Helpline Youth Counseling - Integrating Technology for Strategic Growth

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Helpline Youth Counseling, Inc.
City & State:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of Helpline Youth Counseling (Helpline) is to serve youth and their families by promoting the development of strong individuals and families in their community. Our mission is accomplished through education, therapeutic approaches, advocacy, and the utilization of community resources.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Since 1971, Helpline Youth Counseling, Inc. (HYC) has worked to accomplish its mission through education, therapeutic approaches, advocacy, and the utilization of community resources. Over the years, like many other non-profit agencies, HYC found its business practices including client information struggling due to the agency operating without a technology system. Client data was filed away in metal cabinets and monthly, administrators tried to aggregate the information using costly human resources. Managers and coordinators compiled reports from staff members who provided the services. The reports were combined by program and forwarded to the accounting department that invoiced individual funding sources. Information analysis was handled with written log-in sheets and manual cross-mark tallies. By the 1990s, HYC’s annual client base, service delivery and business practices had reached levels that surpassed the way we manually produced and maintained program/client and financial data. At the time, the prevalence of Microsoft (MS) operating systems in many business environments and the stability of its office applications motivated HYC to choose MS’s Premium Office Suite to assist with daily operations. Counselors used a template-Word document to record their progress notes and the accounting and executive staff used Excel to manage accounting functions and fundraising reports. Although the processes were productive, administrators still found the system fragmented, a bit inefficient, and at times, ineffective. Clients were required to duplicate their hard-copy intakes and assessments when referred to other programs within and outside of the agency. Staff still made multiple trips to the file room to retrieve client information. Minimal follow-up occurred and non-duplicative information for annual reports became a lengthy hit-and-miss effort with multiple staff involvement. These experiences led HYC management to realize that technology needed to be integrated into the agency’s strategic plan in the following manner:1. Business practices needed a cohesive approach to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of client services, reporting of outcomes, recording of financial data and maintaining of donor information; 2. Information systems required a tighter integration between departments, programs, groups, and locations for staff had to be able communicate client information agency-wide in a timely and effective manner;3. Database technology held potential to tie it all together as a communication layer; and 4. Future technology must be affordable, available and compatible with evolved business practices and infrastructure. In 2008, HYC became aware of TechSoup’s program for non-profit organizations; through this program, HYC purchased the necessary licensed copies of MS Office 2003 that enabled us to move forward and start meeting our technology objectives by upgrading the entire staff to Microsoft Office 2003. TechSoup enabled HYC to position database technology as the cornerstone of its service delivery system by utilizing MS Access 2003’s feature-rich and all-in-one package as the tool to warehouse, view, query, modify, and report its centralized data to any or all of its stakeholder groups including staff, management, Board of Directors, funders, and the community. A customized application developed in MS Access provided the security and reliability needed for HYC’s Network Administrator to migrate the system on 70 desktop and 10 Terminal Server connections. It is now the key element to HYC’s strategy to standardize their operations and make their service delivery system more accurate, efficient, and effective. The impact of technology is visible at individual and systems levels throughout HYC. Staff is now able to meet the agency mandate of recording all progress notes into the system and easily navigate through menus. We have joined the environmentally conscious community, using Microsoft’s technology to get “green” and telecommute, enter data from remote locations, and print wherever what is needed. The centralized data enables accounting staff to produce pre-formatted reports that are signed and sent to funding sources. Annual agency reports are developed utilizing easily accessible program information including client demographics, service location and outcome data. As a result, HYC has improved its efficiency by decreasing accounting and program departments’ monthly reporting time by more than 60 “man-hours” each month, allowing staff in all areas of the agency to focus on meeting the mission instead of producing reports. At a management level, the security and reliability of the MS Access system ensures that HYC meets mandatory reporting requirements for contracted County of Los Angeles and State of California services; provides us with the opportunity for real-time access to client information for presentation and report purposes; easily modify/amend reports; guarantees that staff are able to manage their case loads and record all client progress notes and outcomes; and assists us to improve program services through the ability to conduct on-line surveys and graph results. At a development level, the system has afforded HYC the opportunity to better position our search for funding opportunities and utilize program information to be more competitive in our written proposals. Strategically, the advent of technology at HYC has provided Executive Management and the Board of Directors data to cohesively design our infrastructure, forecast our service capacity and focus our direction.Most importantly, our community residents benefit from the impact of Microsoft’s technology on our agency systems. Clients give their information once and at any point, staff can update it without having to perform an additional lengthy assessment. The accuracy of recording client data provides counselors with the opportunity to engage clients in a positive manner such as being able to remember important client occurrences such as birthdays. Clients benefit from the ability of staff to focus their energies and expertise on direct service and “face time” instead of manual data collection and report writing. Judges, probation officers and social workers appreciate timely and legible reports, as well.Without the design tools, the backward compatibility, and the unyielding integration of Microsoft products, HYC would be at a great loss. If MS Access never existed, searchable and meaningful data probably would be filed away in a locked room. The room would grow with looming cabinets and HYC would be facing a departmentalized future struggling for system integration. It is with great appreciation that these tools are made available by Microsoft and that TechSoup has made it economically feasible for non-profit organization to utilize Microsoft’s mainstream integrated technologies

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery