community, including dozens of school districts, had been using Bonterra Case Management to:

  • Improve operations
  • Go paperless
  • Streamline workflows
  • Track performance
  • Enable growth

Even though our technology budget was small at the time, it was a natural choice for us to deploy Bonterra Case Management at Drumm Farm, knowing it would help increase efficiency, inform decisions about resource allocation, and foster community collaboration to better serve individuals.

Streamlining the case management process

Bonterra Case Management was transformational for Drumm Farm when we fully implemented it in the summer of 2017. This data system allowed us to streamline our processes and serve an increasing number of young adults in need. Our campus grew from four foster homes to 11. Additionally, we were able to increase our housing units from four to 31.

Bonterra’s solution accelerated our ability to monitor assessment tools, analyze our data, and measure outcomes accurately. Even though our service-delivery model is multifaceted, Bonterra Case Management allows us to easily track educational outcomes, clinical outcomes, therapeutic outcomes, life skills outcomes, and case management status for each individual all in one place.

Fueling grant growth

Prior to our technology integration project, Drumm received approximately $30,000 in grants each year. Since then, we’ve seen a 15X growth in annual grants.

With Bonterra Case Management, outcome reporting that previously took several days now takes mere minutes. Our easy access to data has positively impacted our fundraising efforts, as grantmakers can better understand how their donations are really helping children. Additionally, we’re able to continually evaluate our purpose, articulate where adjustments need to be made, and identify new services we should consider providing.

Fostering community collaboration

Bonterra Case Management has enhanced our ability to serve youth, providing us with a clearer picture of what interventions are effective in helping them. Furthermore, we’ve been able to build a true partnership with various program providers across multiple locations within the metro Kansas City community to provide transitional living for youth who are homeless.

We now have a single, shared, and automated application process that simplifies applications for both the agencies and youth seeking housing. Bonterra’s solution allows us to:

  • Create one report that partner agencies can view and add notes to an applicant’s record.
  • Set access permissions to maintain the confidentiality of documents, so for example, a teacher only has access to an individual’s educational documents.
  • Track data cross-functionally and create reports illustrating a child’s process over the year.
  • Analyze data to view a child’s stability over a period of time, see growth patterns, and calculate areas where more specific areas of service may be needed.

All through Bonterra Case Management, we currently manage more than 800 youth applications in the metro-wide system, track the young adults requesting services at a regional level, and provide faster time-to-service to significantly improve the participant application process and overall experience. We’re truly collaborating as a community to best serve youth.

Taking your social impact to the next level

Whatever your nonprofit’s purpose may be, leveraging technology and data is the fastest way to transform your operations and drive greater social impact. Remember to take the time to evaluate your goals and processes to determine where and how your organization can implement improvements to generate better results. If Drumm Farm can do it, anyone can.

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