The Aunt Bertha Blog

New Feature Spotlight

At Aunt Bertha, we are always adding new and exciting features to make Aunt Bertha better and more effective for our awesome users. November was no exception with the addition of new enhancements that make it even easier to find specific programs and suggest new programs that may not already be in our database.



Find Programs or Agencies Easily

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Now when you type in the name of a program, Aunt Bertha will suggest programs and providers that you are likely looking for.

Benefits:

  • Quickly find programs
  • Fewer clicks to get to the program you're looking for
  • See multiple programs offered by one provider

 

Quickly Suggest New Programs

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When you suggest a program, you can see if the program is already listed in Aunt Bertha.

Benefits:

  • A shorter and more user-friendly form
  • Identifies programs already in the database
  • Allows you to view those programs

Are there other features you wish were in Aunt Bertha?  Want to help make an awesome product even better? Suggest changes or enhancements by sending an email to customer@auntbertha.com

 

Topics: new features

Open Enrollment Now Open!

Open Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has begun.  

Here are 5 things you need to know:

1.  Time is limited!  Open enrollment began on November 1, 2016.  The last day to enroll or switch plans is January 31, 2017.  After January 31, the ability to enroll in insurance is limited to people who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period as a result of experiencing a qualified life event such as losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby, or adopting a child. Unfortunately, illness is not considered a qualified life event, so make sure to enroll on time.

Reentry coordinators take note: Release from incarceration is also considered a life event. However there is only a three month window to get coverage, so it should be addressed soon after release.

2.  Update your application. “It’s important to update your application every year,” says Nora Cadena of Foundation Communities, a nonprofit offering support services to individuals and families in Central Texas.  “Life happens and your life in 2017 will probably be a little different than it was when you enrolled back in 2015.”  

3. Help is available.  Insurance is complicated.  If you need coverage for yourself or someone else, you don’t have to figure it out on your own.  You can avoid the marketplace call center and talk directly with counselors who know your community.  “We live here,” adds Cadena, “so we know the hospitals, the doctors, the networks the prescription costs. We know how things work in Texas and can help you choose the right plan.”  

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4. If you can’t afford insurance, you can still get coverage.  Health insurance is required for everyone. The cost of available plans ranges depending on various factors, including income and family size. Individuals who can't afford the premium still have options.  In addition to financial assistance that can make health insurance more affordable for qualifying individuals, there are other programs that can help in the interim with health care coverage.  

5. You can’t be turned down for a pre-existing condition.  Under the Affordable Care Act, you cannot be turned down for insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

To find an organization in your state that provides assistance with open enrollment and other healthcare options, search AuntBertha.com.  

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Why do hospitals struggle to manage social needs of patients?

At Aunt Bertha, we continually are on the lookout to understand what does and does not work when it comes to helping people in need connect with social services, which led us to conduct a survey of hospital executives through our partnership with GLG Social Impact. The survey assessed hospital executive’s perspectives on the role that community-based social services play in supporting their missions and their capacity to connect and track when these services are received.  The survey shows that 95% of hospitals face difficulties with tracking and measuring utilization of referrals to social need-based agencies and 60% of hospitals do not have a solid tracking method in place.

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Perspectives on Social Needs in Communities

The need for help is not limited to the income level of the patient.  While all hospitals had patients in need, more than 20% of population needs additional support at 63% of the hospitals studied. When hospital executives were asked how they would describe a patient population that needs social help,  the reasons went far beyond income.  A lack of caregivers at home, an aging population, a lack of support once a patient leaves the hospital, and a lack of knowledge of services available to help were all cited.  Each patient population has a unique combination of needs that a hospital has to serve and monitor.

 

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Why does a systematic approach to connecting patients with social resources matter?

Hospitals are facing increasing pressure to focus on long-term clinical outcomes as quality measurement, pay-for-performance and other value-based purchasing strategies become the norm. In particular, the readmission penalties being applied by Medicare create substantial incentives for hospitals to take a more holistic view of the patient upon discharge, including addressing the social determinants of health.

