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The CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters America on Meeting Technology Head On

Pam Iorio (in blue) with a group of “Bigs” at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a school shooting took place in February 2018. Photo: BBBSA

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is a nonprofit with a leader who lives and breathes its organizational mandate of mentorship. In fact, it’s the reason the former mayor of Tampa, Florida became President and CEO of BBBSA in the first place.

bbbsa president ceo Pam Iorio
Pam Iorio is the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters America.

“I was asked one day if I would step in to lead this organization,” says Pam Iorio, one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World. “I would have not thought of it on my own, but one of my own mentors said, ‘Pam, when you are asked to serve, you must say yes.’ I was asked to come in at a time when the organization had some specific organizational challenges. I’m so glad that I did. The challenges are over and we are now in growth mode.”

Pam at TractionForce 2019

Pam attributes BBBSA’s “growth mode” to the adoption of technology, a topic she’ll be delving into at TractionForce on May 23 in Vancouver. In addition, she’ll share what this year’s event theme— the Collective Why—means for nonprofits. Pam will present at Traction on Demand’s annual event along with professional rock climber and star of the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo, Alex Honnold, and Managing Director of Canada at Lyft, Aaron Zifkin.

“Every nonprofit has a Collective Why or they wouldn’t exist. Since 1904, we have been improving the lives of young people through one-to-one mentoring. We’ve had different models over the years; for example, 15-20 years ago, our model was site-based where ‘Littles’ and ‘Bigs’ could meet in a school environment. In recent years, other models have cropped up, like meeting at a Big’s workplace. We have seen our work evolve into ‘Bigs in Blue,’ matching police officers with Littles. Then, there’s mentorship for LGBTQ youth. We’re always evolving but it all still falls under a single Collective Why.”

Using Technology to Achieve a Mission

Traction on Demand recently wrapped up a yearlong digital transformation project during which our team implemented a new Salesforce system to service the headquarters in Tampa, as well as over 270 affiliate offices across the nation. Pam is hoping that through her presentation she can convey how their mission has been enhanced through the use of new and better technology. “It’s often something that is said but I want to be able to bring it to life,” she says.

This type of fundraising to build infrastructure is not easy… But we just had to do it.”

Pam points to cost as a major barrier to technology adoption for many nonprofits, and she’s not one to mince words. “The first thing is money. This project had a pretty steep price tag for us: $ 4.6 million and we still need to raise $2.8 million. This type of fundraising to build infrastructure is not easy. People want to donate to make a match or to a particular program. But we just had to do it.” Pam is adamant there’s no other way than to forge ahead. “We want to be best in class. We want to be one of the best-run nonprofits in the country. Those are our goals and if they’re yours, then you must make the continual investment in infrastructure because you won’t achieve those goals if you don’t have the technology.”

Maurice and Malachi continue a tradition of mentorship that spans over a century.

Crystal Ball: the Next 100 Years

Now that BBBSA has the technology, they’re looking to leverage it to its fullest capabilities. The data that is collected by tracking the mentor relationships and collecting survey results allows them to understand in what ways they are being effective. “When you put those together, we go beyond the Collective Why to impact measurement,” says Pam. “Impact has to be something you can really point to. For example, this is a young person’s attitude toward the (BBBSA) relationship, this is how they are doing in school… This is what people want to know.” Fittingly, Jessica Langelaan, Traction on Demand’s Vice President of Nonprofit Solutions, will be following up Pam’s keynote with a Tech Talk at TractionForce on the very topic of impact measurement.

“We live in a very fast-changing world… Standing still is not an option.”

With the period of organizational challenges now over, Pam is looking well into the future. BBBSA’s “growth mode” includes the technology just outlined, re-branding, staff training and enhanced fundraising with the focus on new partnerships and foundation grants. Pam kept busy as mayor of Tampa by growing the Gulf Coast city and now she’s keeping busy here. But it’s something she takes in stride. “We live in a very fast-changing world,” she says, “and tech is responsible for most of these changes. Standing still is not an option.”

Want to learn more from Pam Iorio? Join us at TractionForce on May 23 in Vancouver. Tickets are now available.

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