Technology Innovator of the Week: Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia

GOTR_NOVA_colorGirls on the Run of Northern Virginia (GOTR NOVA)  is a nonprofit organization, the largest Independent Council of Girls on the Run International, and 501cTECH's Technology Innovator of the Week! Their mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running

Every GOTR practice focuses on fitness, character development, positive reinforcement and having fun, while training each girl to run a celebratory 5K at the end of the season.

How do you use technology to achieve your mission?

Our program in Northern Virginia started in 2000 with two schools and 27 girls. Once our council began serving more than several hundred girls, we quickly realized we needed to replace the paper-based forms, spreadsheets, and manual processes required to deliver and manage our program. The only way to serve the growing number of girls in Northern Virginia who wanted to participate in Girls on the Run was to find smart ways to scale our operations. That meant investing in technology solutions that could automate our key processes for program delivery.

Our ideal solution would have been to implement a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system, but like most nonprofits, we don’t operate in an ideal world. Even with the free nonprofit licenses offered by some CRM vendors, we still couldn’t afford the consulting fees to configure the CRM and build out our program delivery processes.

So we started a project to map out our program deliverables and pain points, and identify a set of low-cost, off-the-shelf tools that matched our requirements and budget. We also wanted solutions that were cloud-based and platform agnostic, so employees could easily telecommute using their own computers.

We named our technology initiative “Council-in-a-Box.” In our box would be everything we needed to run the organization and extend our social impact in Northern Virginia – software, hardware, and online services. The first tool that went into the box was a real-time event management system for all of the following parts of our operation:

  • Online programs
  • Participants and volunteers
  • 5K registrations and payments
  • Online donations
  • Scholarship processing
  • Constituent communications
  • Automated lotteries for over-subscribed programs
  • Live links to team rosters and girls’ health histories for coaches
  • Electronic signatures for liability waivers
  • Back-end reporting of key metrics
  • Repository for constituent records

Over time, we added many more tools to our Council-in-a-Box including:

  • A cloud-based productivity suite for mail, calendars, intranet, documents, that lets our team connect and get work done from anywhere on any device
  • Content Management System (CMS) for building and editing our website, including a password-protected Coaches Only page for online distribution of coaching materials
  • Social media accounts for constituent engagement, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; nonprofit crowd funding platform for setting up fundraisers and collecting donations online through a third party
  • Software for building coach and volunteer online training videos
  • Smartphones and credit card readers for capturing and editing photos and video of our program in action that help tell our story, and process on-site 5K registration fees, donations, and silent auction sales via credit cards.

How does technology make your work life easier?

Finding ways to scale our operations by integrating technology solutions into our organization has increased operational and program efficiencies, and helps ensure long-term organizational sustainability.

The project greatly improved service to key constituents by:

  • Making it easy for parents and volunteers to register for the program
  • Making it easy for parents to pay for the program and obtain financial assistance
  • Facilitating good communication between parents and volunteers throughout the season
  • Creating a consistent and positive experience with the GOTR brand

The project improved our council’s operations by:

  • Enabling GOTR to extend its impact by automating key program and businesses processes
  • Capturing all required information about volunteers and participants
  • Mitigating risks through online waivers, parental consent, electronic signatures, and other best practices
  • Automating back-end reporting of participants, volunteers, revenue, and financial assistance
  • Delivering real-time reports and key metrics GOTR needs to deliver and grow the program
  • Associating constituents with program sites to better understand relationships and histories
  • Providing a central repository for all constituent records
  • Increasing revenue raised from program fees and donations

How has technology changed the way your organization does business?

As a direct result of integrating technology solutions that have reduced the workload of delivering the GOTR program, our staff of 6 full-time employees now delivers the 10-week Girls on the Run curriculum and several end-of-season 5Ks to more than 6,000 girls each year in 150+ schools in eight Northern Virginia jurisdictions. In addition to serving more girls after-school, the staff now has the extra time needed to extend our direct services by diversifying the communities we serve.

Last summer we launched GOTR summer camps at several locations – effectively adding a third GOTR season and increasing the total number of girls we serve annually by 150-200 girls. And another new initiative is underway with a nonprofit, federally qualified health center to develop partnerships with local physicians, nutritionists and counselors to promote GOTR to obese and other “at risk” girls in low-income areas. We’re also looking beyond just direct service to our constituents to indirect influence through social media campaigns that support self-esteem and healthy living for girls.

Is there a piece of hardware or software you can’t live without?

Google Appsgoogle-apps-logo 2
Everything we need to run the organization internally – Mail, Calendars, Documents, Sites (council intranet), Voice (for free calling), Analytics (website and social media metrics), Translate and more – all free with the purchase of a one-time $50 license (Google Apps Education Edition). Amazing!

Square_Logo_Landscape 2Square Credit Card Reader
We love Square. Just plug the inexpensive Square reader into the headphone jack of your smartphone, and you have an instant point-of-sale system. At our 5Ks and fundraisers we can now accept credit cards for on-site donations, auction items, and Girls on the Run merchandise. We’re raising a lot more money than in our cash-only days, and have Square-generated reports for all the processed transactions on the back end.

Registration DashboardRegister
We watch it like stockbrokers—it allows the staff to proactively monitor site registrations in real-time, and intervene to “grow teams” at schools that have more than the maximum 20 girls register for the program. Using this technology innovation, the staff was able to grow 14 teams last spring by recruiting additional volunteer coaches, allowing an additional 133 girls to participate in GOTR this season.

Topics: nonprofit technology, Girls on the Run, Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia, Technology Innovator of the Week, DC nonprofits, DMV Nonprofits, Washington DC nonprofits

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