The focus on addressing the social determinants of health is growing, and is expected to become increasingly important over the next 5 years.  The survey showed that 94% of respondents indicated it is important or very important to connect patients with social programs.  Respondents also closely align connecting patients with social resources to their organizational goals. 50% of respondents indicated improvements in this area will be critical to their long term success and another 33% indicated that they will become more important. However, as the survey indicates, most hospitals do not have a systematic process for making these connections and little is being tracked.

The time spent finding resources matters as well for a busy care management team.  A recent McKinsey study showed that employees spend an average of 9.3 hours per week looking for information. Until recently there were no consistent and systematic methods for hospitals to find community-based social service programs and track patient referrals to these programs, which leads to a resource burden.

Where does the difficulty in implementing a systematic approach and tracking lie?

Approaches implemented in the past by hospitals to address the social needs of their patients were informal and unstructured.  Respondents indicated that the most common methods for identifying social services agencies were information maintained on personal lists and Google searches.

Despite significant awareness of patient needs for social supports by hospital executives, more than 70% of respondents indicated that they either had a process for making referrals to social service agencies that was not systematic or that they had a systematic process that was underutilized.  About 60% of respondents indicated that utilization of referrals to social services was either not tracked and measured at all, or was tracked poorly and in a decentralized fashion.  An even higher percentage (about 65%) gave the same responses with respect to the tracking of outcomes from referrals to social services.

The most common explanation for not providing more navigation services to social programs was that it takes too much staff resources.  In addition, more than half of respondents identified the lack of software or a tool to find resources as the primary reason for not having a more systematic approach to tracking social needs support.

Best practices for Social Need referrals and outcomes 

Hospital executives recognize the need to address the social needs of their patients but are not doing so in a systematic way because they lack the tools and the data they need to support their efforts.  There are great advances in these capabilities, and the following best practices should be in place as part of any systematic approach for making referrals and tracking outcomes:

  1. Have a centralized system that makes it easy to find social program resources 
    Care management teams are extremely busy, so any new solutions must be easy to use and save time or there will be challenges with user adoption.  Making sure a solution is easy to use will not only promote adoption among a care team but also allow more staff members, such as front desk staff at a provider’s office, to help navigate patients to resources as well.
  2. Make sure program data is up to date and accurate.  
    A social program database must have depth of agency listings and be up to date and accurate.  This will also promote adoption and usage of the solution and avoid situations where trust is lost with the patient if a referral is made with inaccurate information.  
  3. Empower patients to self navigate 
    There will be times when a patient has a new social need that happens when they are not engaged with a staff member.  There may also be sensitive needs with relation to human service needs that patients are not comfortable sharing with hospital staff.   Empowering patients to self navigate solves these challenges and still allows for information to be collected on human service needs.
  4. Collaborate with the social program agencies you are referring patients to 
    Nonprofit and government human service agencies have their own missions and goals, many of which align with the missions and goals of hospitals.  Both have missions that center on helping people in need to achieve better outcomes.  Collaborating with local agencies to refer patients into can help in meeting patient’s humans service needs and in some cases help with referrals tracking.
  5. Create reporting that shows which referral activities are impacting outcomes.
    A centralized human service referral system can provide a wealth of data that includes specific areas of human service needs for your patient population, which agencies are being referred most often and how many times they were able to provide help, and which employees are regularly making referrals.  Tieing this information to patient health data can show which human service activities are having the greatest impact, guiding best practices for staff members.  

How can Aunt Bertha help?

 

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Extensive, easy-to-navigate data

Aunt Bertha's software for hospitals and health plans helps to more effectively and efficiently connect patients to agencies that assist with food, housing, transportation, and other services.  This provides a quick and consistent process for social program referrals.  

The interface is also easily used by patients who are ready to self-navigate the process.

