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Case Study: How community-based organizations in San Francisco used technology to rapidly deploy emergency volunteers for seniors during COVID

This case study describes how several community-based organizations leveraged Mon Ami technology to meet the needs of thousands of seniors at the height of the pandemic, by reducing the time it took to service clients by 83% while rapidly transitioning to remote operations.

Summary 

Early in 2020, the first shelter-in-place measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 forced millions into physical and social isolation. Older adults represented a large share of the population considered most vulnerable.  In an effort to rapidly expand support to its older adults, who comprise 20% of its population, the City of San Francisco called on several of its community-based organizations to scale services of support, including grocery deliveries, prescription pickups, essential errands, and phone check-ins for homebound and isolated individuals.  This case study describes how several community-based organizations leveraged Mon Ami technology to meet the needs of thousands of seniors at the height of the pandemic, by reducing the time it took to service clients by 83% while rapidly transitioning to remote operations.

Challenge

In 2018, over 48,000 seniors received services from community-based organizations in San Francisco, a number that has continued to grow alongside the representative population. Prior to COVID, the majority of services were delivered in-person or on-site at locations held by community-based organizations like the Village programs, Openhouse SF, and Shanti Project. These organizations act to provide opportunities for older people and adults with disabilities to socialize, build community, and participate in a meaningful way in their neighborhoods. The services these organizations deliver is crucial to mitigating physical and mental health issues stemming from social isolation.

In March 2020, the pandemic quickly shut down on-site programming and in-person services for seniors. Social service organizations had to rapidly adapt to changing guidelines and the increased need for essential services by seniors who were sheltering-in-place. They needed to figure out not only how to ensure members could receive groceries and regular prescriptions, but also how to address the urgent issue of social isolation and loneliness.

Many of the organizations used spreadsheets and hard copy files to keep track of clients, volunteers, and services delivered.  Their processes were designed for an in-office environment where staff were all in the same physical location. COVID-19 forced employees to work from home, where they quickly realized a need for cloud-based technology solutions that would enable remote service coordination. On top of the new work-from-home challenges, the demand for their services was unprecedented.  In some cases, organizations were called upon to double or triple their client load without a corresponding increase in staff.

The practice of passing different variations of spreadsheets to keep track of which members were receiving certain services, or calling volunteers directly to coordinate dates and details of services was not scalable to reach the now thousands of seniors who required urgent day-of support rather than pre-scheduled deliveries. To build relief for older adults, Mayor London Breed called for a systems change approach utilizing technology to scale support.

Solution

The existing process of matching volunteers to support seniors involved lots of emailing back and forth, individual phone calling, and paper logs that would easily get lost. Community Engagement Program Manager of Openhouse SF, Sylvia Vargas shared it would take a minimum of three days to fulfill one support request, with one request taking at least thirty minutes to process before even notifying a single volunteer.

After adopting Mon Ami’s software for senior services, Openhouse SF was able to dramatically reduce the number of steps to deliver support to seniors.  With Mon Ami, client and volunteer background information are logged in a single database, where before the information existed in separate systems.  When clients made requests, the organizations could easily log the request and, with the tap of a button, instantly notify nearby volunteers who were a fit for the support request.  Volunteers could then accept a support request and confirm their offer to help.  Logistical details were sent automatically so volunteers knew where to go, when, and what they needed to accomplish.  Volunteer coordinators no longer had to email back-and-forth with volunteers to coordinate addresses and details for each individual support request.

After adopting Mon Ami, Openhouse SF has dramatically reduced the amount of time it takes to fulfill requests.  Where before it could take several days, now Openhouse can fulfill a request in less than five minutes and get support for seniors day-of if needed.  Volunteers have all relevant individualized information for supporting seniors on their iPhone or Android, making it easier for volunteer coordinators to manage remotely. After a support request is completed, rather than having to follow-up with the volunteer individually or become overwhelmed by volunteer calls, volunteers now have the ability to submit written feedback on any support run into the Mon Ami system directly which notifies the respective volunteer coordinator.

Results

Within six months of utilizing Mon Ami to match volunteers with seniors who needed support, Openhouse SF and Shanti Project’s average time to coordinate volunteer support dropped from a minimum of three days to an average of 1.5 and 1.2 days respectively, a time reduction of over 50%.

Not only did quicker matches allow more seniors across San Francisco to receive support, but it also provided major relief for volunteer coordinators. Jill Ellefsen, Member and Volunteer Coordinator of San Francisco Village, shares: “using Mon Ami cuts 5-10 minutes per senior served and relieves stress because the previous [matching] process was very messy.

Even though demand for services surged for these San Francisco-based community organizations, with the same volume of staff members and volunteers they were able to respond and deliver emergency support to older adults in a time of need.


You took us to the 21st century. You save lives. You make matches day-of, I don’t know any other tools out there that exist. This technology did not exist in the early ’80s during the AIDs crisis, which triggers a lot of memories for our community members.

Through your technology, you have really shaped and redefined the way that we can do this work. I would love to see this volunteer matching model globally.
- Sylvia Vargas
Community Engagement Program Coordinator, Openhouse SF

About Mon Ami

Mon Ami builds modern technology solutions for senior service providers. We partner with government agencies, nonprofits, and other senior service organizations on the frontlines of delivering essential support to older adults and adults with disabilities. Our software has coordinated over 10,000 hours of service in its testing, helping seniors and other vulnerable populations receive essential services. 

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