Benefits Data Trust lands two-year, million-dollar grant to focus on scale - Philly


Dec. 4, 2018 1:11 pm

Benefits Data Trust lands two-year, million-dollar grant to focus on scale

The Center City nonprofit was announced as one of 10 grantees in the Communities Thrive Challenge from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Rockefeller Foundation.

At Benefits Data Trust in Center City.

(Courtesy photo)

Center City-based nonprofit Benefits Data Trust beat out 1,800 other applicants around the country and became one of just 10 grantees of the Communities Thrive Challenge, a joint grant program created by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The organization, which helps low-income people access to public benefits and services, will use its $1 million grant over the coming 24 months to bring scalability to its technology and find new ways to reach and serve its target population.

“BDT and our BenePhilly partners have enrolled over 110,000 low-income Philadelphians in benefits that help pay for groceries, health care, housing, utilities and childcare,” said Ginger Zielinskie, President and CEO of BDT, in a statement. “Being named as a grantee in the Communities Thrive Challenge is a tremendous opportunity and next step in our larger vision to bring $1 billion in benefits to Philadelphia over the next decade.”

Ravindar Gujral, BDT’s chief data and technology officer, said the funds will help scale the organization’s tech infrastructure, add more capabilities like text messaging to its services and, hopefully, bring aboard more technologists to work on its Google Cloud Platform-based technology.

“From a tech standpoint, the infrastructure we’ve built is state of the art,” Gujral said. “Some of this money will help enhance that.”


Backed by the grant, the org will also launch a self-screener system, to provide some clients the ability to guide themselves to the screening process for 19 different benefits and services. A pilot test of the self-screener will begin as early as next month.

In September, BDT piloted a machine learning model that would help call-center staffers get extra insights while enrolling users onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“On the tech side of things, the tech capabilities and infrastructure we have can be rivaled against any startup on the East Coast,” Gujral said. We have some really good stuff going on here, and the work we’re doing is on the cutting edge. I left the startup world to be here, because I believe what we’re doing here can have an impact in the long-run.”

Here’s more on the org’s pitch for the national challenge.

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