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What's being said about the Texas Connector...

According to Martha Macris, Executive Director of Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), “It is difficult to get a handle on the increase in demand [in Houston]. MAM had a 43% increase in financial assistance in 2010 over 2009. What we cannot report is how many families we could have served if we had unlimited resources (not just money, but also staff/volunteer time).”

After seeing a demonstration of the Texas Connector, the director of program planning and grant development at Neighborhood Centers, Inc. of Houston said the following. 

Texas Connector has a number of critical and core applications for nonprofit organizations like Neighborhood Centers. We are very excited about the possibilities, and the four that immediately come to mind are strategic planning, resource development, area profiling, and direct client service.

Strategic planning: Understanding demand (area demographics, needs assessments, etc.) and supply (availability of services) is critical to making informed decisions about which communities to work in. Some nonprofits mistakenly equate poverty levels with underserved or under-resourced areas, which leads to high-profile poor areas and neighborhoods being glutted with redundant services. For any community Neighborhood Centers is invited to serve, we must understand what the area really looks like and who is doing what to most effectively utilize our resources and maximize community impact.

Resource development: Every grant application, volunteer request, partner opportunity, etc., requires an in-depth knowledge of the area of service. This information is currently difficult and time consuming to pull together.

Area profiling: Our team, which does research, planning, evaluation, and resourcing (mostly federal and state grants) is constantly being tasked with in-depth profiles of many communities in and around the Houston area. Again, difficult and time consuming. Nonprofit agencies operating at or near capacity must often make trade-offs about what to work on based on rudimentary cost-benefit analyses like, “Do we have the 5 hours it will take to put together this community map, or would the time be better spent calling donors or searching grants.gov?” If this information was readily available and easy to use, then the decision doesn’t have to be either/or, and time can allocated based on real value, not just the perception of opportunity cost.

Client service: Direct service staff spend a lot of time helping clients assess their challenges (and also opportunities), creating a game plan, and linking to the appropriate services. Currently, this is primarily a Case Management function that we do in Disaster Recovery and also for families with young children through programs like Head Start, but we also have 19 senior centers and six community centers, three charter schools, etc. So the applicability is for many/all of the 250,000+ clients we serve every year, not just a subset that currently participate in Case Management. This expands our ability to provide diverse, quality services, and the ultimate beneficiaries are the families and communities served.

We can envision Texas Connector saving us significant resources in the work we currently do. We also envision it helping us plan for our future aspirations and making more informed decisions about the direction of the agency. There are probably a number of other ways Texas Connector would add tremendous value to Neighborhood Centers.

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