The Duke University Benefits Enrollment Center (BEC) in Durham, NC serves low-income seniors aged 65+ and adults living with disabilities aged 21-64, with a special focus on  rural and disabled individuals who are homebound and have limited transportation options. One particularly effective outreach strategy Duke has used with this population is a drop-off box system.

What did they do?

Older adult man drops a letter into a drop-off boxAs the Duke University BEC began to provide enrollment services, they found that reaching out to religious organizations, sending a holiday card to remind participants about BEC support, and giving flyers to Meals on Wheels representatives all had a positive impact on their outreach efforts to the rural, low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities they were trying to target.

In order to address the time-consuming nature of travel and home visits, the BEC created a drop-off box system around low-income communities. The BEC puts a lock box at local venues that are frequented by potential BEC clients, like pharmacies and libraries. The potential client has an opportunity to fill out a very short and simple form to request more information and screening from the BEC. By making the system private, the BEC is able to address the stigma that can be associated with inquiring about benefits eligibility. In order to track their work and referrals, the center developed a custom-made Access database.

What were the results?

The number of referrals from each drop-off box varies every month. Factors like location, weather, holidays, and time of the month can affect the outcome. For example:

  • The pharmacy drop-off box located down the street from the BEC office sees greater traffic during the last and first week of each month, when seniors stop by to refill their monthly prescriptions.
  • Businesses that close during certain holidays such as Christmas or New Year’s see a lower response during those times.
  • Good weather often brings more people outdoors and running errands, which can increase the chances of success of drop-off boxes.

One final tip that the BEC noted was that in locations like public libraries with a calendar open to the public, there is an opportunity to review upcoming events targeting the group you are trying to reach. The Duke BEC utilizes such times to stop by and meet the event organizer, share some information about the BEC, and leave flyers behind.

For more information

Angel Romero Ruiz
Duke University