The Aunt Bertha Blog

Data On The Need for Social Program Diversity

I was recently asked why Aunt Bertha places such a high value in having a depth and breadth of free and reduced cost agencies listed in our database.  “Don’t people just need to know 10-20 really good resources they can send patients to if they have complex social needs?”

The short answer is: No. Data repeatedly shows that a small number of programs, even really good programs, do not meet the diverse needs of an entire community.

One of the great things about Aunt Bertha is that with over 25,000 users conducting over 135,000 searches and referrals every month we get a unique view of needs and search patterns throughout the country.   This real, demand side data tells an interesting story.

data use.png

We took a look at one of our client’s activity in the Washington DC area and found that in February alone 716 unique programs were clicked on or referred to and the top 20 programs only accounted for 35% of total activity.  

Of the organizations I speak with I have heard two consistent themes that may explain this:

  1. There is diversity in the population they serve which could have wide variation in income, age, and other factors that create a variety of social needs.  So a senior with mobility problems will have needs that differ from a single mom that is struggling financially.  
  2. Healthcare organizations that increasingly serve people from a wider and wider geographic area.  Many hospitals see patients not only from multiple zip codes or counties, but in some cases from multiple states.

Some medical conditions and treatments are common, but each patient is unique which is why there is a diversity of treatments, medications and specialists available.

DataTeam.jpgNot all people who need social assistance will be able to be served appropriately by the same programs. For this exact reason, Aunt Bertha has invested heavily in our data operations and will continue to do so. If we list a program that only a few people get that help from every year - it’s worth knowing about that program and it’s worth listing.

We’re constantly forming partnerships with key social program agencies in your community and have technology and strategies to support this.  Reach out to us to find out more about how we can help you help the clients you serve.

Request a demo ›

Topics: need-based programs data social programs

Improved Search Filters Make Finding the Right Program Easier

Our team at Aunt Bertha is creating much more than just the most comprehensive social services directory in the United States. We are committed to our mission of actually connecting people in need and the programs that serve them.

One of the ways we do this is by designing product features that bring our users closer to finding programs that are the best match for their needs. We recently re-designed the location, look and feel of our search filters with the goal of making it easier to narrow in on the right programs that are available at the right times and fit with an individual's personal situation and income level.

We moved the filters up to the top of the search results, so that they are more obvious to our users. We also separated the filters into three tabs based on the kind of content they focus on.

These three tabs include:

  • Program Filters: Details about a program
    • Includes hours that a program operates, whether it is free or reduced cost, and any specific languages a program supports

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 1.03.45 PM-1.png

  • Personal Filters: Details about who a program serves
    • These filters change based on your search -- what programs we found for you and who those programs serve. For example, below is a search for "emergency food," in Austin, TX. We found some programs that specifically serve veterans and families with young children, so we added those filters to the Personal Filters list. Filtering by both would show you any programs that specialize in serving either group.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 1.03.39 PM.png

  • Income Eligibility: Asks for household income and size to narrow down programs that are based on specific income qualifications

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 1.03.29 PM.png

You may be wondering, how does Aunt Bertha know enough information about programs to create these filters?

The answer is twofold: We do this through the hard work of rigorous data collection, combined with the engagement of providers claiming* and updating their program listings.

Both of these approaches allow us to tag programs with increasing specificity based on who they serve and how they deliver services. Our goal is to continue to improve our tagging and partnerships with providers so that users know exactly which services are a good fit for them, and spend significantly less time hitting dead ends.

*If you are a provider of a free or reduced cost social service, we want to talk with you and help you claim your listing! Email for more information.

Topics: access to social services

Helping More People via LinkNYC

The team at Aunt Bertha is proud to be part of a new endeavour to make it easier for people in New York City to find the free and reduced-cost social services that they need with a presence on the LinkNYC kiosks, the world's largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi network.
Aunt Bertha has been an active resource for New Yorkers since we launched our free social search and referral platform in 2011. Over the past 6 years we've been happy to help tens of thousands of people in New York search for the programs that can help them.  We expanded both our capabilities and our program data for New York City and the surrounding areas through work with the Robin Hood Foundation beginning in 2014. 
Our new partnership with LinkNYC is a significant milestone for Aunt Bertha, as it moves us further and faster ahead in our mission to make human services information accessible to people in need, and the organizations that serve them.  People are able to use the "Help Services" feature at any of the kiosks in the city to access the Aunt Bertha program search and find programs to help with things like food, shelter, transportation, job training, legal services, and education.  
Access to the "Help Services" feature has been live for a little over a week now, and as we've begun to analyze the search data, we are seeing searches every few minutes, and all through the night.  We have seen people search for emergency food, addiction help, and additional support, and we hope that some have found their way to one of the many amazing NYC non-profits that are doing outstanding work.
You can read more about the program in The Atlantic's CityLab article: 'New York City's Wi-Fi Kiosks Now Include a 'Yelp for Social Services'
Topics: access to social services

New! Agency Referral Dashboard

Keeping track of inbound referrals and inquiries can be a hectic process. When inquiries are handled by different people at different times, it takes a lot to set up and manage a consistent means of tracking and following up on outcomes.  

That’s why we recently launched a new feature for service providers! Now you can review and respond to referrals to your programs, then track the outcomes within one central dashboard.

