G.A.I.N. – powered by Lowe’s
As part of the inaugural G.A.I.N. cohort, the Carolina Raptor Center has embarked on their first phase in Apparo’s 2-year nonprofit accelerator: a technology assessment and plan.
Through this Community Impact Project, Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) will save significant time, improve their financial position and extend access to their programming. That means more resources to: care for injured raptors, increase community environmental education and drive young adult interest in pursuing careers in science.
CRC ignites imaginations and inspires engagement in the natural world through the exploration and rehabilitation of birds of prey. Their work includes environmental education, the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned raptors, and environmental stewardship. The organization’s science education programs serve over 27,000 students a year in formal education settings. The ¾ mile Raptor Trail and Edna S. Moretti Environmental Education Center welcomes over 35,000 visitors a year. The Jim Arthur Raptor Medical Center treats 900-1,000 birds a year, releasing almost 70% back into the wild.
As the first phase of their G.A.I.N. journey, The Carolina Raptor Center was matched to a corporate volunteer from MorganFranklin Consulting, Matthew Campbell, who conducted their tech assessment and provided a plan with recommendations for improvement. The G.A.I.N. program is generously sponsored by Lowe’s and EY.
We spoke with Jim Warren (Executive Director), Michele Houck (Customer Engagement Director) and Kris Cole (Advancement Director) upon completion of this project to learn about the significance of their participation in the G.A.I.N. program and the anticipated impact of this specific project.
As Kris shared with their G.A.I.N. cohort: “CRC is great at squeezing the most out of every asset we have, but the time has come to invest in our technology so we can spend less time fighting with finding files and waiting for programs to load, and more time focused on our mission. We were incredibly fortunate to have been awarded this transformational grant at the perfect time in our organization’s history.”
Kris elaborates, “Everything we do is so reactive now because our technology is held together with duct tape and bubble gum. We are wasting staff’s time, including senior level directors, on searching for files and tracking down other people for help. All of our grantors ask for metrics that we should have on demand and we don’t.” Michele adds, “Not being able to collaborate on documents also slows us down, waiting for the next person to review it. And I’m spending hours synching data across platforms.”
This is an especially critical time for CRC because of pandemic-related revenue impact. They share that revenue dipped by 70% over the past year and that they hope to grow it back to pre-pandemic levels next year. They are optimistic that G.A.I.N. will help.
Kris adds, “When we learned that we were accepted into the G.A.I.N. program, we were walking on air. I called Michelle while she was on vacation and we were both screaming with joy. Our staff is so excited for the journey ahead and the timing is perfect.” As Michele explains, “We’re going through so much change. Everything around us is new and our technology is ancient. We knew we needed this. We knew enough to know what we didn’t know and we didn’t know how to solve our technology problems on our own.” Jim adds, “We were so far in the dark ages. If not for G.A.I.N., we would have addressed our issues slowly, piecemeal and it would be have been disjointed. Training and motivation will be key. The G.A.I.N. change management process is supporting us here and leading us through how we will move folks through the continuum. The new laptops are just tools. We need to know how to work smarter.”
Upon implementation of tech plan recommendations, CRC staff will benefit from more than 7,000 hours/year of saved time, improved ability to collaborate, faster onboarding and increased quality-of-life.
Volunteer Matthew Campbell explains that CRC will become a modernized workplace and should expect to experience a 30% reduction in idle time. Kris estimates that being able to find files and collaborate in real time will save each of their 24 staff members at least an hour a day. Additional time savings will be driven by:
- Eliminating need to synch data across platforms
- SharePoint dashboards that will be populated with frequently needed metrics – As Kris comments, “I look forward to no longer need to assemble the information I need from 40 different places.”
- Log-in speeds will increase considerably – Matthew estimates that CRC currently wastes 18 business days a year on log-in wait time
- Quicker onboarding of new employees, with properly standardized and easy to update procedures.
By providing all staff with ability to work remotely, time will be saved and employee quality of life will improve, as no one will have to drive to the office for that one file they need. These improvement to quality of life are especially important in a nonprofit, Kris explains, where salaries can’t be extremely high. “We care for each of our staff as a whole person. Their quality of life is very important and it’s exciting to be able to improve it.”
