“I think this is one of the largest convenings of nonprofits in the country.” I overheard this while standing among a crowd at Dreamforce recently, Salesforce’s annual four-day conference that saw 170,000 people – several thousand of whom were from nonprofits -- attend over 2,700 sessions across 16 locations in San Francisco.
While I’m not sure if what I heard is true, there is no doubt that Salesforce, one of the most popular customer relations management systems in the world, is playing a major role in helping thousands of nonprofits manage data, deliver programs, and evaluate impact. In addition to an expo of vendors dedicated to serving the nonprofit sector, there were dozens of sessions focused on how nonprofits have implemented and use Salesforce to advance their missions.
If you’re thinking about adopting Salesforce as your database, here are some key takeaways from the conference for your consideration:
Nonprofits are getting creative with Salesforce.
In addition to using Salesforce to manage donors, events, and marketing campaigns, nonprofits are using Salesforce to scan student IDs to keep track of after-school program attendance, sending mobile surveys to clients, tracking effectiveness of advocacy campaigns and outreach, and more. A lot of this is made possible by the large number of third party applications and integrations – online forms, e-signature services, email marketing, and more -- that work with Salesforce.
Because Salesforce is a highly customizable and powerful platform (even too powerful for some needs), all of the nonprofit presenters agreed that it is best to work with a consulting partner. Several highly-rated consultants were at Dreamforce, including KELL Partners, the firm we worked with to implement our Salesforce database. Each consultant partner will work with you to find a solution that works best for your needs and budget. If working with a consultant is beyond your budget, look for pro bono support or consider an out-of-the-box solution.
There are nonprofit discounts.
While there is an initial investment in building and implementing Salesforce, there are significant annual savings to be had through the Power of Us program. Salesforce offers fiscally sponsored projects of Community Partners 10 free user licenses for Salesforce, a savings of $4,320/year.
Get buy-in from your advisory board, staff and volunteers.
Your database is only as strong as the commitment of your staff and volunteers to use it. Make sure you provide adequate training and support so users feel as comfortable as possible. It also helps to have someone dedicated to managing the platform on a regular basis – perhaps your development or communications staff member or a volunteer.
You’re not alone.
In addition to a plethora of online resources and tutorials, there is help to be found from the Power of Us hub, an online community of other nonprofit users. In addition, there are local user groups that meet regularly and provide an opportunity to share tips and network.
At Community Partners, we’re very excited with the potential Salesforce offers. For the past year, we’ve been busy building and implementing Salesforce to better serve our project leaders, staff, and volunteers. In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out an easier way to submit expense contracts and human resource requests. And within the next 18 months, we’re aiming to provide project staff access to a portal where they can make requests and see the status of those requests, edit basic contact and project information, and more.
If you have any questions about Salesforce, please feel free to contact Ravi Shah at rshah@CommunityPartners.org.