Software Helps a Nonprofit Bring Music to Patients

Musicians On Call is a 17-year-old nonprofit that currently has a staff of 12 and more than 500 volunteers across the country delivering the healing power of music. It’s not just a matter of getting in touch with people who want to volunteer. The organization also has to connect with hospitals, guide volunteers, music lists, reports on the visits and the organization’s supporters.

The volunteer musicians go “from room to room to play for patients who can’t leave their rooms or their beds,” explains the organization’s president, Pete Griffin. Bringing music to a patient’s bedside can completely change his or her outlook. At the very least, it marks the day with something outside the standard hospital routine and allows patients to enjoy the entertainment.

But music can do even more than that. When Bob Marley said, “When good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain,” he was on to something that researchers are now bringing to light.

In “Music as Medicine,” the American Psychological Association named numerous studies that documented the benefits patients derive from music. It promotes healing in a number of ways: It can alleviate anxiety, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, mitigate pain, and even boost the immune system.

Given the obvious benefits to patients—as well as to caregivers and staff ,who also get a lift from hearing the music—Griffin says that hospitals want to be included in the organization’s program. However, the organization’s growth has been fairly slow due to the manual processes involved in recruiting volunteers and matching up musicians and guide volunteers with the hospitals.

Software Automation Enables Rapid Expansion

Musicians On Call started in New York City and expanded into six cities in 15 years. It wanted to extend the program to more cities and health care locations, but found it too daunting with all the manual processes. Though the organization was using Salesforce, it used it only as a contact management tool.

When Musicians On Call started to utilize Salesforce to automate much of what it had been doing manually, it was able to achieve much greater efficiency, save 1,000 labor hours a year and expand its services to more locations much more quickly than it had before. As a result, the program grew from just six cities to 20 cities in the course of two years.

Salesforce enabled the expansion by providing a way for the organization to determine revenue and expense in order to accurately predict what it “needs to raise in order to make the program sustainable,” Griffin says. The cloud-based software also makes it possible “to streamline what we do and use our limited resource as a nonprofit more effectively.”

For example, the tracking sheets that the hospital guides filled out about the visits and the number of people the musicians entertained, as well as anecdotal data, were done on papers that had to be picked up, faxed or emailed. That could delay the data intake for as long as three months, which would render timely alerts not that timely.

With Salesforce, these reports—which include positive feedback or an alert—are integrated within a day, allowing a look at close-to-real time data. In addition, the volunteer application process is now uniform, and automated emails are used to guide the applicants through the process.

Volunteer musicians no longer have to wait for song lists to be sent to them. They can now access the approved song list, which allows them to search by artist, genre, age group, etc., to determine which songs they should play on their visits.

Automating these processes speeds the transfer of data and frees up more time for the staff to engage with the volunteer and hospital contacts in a more personal way. The software also enables better relationships with supporters. It shows which people were involved with the organization as it tracks who sponsored an event, who attended one and who made a donation.

Musicians On Call’s measure of success is not just the number of donations it receives. It is also about the number of patients for whom it’s played—a number that now tops half a million.

“The more we use [the software], the more we can save and extend our program and our mission,” Griffin says. “And that’s what we’re all about.”