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Benefits Data Trust

Developing a Road Map to Achieve a Bold Goal

46 million Americans struggle to afford food, shelter, and medical care. Federal and state governments have established programs to help. However, limited-income populations are often hard to reach, are unaware of resources available and face confusing application processes and other barriers to access. Because of these obstacles, millions of seniors lack medical care, millions of families lose their homes, and millions of children go hungry.

Benefits Data Trust was created as a national not-for-profit in 2005 to ensure that individuals receive the resources they need from benefit programs often making the difference between falling into deep poverty and achieving stability.

In 2012, BDT came to Community Wealth Partners with a challenge. With seven years of success behind them and a multitude of opportunities ahead of them, BDT sought a partner who could help the organization effectively expand its reach and grow its impact. In order to do this, we partnered with BDT to:

  1. Develop a strategy roadmap with concrete goals and clear decision making processes;
  2. Create a narrative that simplified the complexity of BDT’s work in order to clearly define the direct outcomes and convey the value of their work and their sophisticated approach to their expanding and changing set of partners; and
  3. Build a financial model to put BDT on the path to sustainability through planning and the identification of sustainable funding streams.

In our work with sector leaders, we’ve found that framing the effort – defining and articulating a bold goal at the outset of the planning process – provides the “north star” by which an organization’s success is defined. For the BDT team, the goal was clear:

Benefits Data Trust believes all vulnerable individuals and families across the country should be able to secure the benefits that enable them to achieve stability. By 2025, accessing benefits will be simple, comprehensive and cost effective.

While the bold goal was clear, BDT knew that achieving it would require a robust and sophisticated strategy.

We worked together to develop a strategy narrative that clearly and simply articulated BDT’s strategies for achieving large-scale, systemic change by:

  • Providing Direct Services: Delivering high-quality benefits access support to as many individuals as possible, paving a path to economic stability for clients.
  • Advancing Policy & Thought Leadership: Proactive dissemination of evidence and best practices so that others may use data-driven strategies to target individuals in need.
  • Driving Systems Change: Influencing policy through practical implementation to ensure that the benefits access landscape continues to be more simple, comprehensive, and cost-effective.

To demonstrate and measure the impact of its work and the viability of growth opportunities, BDT implemented a state-based Proof of Concept strategy. A cornerstone of this strategy was the establishment of a set of specific criteria for evaluating programs. Programs launched and were tested in smaller scale test environments, allowing for the collection of critical data and proving how and where change is achievable.

Early outcomes of this strategy have been impressive. In 2014, BDT:

  • Expanded to provide multiple benefits support to seniors throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. In just one call, BDT can now screen seniors for up to six public benefits.
  • Initiated SNAP outreach and application assistance efforts in New York City, Colorado and South Carolina.
  • Enhanced service delivery in Philadelphia for individuals of all ages. BDT can now assist Philadelphia residents to access up to 18 benefits and offer true person-centered assistance by coordinating both phone-based and in-person assistance.
  • Submitted over 60,000 applications, serving over 78,000 people, and delivering $102 million in benefits in 2014 alone
  • Began researching how access to multiple services impacts health care utilization and outcomes; looking at the “big picture” for individuals

BDT’s new strategy is showing clear momentum. As they continue to implement and measure their efforts, they are focused on developing and maintaining sustainable funding streams and understanding the levers that lead to better outcomes.