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.

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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.

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Topics: need-based programs data social programs

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


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.


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

Leveraging Data to Guide Funding Decisions

The holiday season is an important time to connect with loved ones, reflect on our lives, and appreciate what we have. In 2015, our founder, Erine Gray, was awarded the GLG Social Impact Fellowship for his efforts in helping make human service programs more accessible to those in need. Near the end of the year, GLG generously offered to make a contribution, in Aunt Bertha’s name, to the charity of our choice.

When organizations decide to fund programs, services, or missions, there are many different philosophies to help guide their decision making process. Initially, we leaned towards the idea of helping a local organization operating in Austin, TX. However, when we discussed this internally, our Chief Information Officer, Stu Scruggs, had a bright idea. He thought, since Aunt Bertha is a data rich organization that collects information from federal, state, and local programs nationwide, why don’t we conduct an analysis and determine the area that needs the gift most?

Aunt Bertha has data on available programs for each county around the country, and we regularly look at income and poverty rates for these respective areas. Typically, Aunt Bertha’s robust data strategy is used to help more people reach self-sufficiency, but we quickly realized the data was useful to better identify, and select a worthy recipient.

We dove right into the data, and easily determined one of the poorest counties in the country that could really use the extra help this holiday season (below).


After a little research on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate (SAIPE)’s database, Aunt Bertha quickly concluded that Shannon, South Dakota would greatly benefit from the money. The county is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and contains part of Badlands National Park. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Shannon County’s population of roughly 13,500 has over 52% of the entire population living at, or below the poverty line.” In May 2015, Shannon County was renamed to Oglala Lakota County, named for the tribal nation that lives there. After the initial research, we ran a program inventory analysis, and looked at the available resources in the specific area.

As we started looking into it, we found a few organizations doing good work in Oglala Lakota. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation stood out to us because of its reputation and mission: “Empowering Lakota youth & families to improve health, culture and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity.” Thunder Valley runs multiple projects, and Aunt Bertha helped fund the Youth Shelter Project that serves to shelter at-risk children.


Teams of all shapes and sizes take advantage of data to help drive their decision making processes. Aunt Bertha helps not only program seekers, but also hospitals and healthcare systems to better understand their communities, and successfully provide holistic care.  

Want to learn more about how Aunt Bertha can help your organization with better data? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how your organization can leverage data to identify trends, and effectively guide your decision making. 

 Webinar Registration


Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

NASW Conference 2011

Aunt Bertha loves a good party, especially when it's for do-gooders from all over the great state of Texas!

The National Association of Social Worker-Texas 2011 Annual Conference is around the corner.

October 8th-11th to be exact!

This conference will include inspirational stories of courage and resilience, discuss the opportunities and challenges of the new economy for social workers, and networking with the leaders in the business of hope!

Come join more than 1,000 of your social work colleagues at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel! This year’s conference will include the following tracks:

• Behavioral & Mental Health

• Health/Medical

• Child, Family & Schools

• Professional/Career

• Community

• Social Work Education

• Aging/Disabilities


You will have the opportunity to expand your skills through targeted training in diagnosis and assessment tools, Mediation, and Dynamics of Family Violence, and that always important topic... ethics! This year they will again be providing licensing review courses for the LBSW and LMSW exams.

The exhibit hall will provide you with the opportunity to meet with vendors who provide services to your clients or hire social workers. Whether you work in an agency or in independent practice you will benefit from knowing the resources and opportunities available in Texas.

You will receive a complimentary brunch on Saturday, complimentary networking lunch on Sunday, and the NASW/Texas Board of Directors will host a complimentary reception on Sunday to honor the annual social work award winners. You’ll then be ready to head out on the town for dinner with your colleagues! 

Register Here

Topics: human services policy houston data foundations

Why Data Matters

Aunt Bertha has always been more than a directory. She’s theAunt we all had growing up. Not only could she spout out information – but she also gives you context. Any levels of context really. Aunt Bertha could sitback on the front porch with you and philosophize about the debt crisis. She could also tell you the best job placement center to go to in the City. She'd even pack your lunch. 

We love the directory service we provide. We live and breathe this stuff. But we’re about something even bigger. What if we could use data to truly understand the supply and demand of human services? What if we could know –exactly – why City X has more food pantries than City Y when they are the same size and they have the same demand for food?

We collect 45 fields (and growing) about every program we list. It’s above and beyond the call, no doubt. But we believe it’s important because we know that good data tells us stuff.We just started to collect data for programs in Houston, TX (the fourth largest city in the United States). We recently listed 221 food programs there. Look at what we learned about Houston with just a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation. 

I believe it's something very important. 

What can we learn from this simple report?

  • Don't be hungry in Houston on a Sunday (3 pantries are open - 15 total operating hours)
That's one thing. But what can we do with information like this? Imagine if you are a charitable foundation. Imagine if you're about to fund a grant related to hunger in Houston. Wouldn't information like this be helpful when you make that decision? Wouldn't you also like to capture real-time demand? 

Stay tuned. Bertha's on it. | a directory with a brain 

---What do you think the story is about the operating hours? What would you guess? Let's start the conversation right here! (leave a comment, Sugar!) 

Send us a message ( if you want to know more about Aunt Bertha!
Topics: human services policy houston data foundations