 

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All activity is recorded so referrals and areas of greatest need for a patient population can be seen in real time in our analytics dashboard, allowing executives to spot trends, analyze gaps and determine which social interventions have the greatest impact.  

 

 

 

Download Study and Best Practices   Request a demo ›

Topics: reporting analytics social determinants of health

Reporting for Impact

 

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Imagine how much more you could do, if you knew with certainty exactly what resources your patients or community members are looking for, and whether or not your community has the programs to help them.  Our new reporting gives key stakeholders even more insight into this mission critical information

By partnering with Aunt Bertha, you have access to individual search data on the site so you can get a real-time understanding of the  the needs of people in your community.  Combined, this data paints a picture of what resources are in the highest demand, and where gaps may exist between those needs and available services.
 
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With these interactive dashboards decision makers are empowered to answer questions like:

What was the top search in my county this week?
 
How many people searched for housing in my state last month?
 
How many programs are available to people living in my county? 
 
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Another key feature of the new reports is the ability to track not only searches for resources, but also additional steps that users take to move towards accessing a program. 
 
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The "Engagement Activity" dashboard allows users to see when people explore more information about a specific program, take a next step to reach out (such as clicking a phone number or getting directions), and also when users refer themselves directly to a program using our "Connect" feature.  These additional pieces of information offer more insight into whether or not people find the resource they are looking for.
 

Our goal here at Aunt Bertha is to make sure that you take advantage of this wealth of information available to you. To learn more, request a reporting demonstration below.

 
Request a Reporting Demo
 

Stake Your Claim! Help keep program information up-to-date

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A key challenge to connecting people with social services is keeping resource information current. Because program offerings and funding change constantly, it is not uncommon to gather a binder full of resource information that becomes outdated after just a few months. "Keeping up-to-date with new resources that can help our clients is definitely difficult," shares Runi Limary, Director of Programs at the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Austin, TX.  "Trying to maintain that data over time is even more challenging because things are constantly changing."

Aunt Bertha works with providers to solve this problem by allowing users to claim and maintain their program listings.  

 Claiming allows organizations to: 

  • Update listing details to ensure accuracy 
  • Indicate resource availability and capacity
  • Attach a screener to make it easier for potential clients to determine their eligibilty and to take the next step to reach out
  • Suggest or remove programs as needed

Providers who claim their programs also get access to a free dashboard that shows the number of times each of their programs has been returned in search results.  This information can be used to support program planning or fundraising efforts.

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Anyone who works at an organization can claim programs using their work-affiliated email address.  

Ready to claim?  Click below to find your program and get started...

  Claim my listing!

If you would like support with this process or have questions, email support@auntbertha.com.

 

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Close the Loop Without Jumping Through Hoops

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to directly connect to social services anywhere in the US... with the click of a button? Now you can.

For years, Aunt Bertha has made it easy to find social services resources through our online database. Now we're taking the next step to seamlessly connect people to programs, saving people time and closing the gap between discovery and action.

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Introducing, Connect! - a new feature offered by AuntBertha.com.

When someone reaches out through the Connect button on any program listing, the agency will receive a notification about the inquiry and can reply directly to the person in need. Agencies also have the opportunity to add additional questions to the form so it's tailored to their intake process. The agency can then reply through Aunt Bertha to share additional information and collect required documents.  Anyone can use the Connect button, whether for themselves, as a seeker, or on behalf of someone else, as a helper.

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Each person involved, the seeker, the helper and the agency have a dashboard where they can update the status of the connection.  The status reflected in one party's dashboard is updated across the other relevant dashboards as well. For example, if the agency changes the status in their dashboard and denotes a seeker's application is "in review", that information will be reflected in the seeker's and helper's dashboards as well. This allows for easy and more transparent communication across all groups, and helps to close the loop. Over time, the dashboard also becomes a place that logs a history of all the open and past connections for each person. 

