Giving Power to Paperless Solutions by Elaine Donato, Maria Jimenez and Samantha Moreno

Hello! We are Elaine Donato, Maria Jimenez (Internal Evaluators), and Samantha Moreno (Research Assistant) from the Evaluation Department at Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles (VOALA), a large non-profit organization with over 70 human services programs, whose mission is to enrich the lives of those in need.  We have pursued the recent eco-conscious trend to reap the many advantages of switching to paperless solutions.

Lessons Learned: Some benefits of going green have included:

Supporting Funder Goals and Mission. In sharing our vision and having conversations with our funders, we have found that almost all our funders are being asked to do more with less. By adopting cost-effective methods, such as implementing a database (e.g., ServicePoint) and reducing paper management, our programs are able to provide the required data to our funders with a quick turnaround while supporting the needs of the funder and VOALA’s mission of sustainability.

In collaboration with the program’s funder, we added additional services (depicted in red text in image) into the database reflecting other grant-related activities and services provided within the program. These activities are now tracked in the database with just a “click of a box” rather than a written case note, which is a much simpler and time-efficient way of tracking data.

VOALA Runaway Homeless Youth Program Services database screenshot.
VOALA Runaway Homeless Youth Program Services database screenshot.

Boosting Staff Morale and Capacity. By training staff on how to use the database, we are able to present to them an opportunity to learn new ways to collect, enter, and manage data on clients’ progress. With time and practice, they begin to understand that collecting data in digital format increases their capacity to work more productively.

Increasing Secured Accessibility and Information Sharing. By moving into a database, program staff no longer have to sift through tons of paper to access client information. Staff can access information 24/7, which allows efficiency in different directions—the important data is tracked, gets shared among staff, and is used to meet client’s needs.

Streamlining Information for Data Accuracy. By converting hard copy documents to digital format, programs can collect more precise data about client needs and services provided, while eliminating redundancy and duplication of questions. Accurate data also helps improve the quality and credibility of services and automates program workflow processes.

Rad Resource: Leverage Technology for Informed Decision-making

By introducing staff to free, paperless avenues such as Google Forms, real-time data and analysis is easily accessible. Technology is leveraged to assist programs in not only collecting robust, cleaner data more quickly, but also providing real-time summary snapshots of progress for informed decision-making.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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