Empowering Service ProvidersWhat We Learned in Cuyahoga County

In the Pay for Success (PFS) model, governments, funders, and nonprofits work together to construct projects that measurably serve our most vulnerable populations. Within this cross-sector mix of stakeholders, local service providers play a critical role. Bringing local expertise to the table, these on-the-ground organizations are responsible for delivering services, and achieving the outcomes agreed to in the PFS contract.

FrontLine Services is one such organization. Third Sector worked closely with the community nonprofit to explore how Pay for Success could scale its continuum of care services for the homeless in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. When the Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program launched last year, FrontLine became the service provider to the first county-level PFS project. By working with FrontLine over the 12-month feasibility and construction period, we witnessed the several ways service providers benefit from PFS contracting:

Frontline Services provides the homeless community of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with continuum of care services.

“Now, we have more flexibility. Pay for Success allows us to focus our work solely on achieving outcomes for the families we serve.”

Frontline's services include permanent supportive housing, trauma counseling, and crisis response.

1) Increased understanding of program budget and drivers: FrontLine and Third Sector worked collaboratively to understand the economics of the services they intended to deliver. Through a series of conversations with their programmatic staff, FrontLine came to better understand the cost of service delivery on a per family basis. The clear understanding of its program budget and cost structure empowered the organization to introduce new innovations through Pay for Success . Specifically, FrontLine created a budgeted pool of flexible funds to support unanticipated client needs during the project’s implementation. Since launch, this flexible budget has allowed simple fixes that traditional service delivery would not have been able to accomplish.

2) Strengthened relationships with community partners: The PFS project created opportunities for FrontLine to work closely with other actors in Cuyahoga. Together with government, funders, and housing partners, FrontLine identified and resolved operational issues to better launch the project. Through PFS, FrontLine built the collaborative environment necessary for project implementation. For a full list of partners, visit our Cuyahoga project page.

3) Change of focus from compliance to outcomes: Rather than relying on compliance requirements to guide the resource decisions, the PFS contract allowed FrontLine to focus on how it could best achieve outcomes for each family. As a result, FrontLine’s staff were able to speak candidly about the need to embed flexibility in its service delivery model. At Frontline’s request, the contract includes multiple intervention pieces that can phase in or out based on specific needs to maximize the positive outcomes.

4) Increased voice at the table on key PFS innovations: We witnessed FrontLine’s voice evolve throughout PFS construction. As FrontLine worked on its program budget, they encouraged the project team to embed key innovations such as a ‘ramp-up’ period. The ‘ramp-up’ functioned as a cushion of time to test out the project’s operations before the full-fledged PFS project was launched. The Cuyahoga PFS project was the first project to embed a ramp-up period, which is now an encouraged best practice of all PFS projects.

“Before the Pay for Success contract, some of our programs and staff were bogged down with complying with the terms of grants and contracts” says Eric Morse, Chief Operating Officer of FrontLine. “Now, we have more flexibility. Pay for Success allows us to focus our work solely on achieving outcomes for the families we serve.”