We know that finding and connecting to social services can be challenging, and even scary. We also know that there is a big gap in closing the loop, assuring services were received. Our hope is that by making it as easy as possible to connect and communicate, it will help us all to acheive our ultimate goal: knowing people have found the help and support they need.

Topics: new features

Aunt Bertha Raises $5 Million Investment to Democratize Human Services Search and Referrals

Series B funding led by Techstars Ventures allows company to extend lead as the number one search platform for social service search, referrals and application processing.

Austin, TX, June 7, 2016 - Aunt Bertha, the social services search and referral platform, today announced a $5 million Series B round of financing led by Techstars Ventures (TSV). Jason Seats, partner at TSV will join Aunt Bertha’s board.

“There’s a lot of unnecessary suffering going on for many Americans including veterans, those with low income, and those with complicated medical conditions. Many don’t know about government or charitable programs that can help,” said Aunt Bertha CEO Erine Gray. “The growth capital will help us extend our lead as the number one search and referral platform for social services. We’ll also continue to partner with the most innovative health care organizations, community foundations and governments.”

Techstars has a long history of building successful software platforms, including investments in Uber, Twilio and Sendgrid. “After my trip to Boulder, CO to meet the Techstars team, it was clear that they were the partners we wanted to work with,” said Gray. “Our company cultures were aligned.”

AuntBertha.com, a social services search and referrals platform, is available to everybody in the United States - everywhere - from New York City to small towns like Ashland, VA. The Austin, TX based team has spent the last five years indexing the country’s health and human services programs, including those provided by charities and government agencies. AuntBertha.com is easy to use and free to the public. To date more than 207,500 people have used the platform - either to help themselves, or to help others.

“What we liked about Aunt Bertha was that they found a way to provide a valuable service to folks in need but also put together a business model to support it. We were impressed with their customer list, which includes some of the country’s most well-respected hospitals, foundations and health insurance companies.” - Jason Seats, Techstars Ventures.

The company sells a premium version of it’s platform to employers of large groups of social workers and case managers. The enterprise version makes it simple for employees of these organizations to find social services on behalf of their clients, make referrals to agencies that can help and report on activity and outcomes.

“I first met Erine and the team in 2013,” said Liz Luckett, president of The Social Entrepreneur Fund (TSEF), an investor and Aunt Bertha board member. “The team has dedicated their careers to fixing problems in health and human services and have the experience and customer insight to deliver. They’re using data and reporting to communicate public health insights that could fundamentally change how services are delivered. It’s going to be exciting to watch.”

About Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha is a search platform for finding and applying for social services in the United States. People in need, case managers and social workers can find and apply for government and charitable services in seconds. The company also provides enterprise tools for organizations that employ large groups of social workers. Aunt Bertha is a privately held company based in Austin, TX, founded by Erine Gray. For more information, please visit https://www.auntbertha.com.



 

For Complex Care Management, Camden Coalition Finds the Right Resources – Fast

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What if health care professionals working with medically complex patients could easily coordinate holistic care plans to meet all of their patients' social service needs in their community? Would it decrease the patients’ chance of being re-admitted to the hospital? Could it eventually lower healthcare costs for the entire system?

A new project launched by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers may provide answers. For over ten years, the Coalition has worked to improve the access, quality and capacity of health care in the city of  Camden, New Jersey.

The Coalition’s multidisciplinary care teams support frequently-hospitalized patients with complex care needs. They  work with the individuals in a short-term intervention to stabilize their health. Many of the patients served by the care teams are taking multiple medications, have two or more chronic medical conditions, and are susceptible to social vulnerabilities such as homelessness, addiction, and unemployment. 

 "A lot of our case managers are skilled and know a lot of information, but not all of that information lives within everyone. That’s impossible. So certain people have more domain expertise but this allows that information can be shared. So the knowledge doesn’t have to live within one person." 

