How LIFT Went Digital: Keeping Families Safe In Times of Crisis

By Sarah Spunt on March 20, 2020

Categories: News, Our Work


This week, LIFT announced that with the safety of our families, staff and volunteers as our top priority, our physical office spaces will temporarily closed. However, thanks to the tireless work of our national and regional program teams, we nimbly transitioned our entire programming online. Here’s how.

How innovation prepared LIFT to make a quick shift and continue to service parents in a time of social distance.

As the U.S. quickly pivots to practicing social distancing, schools and social services are finding themselves temporarily closing their doors and unable to serve their constituents. Many social service provides are unable to conduct their services remotely and struggle to find a way to serve the community without putting their staff at risk. Some organizations don’t have laptops for staff. Others don’t have systems in place to connect securely communicate with their clients and protect privacy. And others have no way of quickly contacting their entire contact base through mass texts or email.

With our eyes set on what the future of program delivery looks like in the age of digital connectivity, LIFT has been investing in our technological infrastructure for several years. Not only in hardware, like laptops, but in software that meets the needs of our program model and retains the same level of quality in service delivery that in-person interactions provide.

As a result, we were able to quickly adapt when it became clear that we needed to go digital to ensure the safety of our families. Thanks to that investment, we were able to communicate with our members and develop a plan to virtually serve our families.

Virtual coaching pilot expansion.

LIFT launched a virtual coaching pilot in our DC office at the beginning of 2020 with the goal of making our coaching program more accessible and one that better fits into the flow of our members’ daily lives as busy parents. As organizations were making the decision to go remote, our program teams acted quickly to get trainings to coaches in all regions in order to prepare them for virtual coaching in case LIFT needed to close our offices. When that time came, we were ready to serve our families and honor the system of support we have created to help them reach their goals.

See how LIFT’s virtual meetings quickly spiked as soon as our office closure was announced

Telecoms systems in place:

LIFT uses a voice-over IP (VoIP) system for our phones. Staff and coaches can log into an app from their smartphone and make phone calls from any location without giving out their personal contact information. The system allows calls to our main line to be transferred to someone’s personal account which allows to us to receive communication on our main line while virtual.

Additionally, LIFT uses a mobile messaging system to send mass messages to families. We use the system to notify our members about upcoming events and appointments. Right now, we are using it give members up-to-date information about current events in our local markets. For instance, we can quickly send information about where parents can pick up meals for their children in public schools or the latest information about applying for unemployment if they work in an industry that has been temporarily closed.  While new information comes out, we want to make sure our members receive communication from someone they trust in real time.

A culture of hope, money, and love.

Change and the uncertainty that comes with it can cause a lot of stress and we know that emergencies like COVID-19 hit low-income communities the hardest. LIFT wants to make sure our values, relationships, hope, diversity, equity and excellence are still at the core of our work.  At a time when our families need us most, we are grateful to be standing in their corner (or screen). On Sunday, Michelle Rhone-Collins, LIFT’s CEO, announced ”we are raising funds to give directly to our members. For over two years, LIFT’s Family Goal Fund has put money directly into parents’ hands to invest in their goals and rebound in times of crisis. One of our longtime supporters, Dr. Sheila Walker, introduced me to the concept of Mwe (me + we) — that my well-being (or my pain) is connected to yours.”

While our physical doors may not be open, we are proud to say that our work with families and communities marches on with the power of innovation, hope, money, and love. In this time of social distancing, send support and stay connected: your gift will help parents stay on track. Visit our donation page and designate your gift toward the Family Goal Fund from the drop down menu. Today, and in the weeks to come, we are actively surveying our families to get a greater sense of their immediate needs and ways we can distribute funds and keep them connected to the resource they need to stay on track with their goals.

About the Author

Sarah Spunt

Sarah Spunt is a licensed clinical social worker the Program Director at LIFT-Chicago, a national nonprofit that empowers families to break the cycle of poverty. At LIFT, she is responsible for evaluating data to analyze and improve service delivery and increase impact while meeting organizational goals. She oversees partnerships, community and university development. She also Read More