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Program Management Technology Insights from HomeKeeper

By Norah Stevens-Kittner April 21, 2019

Program Management Technology Insights from HomeKeeper
If you’ve attended our impact measurement webinar or read the Nonprofit Impact Measurement e-book, you may have noticed an exciting shift occurring, as nonprofits expand their Salesforce adoption beyond fund development and volunteer tracking and into other program areas and lines of service. Grounded Solutions Network’s HomeKeeper program has been helping organizations simultaneously manage programs and measure impact in Nonprofit Cloud since 2011.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because we recently featured Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco, a HomeKeeper power user, in a webinar and as part of our Nonprofit Keynote at Dreamforce 2018.

We have followed HomeKeeper’s impact journey over the years and recently asked Tiffany Eng, the founding Program Director at Grounded Solutions Network, to share her story and a few insights with others turning to Nonprofit Cloud for program management and impact measurement.

Norah: What is HomeKeeper?
HomeKeeperTiffany: HomeKeeper is both a Salesforce app and an ambitious program of Grounded Solutions Network. Grounded Solutions Network supports local organizations around the U.S. working on affordable and equitable housing solutions and measures their collective impact on our sector on a national scale. HomeKeeper metrics from participating organizations automatically aggregate into our HomeKeeper National Data Hub, allowing us to report on sector-wide impact and benchmarked results via online dashboards for our programs and the public at large.

Over 90 organizations are using HomeKeeper, including community land trusts, local housing programs, Habitat for Humanity affiliates and HUD housing counseling agencies. Almost all of them were new to Salesforce when they joined the HomeKeeper program. While is most well known for the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), organizations can start using Salesforce for program management first, and add grants and donor management features of NPSP later.

Technology helps nonprofits put impact first.

Norah: How are you helping other organizations become impact-first nonprofits?
Grounded Solutions Network is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting organizations to develop more impactful affordable housing programs. As such, building a data-driven sector that measures impact at the program and sector level involves more than just building and maintaining an app. Beyond HomeKeeper, Grounded Solutions provides capacity building, training, technical assistance, research and national-level advocacy for broader systems change.

Our HomeKeeper motto is “we make your job easier and your programs better,” and we do that by making it easier for practitioners to increase administrative reporting efficiency, better manage shared equity homeownership programs, and expand operational capacity. We help program staff feel less overwhelmed with spreadsheets and paper files by introducing the concept of having a single source of truth in Salesforce. This gives them time back in their work day to dedicate to increasing impacts for the people they were hired to help. More people can be served more efficiently and staff are happier; that’s putting impact first.

Norah: How has this changed how you and organizations in your network work?
Organizations are now able to share data on their programs and clients that is timely and more accurate, since they’re relying on it daily as they go about managing their programs. Additionally, by setting data management standards and collectively measuring impact as a sector, we have significantly lowered the cost of measurement and learning for our users. There are now many more questions we can ask and answer about programs and our sector that were never before possible, and every day, our users are coming up with more ways to tell more powerful impact stories supported by their data.

The changes have extended beyond better stories. Newer community land trusts just starting out can now advocate for support by showing our Hub data and saying, ‘Here’s how community land trusts programs are helping other communities like ours preserve affordable housing.’ Established organizations can extract actionable insights and adjust their program to maximize impact. Grounded Solutions Network can advance broader acceptance and policy change at the federal level to scale the impact of our sector. When we collect data together, we all benefit.

Norah: What have you learned?
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that it is possible to make impact measurement an integrated part of program management, but it does not happen overnight. Prioritizing the transition towards a data-driven approach can be challenging for busy program staff. This is especially true for organizations who have traditionally struggled with aging data and client management systems, and those who are transitioning from paper records.

As a result, we encourage our users to follow a ‘crawl-walk-run-fly’ approach to impact measurement and help them keep moving forward, making the transition one step at a time. Our HomeKeeper progression begins with systematically gathering inputs (crawling), to counting outputs with reports and dashboards (walking). From there, organizations track outcomes and use data to tell stories (running) and finally, they are able to leverage data and insights to improve program design (flying).

Data-driven decisions help improve housing counseling and homeownership program management.

Norah: How has technology helped you drive changes in your sector?
It’s difficult to imagine how we could have standardized practices or developed a sector-wide shared measurement initiative without Salesforce. At the program level, Salesforce has forever changed the way affordable homeownership and housing counseling programs are managed and the way they hold themselves accountable. As one user put it, “we not only do things more efficiently, but we do them better.”

Once organizations have a technical foundation with HomeKeeper and Salesforce, they are often motivated to do more. One benefit of building HomeKeeper as a Salesforce app is that there are many options for customization, expanding program tracking capacity, or pursuing deeper analytics. For example, some organizations have added the Nonprofit Success Pack to track memberships and grants, while other organizations have added home repair programs or sweat-equity tracking features, to track homeowner hours spent working on building their own home. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is using Einstein Analytics to aggregate and compare Habitat outcomes from Affiliates across the state. The possibilities are endless.

Norah: What’s your advice for others transitioning programs and measurement to Salesforce?
To be successful, we ask participating organizations to identify one primary contact to be the internal champion for change. We advise program staff to make the transition over time, as opposed to implementing multiple solutions or incorporating multiple programs at one time. We also recommend users take full advantage of all the resources Salesforce has to support organizations new to the platform. For example, we have our own Trailhead Trailmix and HomeKeeper group in the Power of Us Hub and there are now even more resources available focused on program management.

Our incremental approach means we spend a lot of time up front determining whether or not HomeKeeper is a good fit for the organization. We look to partner with organizations that are internally motivated to make the transition and ready to commit time and money to the process. We do this by reviewing capacity, assessing pain points, prioritizing wishlists, and clarifying the business value-add we bring to their programs. For organizations who are not ready to proceed, we provide data management standards and simple program worksheets so they can at least align their record-keeping and program practices with HomeKeeper and our industry standards until they have the capacity to transition to Salesforce.

Norah: Any final thoughts?
One area of measurement we’re increasingly focused on is tracking enrollment demographics and impacts by race, to assess a program’s ability to provide equitable outcomes for their clients and the communities where they work. Our commitment to equitable outcomes fits with Grounded Solutions’ larger effort to ensure our sector is centered around race and equity when designing and implementing affordable housing programs for low-income communities. This has introduced new opportunities for us and our users.

For example, based on user feedback, we are now implementing more nuanced data collection features so race, ethnicity, language and gender classification can extend beyond the way government agencies, funders or other stakeholders have traditionally segmented the data. Ideally, all nonprofits should be expanding efforts to better understand and measure the impact of our work across various populations and racial groups. Fortunately, Nonprofit Cloud and tools like HomeKeeper make it easier than ever to reflect on our data and advance equitable outcomes.

How are you using data to improve your programs? Share with us on Twitter: @SalesforceOrg and @MyHomeKeeperApp.

For more program management resources, see: