From its inception over 10 years ago, CharityTracker has worked alongside St. Vincent de Paul conferences to help them keep track of their good work. SVdP conferences have also used CharityTracker to collaborate and communicate with other conferences and organizations. In fact, there were Vincentians from Florence, AL that were a part of providing feedback into CharityTracker’s very first network!
Meet SVdP Everett, WA
One SVdP Council using CharityTracker very robustly is in Everett, Washington. Carla Laird, executive assistant, says they have 15 parishes within their council and about 200 volunteers. Currently, 13 of the parishes are using CharityTracker.
Centralized system leads to improved recording and reporting
Laird serves as the CharityTracker network administrator with each parish (or conference) being their own “agency” within the network. The conferences record everything from time spent and miles driven by volunteers, to money paid for food and rent, and in-kind donations given away. Before using CharityTracker, Laird says that each conference created their own database, sometimes in Access or Excel, and there would be one person within that conference that would usually access it. She described how moving to a centralized system has improved reporting:
“Previously, a lot of the in-kind donations given out weren’t being recorded as accurately. Some data such as service time spent on home visits, phone calls, mileage driven, etc. would sometimes go unreported because it was recorded with pen and paper. It was all separate. Every conference had their own pool of data. At the end of the year, we are to report to our national council and it was often a challenge. Some conferences had pages of handwritten information that needed to be organized into a spreadsheet in order to come up with the statistics needed for our annual report. What is great about CharityTracker is that it is this on-going recording system that is centralized.”
The benefits of improved reporting are many. Not only does the local council feel more secure in their annual reports to the St. Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Laird said they have expanded their services as a result. She shared about one of their council’s newest projects:
“We recently became the administrators of Project PRIDE. This is where people can make a donation when they pay their electric bill to help someone else who is struggling to pay theirs. We work alongside the Public Utility Department and we do the administration of Project PRIDE with them. We couldn’t have even thought of doing that until we had CharityTracker and could accurately record everything that we pledged out to people who are in need. We are definitely able to serve a lot more people and have our name out there.”
Positioned to receive grants
In addition to taking on new projects, Laird sees that improved data collection and reporting can position the council to receive more grants.
“There is a lot of grant money out there and more and more, grantors are very specific on reporting how you used the funds. Through CharityTracker, I feel confident that as we receive these grants we are able to come up with the statistics they are asking for, which just secures more grant money for us in the future.”
Capturing volunteer efforts
Through improved reporting, this SVdP council has also learned more about their volunteers.
“They are spending a lot more time with our clients than we ever knew. Our volunteers, spiritually-speaking, don’t brag about what they do. Putting it into CharityTracker is actually capturing much more of their efforts than we even realized,” shared Laird. Last year the SVdP council in Everett, WA helped approximately 93,000 people, including people through their four thrift stores as well as those recorded in CharityTracker.
Greater collaboration…and goats!
When requests come in, no matter how big, small or unique, the CharityTracker bulletin feature helps bring the conferences in Everett together to meet many needs. Laird explained:
“We find the bulletin board so handy. We often come across a need that is higher than the conference might have the resources to fulfill. So the CharityTracker bulletin board can explain the situation, for instance a rental payment is needed. They can do sharing, or we call it twinning, so that the need can be met by multiple conferences. There was a need for a handicap van for a child in one of our conferences. They were able to work together to provide that.”
Primarily, Laird sees requests for rental assistance and utilities but they also get very unique opportunities as well. SVdP is known for their innovation and there is no form of charity foreign to this society. Laird shared this story: “Two years ago we had a family that made a request for a goat. They were using the sale of goat milk to supplement their income. When the goat passed away, we were able to replace the goat as well as give them a second one!”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has 160,000 trained volunteers in the United States provided 11.6 million hours of volunteer service in 2015, helping more than 14 million people through visits to homes, prisons and hospitals at a value of nearly $1 billion dollars. To learn more about their good work, visit www.svdpusa.org