Mercy Housing is the largest nonprofit affordable housing provider with over 40,000 residents across 325 properties in 21 states. They provide affordable housing and resident services to families, seniors, and people with special needs.
Bigger Boat partnered with Mercy Housing to successfully move its 300-person resident services team from Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) to the Salesforce platform. While ETO provided a number of essential features, it was cumbersome for users to enter data into and lacked the reporting flexibility needed to get meaningful information out.
As we do with all of our clients, Bigger Boat started with a discovery phase to gain a shared understanding of Mercy Housing’s challenges and goals. After discovery, we developed solutions for the organization with the following agreed-upon goals in mind:
- Efficient workflows. Increased productivity and effectiveness of program staff are critical. Bigger Boat will automate processes when possible to improve the timeliness of data and allow Mercy Housing staff to focus on clients rather than administrative activities.
- Expanded capabilities of the core system. Several complex and high-value workflows not currently done in ETO will be implemented in Salesforce. These include case management, lease violation, and out-of-school time (OST).
- Data-driven programming. We will enable timely, flexible, and trustworthy data on outputs and outcomes so that resident services leadership and staff can act on service-related trends and maximize impact. Context-relevant program data and measures will be made available throughout Salesforce and tailored to the user’s role and responsibilities, ensuring staff has access to the right information at the right time.
- Intuitive to use. The system will be intuitive and easy for program staff to use — freeing up more of their time for delivering program services. Program staff turnover can be high and technical skill level can vary significantly. Thus, for Mercy, it is worth the additional investment of time to make the system as user-friendly for program staff as possible.
Prioritization, a Key Part of the Process
Prioritization is always a critical part of a successful project. The project had an aggressive timeline and scope. We collaborated with the Mercy Housing team to strike a balance between achieving our visionary project goals and replacing ETO as quickly as possible. The project team and Mercy’s leadership were quick to make decisions to resolve such conflicts when they occurred. The project team prioritized and postponed features in order to meet deadlines.
Mercy’s system uses Salesforce’s Program Management Module (PMM) as the cornerstone of its resident services system to track and manage program outcomes, case management, assessments, and services delivered for its broad range of programs. Their Salesforce system is integrated with Mercy’s enterprise data warehouse to pull in timely property and resident data.
Here are a few highlights of Mercy’s new system:
Actionable Pages for Staff
The new system is designed with the user’s role in mind and personalized for their needs. It features actionable and user-specific homepages that highlight key information. This information includes residents needing outreach, households pending dismissal, and open lease violations. By reviewing this actionable information on the home page, staff can start their day knowing exactly which of their residents need attention. The system automatically filters this information so that staff only see the residents they’re responsible for, while managers see the action items for all the residents under their staff’s purview.
Some of the action-focused home page items
Performance metrics are also featured throughout the system. Each user’s home page showcases that individual’s performance, such as how quickly they’re getting resident service participation recorded into the system. Each property record houses its own reports specific to the property, such as participation trends, demographic information, and actionable items.
One of the performance metrics staff members track
Efficient Entry of Complicated Service Delivery Scenarios
Mercy needed a quick and efficient process to enter attendance for residents that received multiple services during the same session. Here are a few examples:
- A resident attends Mercy’s out-of-school program and receives the following services: educational support, physical activity, and lunch.
- A resident attends Mercy’s Voter Education Workshop (service one) and receives assistance with registering to vote during or shortly after the workshop (service two).
Salesforce’s Bulk Service Delivery tool does allow users to select multiple residents to track services received. However, it was too time-consuming for what Mercy needed. If staff users needed to add additional services for the same resident, they had to reselect the residents for each service, which was inefficient.
Since services are offered to many residents during a session and a resident can receive multiple services during that time, we created a screen flow with a custom Lightning Web Component (LWC). This flow guides staff through the process of easily selecting the service that was provided, as well as all residents that attended. (Note: incidentally, the LWC was built in conjunction with a Salesforce job training program at Purple Mai’a, a nonprofit that supports the economic development of Hawaiʻi and provides career opportunities for native Hawaiians.)
Staff can select up to four services within the same flow. For additional services, the LWC pre-selects the residents based on the staff’s previous entry. For example, a user can select 10 residents that received their first service (educational support). Once they enter their submission, these same 10 residents will be pre-selected for their second service (physical activity). Staff are able to select additional residents or remove selected residents from the list before their next submission. The LWC also offers Mercy other needed features such as: search capabilities, sorting, and sticky data selection (if a resident is selected, say, they will not become unselected when the list is sorted).
Management of Lease Violations
For the first time ever, Mercy staff can track what they do with residents to help them mitigate lease violations. This may be financial help, food assistance, or a housing support plan.
Lease violations from the property management company flow into Salesforce through an integration with Mercy’s Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW). Staff at each property are able to see which residents have received a new lease violation. Using this information, staff can reach out to the resident to create a housing support plan and connect them with the services they need to remain housed. Salesforce allows the staff to actively track the status of each violation and mitigation in progress, and how the situation is resolved.
Here’s the detailed process to handle lease violations:
Here’s one of the screens that help staff record every step they take and walk them through the workflow:
Data Visibility Control with Territory Management
Like many nonprofits that operate at a national scale, local resident services staff are focused solely on their particular location, while managers and senior leadership need to view information at many levels. Mercy’s data visibility goals were:
- Local staff see only their local residents. In some cases, this is a single building. In other cases, it’s several buildings.
- Regional staff see only their region’s data.
- National staff see data at all levels (local, regional, national).
Criteria-based sharing rules are a typical way to limit data access by program or location, but Salesforce has limits on criteria-based sharing rules per object. Given that Mercy has over 300 properties, that approach would not work. Instead, we used Enterprise Territory Management to provide the fine-tuned data visibility required. Read more in our blog post about Optimizing Salesforce Security and Data Visibility for National Nonprofits.
Case Management Goals and Progress Notes
Mercy needed to add case plan development, goals, and progress note tracking functionality for case management work they do with residents. As these were not existing features within Mercy’s legacy system, the team developed new processes and standards which Bigger Boat implemented in Salesforce. The process was made lightweight, flexible, and efficient using a step-by-step screen Flow.
Here’s what the start of the Flow looks like:
The Mercy team can now track progress and metrics for case management goals, by individual and at scale:
Advanced Analytics and Outcomes
The final step of the project involved layering on advanced impact and outcomes reporting using Salesforce’s CRM Analytics (previously known as Tableau CRM). This expanded Mercy’s data analysis capabilities beyond what was previously possible.
Here’s an example of one of their outcomes-focused reports that shows resident health and wellness goals, their goal’s target value, and how the organization is doing towards that goal. It’s broken down by the type of resident (senior, family, and supportive).
In less than a year (July 2022 – May 2023), Mercy Housing has used Salesforce to track:
- 480,000+ total services
- 27,500+ unique clients served
- 20,000+ assessments
- 1,800 out-of-school time enrollments
- 1,831 lease violation outreach attempts
The move to Salesforce has increased staff efficiency and visibility into important metrics for Mercy Housing. It has also freed up more resources to devote to their critical work with residents.