Next week, the EC team will be at the Salesforce Connected Nonprofit Event in London, where Heather will be talking about Digital Transformation for charities and nonprofits. This has got us reminiscing in the EC office about the ‘old days’ in the sector, and how things have changed over the last 10-15 years.
Martin, our Head of Support and Supermums Trainer shares his memories and thoughts about these changes, and what they’ve meant for him and his family as well as for nonprofits.
“Thanks to the modern working practices, technology and an understanding boss, I am now based in the country where I started my journey into the Not for Profit Sector. Back in the late 90s, when I was a student I wrote a thesis on the provision of child care in Spain for working mothers. A practical case study of the implementation of post-modern ideas of equality – In order to access the job market new mothers needed flexible working arrangements and help with childcare.
It just so happened most of this child care in the region I was living was supplied by the NFP sector. As part of my undergraduate investigations I was able to find out that this sector existed and that it was funded by the local government. However that was about it, there was no info on what it actually did or what it actually achieved. Were new mums happy with the service? Were they able to achieve their goals of re-joining the workforce? I couldn’t say. In short there was no access to performance data.
This experience highlighted to me the importance of data and data management when running operations in a “public service” that depend on indicators other than the bottom line to suggest how successful they are.
I started out on my career in the sector back in 2003 at the NSPCC. I was helping administer their Child Protection Database – CIDS, this system was an old client / server architecture with staff uploading records at the end of the working day to a central database, quite quaint by modern standards but vital in giving the org operational oversite into all their offices and projects of what children were at risk at any one time.
Fascinated by the knowledge this gave the NSPCC and the POWER their child protection services could derive from it I began to realise the importance of also obtaining real time data on who your clients are and what you are doing with them in order to keep them SAFE and offer a joined up quality service.
This experience allowed me to move on to Project Manage a pioneering cloud based system that provided such customer info. The Link System developed by Resource Information Services (RIS – now Homeless Link) was an online database developed for my new employer – Depaul Trust that allowed staff in homelessness hostels to logon to a system and see if rough sleepers that had just walked in through the door had had any previous contact with the org or if they were currently being supported by other homeless projects in another part of London.
My job was to get all staff in all projects to use this system and achieve the goal of getting to know our clients and joining up service delivery between hostel and resettlement services. Thanks to the support of a great Project Champion (Head of Service Una Barry MBE) Depaul started to get an idea of who its clients were, how often they used their services and what their issues might be.
Shortly after starting this project the NFP sector experienced positive change, significant amounts public sector funding became available from the Labour Government. For the homelessness sector this was the age of the Statutory Funding of Support People and new management concepts of the Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework, Social Impact and Theory of Change.
Thankfully, Depaul Trust was now well placed to engage with this agenda as it has a cloud based client database in use across its projects (or Client Relationship Management system – CRM), the system could be adapted, Outcome Indicators could be added and Distance Travelled tools such as the Homelessness Outcomes Star could be employed. Indeed, Depaul Trust was not the only org that was using LINK, such was its success that other Homelessness orgs had adopted the system and the demands on making the system more flexible and more scalable were too great for a bespoke system to handle. RIS therefore took the masterful step of replacing LINK with a much more powerful CRM platform – enter Salesforce!
The extreme flexibility and scalability of Salesforce CRM coupled with the ability to ‘self administer’ your system meant that someone like me who was trying to simultaneously manage several company data sets at once (on a non existent budget!) could now make some real progress.
It allowed us to take in house the development of our Outcomes Agenda, build our own bespoke management reports and dashboards and set up our own bespoke workflows in no time at all. Using the Salesforce platform also meant that a large corporate donor who knew of and trusted the system gave us 6 figure donation on the understanding that we would use Salesforce to collect and analyse performance data.
As the recession bit the statutory money disappeared and with it so did the emphasis on Outcomes Measurement, however the breath of Salesforce functionality now meant I could exploit other aspects of the system such as Fundraising and Communications. Indeed, with the retreat of public sector cash from the NFP sphere I would argue that the use of Salesforce CRM with its 10 free licences for a registered charity and its bespoke Non for Profit App allows an NGO to engage directly with the austerity message of doing more for less, and leaves you well placed to compete for contracts in an ever more competitive market.
As agendas evolve, so does Salesforce.com. The platform is now incorporating AI functionality that will hopefully soon be able to analyse the specific needs and circumstances of NFP service users and supply them with tried and test advise and information via the web / mobile phones or social media. NFP orgs will be able to help more people without increasing their most expensive overhead – staff.
Using a single CRM platform architecture should mean that if so desired collaboration on Big Data projects will become that much easier, allowing NFPs to pool aspects of their data in order to build a more powerful empirical argument to lobby government or to attract significant corporate investment.
In short salesforce.com and tools like it still have a vital role to play in the future of the sector, it helps leverage previous experiences and learning and allows NGOs to truly engage with the ever increasing demands for a personalised experience for supporters and service users. Salesforce allows you to know your service users and supporters in detail.
Moreover being a cloud based technology it allows those who work with it to engage in the more modern practice of flexible working and working from home. To this end Economic Change now runs courses in training new mothers in Salesforce Administration so they may engage in flexible working practices and work from home while looking after their own children, which kind of leads me back to where I started all those years ago in Spain. Funny how things come full circle.”
Martin is our Service Desk Manager & Supermums Trainer. He specialises in large-scale Salesforce CRM implementation and roll-out with national & regional third sector organisations. An experienced Business Analyst & Salesforce Consultant, Martin runs the Support Services team to provide ongoing support services to our clients, and is also our Supermums Lead Trainer. Martin is qualified IT project manager with Prince 2, BSC Requirements Engineering and Salesforce Administrator, Sales Cloud Consultant and App Builder Certifications.
We’ll be sending live updates from the event and sharing Heather’s talk next week, so be sure to follow us for the latest updates
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