Using Salesforce to help social impact organizations

Using Technology to Elevate Your Impact

January 19, 2023
Last year I worked with three clients to implement bespoke Salesforce platforms for their organizations. It resulted in a saving of hundreds of hours, as well as the generation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. Read on to learn more and see whether this is an opportunity you may be able to take advantage of.

A few years back, I transitioned away from running the nonprofit organization I’d cofounded to start a new business as a social impact consultant. My goal was (and is) to bring all I’ve learned as a social entrepreneur, founder and nonprofit leader to support other social impact organizations create transformational change. 

My work manifests in a variety of ways from developing tools and products, to providing services such as coaching, online and in-person training, and facilitation. But there’s one area that’s a little less obvious than the others that I get particularly excited about. And that’s the integration of technology and digital platforms.

When I was the Executive Director of SERES, we often received comments from prospective donors and partners about the sophistication of our systems, which were typically miles ahead of most organizations of our size. This is because for most small and medium-sized social impact organizations, their focus (understandably) is on raising the resources required to implement their programs. Technology can be a big investment, and it’s not easy to direct resources away from ‘the work’ towards internal tools and platforms – even when it will result in long-term savings. The advantage we had is that I’m an engineer, and I geek-out on ways to use technology and platforms to improve efficiency and save time and resources. I would often spend my weekends searching for technology solutions that were free (or at least affordable) for nonprofits, and seeing how adaptable they were for different scenarios. And that’s when I discovered Salesforce.

Salesforce is an incredibly powerful, very sophisticated low code software solution used by over 150,000 companies worldwide. But what makes it really stand out (in my books) is that Salesforce is FREE for non-profits and educational organizations. That’s right, free!

At its best, Salesforce can help social impact organizations to improve donor communication and client relationship management, support monitoring and evaluation efforts, measure (and demonstrate) impact, and provide real-time data to improve decision making. 

But there is a catch, and it’s something I’ve seen time and again.

If not done correctly, Salesforce can end up feeling like an unwieldy, overblown tool that gets added to someone’s long list of “must-dos”. With incomplete information and unclear reports, many users end up not trusting the platform and duplicating work out of Salesforce, going back to doing many things manually.  

This is why having someone with a combination of industry-specific knowledge and Salesforce-specific knowledge is a game changer. Last year, I worked with three of my clients to help them improve, upgrade, or implement new Salesforce systems. 

All three of those projects resulted in considerable savings, both in time and resources. One client now saves literally hundreds of hours a year in donation processing. Another client, for whom we automated most of their donation processing and created bespoke dashboards to help them track key performance indicators, commented:

“Being able to use a new, customized Salesforce platform designed for our needs has greatly helped us to improve our donor management, as well as providing us with the reports and tools to help us evaluate our strategies in real-time.”

Another client, for whom I built a custom-designed monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact system, used their new platform to better communicate with potential donors the range and impact of their work. Since then, their funding partnerships have increased more than 5-fold. 

If you have a small to medium sized organization, a digital platform like Salesforce could provide significant savings in terms of human resources, as well as ways to improve communication with your clients, donors, partners and other stakeholders. But before embarking on a new project, make sure that you are working with someone that can bring industry knowledge, platform knowledge AND a human-centered design approach to deliver something that works for you and your team.

If you’d like to explore more about how Salesforce – or other technology platforms – may work for your organization I’d be more than happy to set up a time to discuss. Here’s to continuing to create a better world for generations to come!

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