In the midst of COVID-19, many companies are stepping up to the plate to create initiatives to support employees and their communities at large. For some companies, this requires an extra effort to brainstorm ways to help and to adopt strategies for social impact that may not have existed before.
Other organizations, however, have social impact baked into their core. During this time, those organizations are seeing an opportunity to amplify their values and live out their true purpose of having a positive social impact.
One of those organizations is Aunt Bertha, a social care network that connects people and programs — making it easy for people to find social services in their communities, for nonprofits to coordinate their efforts, and for customers to integrate social care into the work they already do.
Millions of people use Aunt Bertha to find and connect with programs that serve them in their communities. The network is now the largest and most widely used in the United States because they have designed every aspect of their platform for the people who are seeking help, first and foremost.
Right now, many people are in dire need of social services, such as medical care, food, job training and more. In Austin, Texas alone, where Aunt Bertha is headquartered, there are 2,762 programs serving people in the areas of food, housing, goods, transit, health, money, care, education, work, and legal.
As you can imagine, Aunt Bertha is already positioned to be an extremely impactful organization during a global pandemic. We spoke to Marcy Levitan, the Director of Data Operations, and Brent Robinson, Senior Marketing Manager, to learn more about how Aunt Bertha is navigating these times.
Marcy Levitan is currently the Director of Data Operations at Aunt Bertha, a Public Benefit Corporation. She leads the data operations team, whose members research, add, and update the program data that comprises Aunt Bertha’s social care network. She believes that what makes Aunt Bertha special is the group of mission-driven, seeker-focused people who have come to the company from a wide variety of backgrounds with the common goal of helping others.
Prior to joining Aunt Bertha, Marcy worked at Indeed.com. Over the course of a decade, she worked in office management, customer support, and operations. As the Director of Aggregation Operations, her team was responsible for aggregating Indeed’s job content from across the internet. She’s immensely proud to have helped scale the company and overseen her team’s global expansion into Ireland and Japan.
Marcy believes strongly that access to information through technology has the power to improve people’s lives; from ‘helping people find jobs‘ to ‘connecting all people in need and the programs that serve them, with dignity and ease.’
We asked Marcy how Aunt Bertha’s areas of focus have either changed or been made more of a priority in the midst of COVID-19. Here’s what she said:
“Luckily, based on what we were already doing and positioned to do with our day to day and week to week, we didn’t have to change focus a lot. Some of the biggest changes that we made were pivoting from some of the work that we had already pre-scheduled to tackle certain types of program additions that we were maybe not as focused on before. Certain programs became a high priority in light of the crisis response. We backlogged a lot of our existing work and immediately pivoted about 90% of the team to googling and researching all of the programs that we could possibly find that were popping up in response to the COVID crisis. That’s really different from what we do day to day because typically we’re processing more inbound requests like customers and community-based organizations proactively reach out to Aunt Bertha and they say, “Hey, we have a list of resources we want you to add or make changes to,” or “Hey, you don’t have us listed yet.” We shifted to more of a proactive strategy, with the thinking being “Okay, we’re going to be the first people to have any kind of awareness of these programs popping up. So let’s go out and do that research ourselves.”
Our product team who is responsible for creating customized versions of the Aunt Bertha site for our customers took some time away from that and spent resources in spinning up findhelp.org. We recognized that in addition to finding all of the special programs that were popping up to respond to the crisis, we needed a good way to surface them to seekers and to helpers. So the creation of findhelp.org definitely diverted some of our regular approach.
The customer success teams who deal with our customers and the community engagement teams who deal with the community based organizations also put a pause on their existing work and started proactively reaching out to customers to find out what they’re doing in response to the crisis.
So, while at first we had to do a bunch of research to find programs, we quickly started to receive a flood of inbound requests, such as “We’ve just created this additional location for our food pantry,” or “Typically we would offer the service in person, but we’re switching it to remote, so can you update our program listing to reflect that information?”
So there was sort of a first wave of the data operations team going out and proactively trying to find all of the new information. And then as our customer success teams and community engagement teams were able to do that outreach and respond to the flood of inbound requests to help get their program information up to date.
Finally, we moved to having a daily stand up with a large majority of the leadership, team leads, and everybody that is even tangentially involved in anything that was touching COVID-19, just to ensure we were treating this with an all hands on deck approach and making sure that we were constantly available if customers needed us.”
Marketing and storytelling during COVID-19
Similar to the core mission of Aunt Bertha, the marketing and communications strategy has not so much shifted as it has been elevated. Prior to COVID-19, Aunt Bertha already had a team of journalists out in the field all over the country uncovering and sharing social care stories. Now, during COVID-19, they have put an increased focus on stories about how people and organizations are affected and adapting. These Profiles from the Pandemic highlight a diversity of experiences taking place, and help to spread the word about important social care organizations and movements.The latest profile highlights Oakland at Risk, which matches high-risk residents with neighbors who are ready to offer support.
Leadership at partner organizations
Aunt Bertha works with a ton of nonprofits and social care providers. According to Marcy, what all the partner organizations have in common in terms of leadership is a focus on the greater good, rather than a sole focus on how they can further the needs of their own organization. This is a time when people, communities, and the organizations that serve them need to put everything aside and focus on how we can collectively rise to face the current challenges. Thus, Aunt Betha is seeing organizations that have not worked closely with one another before coming together to reinforce each other’s missions. For example, there has been a partnership forged between an organization for victims of domestic abuse and an organization for victims of child abuse, as these two forms of abuse often happen in tandem and require simultaneous care.
Positive leadership in the workplace
Aunt Bertha’s positive leadership does not only extend outwards. During this challenging time, organizational leadership has found creative ways to support employees while supporting the mission. Just as Aunt Bertha strives to connect people in need to social services that can help, the team is hyper-focused on fostering connectivity amongst employees right now. Even though social distancing means employees can’t be together physically, employees are still finding ways to stay connected, including a dance slack channel to celebrate wins, and an optional all hands for employees to receive updates and ask questions.
Marcy shared that she has seen a clear increase in human connection amongst employees, with more people reaching out more thoughtfully to one another. One colleague has made it her goal to reach out to someone different every day, just to ask how they are doing. In these ways, employees are turning Aunt Bertha’s mission of social care inwards, and really taking care of one another.