The Opportunity Alliance Places Results at the Center of Its Approach

As the Community Action Agency serving Maine’s most populous region, The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) seeks to help Cumberland County residents live better lives by offering over 40 programs that provide mental health, early education, housing and other services. Running such a large-scale operation is complex.

After a 2011 merger expanded TOA’s reach, its leadership recognized the opportunity to improve client outcomes by better coordinating programs and services – both internally and with other organizations. With support from the John T. Gorman Foundation, TOA is transforming into a truly results-focused agency.

The Foundation first invested in TOA’s restructuring in 2013, funding an in-depth analysis of the organization’s existing data and systems. The analysis found, for example, that the agency was currently using 26 separate databases to track client information, none of which communicated with the other.

“TOA wanted to move towards a ‘no-wrong-door’ model to ensure that no matter what services clients initially sought through the agency, they could be seamlessly referred to all the other programs that could help them achieve their goals. That wasn’t possible with so many tracking systems,” said Nicole Witherbee, Chief Program Officer at the John T. Gorman Foundation.

With additional support from the Foundation, TOA worked hard to winnow the number of tracking systems used down to three certified ones—a major operational achievement and one that’s paid off in the quality of services that its clients receive, as staff consider new ways of working together to achieve stronger results.

TOA’s Vice President of Family and Early Childhood Education, Louise Marsden, has also helped shift organizational culture to a results-based approach, applying what she learned as a member of the inaugural cohort of the John T. Gorman Fellowship.

“Our staff has really loved and embraced this process, and we’ve become laser-focused on the impact that we’re creating,” says Joe Everett, Chief Program Officer at The Opportunity Alliance. “We’re willing to take a good look at ourselves and the data related to the people we serve, and when we’re not seeing the impact we want, we’re ready to have the tough conversations about how to get there.”

TOA continues to improve and refine its services, and the John T. Gorman Foundation remains a committed partner as the organization works to better serve the people of Cumberland County.