Laura Buckley, Social Work Manager for the Coalition, outlines the challenges of keeping medically complex patients in Camden healthy and out of the hospital. “Certain patients can have unstable housing, and when people are unstably housed, it can be difficult to coordinate their health care. For others it may be the exacerbation of mental health and addiction. The struggle to connect to those resources can increase the likelihood of [the patient] being readmitted. Because discharge planning in the hospital often can happen so quickly it can be a challenge to make sure that everyone is on the same page."

The Coalition’s care teams help patients navigate an overwhelming and fractured system, empowering them to not only address their medical issues, but social barriers as well. 

The journey begins at the hospital where care teams meet patients at bedside. Patients and Coalition staff discuss the patient’s health goals based on areas of need that the Coalition calls "domains of care." Examples of these domains are "housing and environment,” “education and employment," or "food and nutrition." Coalition staff learn the patient’s personal story and collaborates with them to connect with the best programs to support their stated goals.

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For the last decade, this has largely been facilitated by experienced case managers, using note cards to guide their patients through the process of attaining their goals. Without a centralized, up-to-date resource library, care teams had to rely on their own specialized knowledge to connect patients to services.

Over the last several months, the Camden Coalition and Aunt Bertha have collaborated to develop an online tool that links them directly to the social services they need to support their patients. The tool guides a user through the same domains of care and interventions, but now, when the case manager selects an intervention, they can enter the patient's zip code, and the programs that support their specific intervention immediately populate.

The new online tool allows care teams to create an integrated care plan that supports the patient's social needs in addition to their medical care. "We’re still asking what goals they want to work on,” says Buckley.  “Once they identify a few things, we can use Aunt Bertha to link them [to programs] or start that plan... It doesn’t change the questions that we’re asking but it helps us to find an answer sooner."

The tool allows for shared knowledge across an interdisciplinary team. "A lot of our case managers are skilled and know a lot of information, but not all of that information lives within everyone. That’s impossible,” says Buckley.  “Certain people have more domain expertise but this allows information to be shared. So the knowledge doesn’t have to live within one person." 

To support and empower their patients, the Coalition provides their patients with a resource binder and their own link to Aunt Bertha where they can search for additional resources. Buckley says that she is hoping that by empowering patients to find their own resources, they'll be able to support themselves. "A lot of times patients do have smart phones. [Aunt Bertha] is an added benefit – a resource pocket guide that they can have on them at all times. It ensures sustainability of the intervention and helps empower our patients to find the resources and access the resources they need when we’re not there, which is the ultimate goal."

Interested in using Guided Search?
Request a Demo

 

Capital Area Food Bank Leverages Aunt Bertha's Technology to Break Down Barriers


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Photo courtesy of CAFB

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity. As the CAFB has worked for the past 36 years to strengthen the safety net under the region’s most vulnerable neighbors, it has provided nourishing food and other resources to over 540,000 people living in our nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Many of those residents visit pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profits who receive food from the CAFB; but sometimes, a neighbor in need doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

For those emergency moments, the CAFB had, until 2015, operated a Hunger Lifeline, whereby community members would call a number to be referred  to the food assistance partner by a CAFB team member on the other end of the phone line. Though well-intentioned, over time the CAFB noticed that these referrals were creating red tape for their callers as they could not receive services without making that call. When the CAFB realized that they had become a gatekeeper, more than a gateway, they knew they had to make a change.

So in 2015, the CAFB did away with their referral system entirely and launched the Food Bank Network, an online search portal for social services, powered by Aunt Bertha. The Food Bank Network is free to the public and offers resources that go beyond food assistance, such as housing, transit, goods and health programs. “It empowers individuals to find the services they need on their own time, with their privacy intact. And it ensures that those resources are up to date," says CAFB’s Director of Marketing, Kirsten Bourne.

