When people think of “nonprofits” I’m willing to bet they’re thinking about small, grassroots nonprofits like Camp Outlook, which we first met on Bandit World Tour a couple of years ago. They’re not necessarily thinking about the large, national organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters America, which we’ve also worked with. These two types of nonprofits are similar in that their mandate doesn’t include making a profit—but their daily operations, including technological processes, can look very different. With this in mind, Traction on Demand (ToD) has created a dedicated team of Salesforce consultants to serve small nonprofits, specifically.
Need Salesforce support? Look to the North Star (squad)
The North Star squad, as this team is known, is led by Stephen Rathjen who was once the program manager at Saint James Music Academy. They had Salesforce but didn’t know how to use it—which is a common story we hear. And we get it.
“With many of us coming from nonprofit backgrounds we understand that the priority to streamline and scale technological processes generally falls far below asking for donations, communicating with volunteers and creating programs that are going to make a difference in the world.”
But back to Stephen. Saint James Music Academy had been awarded a grant jointly awarded by ToD and Social Venture Partners, and here they had an opportunity to, well, streamline and scale their technological processes. To make the long story short, the experience was so inspirational, so rewarding, that Stephen now works at ToD—helping other small nonprofits navigate the Salesforce ecosystem and everything it has to offer.
Tips for small nonprofits to get started on Salesforce
This is a team that will “get” you and your small nonprofit. They know there is likely no budget for a dedicated Salesforce administrator, and you’re probably the office manager, volunteer coordinator and program creator all at the same time. “With my background, I have a deep awareness of the growth and evolution of small nonprofits and the common pain points and pitfalls,” says Stephen. “People try to use what they have and build around that but quickly hit scalability limits. I can suggest next steps in the evolution of their technological journey.”
But before you can take the next steps, you’ve got to take the first steps. According to Stephen, these are some of the ways small nonprofits can optimize Salesforce:
- Get rid of siloed systems: There needs to be one source of truth—both for efficiency and for your sanity. “You can’t have multiple data in systems everywhere,” explains Stephen. “You can’t have constituent lists in Mailchimp and programs in a spreadsheet. You have to have your data where you can see it all in one place.”
- Improve your data quality: It’s time to finally make time for a major data audit. “No more missing names or email addresses,” says Stephen. “You need to have consistency of data across your entire organization.”
- Gain the ability to quickly pull reports (and wow your board at the same time): “Native reporting is so important,” says Stephen. “You want to gain strategic insight into your operations without having to manually comb through the data.” It’s this data that will give you the ammo, so to speak, to make important decisions that will most benefit your organization.
“If you can get over the hurdle of change management, you will never look back,” promises Stephen. And you’re not alone. There are thousands of nonprofits that use 10 free Salesforce licenses to manage their operations. Many of them are active in the Power of Us Hub, an online community of users who troubleshoot and commiserate together. For the motivated user, Trailhead provides an endless opportunity to learn all the ins and outs of Salesforce online.
Case study: One Girl Can
When the North Star squad came together late in 2020, their first project was One Girl Can, a nonprofit that promotes education for girls in Kenya. This organization is especially close to Tractionite hearts as many of our team members were already independently involved in supporting and fundraising for educational scholarships.
Like many nonprofits they had a CRM, but as Natalie Suen, Donor Relations Manager at One Girl Can explains, “It wasn’t well utilized. We had lots of spreadsheets and information everywhere—some of it in our heads.” This was especially problematic for an organization that had so many different relationships to track between the donors, girls, scholarships and programs. Stephen adds that the nonprofit couldn’t track a donor’s journey, making it difficult to steward them. “They had no ability to see the story of a donor,” he says. And, as we’ve come to realize in the nonprofit world, donors have come to expect the same seamless experience they have as customers elsewhere.
Solution and results
Stephen says they started from scratch by implementing the Nonprofit Success Pack. From there they created new objects that would help identify incoming scholarships and contribution amounts, and their connections to donors and donations. Finally, the North Star squad built a custom scholarship and sponsorship tracking tool—both across One Girl Can’s high school and university programs—that capture the entire life cycle of a girl’s journey with the organization. Natalie says their Salesforce system will allow them to scale more seamlessly and support their participants better. “Now we know how they’re doing academically in one click,” she says.
Other nonprofits North Star has worked with:
- Rainbow Railroad
- The Trevor Project
- Downtown Eastside Women's Centre
- The Raffi Foundation
- BC Parks Foundation
- Canadian Mental Health Association of BC
Let us help you—help us
The amazing thing about all this—yes, there’s more!—is that the North Star squad is made up of ToD consultants that are newer to Salesforce. We’ve long said that we value curiosity and a can-do attitude over technical skills, so this is a great place for some new hires to start. This includes Tractionites that have graduated from Traction Access, a technical upskilling program for newcomers and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
“North Star adds another layer to the value proposition we bring to every project across the business,” says Stephen. “This squad is a real embodiment of Traction on Demand’s philosophy of ‘doing good.’ We’re called North Star because in a way we’re a guiding light for the rest of the company by being on the frontlines.” The frontlines of grassroots nonprofits can be grungy and unpleasant at times, but as someone who has seen the impact these efforts can make, time spent in the trenches is all worth it. Stephen would agree. “The idea of striving for something beyond ourselves. That’s what North Star is all about,” he says.