SOS Outreach Leverages CiviCore Client & Case Management to Enable Program Growth
- April 19, 2019
SOS Outreach Mission: SOS Outreach changes young lives, building character and leadership in underserved kids through mentoring outdoors.
Since Day 1 at SOS, passion for the mission has driven them.
Over 25 years ago, with kids in need, SOS combined the unique resources at their disposal, namely the Colorado mountains, to address what they saw as a pressing need in the community. Combining the great outdoors with their mission, they set out to change the lives of kids by giving them an experience that would not only pay dividends for the kids in the short term, but would prepare them to contribute to the world they live in for years to come.
Fast forward to today. SOS has now expanded well beyond the Colorado mountains in to the Pacific Northwest, Utah, Detroit, and others, and has impacted tens of thousands of lives. This growth has necessitated the technology infrastructure to support it.
Since 2005, when SOS was just one location in Eagle County, Colorado (near Vail Mountain), and serving less than 1,000 kids, Seth Ehrlich, then Community Development Director, partnered with CiviCore to create what started as a registration system for youth participants in SOS’s outdoor growth programs. As SOS has grown, so has their system needs. CiviCore Client and Case Management has expanded to support holistic contact management including tracking enrollment in programs, attendance, and youth mentoring management.
According to Seth, “SOS’s growth is a result of CiviCore systems being able to support the vision.” As SOS has grown, they have developed a very clear trajectory for their participants—in outdoor adventure and in life. Many start in youth programs that may be offered by a local school. After engaging and finding the programs useful, the individual will join SOS programs on their own, expanding in to 1 or 2 day programs, 1 week programs, or a variety of multi-year leadership programs that turn participants into leaders and mentors.
“SOS’s growth is a result of CiviCore systems being able to support the vision,” according to Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director of SOS Outreach since 2014.
The model works. Since their inception over 25 years ago, SOS has grown to impact the lives of over 65,000 young people, many of whom have grown to adulthood and returned to the program as educators, mentors, volunteers, or guides. A testament to the lifelong impact of SOS Outreach programs: every year more than 5% of SOS alum become volunteers. This continued involvement ensures that educators, guides, and volunteers understand and empathize with the youth they are trying to help, leading to better results.
Seth, now Executive Director of SOS Outreach, taking over the reins in 2014, has continued the expansion. And with SOS’s growth and expansion comes the need for additional technology support.
CiviCore Client and Case Management provides:
- Participant registration tailored for sports program enrollment, whether 1 day, 1 week or multi-year participation. The system provides the flexibility SOS needs to accommodate varied program structures across diverse geographies
- Volunteer participation, including events, hours tracking, mentoring with SOS youth participants, interaction notes, and donation history, enabling a single system to see varied participation roles
- Donor management: the ability to track donors, donations, donation patterns and history, and where those donors initially came from means that future development programs are more successful
- Participant tracking including program and interaction notes, attendance, personal information (e.g., equipment rental and sizing information as well as contact information), and payment history
- Session tracking, including all active and available programs by region and calendars of events
- Pre- and post-event participation surveys to gauge effectiveness of SOS programs over time
- Multi-level system access, configurable by user. Whether a participant, a mentor, or an employee of SOS, the system can control access based on your role to ensure secure information and a better experience tailored to that user
- Reporting: a key element of ongoing donor support is to show that SOS programs produce results, i.e., progress with participants over time. With CiviCore, SOS can report out from each location, on national data, or based on demographics. They can easily pull which programs have been delivered to whom, and what the saturation of services is for each participant. This enables insightful reporting out to donors and corporate sponsors and ensures that SOS supporters can see the program impact firsthand.
Perhaps the most critical element of this functionality lies in the fact that SOS can go to a single system and see every relationship they have with an individual. If a participant goes to multiple sessions, they can see this. If a participant starts in school, but becomes a leader and then a volunteer and a donor, SOS can see this—all in one system. This “one stop shop” for data is critical to understand their program success and in developing their growth and fundraising strategies.
According to Seth, “SOS has tons of crossover in our constituent base. In order to be successful, we need to view their holistic path, from participant or leader to volunteer, mentor, or donor — whether an individual or a corporation. Our alumni are very engaged, and it’s a key factor in our success to grow this engagement. As these alum hang around to offer their services, they pay it forward to kids that look a lot like them, knowing there’s a better future out there for them. We needed a system that adapted to these needs; we didn’t have time to adapt our processes to an off-the-shelf solution. CiviCore is flexible enough to adapt to SOS’s needs. We were able to make the system work for us, to fill the need, regardless of the form and direction of our growth.”
“As these alum hang around to offer their services, they pay it forward to kids that look a lot like them, knowing there’s a better future out there for them. We needed a system that adapted to these needs.”
Part of the SOS Outreach path has been regional growth. While not initially anticipated back in the early 2000’s, SOS has seen real opportunity to grow their impact through regional expansion. Not only has the organization combined with Meet The Wilderness, a 34 year old organization that introduces youth to summer sports, but SOS has spread throughout Colorado, to the Lake Tahoe Region, Utah, Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Along the way, SOS has consulted with CiviCore and been able to use CiviCore Client and Case Management to support their expansion. According to Seth, “CiviCore has been the backbone for growth in to the different regions.”
As you can see, Seth is a big believer that the system should support the mission, but so should the individual. And in CiviCore, he’s found a partner. “CiviCore staff believe in our mission as much as we do. They see themselves as a partner in that mission. That trust, that partnership, has meant a lot to SOS. I don’t need to explain how important it is to add certain features to the system or to expand the system in a certain way built around our business model; they get it. Their institutional knowledge is huge. When we hit a roadblock, they are all in to help us figure out how to address it. Their partnership on our mission is unique. And it’s priceless.”
“CiviCore staff believe in our mission as much as we do… Their partnership on our mission is unique. And it’s priceless.”
Of course, SOS Outreach isn’t done yet. Seth and SOS Outreach plan to expand development and fundraising to support additional organic and geographic growth. They see a need to help underserved youth in an environment that is not only attractive to active minds and bodies, but is highly instructional. Learning to ski or snowboard, to set out on expeditions as a team in often changing outdoor conditions creates an environment where change is the norm, cooperation is key, decision making skills are quickly honed, and leadership emerges quickly. Young minds and bodies are presented with the opportunity to grow and learn in a non-threatening and downright thrilling environment. They blossom and learn their potential quickly. Anyone with young kids or teenagers knows that removing their inherent resistance to this sort of experience is key to progress and success.
CiviCore is excited to have been supportive of SOS Outreach’s large and growing impact on today’s young generation. For more information on SOS Outreach, visit sosoutreach.org. To learn more about CiviCore Client and Case Management systems, click here, or Contact Us.