Chicago Cares Success Story


Chicago Cares

“If you know what you’re doing, there’s almost nothing you can’t do in this system. There are very, very few limitations. HandsOn Connect has improved the work we do at Chicago Cares by leaps and bounds. And, more important, its capabilities will ensure that we can we can continue to grow and adapt our business practices without having to buy a new piece of technology every time we want to make changes.”

—Kyle Mahoney, Knowledge Manager


  • Chicago Cares needed a technology platform that could manage several thousand non-profit agencies and corporate partners and 60,000 to 70,000 volunteers who sign up for 200 ongoing projects, annual events and corporate events.

  • Reporting was very limited. They couldn’t extract all the data they wanted, and they still needed to do a lot of manipulation by importing to and exporting from Excel. They also needed to be able to customize reports.

  • The old, proprietary system wasn’t automated, so staff spent a lot of time cutting and pasting to fill out and create every record by hand.

  • Chicago Cares outgrew the system. It couldn’t handle the volume of data, so it was constantly breaking down.

  • Agencies sometimes waited a couple of days to hear back about their project when they entered a volunteer opportunity.

  • Volunteer leaders couldn’t access information about their projects; they had to rely on staff to send it to them.

  • Volunteers sometimes waited for two or three days before finding out that the project was already full when they signed up.

  • About 70% of staff did some form of data entry.


  • Chicago Cares created a new position, Knowledge Manager, to make sure there was someone managing and maintaining information, making sure that reporting was consistent and metrics were applicable. Now Chicago Cares begins by specifying what they need to measure, what will determine program success and how they will run monthly reports that allow them to identify trends.

  • They added Conga Composer to Hands On Connect, allowing volunteer coordinators to take data from any object and turn it into a PDF, Excel file or Word doc, so they can email schedules and site details for one-time projects or send them by regular mail. This app also makes it easy for volunteers to print out their volunteer transcripts detailing their community service.

  • They use the Apex Dataloader to enter up to 50,00 records at a time. With the old proprietary system, the staff had to enter data manually.

  • They added the iContact feature, allowing a user to click a button on an object and send a group email. It also saves Outlook emails in HandsOn Connect.

  • They added a custom application for simplifying project management specifically for one-time events like the annual Celebration of Service and Serve-a-thon.

  • They created a page dedicated to non-profit agencies that lets volunteers click straight through to their web sites.


  • They’ve streamlined project management by allowing volunteer leaders to log into a portal to see how many people they are expecting and whether they need to bring special supplies.

  • There is an improved volunteer experience; volunteer leaders can use the portal to communicate any changes, whereas before they had to email or phone each volunteer.

  • Grant writing is faster and easier because it’s now possible to provide more information and richer information to funders.

  • Corporate pitches are easier, because Chicago Cares pulls reports that demonstrate that employees have been volunteering as individuals for personal benefit.

  • Volunteers can navigate the web site easily to sign up for an opportunity.

  • Response time is shorter. Chicago Cares can get back to an agency the same day it submits a volunteer opportunity; that used to take a couple of days.

  • The organization saves money by not needing frequent support for a broken system.

  • Chicago Cares gives board members more information on impact for their monthly meetings.

  • Fewer staff members are occupied with data entry, and those who are save hours on that job.

  • Chicago Cares produces more targeted fund-raising solicitations because they know what kinds of projects donors are showing up for.

  • Chicago Cares is doing better work, and they can continue to grow and improve business practices so they can expand their community service.