MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions

MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions / Meet the 2006 Recipients


Boston, Massachusetts
Published August 24, 2006

Providing software to human services organizations with extensive contact to low-income families

The RealBenefits program provides easy-to-use, screening software to human services organizations that have extensive contact with low-income families. RealBenefits simplifies and consolidates complicated eligibility screening processes for all members of a family in a single interview. It improves assessment accuracy and produces complete printed applications for programs for which applicants are eligible. RealBenefits is currently the only software application — other than state agency-based systems — that generates applications for multiple programs, prepares applications for all family members, and produces documents that can be filed directly with government agencies electronically or by facsimile.

The value of the RealBenefits approach to increasing enrollment in assistance programs is now well proven, as is the business case for sustaining the software as a social venture. Over the past four years, community-based organizations have used RealBenefits to connect over 25,000 Illinois households to benefits. Hospitals and community health centers have used the software to increase their reimbursements and reduce their administrative costs. The organization has ongoing and growing revenues from healthcare customers, commitments from government customers, and numerous new prospects moving through the sales pipeline. Furthermore, the agency has reframed the way state agencies in Illinois view the use of technology to help lowincome people enroll in public benefit programs.

At the same time, the sales process to healthcare providers and government customers — the two primary revenue markets — is complex and often takes up to twelve months as purchasing decisions by these organizations typically involve changes in business practices, policy and/or regulations. The organization’s non-profit status precludes access to traditional venture capital. Consequently, support from MacArthur through the institutional grant is intended to help RealBenefits take advantage of emerging business opportunities.

RealBenefits will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award to extend organizational capacity, thereby generating earned income through sales to healthcare providers and state/local governments.

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