May 24, 2018

Doing Data Justice: A Case Study With the NC Bar Foundation

Outdated processes were leading to inaccurate data management -- which undoubtedly were leading to issues with reporting and impact management. With one new system, this association foundation found a fix.

The client: The North Carolina Bar Foundation is the charitable arm of the North Carolina Bar Association and its mission is to unite the talent and generosity of the profession to be a power of greater good for the citizens of North Carolina. The Foundation’s programs and Endowment grants support its values of access to justice, service through the profession, civic education and attorney professionalism.

The issue: The NC Bar Foundation is in a growth stage, following an internal restructuring that has brought the Foundation into its own as an organization separate and distinct from, yet still closely partnered with, the NC Bar Association. Under the new leadership of Senior Director Kim Bart Mullikin, the Foundation has established its own branding through a new website, logo, and mission/vision/value statement.

The Foundation operates a number of public service and pro bono programs that support attorneys serving in their communities, as well as operates an Endowment that provides grants to support programs that expand access to justice, service through the profession, civic education and attorney professionalism statewide. Each year, the Endowment receives 40-60 grant applications and makes 30-40 grant awards. For many years, the Endowment grant awards process has been managed and tracked with a variety of systems that included hard copy records, spreadsheets, emails, and some electronic documents. The process was cumbersome and inefficient.

“Once I took over operations and took a look at the records, it was clear we could do better,” said Bart Mullikin. “Some records were on paper, some were in Excel, some were in WordPerfect. But worst of all, because it wasn’t all together in one place, I couldn’t give our donors a clear picture of where Endowment money was going and how Endowment funds were positively impacting the community. We need to know better what we are giving to whom, and what is happening with Endowment grant funds so that we can work to raise more funding and continue to do more good work in our North Carolina communities.”

In addition to better data management, Bart Mullikin needed a system that was easy to use and wouldn’t require significant staff hours to manage.

The solution: As Bart Mullikin began her research, she discovered that while there were a variety of grants management systems on the market, few could offer her the most important items on her wish list and a reasonable price point.

WizeHive’s Zengine, however, gave her the approachable and intuitive interface she wanted for her reviewers, the automation functionality her team needed to streamline their time, and a clear value proposition.

“Some of my reviewers are not very tech savvy, so I needed a platform that was user-friendly and clear,” Bart Mullikin said. “Zengine was more user-friendly than the others that I looked at.”

The organization was also very focused on security, and WizeHive’s AWS cloud hosting and client-owned data philosophy were also of great importance.

As the Foundation went live with its first online grant application cycle, the entire Foundation staff team was impressed with the ease of use both for them and for their reviewers.

“The reviewers were all very pleased and thought it was better and easier than the old method of reviewing emails with a bunch of attachments, and slogging through hard copy applications and reports. They all actually loved the reviewer portal and thought it was very easy to use.”

With the success of their grant application program running on Zengine, Bart Mullikin is considering expanding use to host the application and review process for the organization’s annual pro bono work awards, as well. She looks forward to even more ways to use Zengine to improve the Foundation’s ability to collect, review, and harness information in a simple, streamlined way.

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