There is a wide variety of mission-supporting technology available for nonprofit organizations today. As organizations grow and enhance their systems, they are challenged with selecting the best technology to adopt. The key to making the right decision rests not in technology feature comparison, but in clearly defining the strategy and goals of the organization, and matching the technology to those goals and overall mission. It’s not always easy, but with a combination of input from leadership and department staff, it’s well worth the effort.
In this four-part series we’ll follow a purely fictitious nonprofit, Coalition Against Homelessness (CAH), to illustrate common situations we have faced with real organizations. We will travel with CAH through several phases as they utilize their existing Salesforce capability to build everything from an internal ticketing system to a high-volume inbound support center. Each post in the series will build upon concepts from the previous step, starting with the straight-forward functionality that exists within native Salesforce Cases, and ending with a look ahead at a full Service Cloud implementation.
It’s important to remember that CAH is not a real nonprofit, and to keep the scope of this narrative under control we limit the discussion to Salesforce technology. We hope that by combining the struggles that many nonprofits face into a fictitious narrative, we can provide a basic guide for addressing organizational issues, and show the benefit of determining strategy and goals before selecting tools and technology. For specific case studies of actual projects and solutions, please contact us or visit our Resources page.
Coalition Against Homelessness is a (fictitious) medium-sized nonprofit focused on addressing homelessness nationally. In addition to providing one-on-one crisis support, CAH is also very active in local level advocacy organizing many community awareness events.
Although CAH has been very successful for many years, they struggle with a high staff turnover rate, which is largely attributed to long hours and a very demanding workload. In an effort to alleviate some of the pressures on staff, while also continuing to build capacity, CAH has identified two key areas for immediate improvement in the first phase of this project:
Currently, when internal data requests are required staff will either call, email or personally request data from members of the Programs team. These requests are often very time-sensitive, and there is no formal process around who fulfills each request, how competing requests are prioritized, or oversight to ensure that duplicate requests aren’t being made by separate stakeholders.
Similarly, when users have questions or concerns related to their newly launched internal CRM, Salesforce, they will often approach the IT team in person or send an email to the Fundraising admin. Staff members have become frustrated at the lack of follow-up and transparency around their support requests, and have begun to record key data outside the system as an alternative. The IT and database admin teams are also feeling overwhelmed, and there is confusion around ownership of system support issues.
It’s important to note that the issues defined above were identified through organized discussions with the departments involved. CAH leadership worked with their staff to clarify where workflow issues existed and how the issues could be resolved. They also evaluated possible solutions in the scope of how they would further CAH’s mission. These steps are essential to define the most effective strategy that will achieve short-term solutions while supporting longer-term goals. The coordination between leadership and department staff also strengthens the organization’s support of the end solution, greatly increasing the probability of project success. (Read more on this subject in Managing Technology Change at Enterprise Nonprofit Organizations here.)
After comparison and evaluation of the strategy and solution options, CAH determined they needed a system that automates and organizes the request submission process, streamlines follow-up, and tracks the results in order to show value. They worked together to map out the specific process that would solve these issues, including the notification steps and the reporting requirements that would eventually be required. Again, planning the strategy and process before comparing tool features is essential to developing an effective solution.
After clearly defining the details of the business needs and processes, CAH was able to look for a solution that would serve their requirements. In this case they found their needs could be addressed by leveraging the native Cases functionality in their existing Salesforce system. By customizing the standard Case fields (such as adding Case Types of “Report Request” and “Support”), and creating assignment and workflow rules to automatically route and prioritize each case, CAH is able to achieve a much more streamlined and user friendly process, with very little set-up required.
Below is a detailed breakdown of what each internal case management process looks like at CAH:
In this situation, native Salesforce Cases functionality allowed for an internal routing and resolution process adding efficiency and transparency to an inter-office support system. The key functionality items required for setup of this solution include:
By clearly defining the strategy and goals before evaluating tools or technology offerings, CAH was able to address their immediate issues using their existing system. It’s important to note that by considering the issues in a wider scope, the solution also incorporated additional checkpoints into the system’s overall effectiveness and indicate possible future problematic areas.
We hope that the story of our fictional organization provides you with insights on how early strategic planning helps create effective solutions within an organization. The next post in this series will take our fictitious CAH into the next phase of their larger plan showing how they utilize Email-to-Case in order to allow external constituents to send in-bound support requests.Read the next post
If you have any questions on the information above, please contact us. We are happy to share case studies from actual client projects that outline specific solutions.