Oklahoma Department of Housing Services


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Challenge:

The energy burden for low income residents in Oklahoma is significant and has become more apparent with the drop in the economy. To address the growing challenges the Oklahoma Department of Housing Services (OKDHS) sought out to provide energy saving products and useful energy conservation education for the consumer. The goal was to enable them to make knowledgeable behavioral and purchasing decisions in the future.

To coincide with the OKDHS mission to “help individuals and families in need help themselves lead safer, healthier, more independent and productive lives,” OKDHS strived to create a program to reach out to their residents in a welcoming manor and help them quickly lower their utility bills. In the study of community based programs many of them presented challenges such as:

  • They take too long to reach the resident.
  • They have high initial costs that the resident cannot afford.
  • They often need the resident to make an appointment that is inconvenient with their work schedule and daily lives.
  • They include having strangers in their home to do installations.
  • They focus on product installs and neglect education.
  • They do not collect any data to show results or receive feedback from the resident.

OKDHS found the customizable Easy Savings Program by Resource Action Programs (RAP) ideal for launching a community based program that quickly reached the target customers, minimized the burden associated with implementing the measures, and provided adequate focus on education while providing tangible results and the data to support it.

 

Solution:

OKDHS found the Easy Savings Program to be a simple turnkey service giving them the flexibility, results and data feedback they were looking for. In reviewing the list of challenges, RAP was able to customize the Easy Savings Program to OKDHS’s exact needs.

RAP developed a marketing plan to launch “opt-in” direct mailers to prequalified OKDHS low-income residents. The educational materials related the changes they would implement in the home to their potential monetary benefit.

RAP and OKDHS developed an “Easy Savings Kit” with measures and educational materials suited to the specific needs of the local residents. The kit included easy to install measures, a Quick Start Guide with educational information and a Savings Survey for the resident to Fill out and return after completing the program.

RAP developed a marketing plan to launch “opt-in” direct mailers to prequalified OKDHS low-income residents. The educational materials related the changes they would implement in the home to their potential monetary benefit. The Easy Savings Kit offered savings up to $400 per year by installing the different measures provided in the kit. This empowered the resident to make their own choices and choose the modifications that were most comfortable and convenient for them.

Residents either returned the completed mailer to enroll, or they called to enroll over the phone to receive their OKDHS Easy Savings Kit. All shipping and postage was free to the participant. Because of the pre-qualification step, RAP had a list of residents who were eligible to receive the program; residents who were not on the list were referred back to OKDHS for qualification. Residents received their OKDHS Easy Savings Kit within 4-6 weeks of enrolling and were able to quickly implement the program to begin saving on their utility bills.

 

Result:

An overwhelming number of participants enrolled after receiving the first mailer. RAP was budgeted to deliver three separate mailers to draw attention to residents, but fulfilled the budgetary constraints of the program after just one mailing. Out of 314,135 mailers sent out, 74,201 residents enrolled and received the OKDHS Easy Savings Program. 24% Enrollment after receiving only one mailer informing them of the program is considered very successful. Data was collected from the residents at two different times throughout the program. A short six-question home audit survey was collected at the time of enrollment either by mail or over the phone. These questions are illustrated in the PDF File. This preliminary home audit data is important because it provides a demographic profile of the home and is also used as a baseline for installation calculations and reporting.

Upon completion of the program the participant was asked to complete the Savings Survey to provide information about the program and the measures they installed. 11% of the participants returned the Savings Survey. No incentive was given to the participant to return the survey, only that the information was important to reinforce the success of the program so OKDHS could continue to conduct similar efficiency programs in the future.

According to the Savings Survey 78% of participants indicated they learned a lot from the program, 21% learned a little and only 1% indicated they learned nothing.

In conclusion there were many significant program features that led to the success of the program; residents received the program in a timely manner, had no initial up-front costs to participate, measures came with easy instructions for them to install themselves, residents were able to learn how the measures helped them save on utilities and data was collected for OKDHS to show the result of the program. According to the Savings Survey 78% of participants indicated they learned a lot from the program, 21% learned a little and only 1% indicated they learned nothing.

The program was a success for OKDHS and RAP. A post program evaluation identified potential initiatives that could have further improved the performance and results of the program. For instance, RAP typically offers a web site enrollment option. Although it was not needed to reach the enrollment goal, adding a web site enrollment option may have proven beneficial since 56% of the participants indicated they do own a computer. Also many participants told their friends and family about the program who called and wanted to enroll. Because these potential participants were not always on the pre-qualified list, the delay and inconvenience of applying for qualification may have deterred them. A process for quickly qualifying more residents would have further benefited the enrollment rate.