G.A.I.N. – powered by Lowe’s
As part of the inaugural G.A.I.N. cohort, S.T.A.R.S. Math & English Academy has completed their technology assessment and plan.
As a result of this project and their work in the G.A.I.N. program, S.T.A.R.S. anticipates increasing their fundraising significantly with a hope to quadruple the reach of their programs. That would be 300+ additional under-served Charlotte students, most who live below the poverty level, who would receive the support they need to return to grade level in math, reading and English, helping to ensure more promising paths to college and beyond.
S.T.A.R.S. seeks to improve the math, English, and reading skills of children in need of educational assistance by at least two grade levels. They provide approximately $500,000 of free academic enrichment per year for students in grades 3-12 annually through their educational programs.
As the first phase in their G.A.I.N. journey, S.T.A.R.S. was matched to a corporate volunteer team from Bank of America, who conducted their tech assessment and provided a plan with recommendations for improvement. Bank of America also generously sponsored this project. The G.A.I.N. program is generously sponsored by Lowe’s and EY.
At the conclusion of this project, we met with Tawruss Sellars of S.T.A.R.S, to learn about the start of his G.A.I.N. experience and the anticipated impact of this specific project on their organization. He explains that currently, “I end up doing almost all of the data tracking, pulling and analytics myself because we’re doing it all in Excel. The organization is too dependent on one person and I’m not left with the time I would like to have to focus strategically on its future. G.A.I.N. forces you to think about technology and how it can improve the situation for your nonprofit. You’re accountable to your volunteers, so you dedicate the time. Otherwise, you might not make the time because you are so busy with the day-to-day.”
S.T.A.R.S. leadership anticipates saving time and ensuring organizational sustainability by moving to Office 365.
“Everything will be faster in the future. We’ll know where to find the right templates and those files that we don’t use so frequently. We’ll be able to manage permissions to be sure the right people have easy and integrated access to what they need. Moving to Office 365 will ensure our organizational sustainability by creating a organizational memory and allowing more people to become self-sufficient in finding what they need. Our success won’t be dependent on one person,” explains Tawruss.
As a result, S.T.A.R.S. will have:
- Easier onboarding of new staff
- More effective interactions with their Board
- Less hand holding of contractors and others in need of data
- Reduces risk of losing files/data
A new data management tool is also expected to free time, improve management decision making and fundraising.
Rather than tracking and analyzing data in Excel, S.T.A.R.S. will have a user-friendly tool that will enable:
- Easier access for all constituents who need data (without dependence on Tawruss’s Excel expertise)
- Deeper analytics and understanding of program results and impact, to help improve:
- Management decision making – As Tawruss explains, “We’ll have the ability to ask better programming questions and understand what’s working well and what isn’t.”
- Telling the full S.T.A.R.S. story, which will drive both fundraising and program enrollment. As Tawruss shares, “We’ll have richer metrics on how our students perform with us over time, relative to other students. This will help us tell really strong long term success stories that will increase our fundraising and help us bring in new families.”
- Deeper analytics of donor demographics and trends to improve fundraising through strategic segmentation and targeting
- Improved ability to set goals and track towards their achievement
As a result, STARS will be well positioned for growth.
“I’ll have more time to think strategically about our program in the long term and Elijah [Watson, Executive Director] will have more time for relationship building.” Tawruss shares his goal of growing the program from 100 spots to 400+ with 3 End-of-Grade bootcamps, a Saturday Academy and a summer camp. “If we can raise more money, we can serve more students.”
Words of appreciation were shared by all project team members.
- “You can run the day to day, but you need to have someone to ask you the right question to make you think differently. That’s what’s good about G.A.I.N. It forces you think about things you might not otherwise. Technology is not top of mind when you are worried about all of the other things you need to get done. Because of the deadlines and accountability to volunteers, the program forces you to carve out time to focus on technology and it saves so much time because of the volunteers’ knowledge. They’ve thought this through already. It’s invaluable when you don’t have a lot of time.”
- “Working with the Apparo and Bank of America teams to build a technology plan has been a great experience for S.T.A.R.S. The skills and perspectives that each member contributes has made this a quick – yet incredibly insightful – process. Their collective input has been invaluable in thinking about how to balance data management and resilience with organizational goals and capacity. We are thankful for their efforts and helping S.T.A.R.S. better fulfill its mission.”
Sysouda R. – Bank of America, Volunteer – “Proud to be part of the BofA volunteer team to make a difference supporting our local non-profit organization.”
Rahul J. – Bank of American, Volunteer – “I enjoyed working on this first volunteering event of my new tenure with the Bank. It was great being able to start with a simple operation, to leverage my skills, and use as a foundation for future volunteering work. Allison [Grant, Apparo project facilitator] really helped us out with the templates, and knowledge sharing from her past projects to guide us on the appropriate course.”