Increasing Homeownership Opportunities Through Technology

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
MoreThanData, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of MoreThanData is to expand homeownership opportunities for low-income families by providing Habitat for Humanity affiliates with comprehensive, custom, information management tools and services that help them more effectively and efficiently fulfill their mission.We seek to develop and provide these tools and services at the lowest possible cost by drawing on the time and talents of volunteers and others committed to this mission.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

MoreThanData was formed in 2006 as a non-profit organization to help meet the information management needs of Habitat for Humanity (HFH) affiliates. While MoreThanData is a separate organization that is not affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International, our Board of Directors is comprised almost entirely of people who are staff or volunteers at their local affiliates. Affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International are chartered in the states in which they operate and seek to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in their communities. We tailor our software and services to address the mission, challenges, and specific needs of HFH affiliates. These affiliates can get directly involved with MoreThanData through feedback, advising, and testing, all of which impact every aspect of our work. MoreThanData’s flagship software project – MTD Keystone – traces its roots to 1995 when Mel Woolsey – the original and current software developer as well as MoreThanData board member – developed a custom database program for HFH affiliates in the Knoxville, TN area. Keystone has grown to serve nearly 400 out of 1700 U.S. affiliates - with additional affiliates in Canada and Australia - and a user base of greater than 1000 users. The day-to-day activities of an HFH affiliate span a complex array of business needs including contact management, fundraising, property acquisition, homeowner qualification and training, volunteer coordination, mortgage servicing, managing documents and images, and reporting for all areas of their work. MoreThanData’s Keystone software project seeks to meet these needs by integrating solutions to them into one program.Volunteers have donated in-kind services to MoreThanData totaling over $500,000 in software development, professional, technical support, training, and related services to help us meet our ongoing goals of providing high-quality, affordable, customized information management solutions to each affiliate.Because of the donations of the time and talents of these volunteers, we can provide Keystone as a single, integrated product that offers comprehensive features not available in any one commercial product, at a cost thousands of dollars less than most non-profit management software. Not only can affiliates immediately invest these savings into building new homes, the efficiency gains from managing their mission-critical data in one place means they can free up time and resources, more effectively cultivate their donor base and raise money, expand partnerships, and help families fully realize the dream of homeownership. With each affiliate having a waiting list of families seeking a home, through our work at MoreThanData, we seek to positively and directly improve an affiliate’s ability to move these qualified families from substandard housing into simple, decent, affordable homes. Some HFH affiliates build as few as one house every two to three years with very limited resources, while other affiliates build as many as 150 houses a year with large staffs and multi-million dollar budgets. Therefore, we chose Microsoft Access as the development platform for our software so we would have the necessary scalability to serve the diverse needs of this wide range of affiliates. Using Microsoft Access allows us to use a single platform for stand-alone systems, peer-to-peer networks, server-based networks, and remote access using terminal services. We have also taken advantage of the ability to easily integrate and automate the products within the Microsoft Office suite. As a result, we have been able to use fewer resources to substantially extend Keystone’s functionality by combining Microsoft Access with Word, Excel, and Outlook. Some examples include: Word merge templates for fundraising appeals, mortgage delinquency notifications, donation acknowledgements; Excel exports for pledge reminder letters, ad hoc reports, charting for a variety of data analysis; and Outlook to create e-mails to individuals or groups. By using Microsoft’s Object Model, we have also been able to automate processes with other products that use similar models such as posting Keystone’s closing fees, mortgage payments, and donations to QuickBooks®. And since Microsoft Office Professional is available through TechSoup at a price HFH affiliates of all sizes can afford, we have been able to leverage this and the comprehensive tools in Office to offer extensive functionality to HFH affiliates at a small fraction of the cost of commercial software. We also provide a Microsoft Access-based program – called KeyCredit – that allows affiliates to report their homeowners’ mortgage status history to the credit bureaus. In many cases, this allows homeowners with a good payment history to enjoy benefits, such as a reduced price for homeowner’s insurance, that make it easier for them to afford their home. And as homeowners build good credit, they will have expanded access to opportunities that allow for greater financial independence. We are currently reporting about 4,000 mortgages monthly, and this number is growing as more affiliates use this program. MoreThanData is a virtual company with many of our board members, volunteers, support staff, and consultants living in different states. To help us run the day-to-day operations of our organization, we developed our own program using Microsoft Access with a web-based database to manage our mission-critical information. We can provide access to it for those who work and volunteer with us, which allows us to bring in skilled people that otherwise would not have the tools and accessibility necessary to help with our work. As a result, volunteers and staff can work from anywhere, provide support and training to those affiliates using Keystone, and track the history of all contacts made with each affiliate. MoreThanData has developed and released numerous updates to our software, provided skilled technical support to users, and offered free or affordable training resources to affiliates, even with our very limited budget. However, our vision for expanding the software and services we offer is often grander than the financial and technological resources currently available to us. Our budget is primarily comprised only of revenue from what affiliates provide MoreThanData annually for the software, updates, technical support and training. Through the generosity of grants and in-kind donations, we hope to provide even better, more affordable software custom-built to the needs of HFH affiliates. And in turn, they can build more and more affordable homes for families in their communities.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact