CRM Roadmap to Transform a Food Bank - Heller Consulting

CRM Roadmap to Transform a Food Bank

food bank delivery

We recently had the opportunity to develop a CRM Roadmap for a large food bank that wanted to streamline its systems and business processes to better serve its community. Like most food banks, it has a loyal constituency: many volunteers are also clients; many donors also volunteer; individuals might first encounter the food bank through an employer-sponsored activity and then sign up for a peer-to-peer fundraising event.

Instead of internal systems showing the many ways people connect with the food bank, employees often find out from the constituents themselves. This is frustrating for both the constituents and the food bank team. More than ever, nonprofit supporters and clients expect to be known. They expect that when an organization sends them an annual appeal request, it is doing so with a full understanding of giving history, past volunteer hours and gala attendance over the years.

That is all much easier said than done.

But it is possible.

Get started now: Read about our TeamHeller Accelerators for Food Banks

Our client hired us to assess the technology environment and make recommendations for areas they could consolidate and break down the information and departmental silos that had grown unwieldy over time. Here is what the environment looked like at the beginning of our project:

Food banks are incredibly resourceful organizations. The work it takes to fulfill their missions of ending hunger typically involves a great deal of complex relationship and logistical management. Because they usually carry out their work on very thin budgets, what they accomplish is remarkable.

For those reasons, it is not surprising to see food banks end up with a dizzying web of systems and data flow. Often the tools were customized at various points in the past to meet specific needs. Over time, as needs expand and evolve, tweaks are made here and there to keep things running department by department, but the overall picture starts to get muddy.

User Story Collection

We reviewed an extensive set of sample reports, spreadsheets and business process documentation provided by our client before meeting with members of departments from across the organization. During a three-day onsite, we discussed what was working and what wasn’t with representatives from Volunteer Services, Development, DevOps, Finance, Programs & Services, Marketing, Food Resources, and Community Engagement. With the information they shared, we wrote over 200 detailed user stories that articulated what was needed for people to more effectively do their jobs. These serve as functional requirements for new solutions and become the basis of user testing in the future.

We also described each system in a table, detailing its purpose, who it was used by and the nature of all data input and outputs:


As is often the case with Roadmap projects, the Discovery process of gathering this detail was useful even before recommendations were made and a plan was completed. Input from all departments allowed staff members to realize how siloed their activities had become and see new opportunities for collaboration that would better serve their constituents.


Read another case study featuring our work with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley! blank


Solution Selection

Based on the key issues and the user stories, we identified six fundamental requirements of a new centralized CRM system. At the highest level, this food bank required a solution or set of solutions that:

  • Offered a unified view of all constituent detail and interactions with the food bank
  • Included a flexible security structure, allowing a variety of roles and permissions for users with different levels of responsibility
  • Had a user-friendly report interface for basic and general-use reporting
  • Allowed for streamlined integrations with peripheral systems
  • Had the capacity to scale and grow with the organization
  • Reduced the number of different systems that needed to be supported

We then led an in-depth comparison of three platform offerings that had the potential for meeting the core requirements:  Blackbaud, Microsoft Dynamics and

While some organizations find great success utilizing Blackbaud products for fundraising and an additional tool for volunteer management, this food bank placed a high priority on streamlining its administrative overhead from an IT perspective. Microsoft Dynamics and both offer the ability to develop a wide range of functions, but ultimately they felt that offered the best balance of proven pre-built apps and customizability.

With Salesforce as the primary platform, we were able to suggest the following as their target environment:


Change Management Planning

The recommended changes are significant and will dramatically impact the food bank’s ability to meet constituents’ expectations and needs. To ensure that the transition succeeds, and that the organization is able to maximize its investment, we made several important recommendations:

  • Phase the Implementations – While it can be tempting to try changing all systems over at once, it rarely works. We recommended a multi-year, five-phase approach and prioritized the systems that most inhibit the organization’s ability to do good work today. In their case, the first priority is volunteer management, so that is the first system they are rolling out on the new environment.
  • But Don’t Lose Momentum – We produced a high-level project plan that allows for each phase to layer in both an achievable implementation and planning for the next phase so that momentum doesn’t wane.
  • Proactively Manage the Transition – This project is going to impact almost every employee of the food bank and the ultimate goal is not to change systems, but to improve the way they work with each other and with their community. This requires thoughtful, professional change management techniques that ensure engaged employees and successful transformation. We produced a detailed plan recommending custom change management approaches based on their staff and goals.

Moving Forward

Detailed user stories showed the functional requirements. A targeted end-state diagram and phasing schedule captured the details of what the food bank expects to have after implementation is complete. Finally, a custom change management plan ensures that all stakeholders are heard, understood, and coached along the way as their jobs evolve with the project.


We created a guide just for food banks like yours. Download free today!

The problems facing food banks are complex and when looking at spreadsheets, fundraising systems, financial data and more, the idea of shifting everything over to a new system can seem overwhelming. Before jumping into an implementation, Heller Consulting has found that a comprehensive CRM Roadmap provides assurance that the project will proceed in a prudent and well-planned way.

About the Author

Joel Mulder
Joel came to Heller with ten years of experience in development for nonprofits. Starting in tele-fundraising and data entry, Joel learned how organizations use technology as he worked his way up, eventually becoming the development operations manager for Allina Health... Read More