Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee (SHFB) Achieves 100% of Rollout Goal During COVID
Why did you choose Link2Feed?
We chose Link2Feed because of a combination of the features available for the right price in comparison to other software options.
We started in 2019 with CSFP and our internally managed Emergency Food Box (EFB) program, then started rolling out to Partner Agencies in 2020.
How were you managing your client data tracking and reporting needs prior to Link2Feed?
Our EFB program used an older system for client intake that didn’t meet our needs anymore. Everyone really appreciated the change to Link2Feed because we have a dedicated account manager and technical support team to turn to. Our Partner Agencies had simply been reporting monthly service numbers for individuals and households served. They tracked client intake and food box distribution in their own unique ways.
How did you prioritize agencies for rollout? How did you get agencies to adopt Link2Feed?
We did individualized outreach to the agencies we thought would be the most willing or have the most capacity. We didn’t really need to push it too hard since there were enough who wanted to learn more and were eager to adopt the new system. After our initial onboarding phase, we sent information about Link2Feed to all Partner Agencies and found that many more were interested.
How did your communication with your agencies change during COVID?
COVID didn’t deter us from getting our agencies onboarded. We began communication with our Partner Agencies during the summer of 2020 by explaining the benefits of Link2Feed and how crucial understanding data had become especially throughout the pandemic.
Our goal was to start with 30 agencies and we achieved 100% of our goal during the first year of the pandemic.
How did you onboard and manage training during COVID? Did you go on-site or use virtual trainings?
We did all of our Link2Feed training virtually with about 10 agencies in each.
The trainings include high-level information about Link2Feed, the importance of tracking data, how it would impact our programs and a live training on the software. We carved out time during the training to address any concerns or questions that may have come up. This is really helpful as everyone participating was able to hear the others’ questions that they may not have thought of during the sessions and bounce ideas off of one another.
We also created handouts that go along with the material in the training sessions so that everyone has something to review.
We prefer the group training with multiple agencies. I’ve done some 1-on-1 trainings which are also helpful, but I think agencies benefit from the group setting.
Our goal for the future is to develop more in-depth training by incorporating more of the information Link2Feed provides such as user manuals and videos.
What has it been like working with Link2Feed?
It’s been great! The support team at Link2Feed is really quick to respond and their advice is always helpful.
Our account manager is always accessible to us. We reach out to them on a regular basis with new questions from training sessions as we learn more about the software and they always go above and beyond to answer our questions and provide feedback.
I really like being able to tell our agencies how Link2Feed is constantly working on improving their software too. It really sets them apart and I’m excited to see what further customization options they offer in the future!
How many agencies are currently using Link2Feed? What do your agencies think of Link2Feed?
We will have about 35 Partner Agencies using Link2Feed by July 2021 and are continuously training and onboarding additional agencies. The agencies currently using Link2Feed are blown away. Not only by how much easier the platform is to use, but also by just how much information we can gather and use from the software.
Agencies are really impressed with how client records are shared across our network now as well. When they are onboarding and find out another agency in their community is already using Link2Feed, they’re even more excited to come on board and utilize the data collected.
In our network of 450 agencies about 200 are food pantries open to the general public. Our goal is have 55 pantries fully onboarded to Link2Feed for all programming by the end of 2021, and to add 55 more Partner Agencies each year for the next two years with an ultimate goal of onboarding 75% of all Partner Agencies open to the general public by 2024.
What would you do differently with your rollout if you could? What advice would you give to other food banks?
The more we use Link2Feed and learn more about how it can truly transform the way we gather information the more our processes change for training and even with just how we introduce the software. We’ve learned to communicate the benefits of data sharing between agencies differently and incorporate a 1-on-1 sessions after launch to answer any new questions that agencies may have.
Connecting agencies with other groups that have already switched over to the new software was also key for us. The snowballing effect of agencies having success and communicating those achievements to others has been really helpful. It’s been great for them to be able to connect and talk about their experiences, how they’re using the software and the process they went through coming onto Link2Feed.
I think we’ll keep the virtual training sessions going even after COVID; it seems to be easier that way. The online training didn’t deter anyone from switching software, so I’d tell other food banks to address those concerns in the initial messaging and just go ahead and do it!
What is the biggest impact Link2Feed has made on your organization?
By using Link2Feed, we now know that the way we are operating is intentional. Asking our clients specific questions for a reason; it’s so interesting what we can learn. With the more time that goes on, we’ll have more data to base our decisions around.
We’re really excited for all of the possibilities that Link2Feed is able to offer us and to start implementing more functions that can be even more useful for us like the surveys and assessments feature.
What’s an example of a way you’ve used data from Link2Feed to make a process improvement?
Using Link2Feed has improved intake processes and our processes in general. We’ve also been able to train our network to get more comfortable asking certain questions to fill the holes in our data from undisclosed or unanswered questions.
We’ve explained why it’s important to track data using Link2Feed and what we can learn from that information to better help the communities we serve.
Interview with Katie Graham, Client Data Manager at SHFB and Tracey Alderdice, Senior Director of Community Impact at SHFB. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has been using Link2Feed to support their programming since 2019 and plans to bring on 75% of all Partner Agencies open to the general public by 2024 (as of June 2021).