Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and InsightSquared: Paving the Way for Data-Driven Social Service

Over here at InsightSquared, we love data. We love rolling up our sleeves and digging into the best ways to give sales and marketing teams the insights they need to thrive. Over at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, they love creating meaningful relationships between vulnerable kids and area adults to help those children develop the skills they need to be successful. Since InsightSquared also prioritizes giving back and pledges 1% of our time to help improve the Boston community our CEO, Fred, was stoked to find out BBBSMB was swimming in unactionable Salesforce data.

Well, not stoked.

Ask any Salesforce administrator and they’ll tell you that is not a fun problem to have. But, InsightSquared was excited by the opportunity to use our company’s passion for data to help an outstanding local organization. Here’s how InsightSquared teamed up with BBBSMB to restructure their CRM data and give them the insights they needed to become a front-running social service agency in data-driven intentionality.

First, Meet Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay has been a presence in the Boston area since the 1940s. Since its inception, the agency has grown to cover Eastern Massachusetts, has made 17,000 matches and plans to enrich the lives of 3,200 more area children this year. BBBSMB’s goal is to provide one-on-one mentorship to as many vulnerable children as possible. By vulnerable, they generally mean children who have personal, familial, structural and societal barriers that, unless addressed, can limit the probability of success. The current statistics show us that 81% live in single-parent homes, 60% report receiving housing or welfare assistance, 60% report a significant history of trauma or abuse, 44% report regular existence of toxic stress, 59% report guardian/child mental health challenges and 80% report financial uncertainty.

Mentorship is a widely researched phenomenon proven time and again to improve the character of vulnerable children. At BBBSMB, they use the mentorship approach by creating relationships between “Bigs” and “Littles” with the goal of helping children accumulate and grow competency in six specific “tools to succeed.”

The BBBSMB suite of social and emotional tools for success is:
1. Being caring
2. Being confident
3. Having social competence/maintaining connections
4. Having emotional competence
5. Being curious
6. Being character-driven

The Challenge Behind Measuring the Tools to Succeed

Having a large breadth of research and a solid framework for the social and emotional muscles BBBSMB knows children need to strengthen over time is incredible. Being able to take that framework and then use it to progress relationships in a data-backed approach is a completely different challenge. BBBSMB wanted to be able to identify trends in a mentorship between a Big and Little or be able to quickly demonstrate how a child’s social and emotional competence was trending over time. As their CRM stood though, this kind of data-backed intentionality would have been near impossible to execute. Terry McCarron came to speak about the teamwork between InsightSquared and BBBSMB at our recent company kick-off. During his talk, he compared his work as the Salesforce lead for BBBSMB to “LARPing” or doing a live-action role-play of what a real Salesforce developer does. While this certainly got a few chuckles from our team, we could all sympathize with the challenges that come with a CRM with 8,000+ data points like BBBSMB’s Salesforce instance. This is where InsightSquared came into help BBBSMB.

InsightSquared took on the challenge of sifting through BBBSMB’s CRM to determine the best way to organize this data and make it instantly useful for the BBBSMB staff. Terry did an incredible job laying down the foundation for a Salesforce instance and instilling adoption across the BBBSMB team. As it stood though, the Salesforce instance acted strictly as a survey data repository without the potential for an analytical overlay. InsightSquared took on the task of restructuring their Salesforce so that the 182+ data points per match were taxonimized and pivoted into a long-form structure where analysis would be more much possible. Sounds complicated? It was. But, thanks to this data restructuring and packaging of analysis into digestible pieces, things are much simpler for BBBSMB now.

How InsightSquared Simplified BBBSMB’s Analysis

At BBBSMB, advocates are in charge of about 90 matches and call each match once a month for 30 minutes to review the health of the match. Usually, a BBBSMB advocate has about five minutes to review all the 182 different survey data points for a specific match before a call. Imagine trying to glean significant insights to hold a meaningful conversation by reviewing 182 survey responses. Sounds really difficult, right? Now all an advocate needs to do is review three key charts to understand the trends and current health of a specific match. Check out sample versions of those charts below:

Strength of Relationship


This chart allows an advocate to quickly review how the Big, the Little and the Guardian all view the strength of the mentorship relationship now as compared to the average over time. From this set, you can see that both the Big and the Guardian think the relationship has improved while the Little has consistently been pleased with it. One thing to note from the Big’s perspective is that the logistics behind the interactions with the Little and their Guardian has worsened so it could make sense to address that hiccup in the check-up call.

Social & Emotional Skill Trend Lines


This chart analyzes the six different tool for success established in the BBBSMB framework for a specific Little. From this chart, an advocate can tell immediately how the different social and emotional skills are trending. For example, it’s evident that the Little’s capacity for caring and social competence has continually increased which is great. But, it may make sense to incorporate a greater focus into emotional competency, curiosity, and connection during the Big and Little’s next outing as those have been trending downwards recently.

Social and Emotional Measures by Respondent


This final chart allows an advocate to understand how the Big, Little and Guardian view the Little’s social and emotional competencies now in comparison with the past average. From this chart, an advocate could see that overall, all the individuals involved in this match believe that for most competencies, the Little has improved over time. An advocate could also come to the conclusion that everyone involved in this match is generally on the same page. If there was a big discrepancy between how a Guardian and Big viewed the Little’s progress, that could be a red flag for the health of the match.

What Does this Mean for BBBSMB Going Forward?

At InsightSquared’s company kick-off when asked if he thinks other social service agencies should look into data-driven match analysis, Terry responded by saying, “this may sound grandiose, but it’s reckless not to do it”. Terry followed up by saying that it’s important to be an “outcomes driven agency”. He explained that even though Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay is the third largest agency in the country and have a very high retention rate, those kinds of proximal measures of success are not enough anymore.

Now, with these insights, advocates can talk about the impact a Big is having on Little’s life with proof to back up that impact. It’s essential to track the progress of each individual child and analyze how they’re going to thrive and succeed. There are a lot of unknowns in the mentorship process and it’s often difficult to know if parts of a match could have potentially adverse effects. Not to mention, retention is always difficult in mentorship programs so this kind of reassurance will be huge to ensure Bigs of the effects they are making and have made on their Little’s life.

On a larger scale, this new approach to mentorship will put Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay on the map as influencers in the non-profit and mentorship community. Terry hopes to spread the value InsightSquared has brought BBBS of Massachusetts Bay to other BBBS organizations and non-profits throughout the country. Of course, this approach gives BBBSMB the evidence they need to prove to investors, donors, funders, grant providers, other agencies and potential volunteers that their work is impactful and is truly making a difference in the lives of vulnerable kids. Being able to prove this impact will help the organization continue to expand their presence in the Massachusetts Bay area.

For InsightSquared, this was a unique opportunity to think outside the box and a different way for our team to work with Salesforce data. While certainly a fun challenge, we’re most proud of being teamed up with the forerunning agency of data-driven social service work.

If not made evident by their clear passion for continual improvement, to reiterate: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay is an awesome organization that is not only making a huge impact in the Mass Bay area but is committed to making that impact grow. If you’re interested in getting involved, learn more here!