Data Into Dollars: Aunt Bertha Makes Human Services Easily Accessible
Visits to the emergency rooms aren’t all that different than accessing social services. “People don’t get help when their problem starts — they get help when it gets real bad. And, when it gets real bad, connecting people to help gets more expensive for everyone,” says Erine Gray.
It’s Gray’s mission to help better connect people to social services they need, while cutting costs to providers and tax payers. That’s why he founded Aunt Bertha in 2010. Aunt Bertha is a comprehensive, free, online guide to human services, such as food, housing, health care, and education.
For governments and other social service providers, Aunt Bertha is cutting operational costs while increasing service delivery. Since Aunt Bertha provides an electronic alternative to the institutional memory used by social workers and case managers to connect their clients with programs, social workers are saving time and can also ensure that the information they give is accurate and up-to-date.
Plus, Aunt Bertha is saving trees. The company helps their clients (such as human services nonprofits) cut costs by limiting paper processing through a configurable online application. That means reduced paperwork and phone calls. For instance, after working with Aunt Bertha, Foundation Communities, an Austin-based housing organization, moved 47% of their applications online and cut screening time by 67%. The real upside — social workers spend less time on administrative task and are freed up to spend more time with their clients.
According to Gray, Aunt Bertha is working diligently to list every free or reduced-cost program in the country. Many of Aunt Bertha’s programs are added by sourcing data from nonprofit IRS data and health open data sets. Gray says, “Right now, the states where we have the most coverage in are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Virginia, and Florida. One exciting new development is our citywide rollout of New York City.”
Aunt Bertha is also launching a community analytics dashboard, where community leaders (from nonprofit executives to policy professionals) can determine what needs people are searching for in real-time.
“Imagine a world where community leaders make decisions on real data and need in their own communities. The impact could be something as easy as stocking the local food pantry with extra tampons for women who can’t afford them or as involved as making sure that capital budgets include more subsidized housing initiatives,” Gray says.
He adds, “We realize the power of this data – but we also know that anything significant takes a lot of work and a long time. But we’re feeling pretty optimistic that we can make a dent in the old way of doing things. And we’re having a blast doing it.”