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Using data reporting to provide financial assistance across the spectrum




2 centers, 7 ECE sites, 11 camps

Individuals Served:



More than a feeling: analyzing data helps with better decision making

The JCC Association of North America is committed to creating joyful communities across the US and Canada. More than 170 Jewish Community Centers and 12,000 full-time professionals across the continent serve 1.5 million people in-person and online every week. But in the current economic climate, some of these people are feeling the pinch and finding it harder to pay for programs.

The JCC Chicago operates a robust initiative to provide financial assistance for families in need. With hundreds of families applying, it’s all the more important that JCC Chicago has a standard process, which is easy to follow. JCC Chicago implemented a solution that allows the J to make strategic decisions based on their data reports. According to Maggie Marx, Assistant Director of Customer Experience at JCC Chicago, this use of technology has become a fundamental component of managing day-to-day operations,” which has spread beyond the financial assistance program.

The JCC has enhanced its support for families by improving administrative efficiency and data reporting, leading to more intentional decision-making. They have also adjusted eligibility guidelines based on data analysis, enabling them to assist families who may not have qualified in the past but now require support.

Data tells a story and provides a measure of impact. This use of technology has become a fundamental component of managing day-to-day operations.

Maggie Marx

Maggie Marx

Assistant Director of Customer Experience, JCC Chicago

Making sure all families were being considered no matter where they fell on the spectrum

At JCC Chicago, determining financial assistance was historically a matter of numbers: household income and household size. On the surface, it seemed efficient but in reality, it didn’t consider the families facing unprecedented challenges in a changing economy. These families may not have qualified for financial assistance before, but they were asking for support now.

While many families articulated their unique financial burdens in submitted explanations, the current system was better at analyzing the fixed data of those most in need. It applied a black and white methodology to the administrative process, rather than seeing these families across a spectrum. An unsettling realization hit: numerous families were on the cusp of receiving financial assistance. The system wasn’t yet considering all the different factors outlined in the applications, such as hard numbers in conjunction with extenuating circumstances.

With the full process taking up to six weeks, it left families waiting and unable to make plans for the future. And while the allocation committee sought to streamline the approval process, it grappled with a pressing question: how could they ensure that no family, especially those in gray areas of need, slipped through the cracks?

The JCC Chicago supports its community with dynamic programs and services through 2 recreations center, 7 early childhood education centers, 10 day camps and 1 overnight camp serving 65,000 individuals annually.

Looking at the data to understand the “story” it’s telling

This solution, like others implemented by Traction Rec, followed the crawl, walk, run methodology so JCC Chicago could get started right away with the basics of their data. They progressed to a deep dive as they gained more expertise on the system. “Data tells a story and provides a measure of impact,” says Maggie.

Crawl: Getting a holistic look at families in need

Like many organizations, JCC Chicago was operating on spreadsheets. Lots of them. But when data is collected in different places, there’s no way to pull reports and look at the holistic picture of what’s going on. So even though JCC Chicago had a feeling that some families were on the cusp, the reports were able to definitively determine whether or not they qualified for financial assistance.

At this stage, the implementation was about correctly capturing the data, such as documenting the fiscal year and type of programming in question. Additionally, JCC Chicago created an option to link to a prior year case, in the event this information could be used if the family applies again in the future. The J also started using dashboards to present this data in a simple, visual way.


WATCH THE VIDEO: A walk through the JCC Chicago executive leadership dashboard

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Walk: Automatic decision making with intention

This stage was about understanding how Salesforce could work for the team through customizations. While there were many out of the box objects that could be leveraged, JCC Chicago started creating custom objects that addressed their unique needs. Once each case was saved with all the necessary data, the user would get a recommendation of how to proceed with a family’s request. In this way, the guesswork was taken out of the equation and all families were measured against a standard process, which also considered their individual circumstances.

At this stage, Maggie says they were fully using the system and creating additional components that would further streamline their workflow. They used Conga to create a template that automatically anonymized names and distinguishing details from applications during the appeals process. This replaced the laborious process of manually blacking out information, scanning the updated documents and emailing them to the executives who would make the final decisions.


WATCH THE VIDEO: Creating a financial assistance case for the JCC with Traction Rec and Salesforce

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Run: Getting the whole organization on board

For anyone who wouldn't touch metrics with a 10-foot pole, dashboards are a great way to pique their interest. “Dashboards have been helpful,” says Maggie. “And teaching people how to subscribe to reports has been really important. You can have it emailed to you in real time, you can get an attachment and you can set specific criteria.” It boils down to empowering the team by making information easily accessible, so they have whatever they need to do their jobs well.  JCC Chicago’s System Administrator, Sean Ladd, has been instrumental in creating all of their dashboards and reports. He has since expanded their catalog of dashboards as more users and departments have begun adopting the technology.

We streamlined out countless hours of entry and tracking work, and truly freed up those resources. Applicants are having better, faster experiences and now we reshaped the data into something we could use to get more help to the people who need it.

Sean Ladd

Sean Ladd

System Administrator, JCC Chicago

Families getting the support they need in a timely manner

As with any successful implementation, the snowball of positivity (did we just make that up?) rolls onward to create a ripple effect throughout the organization. Efficiency in streamlining the administrative process and the ability to report on data have led to decision making that is more intentional. Additionally, the partnership between the financial assistance committee and the executive team continues to strengthen, as everyone is aligned on a single system to meet organizational goals. The leadership team’s support of this technology has allowed Maggie and others to continue pioneering and piloting new custom objects and other ways of reporting.

Efficiency in streamlining the administrative process

The financial assistance administrative process is now fully automated from end-to-end, with all relevant data captured and analyzed. The decision making process has been made more efficient by transferring everything online. The allocation committee used to gather in-person, spending 15 minutes on each application, but now they can individually review the approximately 400 applications at a time most convenient for them. Further approvals by the executive can also be done online, saving everyone time and effort. The financial assistance process used to take roughly 4-6 weeks; after the implementation, the J can now get back to families within about 2-4 weeks.

Sean Ladd adds, "We streamlined out countless hours of double/triple entry and tracking work, and really, truly, freed up those resources. Applicants are having better, smoother, faster experiences across the board and on top of that we reshaped the data into something we could use to get more help to the people who need it."

Making intentional financial assistance decisions

After “listening” to the story their data was telling them, Maggie says they made the decision to adjust their eligibility guidelines. They could see that the average applicant’s household income was now $30,000 higher than in the past couple of years. These families may not have qualified before but they were asking for support now. Being able to compare the numbers year over year allows the J to see what kind of adjustments need to be made. “To have that live, accurate, up-to-date data for over three years has allowed us to analyze things in a way we have never been able to before,” she says.

Executive buy-in

The purpose of a dashboard, explains Maggie, is a way to say, “Look at all the cool information we can show you in one place!” Organizational partners are always going to have questions, and now staff have all the answers at their fingertips. As they become increasingly more comfortable with the system, they can ask more complicated questions of their data to make the “stories” as detailed as possible—stories that are necessary to share with others in order to get more support, whether it be funding or something else.

“It’s not just the data but being able to connect it to a story,” says Maggie. “To be able to even ask for (the data) and make it a reality is really cool on both sides. For us to make it happen for (the executive) and for them to feel like they can ask for something like that, has been a really good partnership.”


WATCH THE VIDEO: The power of reporting with Traction Rec and Salesforce

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It's in the numbers

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<stat left="67%" right="decrease in turnaround time" table_id="1"></stat>

<stat left="50%" right="reduction of time spent on administration" bottom="" table_id="1"></stat>


*Photos courtesy of JCC Chicago and Lynn Renee Photography

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