Tracking Breakthrough’s Impact with Data

Breakthrough has spent the past 30 years supporting its community with programs that support a range of needs, including housing, employment, education, and violence prevention.   Watch the video below or read on to discover how Exponent Case Management has supported Breakthrough in tracking impact for the community they serve. 

Meeting a Real Community Need

Breakthrough was started in 1992 in response to an increasing number of adults in the North Side of Chicago facing homelessness. Arloa Sutter, Founder and Executive Director at Breakthrough, explains, “I founded Breakthrough just because people were in need, and they were coming to our church wanting help. So, I put on a pot of coffee and started getting to know people, heard their stories, and then did what I could to come up with an appropriate response to the challenges to help them to come alongside and help them achieve their goals.”

Making an Impact on People’s Lives

Breakthrough began to grow quickly, launching its first employment program in 1993 and its first housing program two years later. This growth has continued at pace, with Breakthrough now offering over 18 programs, covering a wide range of needs and having an impressive reach. Arola explains that Breakthrough now works with about 65% of its community members, “We’re working with over half of our community. Last year, we served 13,000 people in a community of about 20,000.”

The Importance of Tracking Impact With Data

Photo: Breakthrough staff member sitting with partner and entering data into laptop.

As Breakthrough grew, tracking the impact of each program and the organization overall became increasingly important. “We want to have an impact,” explains Arloa. “We can’t do that without the numbers and the data. We can tell a lot of good stories, but are we really making an impact in the community and in people’s lives? For that, we need data.”

To better support Breakthrough’s programs and empower staff at all levels to track and see the impact of their work, the organization selected Salesforce and Exponent Case Management (ECM). “Like most grassroots organizations, we’ve used a variety of different methods to manage our data,” stated John Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Breakthrough. “The main reason we chose to go with Exponent Case Manamgnet was the scalability of the platform. We needed something that would adapt and grow with us, and that’s what we find in the Salesforce platform and in the ECM app.”

Starting With the Most Crucial Program Data First

The organization chose to do a phased rollout of ECM, initially moving their data and program management across for a small number of their programs across to ECM, but Breakthrough now uses ECM for the majority of their programs. 

Choosing which programs to focus on first was an important decision. “We started our ECM implementation with the programs that we thought it would be most crucial to have data for right away: homeless intervention, support centers, shelter programs,” explains Yolanda Fields, Chief Program Officer, Breakthrough.   

Like any transition to a new system, moving to ECM had its own challenges. These challenges were easily overcome with support provided by the expert ECM implementation team. Yolanda explains, “It was a process that wasn’t easy, right? But I think what made it manageable was our ECM implementer was available. The people that we had assigned to our team really took the time to understand our environment.”

The expert ECM implementation team understands the complexities of moving services to a new system and ensures they understand the programs they support. Breakthrough found this invaluable in moving their programs across to ECM. Yolanda explains, “What made it manageable was our ECM implementer was available. The people that we had assigned to our team really took the time to understand our environment.”

The Importance of Data in Supporting Clients

ECM, and the data it has enabled Breaktrhough’s staff to capture and effortlessly use, has been critical to Breakthrough’s ability to provide for their clients, who often have multiple needs. “Recently, there was a woman who came into our support center,” said Yolanda. “I think our staff recognized that she had co-occurring disorders of chronic health problems with mental illness. And so, we started down the path of helping her to ensure the income that she needed. In order to do that, you cannot even imagine the amount of documentation and dates that are needed.”

This means the implementation of ECM had immediate benefits not only for Breakthrough’s staff but also for the people it serves. According to Yolanda, “Because we were able to document her episodes of homelessness, we were able to say to the attorney, ‘Here is all of the information that’s needed to help her secure disability income.'”

The benefits of Breakthrough’s use of ECM have been far-reaching. “The use of ECM helps us to manage the data and then really to make real-time decisions and programming,” states Yolanda. ECM supports Breakthrough in tracking the impact of their programs and making key resourcing decisions, “It helps us to decide how we are going to use our resources, and so I think all of that is a part of helping us stay organized in our work, but also impactful and effective.”

A Real Partner in the Social Services Sector

ECM is dedicated to being a true partner for the human services organizations that use ECM, and this partnership is appreciated by Breakthrough. According to John, “With the team behind ECM, I found that we had a real partner in the social services sector who knew best practices from the field and could understand our needs as we were talking about our programs. If there were questions about how to do things, you know that they have the expertise in-house in order to come up with a real solution.”

Now, more than ever, Breakthrough’s executives are motivated by the tangible impact that the organization is having on its community, and they can see this impact clearly as they are using ECM to track the impact of their programs. “What keeps me going is the people that I come in contact with every day,” explains Arloa. “We have staff who are flat-out heroes here, who I wish I could profile and tell their stories. We get to see people get up after they have fallen, and we get to see the glow in their eyes.”

John shares similar sentiments, “I don’t come to Breakthrough because I’m punching the clock to get a paycheck. I come to Breakthrough because I feel called to be a part of helping this organization become more effective and more faithful in what we do, and ECM is part of that. Exponent is definitely open to partnering with you as you use their product.”

How Could ECM Benefit Your organization?

Our human services organization experts would love to work with you to see how ECM can impact your programs and enable you to track and report their impact effortlessly. Why not get in touch today, or register for our demo webinar to discover more about how ECM could help your organization?