Community Service
Case Study

Northeast Iowa Food Bank

At a glance
The Northeast Iowa Food Bank (NEIFB) is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that serves a 16 county area in the state of Iowa. NEIFB is a member of the nationwide Feeding America network and has a mission to “provide nutritious food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations and individuals in northeast Iowa, while offering hunger education programs to the area and those in need.” (source: NEIFB)
 
In 2020, NEIFB provided over 8.3 million meals through their Backpack program, Elderly Nutrition program, Mobile Food Pantries, the Cedar Valley Food Pantry, and their membership network of nearly 200 northeast Iowa food pantries.
Volunteers Packing Food

Client Challenges

How could SIAi help this client?

Like many nonprofit organizations, NEIFB used various software programs for collecting, tracking, and reporting their data.

 

Their executive report was a compilation of Excel spreadsheets with data that was manually entered by several different employees across multiple departments, with formulas and links that could be broken with an errant keystroke.

Client Pain Points
  • Updating the executive report was laborious and time consuming, as well as being error prone and quickly falling out-of-date

  • Gathering information for grants required many additional hours of research

  • Comparing month over month or year over year trends was desired, but difficult

The NEIFB needed not only a better reporting process that automated data collection, but needed reports that showed the impact of their work - not just in rows and columns of numbers, but in powerful visualizations that told the story of how the food bank was accomplishing their mission of alleviating hunger in the community.
Project Goals
The Social Impact Analytics Institute had the opportunity to work with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank beginning in the fall of 2020.
 
Our goal was to implement a sustainable data process that would:
  • automate data collection
  • reduce manual entry
  • create impactful data visualizations
  • ultimately save the time of NEIFB’s employees so it could be better spent in pursuit of their organization’s goals.

Our Process

We began by using Tableau and connecting it directly to the Primarius software database the food bank was already utilizing. Though it took time to find the specific tables, queries, and connections needed to track their metrics, once those connections were in place, it helped with the first step of our plan - automating data collection. Tableau calculated fields and dashboards were used to reduce manual entry and create a data process that provided up-to-the-minute information and reliable, efficient calculations. 

Stock Market Data
The Results

Working within Tableau, we took the data a step further and created visualizations that showed it in new and insightful ways. 

  • Trends could be easily seen that prompted further investigation and follow up. 

  • Year over year comparisons were available with the click of a button and showed both growth as well as areas of concern. 

  • Dashboards summarized data for quick access, with drilling down available as needed.

The improved reports translated the data from numbers that sit on a page into charts and graphs that tell a story. This story can now be passed on to NEIFB’s decision makers, board members, donors, volunteers, community members, and other supporting organizations.

Healthy assortment of yellow foods

Our work is ongoing

While we love a good project like refactoring executive reports, it’s also important to us that our contributions to the food bank - and any organization we partner with - continue to provide value after the project is complete. We are available to answer questions, offer support for our data services, or even attend a virtual bonfire of the reams of spreadsheets your organization will no longer need after your data projects are done!

How can SIAi help you?

As a nonprofit organization, your mission is critical, and your time is valuable. SIA Institute’s mission includes being part of the social solution by offering a range of sustainable data services - provided by a team of experienced data professionals - to nonprofits for free or at a reduced cost. Contact us today!

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