Through freed time and better access to data, CRC anticipates extended reach and improved fundraising capabilities.
Jim addresses the significance of this freed time, “Now we also double the ability of our educators to deliver programs. Every minute they save that they aren’t wasting at their computers is a minute they can be delivering programming. Same for medical team, who can use that time to care for birds. Kris and I can use this time to speak to potential donors. This helps us further fulfill our mission.”
He also elaborates on the impact on fundraising, “Donors and grantors want data and metrics related to the impact of our programs and services. We often need it at a drop off a hat to get access to certain funding opportunities. This will open up new opportunities for us because we’ll be able to get that data quickly. As a result, we should see increased revenue.”
Many of these improvements will also minimize expenses (by $20,000 one-time and an additional $20,000 annually) and reduce organizational risk.
Decreased expenses will be driven by:
- Eliminating need to replace aging server (would have been a $20,000 expense)
- Decrease in unnecessary staffing expenses – More accurate staffing decisions driven by improved ability to predict attendance and hospital need
- Moving to away from Blackbaud to Kindful will save $17,000 per year
- Savings of approximately $2,500 on their MSP support
- Decreased travel expenses through improved ability to deliver virtual programming
Reduced risk will be driven by:
- New security policies and protocols, especially important as the team works virtually and sometimes on their own devices
- Moving to cloud, eliminating risk of losing data on server
CRC will also be able to extend their new virtual revenue sources, which are not only financially beneficial, but also extend CRC access considerably to both students and aviary professionals.
Michele explains, “Increasing our comfort with technology will position us to grow our virtual programming, which is not only critical during the pandemic, but also helps us extends our reach internationally, helps school deliver content in the face of budget cuts and increases our revenue considerably. One program that used to make $2,500/year is now on track to reach $30,000 this year.”
Jim adds, “Every zoo, every aviary center in the world can now access our professional development content and virtual programming is also a lot more efficient for us. It increases our reach and brings us a lot more money. It allows educators to show our programs in their classrooms without the travel time. Without this option, it can take a class 3 hours to get 45 minutes of programming.”
As their comfort with technology grows, they intend to expand their delivery of content via youtube and social media and find new ways to monetize it.
Kris sums it up, “This will expand our reach astronomically.”
CRC will also be able to deepen their impact through access to better data.
Metrics help CRC:
- Raise awareness on issues in the community – for example when there is a spike in birds with gunshots wounds, they know they community needs further education on this topic and can share metrics to tell a more powerful story.
- Track their service to communities of color and ensure they are meeting their commitment to diversity and inclusion
Words of appreciation were shared across the project team.
- “We had high expectations of our experience with G.A.I.N. going in, and the bar was set pretty low because our technology is so behind the times. The team from Apparo, with help and support from Lowe’s and other partners, vastly surpassed our wildest dreams. We finally have a technology plan and a pathway to successful implementation that will carry out team into the aspirational strategic plan we have for the organization’s future. This is an invaluable gift to Carolina Raptor Center, at a strategically powerful time in our history. Thank you so much!”
- “All the things that Matt has done for us, I just have not have the bandwidth to get done. We wanted this, we knew that we needed a better answer, but we didn’t know how to get there. I knew this was going to be transformational, but this is definitely above our wildest expectations. It’s night and day relative to our very high expectations.”
Jim – “Actually, I’ll say that I had high hopes, but low expectations. I would have been happy to cut my boot time by 3 minutes and get a simple tech policy. This has blown my mind. It’s so far beyond anything I could have expected. This is waking up Christmas morning and instead of the bicycle you were hoping for, you get a Tesla. You have blown it out of the water. This is huge. It means so much to us. It has completely changed the way we work.”
Matthew – “Working with Apparo and the Carolina Raptor Center has been richly rewarding. The structure and methodology that Apparo employs to deliver service to non-profits ensures that these organizations are able to get the most value out of the engagement. The staff at the Carolina Raptor Center are some of the most talented and remarkable.”
Michele – “We really had no path to get this done without G.A.I.N. Meeting Matt and having him be part of our team has been an incredible benefit, he is a tremendous asset.”