Supporting a Strategy with Salesforce Cases


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.

Getting started: Defining goals

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:

  • Managing internal data requests
  • Implementing a ticketing solution for support cases related to their new internal CRM

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.)

Detailed planning is essential

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:

  • Internal Data Requests: When managers and executives need data and reports, they will submit a Case ticket with pertinent information (data/report type, due date, etc.). Salesforce then automatically routes the case to the designated owner based on assignment rules, and sets a case priority based on the request type and due date entered by the requester.
    • Request #1: The Programs Director needs to see a report of all local program partners, with year-to-date fundraising totals in order to submit a federal grant application.
      • Case Type: Report Request
      • Case Subtype: Programs (subtype determines routing to Programs Specialist, who owns this data.)
      • Due Date: December 1st (since due date is more than 6weeks in advance, the case priority is set to “Low”.)
    • Request #2: An Outreach Manager needs to know the number of calls received this month about new legislation so they can determine if a press release is necessary.
      • Case Type: Data Request
      • Case Subtype: Advocacy (subtype determines routing to Legislative Administrator, who owns this data.)
      • Due Date: Today (Since due date is within the next 48 hours, this case is prioritized as high, and is escalated to the Legislative Coordinator who will oversee fulfillment of the request.)
  • Support Ticketing: CAH has just gone live with a new Salesforce system, and users are still getting used to features and functionality. As new fields and processes need to be added or updated, users fill out a support request ticket that allows the database administrator to track, prioritize, and resolve requests quickly. Users also receive automated resolution status updates along the way.
    • Request #1: Multiple users submit issues stating that the formula field that calculates annual household giving is incorrect.
      • Because all users identified the same “Field Affected” and “Issue Reason” in their tickets, the database admin is able to easily see that this is a high-priority issue impacting multiple users.
      • The database admin manually creates a high priority Parent Case to group the individual tickets and track the overall resolution.
      • As the database administrator works to resolve the issue, users receive auto-generated emails that provide updated Case Comments regarding resolution status.
    • Request #2: It’s been a few weeks since CAH started using the support request ticketing system, and the CIO wants to know whether it’s been successful in reducing response time and balancing workload.
      • The database manager is able to run a report of all Cases where Case Type equals “Support”, and then groups this data by Case Owner, with Aging (days open before resolution), Priority, and Status.
      • This report allows the CIO to evaluate the overall performance of each of support staff person, and reassign case volume as needed in order to ensure a balanced workload.
      • When this same report is re-grouped by Case Subtype instead of Case Owner, it provides insight into the processes or issues that most commonly affect end users, allowing the CIO to determine where retraining or redesign of the system may be needed.


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:

  • Editing pick list values on standard case fields
  • Creating case queues
  • Creating case assignment and escalation rules
  • Creating a case prioritization workflow rule

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.


Comments are closed.