How Wounded Warrior Project Uses Data to Support Veterans’ Needs
By: Neal Boornazian, Marketing Vice President, Wounded Warrior Project
The inherent dangers of military service are known to every man and woman who enlists. But knowing how to heal from physical, mental, and emotional scars isn’t as straightforward. Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) was founded in 2003 — in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — to support those returning from one battle, only to find another daunting one awaiting them.
Many of these wounded soldiers had been pulled right off a foreign battlefield — and woke up in a military hospital with their lives irreversibly altered. They faced the prospect of rebuilding everything entirely from scratch, without even clothes on their backs. WWP visited them at their bedsides with backpacks full of basics — everything from socks to playing cards to pen and paper. We offered whatever we believed could bring even momentary relief. Most importantly, though, we sat down and listened to their stories.
Today, almost 20 years later, WWP directly serves more than 155,000 veterans and family members — while improving the lives of millions more through advocacy efforts. WWP’s free services and programs in mental health, career counseling, and long-term rehabilitative care change lives. We know every journey is different, so we meet warriors where they are in their recoveries and help them plan and realize their path forward.
We’ve grown from a grassroots team that passed out backpacks to a nationwide organization that directed over $200 million to life-changing programs in 2019. The ability to scale our programs and maximize our impact has been possible, in large part, due to the digitization of our mission.
Here’s how our data-driven approach has helped us move towards becoming more agile, efficient, and predictive in our support of wounded warriors.
Gathering Data to Drive Smart Decisions
We are constantly asking, learning, and deepening our understanding of how things are evolving for warriors and their families. We want to know what their concerns are in the moment, and at each step of their journey.
We’ve been fortunate to have widespread support of our work, which has enabled us to scale and grow. It’s our responsibility to then deliver results and prove impact empirically. To deliver on that, we track progress, capture data, analyze it intelligently, report on it persuasively, and distill insights that inform decision-making.
Salesforce is our primary platform for program operations and capturing information that both validates our impact as an organization and sustains our mission into the future. The Salesforce tools we use regularly include Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, Nonprofit Success Pack, and Tableau to track metrics. These tools have helped us become adept at offering the right programs that have the maximum impact for each warrior we serve.
We’ve grown and changed so much over nearly two decades, but being a data-driven organization has always been essential to our mission. Data gathering is embedded in many of our protocols. When we look at a warrior’s mental health, for example, we establish a baseline understanding of their needs — both immediately and long-term. Over the course of their journey towards wellness, we continue making assessments to understand changes, track progress, and inform care decisions.
The result is data that’s incredibly empowering on many levels. These analytics can be parsed down to give us a better understanding of the human side of these numbers — warriors that represent unique backgrounds and diverse demographics — which help us to better support them and their evolving needs. We can blend that quantitative data with qualitative observations and run illuminating reports at any juncture.
We regularly make adjustments based on this data to ensure everything we do is meeting warriors’ needs and resulting in the optimal impact. We leverage Salesforce.org’s flexibility and vast ecosystems to run our daily program operations, and rapidly add and modify programs as the needs of the veterans we serve shift.
Building a 360-degree understanding of each veteran we serve is imperative. The WWP teammates who do the important day-to-day work with warriors are constantly adding relevant information — listing health history, noting family members, and logging noteworthy touchpoints like conversations and milestone events that contribute to the bigger picture.
The result is a rich data repository for each individual that can be both representative of immediate needs and predictive of future ones. Through this, we’re empowered to make consistently better-informed assessments and decisions. In short, we’re always in the process of improving the experiences of warriors and their families, by using data to drive intelligent decisions.
Serving the Community, Focused on the Individual
Most recently, our wealth of data has sparked a new initiative to pivot our organization yet again from a program-centric model to a warrior-centric one. We know we have impactful programs that have improved — and saved — lives. Using technology solutions provides much-needed teamwide visibility into the communications and services provided to the warriors we serve.
With a diverse warrior population, we want to meet each individual’s unique needs through a holistic approach. We’re utilizing data to do that.
Our original promise to not just provide, but to listen remains our core ethos as we continue to evolve, digitize, and scale our mission in support of wounded warriors across the world.
Learn more about how Salesforce can help you to digitize your mission.
About the Author
Marketing Vice President, Wounded Warrior Project
Neal is the Vice President of Marketing for Wounded Warrior Project. As a Senior executive, he has a 20+ year record of successfully leading and building teams, relationships, brands, and businesses.
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