Healthfirst: Using Technology to Renew the Mission
Healthfirst does precisely what its name suggests – helping the people of Central Wisconsin put their health first and foremost. The nonprofit provides reproductive and nutritional services through a network of clinics and outreach offices located in underserved areas. Originally started in 1973, Healthfirst (then known as Family Planning Health Services) set out on a mission to provide comprehensive and confidential reproductive health services. Since then, the organization has expanded its efforts to encompass Women Infants Children (WIC) nutritional assistance, services for victims of domestic violence, and several other programs targeted towards women and families. Healthfirst plays an essential and active role in the communities it serves, providing resources that are unavailable elsewhere.
When Nina Parks took over as the Finance and Accounting Specialist, Healthfirst was already using MIP to handle its fund accounting needs. She was immediately impressed with what the solution could do, but her strongest feeling was disappointment. “We weren’t taking advantage of all the features that MIP had to offer,” says Parks. “We have a small finance team, and some of our processes were taking a lot longer than they needed to.” As Parks soon discovered, the accounting solution they already had in place, MIP, had a lot more left to offer.
Making a Good Solution Great
Being a nonprofit healthcare provider, Healthfirst has a complicated accounting structure built to accommodate multiple funding streams – insurance payments, donations, grants, and fundraising efforts. And like most altruistic organizations, fulfilling the mission meant expanding the level of outreach through new services, more locations, and larger staff. The challenge, as Parks learned, was that every time Healthfirst grew, the accounting requirements became more complicated (and more consequential).
Bank reconciliations were a particular pain point. Parks and her team spent hours of effort on a recurring basis, performing what amounted to manual data entry. “I knew this was a problem, and MIP was the obvious solution.” After some investigation – with the help of JMT Consulting – Parks decided to implement the bank reconciliation module: a specialized toolkit designed to accommodate the unique needs of nonprofit accounting departments.
“The same system we use for accounting handles things like payroll and benefits as well. More of our important administrative responsibilities take place on the same platform, which really helps when a small team is responsible for managing a large organization.”
Director of Financial Operations
Parks attended a training seminar in Colorado hosted by JMT Consulting in order to master the ins and outs of the new module. She also went to learn more about how MIP could streamline processes inside and outside of accounting. At this point, Healthfirst was growing steadily thanks to a high demand for its services. Owing to that success, the organization was making ambitious plans for the future. Before it could expand what it did on the front end, however, it needed to improve what it did on the back end.
Once again, MIP proved to be a more-than-capable solution. After further consultation with the team at JMT Consulting, Parks added a cloud-based module that handles the heavy-lifting of Human Resources through an Employee Web Services (EWS) portal. According to her, this particular tool made perfect sense for their present (and future) needs. “We have eight different locations and employees that travel between them. People can access a cloud-based tool from any location, and all that data is available in our head office.”
Bringing HR into the MIP ecosystem also proved to be a savvy decision. “The same system we use for accounting handles things like payroll and benefits as well. More of our important administrative responsibilities take place on the same platform, which really helps when a small team is responsible for managing a large organization.”
Parks had the foresight to see that MIP was underutilized. What she could not have predicted is how much-improved accounting, streamlined HR, and more tech-driven capabilities would transform the organization. Several years after Parks took over accounting, it was clear that Healthfirst had surpassed its goal and redefined its core mission in the process. Adopting a fresh identity was the obvious next step.
Introducing a Whole New Nonprofit
In the summer of 2016, Healthfirst underwent a comprehensive re-branding effort. Leaders inside the organization realized that the scope of services it offered was no longer reflected by their old name (Family Planning Health Services). As the nonprofit looked to extend its community impact, it needed a new name that communicated its core mission and true scope. Thus, Healthfirst was created.
Parks clarifies that MIP didn’t precipitate this transformation. As she says, it was “fully-organizational. The goal was to move the organization forward in all aspects.” However, she is also quick to note that MIP wasn’t irrelevant, either. “MIP allowed us to change our accounting practice to be more efficient and more productive, a trend we were seeking organization-wide with the re-brand.”
Three years into their next chapter and Healthfirst looks poised to do what it has always done – addressing the most important needs in the communities it serves – on a grander scale than ever before. According to Parks, MIP and JMT Consulting will continue to be an integral part of the organization. The name may have changed, but the mission did not; neither did the tools that fulfill that mission.
To learn more about Healthfirst, visit their website here.
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Community Brands acquired the rights to MIP Fund Accounting in February 2017.