November 17, 2015 | Tech Nonprofits

One Degree: The Online Case Manager for Social Services

This is the third post in a series highlighting the alumni of the 2014 Fast Forward accelerator.

A common misconception about low-income individuals and families is that they have limited access to technology. However, the reality is that more than three-quarters of US 18-29 year olds have smart phones and 75% of US families have computers at home. Following graduation from the Fast Forward accelerator, One Degree has rapidly expanded their reach to help tech-connected communities find, manage, and share their experiences with social services. Fast Forward invited One Degree CEO and Founder Rey Faustino to hear more about this progress.

What are some of the most exciting program milestones you’ve hit in the last year?

We have more than 5,000 service listings in our database now, and we’re able to keep track of the kinds of social services people search for using One Degree. It quickly became clear that housing services dominate search queries at 29%. In September of this year, we proudly launched One Home in partnership with Compass Family Services to further address this critical need. One Home is the first Bay Area-wide searchable, always up-to-date, and accessible affordable housing website.

This year we also realized that the growth rate we were striving for was unrealistic for a staff of two (our CTO Eric Lukoff and myself), so we steadily recruited five additional talented, driven, and passionate teammates. Now that we’re three times the size, we are consistently hitting our growth milestones because we now have the capacity to do so. In addition to our team’s growth, we have a new member on our board.

Since our launch, One Degree has had about 75,000 unique users who have logged more than 100,000 sessions on our platform. One of our users said, “One Degree is like having a case manager at my fingertips.”

What part of your Fast Forward experience has stuck with you?

Fast Forward taught us to maintain an experimental mindset—to test things out before committing a lot of resources to them. This applies to our platform, where ease of navigation is critical to building a useful resource for those we are aiming to serve, as well as to fundraising and other areas. Different fundraising approaches might be more effective for different types of funders, and we’re constantly experimenting to see what works

As you look ahead, what are the goals you have in mind for 2016?

We have three major goals for the coming year.

  1. We aim to expand the reach of One Degree into more Bay Area counties. The next county on our list is Contra Costa. Expanding into a new county requires an anchor organization who will partner with One Degree to aggregate the social services specific to that county. By the end of next year, we hope to have One Degree in all nine counties in the Bay Area.
  2. Building off of our geographical expansion, we also want to continue growing our user base. Instead of measuring the number of searches done on the One Degree platform, we are beginning to measure deeper metrics. For example, once a member identifies a service on One Degree through a search, how can we know if she accesses the service? Phone calls, looking up directions to visit the service, and other activities like that could be indications of access. We’re looking forward to adding on features that enable us to understand how services really improve people’s lives.
  3. Our third goal for next year is piloting an earned income strategy. Our need for institutional funding and partnerships is not going away any time soon, but getting earned income from a non-philanthropic source would be a huge help toward One Degree’s sustainability. We’ll be experimenting with sales to nonprofit and government agencies.

Do you see evidence of a growing tech nonprofit ecosystem?

When we explain our tech nonprofit status to funders now, there isn’t as much confusion as there used to be—their reactions are different. It’s somewhere between shock and total understanding. One of the largest indications of a growing tech nonprofit ecosystem is funder awareness and financial support of other organizations like us.

To learn more about One Degree, check out their 2014-2015 Annual Report.