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Case Management App Makes its Case During COVID Pandemic

By David Ragones June 25, 2020

Recently, I had the opportunity to connect (remotely) with three execs of human services nonprofits who helped pilot our new Nonprofit Cloud Case Management product–then suddenly found themselves deep in the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. My conversation with Chris Cheuk, Technology Officer at Cameron House; Heath Parks, Director of Information and Technology for Cincinnati Works; and Lauren Swihart, consultant and board member for HELPSudan; provides insight into how they see using the new product, now and in the future, for long-term success.

I know we’re here to talk about a new product, but it would be strange to start this without acknowledging the unusual state we’re in.

Heath Parks: It’s been a real lesson in how adversity can bring out the best in people. I’m amazed to see how our staff has come together to find new ways to provide services to our clients, especially since our normal paradigm is coaching our clients one-on-one. We’re embracing the moment as best we can and often using new technology to do that.

What impacts have your nonprofits been facing on a day-to-day basis?

HP: The word “unprecedented” just doesn’t do it justice! Our entire model is based on close interaction, and that became impossible overnight, while the demand for our services surged. As those new challenges arise, we’re gathering a lot of data and using that to guide us towards new solutions. That’s essential, because these conditions are not going away soon.

Cincinnati Works employee dancing with members of the community.

How can nonprofits meet the challenge of surging demand combined with interruption of services?

Chris Cheuk: I’m identifying processes that can be streamlined and made more digital, including training staff on Salesforce to help them work smarter. The more data we get into Salesforce, the richer assessments we get from our clients, helping us to anticipate future needs.

HP: Unemployment is skyrocketing and our services are needed more than ever. Tech becomes crucial to reopening our doors while mitigating health anxiety and creating lasting strategies for this new reality. Salesforce is helping us understand the new normal, by measuring what’s going on day-to-day. We’re all improvising, but good data gives a context to it.

Heath, you were customizing Salesforce on your own before we created this new out-of-the-box solution for Case Management. What can we expect now that this app is available?

HP: It will definitely lower the barriers for small-and medium-sized nonprofits to get up and running quickly. The app’s built-in customization powers enable us to gather data around any issue and create solutions on the fly. I can build interfaces that are very intuitive for staff to use, and deploy them with minimal training, in literally a matter of hours.

We’re able to create custom tags and custom fields that are specific to this crisis. The benefit is cumulative, because down the road we’ll have a clear picture of what really happened during these painful months, not what we think happened. We’ll continue to make good decisions and adapt quickly, because the system enables that.

Lauren, you’ve been using Salesforce to coordinate your efforts overseas. Tell us how this relates to our domestic situation now that we’re all sheltering in place.

Lauren Swihart: The obvious advantage is that all the data is in the cloud. So, no matter where you are, you can get the info you need. In South Sudan, we work with people who don’t have computers, but they’re able to get things to us pretty easily by putting data into their cell phones. We have ways of transferring data from their emails into Salesforce; so, our organization can continue to be a reliable, updated resource for all the clients we serve.

As a former human services case manager, can you see how Case Management can help time-pressured staff handle their caseloads?

LS: What used to keep me up at night is the fear that, because some small piece of information went missing, people would fall through the cracks. Case Management brings new efficiency to that day-to-day stuff. So you can spend more time interacting with clients, rather than scribbling notes or getting stuff into the system.

When you log into Case Management, the first thing you see is a snapshot of your current tasks, which is a total game-changer. You have a working to-do list up front, and you can filter it for clients who are high-need, so you know what to keep top-of-mind that day. Then, when you go to a client page, right at the top are critical alerts, so it’s impossible to overlook them. Even a colleague who’s unfamiliar with a client will know instantly what their immediate needs are.

A member of Cincinnati Works’ career coaching program

How will Case Management’s reporting capabilities help you withstand and recover from this crisis?

CC: You can report in detail on specific outcomes, or in broad strokes on holistic needs. If your needs increase unexpectedly, you’re able to report on it quickly and raise funds for those specific needs.

HP: You’re able to report on perception versus reality. For example, there was this perception among our funders that we spend all day talking to clients, just counseling and coaching. But, we found that we’re really talking only 1 or 2 hours a day and the rest of the time was spent on resource management. So, maybe we should hire a resource specialist, because it means more time for coaches to do what they’re best at.

Lauren, as a nonprofit board member, what reporting capabilities do you need to meet funder expectations?

LS: For any nonprofit to survive, it needs a diverse portfolio of funders and they have diverse reporting requirements.Being able to easily run reports based on specific tags means you can very quickly satisfy each funder–and attract new ones with specific agendas.

It’s also useful to run reports that interest you and provoke conversations with funders. Thoughtful reporting makes funders respect you; it shows how hard you’re working to achieve common goals.

The more concrete your reporting is, the more persuasive it is. You might run a report that says “75 percent of our clients have achieved the first 3 out of 5 goals within the first 60 days.” That is very convincing when presenting to funders, because it argues pithily that what we’re doing together is actually working.

HP: It’s great for clients to see this data, too, because a lot of them are working toward very long-term goals. Getting out of poverty is not a six-month timeline. It takes years and ups and downs. Being able to show a client that “six months ago you were here and look how much you’ve grown in that time” – that’s heartening. Being able to see the big picture is very positive and tangible for them.

Learn more about using Nonprofit Cloud Case Management and how it can help your nonprofit’s changing needs. Register now for the webinar: From In-Person to Online: Tools to Help You Continue Delivering Services.

Speaker Bios

Heath Parks
Director of Information Technology, Cincinnati Works
Heath’s passion is helping people realize their full potential in this world and the next. His goal is to transform how data is used to help inform, educate and elevate people. By leveraging all tools that we’ve been given, we can dispel the myth that anyone who overcomes, just does it by “luck and grit”.

Lauren Swihart
Independent Consultant & Nonprofit Board Member, HELPSudan
Lauren is a mom of two young girls, a wife, and works to level the playing field in an inequitable world. Lauren strives for expertise in everything she does and believes that listening to others is the best way for her to learn. She’s spent her career resettling refugees as a Case Manager with Heartland Alliance in Chicago and working to improve education infrastructure in South Sudan as the Chairwoman of HELPSudan.

Chris Cheuk
Technology Officer, Cameron House
Chris joined Cameron House in 2007 as an Associate Director for Youth Ministries, overseeing youth programs focused on leadership development and community service opportunities. A “small” Salesforce migration project opened his eyes to the transformative power of technology and influenced the direction of his career ever since. In his current role, he aspires to develop a strong technological infrastructure that will enable Cameron House to scale and adapt to the community’s changing needs for generations to come.

David Ragones
Senior Vice President & General Manager, Nonprofit Cloud at
Dave brings a deep passion and commitment to the nonprofit sector. Six years ago, he co-founded his own non-profit, Piedmont Makers, dedicated to support and inspire K-12 S.T.E.A.M. education in the East Bay, California and beyond. He also served on the board of the Piedmont Education Foundation, which raises over $3 million annually for the Piedmont Unified School District.