Families are facing an average cost of more than $10,000 per year and that number is on the rise. In Northwest Florida, one nonprofit is dedicated to making child care more affordable and accessible for families across 7 counties.
The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) supports low-income families and caregivers with funding for child care assistance. The nonprofit helps 3,500 families obtain federal funding for subsidized care. With its assistance, more than 5,000 children have been educated through school readiness and voluntary pre-kindergarten education. Surveys help ELCNWF and its staff of 32 administrate it all, from provider feedback to grant applications for disaster recovery.
According to Executive Director Suzan Gage, it’s a challenge ensuring families receive quality childcare, especially for low-income families.
“That’s probably one of the greatest things we can do—help families feel more secure when they're making the choice to leave their child with somebody else,” Gage said. “We help support and provide training and technical assistance for child care operators, child care owners, and teachers.”
Providing families with child care assistance and funding child care providers require ELCNWF to collect a lot of information. The organization needed a tool that made collecting information easy, and it also had to be versatile enough to create anything from forms to customer satisfaction surveys. A SurveyMonkey team plan was the right fit because it was easiest to use, didn’t require formal training, and helped the team collaborate across counties.
“We're very rural and relationship based, and our work is very face to face. To find a product that is the antithesis of all of those things—that people still enjoy using—is a good thing,” Gage added.
Making sense of data and distilling it
ELCNWF is constantly gathering information and taking action on the insights gathered. Gage talked about a “big thumbs-up win” for ELCNWF when it partnered with the Washington County Health Department. Together, they created a community needs assessment that helped them understand accessibility of information. Some were initially skeptical of whether a rural community would be responsive to an online survey, but they found that more respondents completed the survey via SurveyMonkey than did a similar pen-and-paper survey. They also learned that social media was a great method of community outreach.
ELCNWF used SurveyMonkey’s Analyze tools to help tell a visual story of the assessment. “Graphs were ready to go—from our office to the health department, then out to the community,” Gage said. “The whole county came together to see the different questions and how they responded.”
“We don't have data scientists, analysts, or a graphics department. SurveyMonkey allows us to present a final product that makes us seem like we do."
The community assessment was just one project launched with the help of SurveyMonkey. Every year, ELCNWF circulates employee engagement and employee satisfaction surveys to its staff, which helps find areas for improvement within the organization. It also creates online voting polls for open seats on its executive board, and self-evaluations that help board members measure effectiveness.
Externally, ELCNWF uses SurveyMonkey’s customer satisfaction template to learn more about the experience families and child care providers have visiting its offices. SurveyMonkey has been particularly useful in the creation of grant applications, which often require text analysis on open-ended responses.
Collaboration features help ELCNWF get many surveys out fast, and work more efficiently overall. According to Gage, being able to collaborate remotely and on different schedules is key to gather the insights the organization needs to drive critical decisions. Because the team needs to pull data quickly, and share the results in professional-looking presentations, SurveyMonkey analyze tools are a major benefit.
“We don't have data scientists, analysts, or a graphics department. SurveyMonkey allows us to present a final product that makes us seem like we do,” Gage said.
Because SurveyMonkey automates tasks, ELCNWF can focus on working with parents, teachers, and children.
“SurveyMonkey saves time because an end user isn't having to give the information to a staff member, that would then have to recreate the information into a spreadsheet and present it out,” Gage said. “Once you learn how to use all the bells and whistles, it’s just an incredibly powerful tool.”
Getting support to those that need it most
Many families and childcare providers rely on ELCNWF—which needs to be able to collect and process information quickly—so it’s detrimental when something happens to compromise that.
After Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle in October 2018, ELCNWF was challenged with communication problems, prohibiting them from providing child care assistance because they had little or no communication.
With 155-mph winds at landfall, Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Prior to the hurricane, ELCNWF had 100 child centers providing school readiness services for them. After the storm only 20 remained open.
With families and child care providers displaced, and lines of communication down, ELCNWF needed continue their work connecting families and providers with open facilities. Getting in touch with providers so they could assess the damage was challenging with landlines and cell phone towers down.
SurveyMonkey provided a quick way for them to reach out to affected communities they serve and make key decisions toward recovery plans. Its Resource & Referral request application, created in SurveyMonkey, helped the organization communicate with and support families that were displaced or couldn't return to their child care providers.
Just 2 weeks after the hurricane hit, more than 50 child care providers were funded with emergency recovery dollars because ELCNWF had received their applications. For ELCNWF, SurveyMonkey was key in being able to collect information that later led to funding child care providers that needed it the most.
Sharing access and features across the team
The SurveyMonkey team plan helps ELCNWF share surveys with those in the organization who need information to make decisions on child care funding or grants.
Gage said ELCNWF has even convinced child care providers to use SurveyMonkey as a time saver. “It continues to provide a reliable service—people will say ‘Instead of filling out this piece of paper and scanning or faxing it, how about we put that into SurveyMonkey?’”