Special Olympics transforms lives every day through the joy of sport. Headquartered in DC, the organization accredits and supports programs all over the world, serving more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries.

3Advance created the Special Olympics Services portal, which hosts essential, cloud-based applications used across the organization’s global program structure.

5M+

GLOBAL ATHLETES
Served Worldwide

231

GLOBAL PROGRAMS
Accredited Annually

$40M+

ANNUAL FUNDING
Managed & Distributed

5M+

GLOBAL ATHLETES
Served Worldwide

231

GLOBAL PROGRAMS
Accredited Annually

$40M+

ANNUAL FUNDING
Managed & Distributed

As a global nonprofit, Special Olympics International directs troves of data across the world every day. Much of this had traveled through email, using Excel documents that were unending, and very often mistaken or lost. These processes were time consuming, difficult, and inefficient.

The organization needed an easier, faster, more reliable way to accomplish key administrative tasks, like analyzing data and processing applications from their programs. Data-entry was a problem, reporting was a nightmare.

After publication of their five-year strategic plan – mostly focused on technology innovation – 3Advance was drafted in to provide crucial application development expertise to kick it all off.

Because Special Olympics operates in over 170 countries, any partner-facing applications needed to be multilingual, work across time zones, and factor in cultural and religious sensitivities. They also needed to be simple to use for people who are unfamiliar with technology, without causing those who are tech-savvy to become frustrated.

These projects also required us to work across multiple departments and teams, making sure that each one had their concerns addressed and that the applications we were building would work for the many people across the organization. Each team had different priorities, requirements, must-haves, etc.

Because Special Olympics works with schools and receives funding from government grants, a lot of the processes we were developing had to follow strict reporting guidelines and have a clear, easy-to-follow auditing trail. Everything from expenses at HQ through purchases made at the individual sites needed to be tracked through the same system, which would need to aggregate the data for delivery to the US Department of Education.

Finally, Special Olympics needed to collect metrics and analyze them from organizations across the world. Then they needed to be able to use that information to fundraise and make improvements. In other words, they needed to be able to derive insights from their data. Basically, they needed a business intelligence tool. But this was before business intelligence tools existed, so they needed one built from scratch.

To encourage buy-in and learn how best to work with multiple Special Olympics teams, we decided to start with a smaller, proof-of-concept application. We created a web-based portal that acted as the access point for everyone associated with the Special Olympics across the globe. 

Once this project was completed successfully, we moved on to a more pressing need: a cloud-based system to manage their annual, global program accreditation process. To ensure that the various teams were happy with the finished product, our user research involved interviewing stakeholders and having them walk us through their current process. This gave us a complete picture of what the application needed to do. It also helped us understand the places where frustrations occurred and where there were opportunities to improve.

Working closely with multiple teams, we designed wireframes and reviewed them with the team leads. Once we established an intuitive user flow, we developed the application, tested and launched it, starting with a small group and expanding to the entire organization as we refined the functionality and added additional languages.

After the successful launch of the accreditation program, we moved on to the global census, another annual project that was extremely time-consuming for the individual organizations and HQ. Every year, the Special Olympics gathered huge amounts of data from around the world. After following the same process that we used for the accreditation program, we developed custom BI software to allow them to analyze across multiple dimensions. The Special Olympics uses these reports and insights for performance analysis, accreditation, and fundraising.

We also created a fully customized grants management platform for Unified Champion Sports that has been a huge success. Every year, programs and school districts use the platform to apply for funding and to report back to Special Olympics regularly for oversight and performance optimization. Mountains of excel documents have been replaced by an intuitive interface that not only streamlines the process of data collection but also provides a reporting mechanism that has cut costs and drastically improved the experience for everyone involved.

With help from 3Advance, Special Olympics has experienced a comprehensive digital transformation. By replacing manual processes with digital ones, we saved the organization time, money, and frustration. We built apps that impacted everyone at every level: volunteers, fundraisers, administrative staff, program directors, volunteers, and board members.

Before our work, the accreditation process took months. Now, an organization can submit their data in minutes and receive their official accreditation in just a few days. 

Our grants management system helps the organization manage and process over $40MM every year. And it helped people at both ends of the organization. The time that internal administration personnel in DC spent on this process dropped massively and the success rate for people getting submission on time massively improved. 

One of our proudest accomplishments was being the first vendor to bring Special Olympics onto the Azure Microsoft Cloud, creating the foundation for a successful long-term partnership that continues to benefit both companies.

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