AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps is a tutoring program for senior citizens who take joy in helping struggling kids improve their reading.

3Advance designed the user experience and then developed intuitive mobile apps to streamline burdensome admin tasks. This succeeded in saving endless time, money and frustration for volunteers and program coordinators across the nation.

$20K

DOLLARS SAVED
x20+ Programs Annually

40+

HOURS RECLAIMED
Per Director Monthly

800%

TIME SAVINGS
For Each Volunteer

$20K

DOLLARS SAVED
x20 Programs Annually

40+

HOURS RECLAIMED
Per Director Monthly

800%

TIME SAVINGS
For Each Volunteer

With 2,000 active volunteers and 30,000 students across 26 cities, there is an ever-growing administration burden for program coordinators and for the volunteers they manage.

The cluster-fudge of excel docs, half-baked websites and paper forms meant endless hours of data entry and collection. Enter Lacy McDowell, newly hired Data and Technology Strategy Advisor, fresh from his experience at The Newseum in DC, where he worked with a certain bunch of Irish developers from 3Advance.

To ensure the program is running effectively everywhere, volunteering sessions, student participation and progress must be monitored and reported on throughout the school year.

Coordinators are responsible for ensuring their volunteers submit the data, and then it must be compiled and somehow makes its way into the beast commonly known as SalesForce. There must be a better way Lacy told us, and he was right. He had some ideas.

Unfortunately as the web and mobile revolution has occurred, the primary focus has been the masses, and ‘future customers’. This ultimately means that most of our industry is focused on millennials, and unfortunately there exists a stereotype that older people can’t and don’t want to use technology for problem solving.

For 3Advance, this project was an opportunity to prove this conception wrong.

Lacy’s strategy was perfect: Pick one significant pain point that was not hampered by too many bureaucratic or technical challenges. Keep things simple and do not bite off too much to chew the first go-round.

When we were brought in, our approach was to follow suit. We listened, we learned and we bought into the vision: Volunteers would use mobile apps to enter tutoring details and student metrics after each session at the participating school. This would eliminate paper and reduce time for volunteers, and their coordinators. We hoped.

Our discovery process involved a lot of Salesforce integration investigation. Salesforce was not built for the way a lot of organizations use it, but its power and flexibility means that anything is possible, but some things, for us, may be very impractical. Thankfully the data structure and the APIs available to us required only minimal customizations so the overhead needed on that end, although slow, was possible. We could create a clean, more standardized API that would act as a proxy to Salesforce enabling the app to work swiftly and efficiently, but also to ensure an optimal level of security between app and our API, and between our API and Saleforce. We could also do this without the need for a datastore – all information would be encrypted in transit, and would never be stored anywhere but Salesforce itself.

Knowing what we wanted to do was possible, the next step was to design an interface that proved the skeptics wrong. This involved client interviews, brainstorming sessions and of course wireframing – sketching out each screen and annotating the user journeys a volunteer would take as they navigated the app. Our design conformed to AARP branding, and was minimal and most importantly accessible, with large fonts and contrasting colors. We created a clickable prototype, and did one better, by designing an app intro video that Lacy presented at the Experience Corps annual gathering. This idea paid off, allowing Lacy to win over the champions he needed for pilot release two months later.

Starting with our the Washington DC program, our iPhone and Android pilot rolled out exactly five months after we put pen to paper on the contract. And as the next few programs came online, we began to realize exactly what Lacy had in mind.

This was one of our proudest accomplishments last year. Not only have AARP Foundation committed to working with us much more in the coming years, but we have proven that well designed mobile tools can be massive time-savers and stress relievers for individuals of all ages. Volunteers embraced the apps, and coordinators literally jumped for joy.

Of all the feedback we received, one coordinator from Michigan spelt out the depth of this success. Up until now, every month, she would spend over a week driving to schools, picking up session forms, entering them into an Excel spreadsheet and passing them on to import into Salesforce. She calculated this savings to be upwards of $20,000 per year. Following a short training, her volunteers had successfully entered 1000 records in just a few hours.

This experience has emphasized the impact one person can have across an organization. Our apps bring ideas to life, but the foresight of people like Lacy is the true force behind these advances.

Update: Our Data Scientists are currently developing BI Tools (Tableau) for this and more data – producing daily reports that previously devoured resources, time and money.

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