Horn Farm Center Wins 2015 Nonprofit Innovation Award

How does a small non-profit organization develop a path for long-term organizational sustainability; research, innovate, pilot and encourage sustainable growing methods; support new small business farmers as they establish successful sustainable agriculture businesses; and leverage their unique capabilities to build stronger local food systems while raising community awareness of the economic and health benefits?

By using innovation in management and operations.

Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education volunteers Sandra Collin and Gary Zimmerman are joined by Board member, Jeri Jones as they accept Central Penn Business Journal's Nonprofit Innovation Award for Management Operations

Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education volunteers Sandra Collin and Gary Zimmerman are joined by Board member, Jeri Jones, as they accept Central Penn Business Journal’s Nonprofit Innovation Award for Management Operations

Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education was honored on March 9 for its achievement in Management Operations at the 2015 Nonprofit Innovation Awards, held at Hilton Harrisburg and hosted by the Central Penn Business Journal. Horn Farm Center chose an open-source customer resource management software solution called CiviCRM to achieve its management objectives.

These objectives included: 1) awareness and access – raising awareness of Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education and ensuring the York community has access to the information in the channels they are most likely to use; 2) education, empowerment, and engagement – invoking behavior change and empowering the York community to integrate sustainability and healthy living choices into their daily activities, making an impact on their physical health and the economic health of our community; 3) involvement and input– expanding the cadre of farming sustainability, land stewardship and healthy living champions who are involved with Horn Farm Center programs.

Having one integrated cloud-based database, accessible from anywhere, allows our organization, with only three part-time employees and an operating revenue of $150,000, to empower our volunteers to participate in efficient back office management functions and daily organization-to-client communication. At the point of client engagement, CiviCRM empowers our organization to capture more detail about our volunteers and supporters’ affiliation to Horn Farm Center, including: activity participation through our programs; volunteer hours; contributions; event attendance; communication; and relationships.

We are able to customize CiviCRM to fit our specific programming and volunteer-based structure, enabling our organization to refine the analytics and effect we are having on our organization-to-client communication. Our guiding principle that we “foster a sense of community as an essential element in our work and relationships” is inherently part of this innovative solution.

Using CiviCRM we have created a Horn Farm Center community through our brand identity and unique marketing activities, such as monthly e-newsletters that drive the community to our integrated website, and engage them with daily Facebook posts that create client and community conversation. This has resulted in increasing our client base from 800 to 5,063 in less than two years, doubling our Facebook “likes” in ten months (currently over 1,200), and collaborating with 50 organizations to host or table at 55 major public events in 2014, compared to 3-4 public education events in previous years.

This innovation resulted in an unanticipated growth of our volunteer base from 50 to 400 because of the increased and consistent communication. This increased awareness and access resulted in over 6,395 volunteer hours in 2014.

Horn Farm Center Board of Directors president, Deb Livingston, shares these thoughts on our Contact Relationship Management System and Website Redesign innovation. “Our constituents engage with our organization for varied reasons that change over time. We recognize that we are but one of many enticing organizations, causes and opportunities that present themselves in what can amount to information overload and excessive contact. It is our job to know our constituents well enough to be able to target our communications so that they can engage with Horn Farm Center in ways that address their individual interests and needs.

A sophisticated database such as this customized CiviCRM solution gives us a place to store very individualized information and then use it to customize our outreach. As we have evolved this solution, we have also come to recognize that many non-profit organizations within the community with which we partner have the same challenge.

We believe that our community’s strengths lie in its ability to share resources and to collaborate on highly effective solutions. As we develop this database solution for Horn Farm Center, we recognize that it may well be a tool that could serve our community partners, as well, and are open to exploring those possibilities.”

If you are interested in discussing how Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education has implemented CiviCRM in its operations, please contact info@hornfarmcenter.org.

The Horn Farm in Hellam Township has been continuously farmed for more than 250 years. Saved from industrial development in 2000, York County’s Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation at the Horn Farm in 2004.

The mission of Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education is to showcase the history, present and future of local farming. We are committed to building and growing healthy communities through farming and gardening opportunities and hands on educational experiences.

For more information about Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, please call 717.757.6441.

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