In this dashboard, you can:

  • See all inquiries and referrals your program received through Aunt Bertha
  • Easily find contact information to follow up with the person inquiring
  • See who referred someone to your services
  • Quickly update the status of referrals and inquiries to close the loop

You also have additional options to accept intake forms:

  • Get exactly the information you need with each referral
  • Link to these forms from your website as an online intake form
  • Easily respond to applicants and receive their replies, right in the dashboard
Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 1.43.34 PM.png

With referral and inquiry activity being tracked for you, you can get a look at the bigger picture:

  • How many people are reaching out to your programs?
  • How many are able to receive services?
  • For those who don’t, what was the barrier?

Dig into this data via reports you can share with board members and funders to illuminate program activity.

All this is just the beginning. With this dashboard, we’re laying the foundation for a provider-focused workflow, to make it easier for you to help the people who are inquiring about your program. But we know there’s more to learn! We always appreciate feedback and the chance to learn from you, so we can continue to build our platform to better meet your needs.

If you have additional feedback, we'd love to hear it! Please reach out to us at

Topics: new features

Customized for your Community

Here at Aunt Bertha, we are lucky to partner with a wide array of amazing people and organizations who work hard every day to support members of their communities. Each organization is unique and often highlights the needs of certain segments of their communities including  veterans, seniors, families, patients or members of a particular geographic community.

Over the last several months, we have been hard at work creating new ways for you to tailor the experience that you give to your community.

Configurable Search Navigation

One way to give a more personalized experience is through the new configurable navigation bar. Instead of the standard ten categories (shown below in figure 1) the top navigation bar can be arranged, renamed, and even added-to, in order to make it easier to find the programs that your community needs the most – whether it's programs that address social isolation for seniors, childcare support for families, or the health of your community.

navigation.pngFigure 1: Standard search navigation

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 3.42.33 PM.pngFigure 2: Custom navigation with renamed categories and brand colors.

Search Result Display Order

Another way that you support your community is by directing your community members to the best resources that will help them overcome a particular challenge. 

Prioritize programs that you have invested in or vetted.  Whether a program is one of your own programs you offer to your communities or a program that you know is responsive to those in need, we can create a featured flag that will highlight your preferred programs.

Figure 3: Featured programs are tagged an displayed at the top of the search results.

You may also choose to influence the order of the programs so as to suggest certain service for the community. This process gives programs a ranking (1-100), which will then influence where on the search results the programs surface.

If you are already using Aunt Bertha's Enterprise Platform, shoot us an email at to find out how we can work with your team to provide a more customized experience to your users that reflects your mission, values and priorities.

Not using Aunt Bertha yet? Request a demo  and find out how you can easily connect your clients with the resources they need.


Topics: new features

Accessibility & Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha is committed to reducing barriers so that people can easily find and connect to social services.  A critical part of this work is ensuring that our site can be navigated by anyone looking for help – including individuals who are visually impaired or navigate sites without using a mouse. In early December, we launched some exciting changes so that our site can be more easily used and viewed by all people.  Read on to learn what accessibility changes we made to Aunt Bertha.

A finger presses an Accessibility key on a laptop.jpg

Why Accessibility?
Aunt Bertha’s mission is to help ALL people in need, and adapting our system to our users helps us reach large and often underserved populations. Our database has information on hundreds of programs designed to help these specific groups, all of which are now easier to find, contact, and use! Our new release makes navigating Aunt Bertha easier for people with both visual and physical disabilities, including users with lifelong disabilities, users with temporary injuries or illnesses, and users for whom age makes it difficult to see or manipulate a mouse. People with these needs often have a harder time using the internet to find services. By increasing the accessibility of Aunt Bertha, we are working to make a big difference in helping them find the programs they need

Accessibility & Design
Going forward, the principles of accessibility will inform all of our new features. We subscribe to the principle of General Design - the idea that designing tools and interactions that help users with the most limitations will also make the Aunt Bertha experience better for everyone, not just people with disabilities. For instance, when people on our system are filling out a form or trying to get to a page fast, they may want to keep their hands on the keyboard instead of switching back and forth to the mouse. When our users are tired from a long day, it’s important to display the information they need in an organized, logical way, with a clear hierarchy showing what is most important. People who print our pages on black and white printers need to be able to understand every button and icon without any color. We can use General Design to build accessible interfaces that also make our site better for everyone.

Accessibility Changes to Aunt Bertha

For people who are visually impaired:

  • Icons and images now have text that reads with screen readers for blind and visually impaired users
  • Form fields and labels are now better linked so that screen readers accurately read the labels when someone is filling out a form, and some labels are elaborated for users with screen readers

 For people who can't use a mouse (physically disabled or visually impaired)

  • There is now a skip navigation link to move the cursor past the top menu and directly into results
  • Our categories menu can now be more easily used with a keyboard

More to come!
We will continue to improve visibility and coherence as we design new features and redesign old ones, keeping accessibility at the forefront. We’d love your feedback, so if you have any thoughts about our accessibility, send us a message at

For more information on web accessibility, check out  

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

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 8.09.18 AM.png







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


  • 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

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 5.34.57 PM.png






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


  • 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


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.”  

Foundation Community Photo-2.jpg

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  



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.

 data_tracking.pngDownload Study and Best Practices

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.



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?



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.


data-dashboards-600.pngReporting and collaboration capabilities

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


Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 7.29.04 AM.png


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.
Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 1.20.15 PM.png

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? 
Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 3.32.26 PM.png
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. 
Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 3.32.00 PM.png
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