When you want to know if you’re using your resources effectively and cost-efficiently, you track them. Households do it, businesses do it.
Those that don’t likely suffer from a hit-or-miss approach.
LifePath Christian Ministries started fully tracking the services it provides in July, and already the organization has a better handle on how its wide-ranging efforts are improving lives across York County.
Jonathan Vandervort, LifePath’s data intelligence manager, spearheads the program, developing procedures for collecting and analyzing information to help agency leaders make decisions that better serve clients and the community.
Vandervort wasn’t originally hired to do this job. He came onboard as a case manager/chaplain and began gathering data.
“I saw the need to gather information on clients that would better help me make decisions when working with them,” he explains. “I started doing that on my own and started sharing the information in our meetings.”
Word about his approach made its way up the management chain. On July 5, Vandervort became LifePath’s data intelligence manager.
Tracking services and success
By tracking all of LifePath’s services, Vandervort can tell what assistance has been provided for any time period, right up to the present day. As of Sept. 10, he says, LifePath had provided 37,354 individual services since formal tracking began in late May.
Vandervort’s system tracks life skill classes, Christian education classes, Bible studies, distributed Bibles, meals, hygiene kits, counseling, GED classes, educational assessments, tutoring, and even showers at its shelter.
“It allows us to see, as far as the programs are concerned, what programs are actually working for individual clients,” he says. “As we track their progress, we can see what services and classes they are attending. We can see whether they’re successful as well as measure progress. We can make a better determination if we need to cut back in a certain program or branch out or better that program.”
Tracking also will give LifePath a measure of long-term success, allowing the agency to follow those who have received services after they have moved on in their lives.
By the end of next year, the agency expects to use the information in developing its annual budgets.
How tracking works
LifePath tracks its in-house services such as classes and meals through identification cards that clients swipe like a credit card or ID tag. Any outside services a client requires, such as medical and insurance assistance or GED classes, are entered into a database when the client signs up for the ID card. Those services are tracked with the help of case managers who pair clients with outside providers.
Tracking also helps the agency identify and plug gaps in service.
“We can go back to other agencies that we work alongside, as well as churches, and say we would like to provide these services through you, or if you can help us set up something that provides these services,” Vandervort says.
Feeding the hungry is a significant part of LifePath’s ministry, and tracking helps keep tabs on food donations and how meals are dispensed. The agency serves meals at its mission on West Market Street in York and provides food to 13 other ministries across York County as part of its “Powered by LifePath” program.
Within several months, LifePath hopes to track donations and sales at its three thrift stores. Vandervort is reviewing software that shows what is donated and what items sell.
“Donors want to know if we’re being successful with our clients,” he says. “They want to know what they’re providing for our clients.”
A universal effort
Vandervort believes that LifePath’s tracking system can spread a wider safety net in York County if other human service agencies sign on to it. Using the system, an agency that identifies an individual’s need could have a complete profile of the person at its fingertips, he says.
“We want to show other community agencies how valuable this can be for the community if we all use it,” he says. “It has the potential to better our community on the whole.”
Tracking at LifePath got its start as a bare-bones operation in October 2017. Since July, profiles of individuals and families, highlighting their needs and services received, have started to paint a detailed portrait of the community that the agency assists.
“We’re just two months into the system,” Vandervort says, “and we’re looking for ways to take it from infancy to where it can give us the information we need.”