Ohio Living and Benefactor Group Join Forces to Foster Innovation

The Opportunity

Since 1922, Ohio Living (formerly Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services) has provided personalized, quality care to older adults with diverse lifestyles and needs. One of Ohio Living’s most valuable resources is its broad network of people across multiple locations in Ohio. However, the decentralized nature of the workforce makes it difficult to share information, collaborate, and foster innovation. Ohio Living saw the opportunity in this untapped potential to better serve its residents and clients and grow stronger as a community partner. The Foundation, led by Thomas Hofmann, decided to spearhead an effort to empower staff to dream together. Hence the name: Imagine Ohio Living.

The Idea: Imagine Ohio Living

Imagine Ohio Living is a strategic initiative aimed at collecting, sharing, evaluating, and funding internal ideas and partnerships —in other words, innovating. Donna Spengler, Vice President of External Fundraising, describes Imagine Ohio Living as “not just about sharing new ideas, but rather moving new ideas forward.” Ohio Living hired Benefactor Group to help shape the vision into a structured, actionable project, and to find the right technology platform.

The Journey

While this was not seen as a “technology” project, the team knew that technology was essential to realizing the vision. Steve Beshuk, Vice President at Benefactor Group, and Donna worked together to collect the needs and ideas of staff across the organization. “Innovation” can mean something different depending on who you ask so Steve and Donna knew that it was essential to make sure everyone was working towards the same objective.

The project began with defining specific objectives, creating a detailed list of requirements and user stories, and developing a weighted scorecard that Ohio Living used to evaluate vendors. The market for innovation software, while growing, is still a little “wild west” compared to the more established markets for CRM, finance, online giving, etc.  That made having a clear vision of project success all the more important.

Additionally, Imagine Ohio Living had needs that spanned a number of traditional software systems: grant making, internal collaboration and communication, relationship management, and even product development. It was clear early on that no one system would meet these comprehensive needs out of the box. However, custom software is often synonymous with expensive. Benefactor Group recognized that every dollar we spent on the project meant one less dollar for Ohio Living’s mission. The team knew they had to invest prudently. After Benefactor Group helped conduct market research, submitting a Request for Information, and managing scripted demonstrations, Ohio Living decided on SmartSimple. It offered the structure of an off-the-shelf system with the flexibility to customize it to meet Ohio Living’s distinct needs.

Shaping the Future of Ohio Living

Overall, Donna is thrilled with the project. Unlike many standard systems, the platform will have the capability to grow and change with Imagine Ohio Living. Looking to the future, Spengler is excited to see how this interactive ideas platform will allow Ohio Living to accomplish a variety of goals: developing effective programs to improve staff recruitment and retention, giving employees a stronger voice within the organization, and identifying and sharing best practices with the field. The Ohio Living staff cares deeply about those they serve, and with the help of Benefactor Group, staff members now have a platform to bring meaningful ideas to life.

The Ohio Living Foundation and Benefactor Group: A Great Partnership

Benefactor Group brought Ohio Living the strategic and technical expertise needed to help Donna and Tom realize their strategic vision. Donna said, “One of Steve’s best qualities was his unique ability to explain the technology in a way that everyone could understand. He made all the complicated system information accessible and understandable. He really made all the difference.”

More About Ohio Living

Ohio Living is among the country’s leading faith-based, comprehensive resources on aging well. Today, Ohio Living serves constituents in forty Ohio counties through services that range from twelve residential communities to home- and community-based senior independence programs. Furthermore, Ohio Living cultivates positive partnerships with government connections, churches, service organizations, universities, corporations, and vendors. Learn more: http://www.ohioliving.org/