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How a Data-Driven Approach Supports Community Engagement

By Guest Author May 26, 2021

By: Barbara Clarkson, Solutions Consultant at Economic Change CIC

In 2013, just as austerity began to bite, the Stockport Homes Group noticed that several of their tenants were constantly struggling to make ends meet. They saw the need for something different than a food bank, which is designed to provide short-term emergency support, and launched the Your Local Pantry scheme.

Your Local Pantry (YLP) is a social franchise which is different from a food bank in a number of important ways: The pantries are member-run, open to anyone local, and the membership is not time-limited. They offer fresh, packaged and higher-value foods, and members can choose whatever they want. For a membership fee of £3,50, members can choose up to £20 worth of food each time they go to the pantry. YLP creates the look and feel of a little local shop with uniformed staff who manage the store by hand-held technology. This elevates the experience by reducing stigma and calms anxiety.

YLP came to our team at Economic Change CIC in 2019 because they needed a system that could be easily accessed by individual pantries to record memberships and visits on a day-to-day basis. YLP wanted to know which members of the community are benefitting from the service and how many families and children are being supported. Being able to report on this data in an easy-to-read format was very important, as was having robust induction and training resources for the volunteers who run the pantries.

Your Local Pantry creates the look and feel of a little local shop which elevates the experience by reducing stigma.

Tracking Operations With Real Time Data

After listening to the needs of YLP, we decided that the focus of this project with their team would be to set up the membership processes, build out a community to track the operation of the Pantries, and scale the system.

We created a customer community on Experience Cloud for 50 pantry managers and senior volunteers to manage their pantry operations, including induction and training for pantry managers. With this community portal, each Local Pantry can access and add real-time data for visits and payments which can be linked back to existing or new members. Salesforce’s mobile capabilities allow volunteers to log into the community via tablets and to record the relevant data for each visit. “This community is a very big reason that the YLP franchise is so popular,” says Kathryn Cheetham from YLP. “The volunteers find it easy and intuitive to use.”

Our team at Economic Change customised a back-end membership management system to allow for Pantry members and their payments to be tracked. The tools we used included’s Nonprofit Success Pack functionality around management of households, as this is particularly relevant to the work that YLP does. Each Pantry location was set up as a separate organisation which allows the members, visits, and payments linked to each particular Pantry to be tracked and reported on over time.

Sustainable Set Up for Growth

Another key part of the project was to build a suite of reports which allowed the team to highlight the work and impact they have on the communities they work in. In December 2019 when the community was rolled out, YLP had 500 visits to five different Pantries. In March 2021 they recorded 9,500 visits to 35 Pantries. The pandemic had an obvious effect on the number of people needing to make use of the Pantries, but the Salesforce system allowed them to record those visits and report on a number of heartwarming statistics, which can be found in the full impact report of YLP.

Your Local Pantry member is taking groceries from the shelves.
For a membership fee of £3,50, members can choose up to £20 worth of food each time they go to the pantry.

The set up of Salesforce in this case was not a hugely complex development but shows clearly how it can be used to support community programmes. It gives them the tools they need to improve on the work they do and to demonstrate their reach and impact. This system can be maintained by the organisation themselves with minimal input from a consultancy, reducing the need for ongoing costs. Salesforce offers affordable licences and provides the volunteers who run the Local Pantries access to the data they need to continue their valuable work.

Economic Change sees the impact that Salesforce has on charities everyday through the work that we do, but the work we’ve done with YLP demonstrates how a simple solution can go a long way in making a huge impact on the communities that are being supported, especially in these difficult times.

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About the Author

Barbara Clarkson, Solutions Consultant at Economic Change CIC
Barbara Clarkson
Solutions Consultant at Economic Change CIC

Barbara came over to England in 2008 after completing her Law degree and worked in the charity sector for nearly 10 years first as a rowing coach and then as a project manager when the appeal of outside work waned.

She completed the Salesforce Supermums course in 2017 while on maternity leave with her second child (part of the second ever cohort) and after gaining her Administrators Certification joined Economic Change as a solutions consultant. She moved onto the Business Development team shortly before number 3 arrived as it was a better fit for the chaos of really being a supermum. She relaxes by running a long way and throwing weights around.