And empowered, they are. Before the implementation of Food Bank Network, the CAFB averaged 600 calls to their Hunger Lifeline every month. Following the launch of the Food Bank Network, calls dropped to an average of 50 calls per month. During the same period, the Network has averaged 2,176 online searches per month.

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Because the Food Bank Network captures information for a broader range of services, CAFB can work with their nearly 450 partners to support their community in a deeper, more holistic way.  “We are much more sophisticated about the data we have in terms of need... and are able to better understand the pressing issues facing people that are living in poverty and help organizations unite to face those challenges,” says Bourne. “Food is the hook to bring people into literacy, job training programs and housing.”

Paula Reichel, DC Director of CAFB elaborates, “People and nonprofits oftentimes operate in silos; the [Food Bank Network] is bringing awareness to the very essence of what we are – a network…”

Through her work, Reichel has found that people of all backgrounds and occupations are providing resources for their fellow community members. “Whether it’s policemen, librarians or even teachers with food in their desk, Food Bank Network is a tool for anyone.”

To learn more about what services people are looking for in the greater Washington DC area, download our free report.

Download Washington DC Report  

Topics: data Community building empowerment

Population Health Reporting

Organizations taking a vested interest in population health face a handful of challenges when it comes to identifying the social service needs of their members and/or patients. Historically, it has taken a considerable amount of work to find and organize domestic programs in the United States. Until now, the information on these services has either been scattered or siloed. Aunt Bertha aggregates domestic free and subsidized programs that are direct service from respective county, state, and federal levels.

Whether you are a local nonprofit or a multi-billion dollar health care organization, teams must confront the difficulty of better understanding the social services offered in their local communities, and their patient's respective needs. The inability to do so, can result in a multitude of negative consequences; ranging from expensive readmissions costs to missing the root cause of a member’s problem altogether.

If you are an agency providing a social program, you may understand the demand for your specific offerings, and respective capacity to perform these services. This is helpful, but do you know the number of individuals searching for programs similar to yours in your county? How about how many are searching last week or today?

Currently, most organizations are making anecdotal assumptions about their comminity's needs - or using academic reports that are out-dated. Are you scrambling every time a grant is due? Are you walking around with a pen and pad asking your employees how many people they served last year? In the past, the technology and systems simply haven’t been in place to understand these patient/member communities.

In real-time, Aunt Bertha tracks data related to the demand for specific social programs and the number of resources available to meet those demands. Our inventory reporting helps you clearly understand the current organizations offering programs by geographic location. Nationally, we have a plethora of programs across thousands of domestic providers. 

 Social Service Programs Across the US

Image: Aunt Bertha's customers can see - in real-time - the number of programs of all types in their community through an interactive reporting dashboard powered by Tableau, a world leader in reporting and data visualization software.

Additionally, our data team keeps the information up-to-date, and is constantly sourcing more information. With Aunt Bertha’s data and analytic tools, organizations can better understand the specific social needs of the population they serve and gaps that may exist in the system causing those needs to go unmet. 

However, there’s something even more interesting that our customers are seeing.

What if you could truly understand the needs in your community - in real-time? What if you could see reports that show you the exact number of people looking for food in the neighborhoods you serve? Or what if you provide subsidized dental services and you wanted to know which neighborhoods need the help? 

We believe this kind of data can lead to insights which can change the way social services are found and delivered - and ultimately - improve health outcomes in your community.

There are innovative, forward thinking organizations already looking at their own data to help people get healthier. And we’ve gotten to know some of them. For example, a healthcare system in Baltimore realized that some of their patients just needed a ride to their appointment. If someone who leaves a hospital just shows up to their next follow-up appointment, they are less likely to end up in the emergency room. This hospital system partnered with Uber, and granted these individuals $100 credits to and from the hospital. This is an example of data driven, innovative thinking that will drive down healthcare costs.   

Want to learn more? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how Aunt Bertha's Social Service Analytics can help your organization identify trends, cut costs, and effectively guide your decision making.

  Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics