Taproot Foundation Helps Lakeview Pantry Share Its Story
Lakeview Pantry’s mission is to eliminate hunger in our community not only through emergency food assistance but by helping clients work toward independence and self-sufficiency.
Over the years, our client services program has grown to provide assistance with housing, employment, SNAP (food stamp) benefits and more – all with an emphasis on helping each individual client discover their own, personal path toward independence.
Despite this success, though, “people weren’t always aware of the work we were doing,” says Manager of Client Services Jennie Hull.
But thanks to the help of the Taproot Foundation – a nonprofit organization that makes pro-bono business talent available to organizations working to improve society – that is all about to change.
“It started in September 2014 when Lakeview Pantry expressed an interest in a program evaluation project,” says Mini Datta, a Senior Project Manager at the Taproot Foundation. “The goal was to be able to create metrics to share Lakeview Pantry’s success and story in a quantitative way.”
Mini connected Lakeview Pantry with Elaine Richards, an account director who puts together teams of professionals for Taproot’s pro bono projects. Elaine went to work assembling a team of five volunteers with the expertise necessary to pour through the client services’ data and create a dashboard to track its progress.
“We were very, very fortunate,” says Elaine. “Two of the consultants had strong backgrounds in non-profits, and they all had really strong, really applicable experience. We really had the right set of people who came together.”
With the team in place, the group began to work on a way to measure the work client services does.
“You don’t wake up one morning and find you have a food insecurity problem,” says Elaine. “There are always more contributing factors. What I love about Lakeview Pantry is that if you show up with a problem, they’re going to try to help you. We wanted to help find the best use of that time and assistance and discover where Lakeview Pantry can make the most impact.”
The Taproot team broke the client services program into five pillars (employment, housing, benefits, wellness and community inclusion) and created a database to measure how much time was being spent on each area.
“During each visit we ask each client to rank on a scale of 0-5 what is most needed,” Jennie explains. “Now we can begin to rank change over time and see how many visits it takes before there is a positive change.”
After more than eight months of work, the database has grown to not only help the client services team track their current clients, but to store the information of nearly 2,000 clients from the past three years.
“It was way more than what we were expecting,” says Jennie. “With this dashboard, at any minute you could come to me and say, ‘I want a snapshot of this program,’ and I could tell you how many clients we have, how many visits a client makes, how many are new, etc.”
The data Jennie collects in the database will also help Lakeview Pantry follow future trends in client services and make decisions about new programs to offer. And both the Pantry and the Taproot team have come away from the project feeling as if they’ve made a tangible impact.
“Everybody knows Lakeview Pantry for the food pantry,” says Elaine. “Not as many know about the client services the Pantry offers. For us it was really, really nice to walk away and feel like we’d made a difference.”
“They are really, really great people,” says Jennie. “They took the time to meet with our Board, our staff, community members and clients. They kept praising us for what we do. They were really great.”
For more information on the client services Lakeview Pantry offers, visit http://www.lakeviewpantry.org/socialservices.html.
If you’d like to make a gift to support our client services programs, visit http://www.lakeviewpantry.org/ways-to-give.html.