Community-based organizations face myriad challenges to effectively addressing the critical needs of their communities. While organizations are unique in what they face as their most critical priority, a common denominator for success lies in ensuring an enterprise focus exists for implementing solutions.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities/Council on Accreditation (COA)’s Commitments of High-Impact Nonprofit Organizations is a strategy framework that guides organizations across 10 key competencies developed to help them strengthen their teams, the organization and its impact. Heartland Family Service, Omaha, Nebraska, Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) in Philadelphia, and The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) in Portland, Maine, are three organizations that have been successful with major initiatives across data measurement, technology innovation, and mission discipline, respectively, to help strengthen their organizational impact.

Learn more about how these organizations leveraged the Commitments to further their missions by through the Commitments in Action Celebration.

Right Data, Right Direction at Heartland Family Service

Successful growth over 145 years has required organizational excellence in many areas for Heartland Family Service and today its leadership’s laser focus on gathering solid data is seen as the key to effectively measuring the organization’s continued impact.

A multiservice organization located in the metro Omaha and Council Bluffs areas of eastern Nebraska and southwest Iowa, Heartland’s CEO John Jeanetta and Chief Strategy Officer Greg Ryan continually work to evaluate and elevate the organization’s delivery of services. The organization is also working to gather and evaluate longitudinal data, which is needed to judge Heartland’s services’ effectiveness and whether programs should be kept or eliminated.

“It's having the right data in that system to really guide the work that we're doing,” explains Ryan. To collect and interpret data, Heartland set up an evaluation department and hired specialists, including a mathematician, to systematize the information and clarify results. What they found was positive. “Most of our clients do make gains in safety, self-sufficiency, and well-being. And those gains do sustain after they're discharged from the agency,” said Ryan.

Heartland Family Service is adopting new methods, investing in staff and programming, and seeking partnerships that help integrate the social determinants of health into all aspects of community health and well-being. And by incorporating data into program structure and evaluation, the baseline measures for program success and cross-sector collaboration are being realized.

Learn more about Heartland Family Service’s commitment to Measuring that Matters by listening to episode 32 of the More than Health Care podcast: People Don't Live in Vacuums: Getting Systems Collaboration Right. Ryan and Jeanetta describe their work to use longitudinal data to evaluate their efforts and foster partnerships with health care. 

Technology Investments at PHMC To Maximize Every Connection  

Regardless of what door a person enters at Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), the team on the others side prides itself on being ready to deliver the best care possible, despite the fact the organization offers 350 programs in 70 locations to nearly 350,000 clients each year. 

Combining the mission-driven perspective of a nonprofit with the fiscal control and management capabilities of a rigorous corporate structure, Philadelphia-based PHMC has been helping to build healthy communities in the Delaware Valley for more than 40 years.

Foundational to PHMC’s success has been the significant investments made in technology, including development of the organization’s own personal health record solution, which combines traditional primary medical care with the services PHMC offers. Through this innovative approach, PHMC can also help ensure the social determinants of health are considered when each client receives care. 

“When we better understand the issue and the needs of the people we serve, we’re better able to adjust our services and operations to meet the needs,” said Stephanie Shell, senior director of strategy development at PHMC.

Innovating with enterprise has been critical to the continued success of PHMC, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive public health organizations in the nation. PHMC has served the Greater Philadelphia region since 1972 as a facilitator, developer, intermediary, manager, advocate and innovator in the field of public health. PHMC offers a broad array of programs spanning behavioral health/recovery, nurse-managed primary care, chronic disease management and prevention, tobacco control, obesity prevention, early intervention, HIV/AIDS, violence intervention, homeless health services, parenting supports for families, and much more, plus research and evaluation efforst that allow PHMC to assess and target health issues effectively.

Learn more by watching this video about PHMC’s commitment to Innovating with Enterprise.  

For The Opportunity Alliance, Successfully Executing On Mission Requires Answering the Toughest Question 

While becoming one of the largest, most comprehensive community-based human services organizations in its region is important to The Opportunity Alliance’s (TOA) leadership, the success has actually heightened their mission focus. 

“We reached a point as an organization where we began to ask ourselves if anyone was actually better off because of the services we provided,” said Joe Everett, CEO of The Opportunity Alliance (TOA). “We were really struggling with that question, because we didn’t have an adequate system of measurement. Our 50 programs are all very different. We support people in various ways from before they are born through the entirety of their lifespan. So it’s critical that we measure our impact and that we can be certain we truly are executing on our mission.” 

After a series of mergers concluded in 2011, TOA grew into the powerhouse it is today. A Community Action Agency serving Cumberland County in southern Maine for more than 50 years, TOA has provided advocacy, leadership, and support to help individuals, families, and communities identify goals and address their needs. 

As one of the sites in the Strategy Counts initiative that partnered with the Alliance to assess just what the Commitments of High-Impact Organizations would entail, Everett and his team had the fortune of going through that exercise while the organization was also redefining itself following the 2011 merger. 

“During that period we met once a month to sort of ‘look under the hood’ of our organization to see how we were progressing while overlaying the commitments as they were being developed to see if we were on the right road to becoming a high impact organization,” Everett notes. “It’s been an ongoing, continuous journey for us, one that transformed us into to a very innovative, strategically-focused organization that is now measuring our impact and contributing to lasting change in our community.” 

TOA’s approach to executing on its mission has completely changed over the last decade thanks to its work with a variety of partners including the Alliance/COA and today Everett and his team follow Results-Based Accountability™ (RBA), a disciplined and data-driven approach to problem solving that helps organizations move beyond talking about problems to take efficient action to actually create measurable solutions. 

Much of The Opportunity Alliance’s success with implementing Results-Based Accountability traces back to the organization’s early work with the Alliance in developing the Commitments framework, which is designed to deliver foundational direction to community-based organizations in achieving impact. By building capacity in the Commitments, organizations can achieve lasting, meaningful change with children, families, and communities. 

Learn more by reading this case study about TOA’s commitment to Executing on Mission. 

About the Commitments in Action Celebration

In celebration of the release of the Commitments framework more than five years ago, the Alliance and COA are showcasing 14 community-based human serving organizations, including Heartland Family Service, PHMC, and TOA, that have embraced this proven strategy playbook for success and influence. The Commitments celebration recognizes and elevates the powerful stories of the organizations whose ingenuity, innovation, and vision, as part of the Alliance’s Strategy Counts initiative, helped establish the Commitments framework. 

Thank you to the Commitment in Action Celebration sponsors.