Broken and Beautiful started as a simple desire to help women in Missouri transition back into society after prison. Now it’s a full-fledged program that works closely with both of the state’s female prisons, the Department of Corrections and 18 transitional homes.
Executive Director Dave Bonney credits Microsoft nonprofit software tools for helping his organization do more than they ever thought possible.
A fledging ministry
Bonney started visiting the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, Mo. in 2014. He was soon in charge of weekly services that focused on helping women better understand their destructive behaviors and look for alternative ways to respond.
“The odds are stacked so much against them,” Bonney said of his clients.
In 2019, Bonney quit his full-time IT job to give more time to the ministry, and in 2020, Broken and Beautiful officially became a 501c3 organization. He also joined forces with the Chillicothe Correctional Center (Missouri’s other female prison), the state’s Department of Corrections and 18 sober/transitional houses.
Broken and Beautiful provides pen pal mentors for women still in prison along with their weekly services and classes. When a woman in the program is preparing to be released, she meets with the Broken and Beautiful staff to discuss a re-entry home plan. This plan typically includes options for transitional housing, recommendations for addiction recovery programs, resources for financial assistance, transportation and more.
Initially, Bonney tracked program participants with Excel spreadsheets. Anytime a woman signed up for help, her name went on the spreadsheet. As the number of participants grew, they outpaced the organization’s ability to track anything past that initial home plan meeting.
Using Microsoft nonprofit software grants
As a nonprofit, Broken and Beautiful was eligible for free software through Microsoft’s Cloud for Nonprofit toolset. Once eligibility is confirmed, nonprofits can reach out to any Microsoft partner to obtain the free licenses. Bonney chose Boyer because the Microsoft gold-certified partner was the most responsive to his request.
With free licenses in hand, Bonney began implementing the software. His background in IT gave him a head start on knowing how to begin. He was able to do most of the work himself but appreciated Boyer’s willingness to assist in any way needed.
“You would get way more value out of contracting someone to do it right the first time than to try to do it yourself and miss out on a lot of things because there’s just so much (value) buried under there that you wouldn’t know about,” he added.
Bonney spent about 20 hours a week for 3 months configuring the system. He said having their data ready to import with the same fields they anticipated using in the system made a big difference in how smoothly the implementation went. Broken and Beautiful had a data analyst assist with setting up how the system would look.
“Once we got that basic structure set up, we could start tracking right away and then start filling in the cases and everything else,” Bonney said.
Doing so much more with Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit
Today Broken and Beautiful is working with more than 350 ladies in or transitioning out of Missouri’s two female prisons. They’ve helped nearly 800 women over the last two years.
“We would not be doing what we’re doing without the software. We could physically not. It would drive me nuts to do all this on a spreadsheet,” Bonney said.
Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise keeps tabs on everything from a woman’s assigned pen pal and parole officer to their expected release date to their preferred transitional home. The system allows the staff to set up tasks too, which helps the team walk the women through the process of applying for transitional housing, financial assistance or recovery programs.
“We’re using a lot of features within the system to track tasks and cases,” Bonney said.
Bonney said his volunteers who use the system are former offenders themselves. None have any kind of IT background, but they quickly learned how to navigate the system.
“They all can use the software. It’s very easy for them to use. The learning curve was very low,” he said. The training was minimal, and now they have IT skills they can use to get other jobs when they’re ready — one of the organization’s goals.
Bonney, who has worked with large customers in the past, was initially wary that the system’s speed might be lackluster for a small nonprofit organization — but that was not the case at all. “I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “My performance has been excellent.”
Office 365 email automation streamlines process
A lot of email automation within Microsoft’s nonprofit software goes on behind the scenes of Broken and Beautiful’s process. When a woman signs up for the program, she automatically gets the required federal disclosure forms allowing Broken and Beautiful to assist her. She is also entered in the system as a client, and any pertinent details — and tasks for the organization’s staff related to her case — are attached to her record.
“The automation behind (the system) with the emails is really good, and the integration with using our spreadsheets at the prison is really good too,” Bonney said.
Broken and Beautiful sends auto-generated weekly reports to the prisons of anyone who has signed up for their program. The prisons in turn send back updates on tentative parole hearings and release dates for those women, and the organization’s system automatically updates the records as needed.
“(The system) makes it easy,” Bonney said. “It auto updates everything.”
When the organization recommends a transitional housing option based on the woman’s needs, the system automatically sends an email to that house informing them of a pending application. The home staff can in turn update the organization of bed availability and the application’s status, and the system again auto updates the record. This allows the Broken and Beautiful staff to better assist the women throughout the entire process, including assigning tasks for any additional information needed.
Bonney’s team spends about six hours a week just managing their data. Without the Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit software, he estimates they’d be spending closer to 60 hours a week.
“It wouldn’t have been possible to do it without this software,” he said. “I would not even try.”