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ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth

POSITIVE PROGRAMS FOR YOUTH

ICAN expands programming to give local youth the opportunity to develop life skills

After 15 years of growth from a small afterschool group to a full-standing facility, ICAN wanted to ensure their new life-skills based programs were making a long-term impact on the youth it served. With the adoption of new member and data tracking solutions, ICAN has gained stronger youth and volunteer management, streamlined operations and, ultimately, significantly increased program funding.

Margaret Mead, a world-renowned cultural anthropologist, once reflected on the impact of individual actions by stating: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth founder Henry Salinas and staff at the Chandler, Arizona-based organization know the meaning of this statement well. From ICAN’s very beginning, it has been the actions of a few concerned individuals that have helped turn around the lives of thousands of Chandler youth.

ICAN began in 1991, when Salinas notices many young people were not attending the local afterschool programs—often because they couldn’t afford them. He was concerned that the lack of productive activities left youth vulnerable to gangs, delinquency, substance abuse and violence. He spoke with youth on the street and in gangs to confirm that what young people most needed was someone willing to listen to them, as well as a place where they could feel safe. His solution was to give underserved youth a chance to tour local businesses, play basketball in the park and engage in other free activities together after school hours.

“Mr. Salinas inspired several others within the community to join him in growing his dream to provide better opportunities that meet the needs of Chandler’s youth,” said Becky Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of ICAN. “Within several years, he was able to form a partnership with the local school district in order to give youth access to the school gymnasium after class. From there, ICAN grew into a full facility where we, at that time, provided afterschool programs for more than 130 youth each day.”

 Enhancing Life Skills and Targeting Results

Over time, ICAN discovered a missing link between being an afterschool provider and having a direct impact on gang recruitment, hunger, violent behavior and graduation rates. In 2006, the organization enhanced its programs to include life skills, including wraparound services to increase parent/teen family bonding and community involvement. By combining teen, family and community engagement, ICAN hopes to increase the odds of long-term, positive outcomes for youth—from kindergarten to high school.

“As we focus more on providing a comprehensive approach that gives the young people we serve long-lasting skills and experiences, we needed to ensure that our programs are evidence-based. We’ve researched and worked closely with other partners that have used similar frameworks to drive positive results,” Jackson said.

ICAN’s emphasis on evidence-based programming caught the interest of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, a foundation focused on improving the quality of life within Maricopa County, Arizona. The Piper Trust, which had previously funded several of ICAN’s programs and services, brought together multiple afterschool-based nonprofits to find a uniform way to evaluate program effectiveness and outcomes. It was through this meeting that ICAN first discovered KidTrax, a comprehensive nonprofit performance measurement and tracking system from nFocus Solutions.

A Powerful New Toolbox

From the moment ICAN first learned about KidTrax, there was a lot of excitement over the many features they would have access to. Previously, the organization had leveraged a Microsoft Access database, which took hours each day to manually update.

“KidTrax not only made tracking youth attendance easier, but it also brought a new set of capabilities to the table. It offered powerful reporting functionality, which is built into the software. Not only can we track youth inside the facility, but we can also log what programs they are participating in throughout the day,” said Aaron Harris, ICAN’s Director of Operations.

From the moment of implementation, ICAN began creating and issuing name tags for its participants, allowing staff to scan in and efficiently track each participant’s arrival to the facility, their program enrollment and more. Mobile scanning through KidTrax has also served as an efficient way to measure the frequency of visits by grade levels, making it easier to determine if specific programs are reaching the kids who need them most.

KidTrax’s enhanced reporting capabilities also support ICAN’s youth transportation program. More than 80 percent of the youth served as its facility require transportation home after the day ends. Using custom reports, staff can easily plan efficient routes to drive the kids back home, ensuring that they return safely to their families.

Focusing on Community Engagement

In addition to leveraging the powerful nonprofit management software KidTrax, ICAN also uses nFocus’ VolunteerTrax, a software module that allows the organization to better manage more than 500 volunteers. VolunteerTrax includes multiple enhanced tracking features, including the ability to create scannable name tags, manage documents, create a demographics and program preferences profile, track volunteer history and more.

“The program that we were using before was very archaic and didn’t offer a lot of functionality. When we installed VolunteerTrax we were excited because it reduced a lot of hours dedicated to data entry. It also helps us keep better track of volunteer background checks and ensures that volunteers are matched with the programs that fit their skills,” said Shelby Pedersen, ICAN’s Director of Resource Development.

With data now at their staff’s fingertips, ICAN spends more time engaging with volunteers, who provide vital skills and talents to support ICAN youth—rather than concentrating on administrative tasks.

Setting Sights on Growth

In 2012, ICAN moved to a new 21,000-square foot facility. The move, a result of faster-than-expected growth, allows the organization to serve more than 250 youth each day. The higher number of participants puts a new focus on maintaining long-term financial stability. As a result, ICAN sought new, diverse avenues for funding. To ICAN, the data captured in KidTrax has been invaluable to that process.

“There is an expectation from potential funders that you have a lot of the data that KidTrax allows us to maintain, such as aggregated demographic data, information on the youth we serve and the impact our programs have on them, as well as how additional funding can meet their needs,” said Jackson. “It used to be difficult for us to show that because we didn’t have a solid way of reporting attendance and other information. Now, it’s easy for us to quickly run a report for a funder with that data, which gives us a step ahead in fundraising.”

ICAN has also begun to look inward to evaluate its next steps for the future. Part of this process has included analyzing programs and staffing levels to ensure that the organization is on the right path. ICAN is also looking to partner with the Chandler Unified School District to create a nontraditional high school at its facility.

“All these years, we’ve used KidTrax and VolunteerTrax to really help us support our decision-making and evidenced-based programming. We can attribute our growth in part to our use of these systems,” said Jackson. “I’m excited for the future at ICAN and for potential opportunities in the future to work with nFocus.”

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PUBLISHED:

May 2013

 

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