Friday, September 21, 2012 for Non-Profits - Keep your head in the Cloud but feet on the ground!

Dreamforce 2012, the yearly extravaganza of all things, is now in full force and the Internet is abuzz with all manner of news and info about Salesforce at the moment.  If you can't make it out to San Francisco to see it in person, you can even watch most of it live through the web.

One of the things that has always impressed me about the way that Salesforce operates is the organizational support for doing good and supporting non-profits that seems hard-wired into their DNA.

Their Salesforce  Foundation and their 1 / 1 / 1 philanthropic model isn't just some Marketing gimmick - Mark Benioff has been running Salesforce since day one with supporting the causes of non-profits as a fundamental objective for the the company, and from all appearances, they're succeeding.

If you work for or serve on the board of a non-profit, chances are you may be considering Salesforce's platform and cloud based tools to help you achieve your organization's mission.  And it's easy to understand why - they will donate up to 10 Enterprise licenses to any qualified 501(c)(3) - a value of around $1500 / month.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg - their Power Of Us program offers plenty of other benefits as well.

Of course, Salesforce isn't a "ready-to-wear" type of system - every customer has to do an implementation that customizes and configures it for their specific business requirements, and this is even MORE important for non-profits, since Salesforce is really designed to align with the needs of For-Profit enterprises.

And this is here most non-profits hit a wall - the cost of the average Salesforce deployment can run into the 10's of thousands of dollars and most small organizations simply don't have the budget for that kind of an implementation project.

Fortunately, there is a solution.

Some consultants will provide implementation projects at reduced rates and / or as in-kind contributions to non-profits.  This is the strategy we take at Teamwork, and it aligns with our model of enabling our employees to contribute to efforts that bring about positive change in our community.

The only reason this really works for us (and probably for anyone else) is because of the amazing resources Salesforce makes available for non-profits.  Primarily, this is the Non-Profit Starter Pack, a set of customizations that changes the normally for-profit Salesforce system into one more suited to the needs of non-profits (both large and small).

For the last several months, I've been participating in a series of Monthly Virtual Meetings hosted by Salesforce and Click and Pledge that specifically cover the kinds of topics non-profits need to master to really see positive results from using Salesforce.  There's still plenty of sessions left, and you can register for free right now.

I've collected some links to the sessions I found most helpful along with a few other non-profit related Salesforce resources below.  They're arranged in the order that I think they'll be most useful, especially for those new to Salesforce.
  • How Non-Profits Use - A great introduction to the capabilities that Salesforce enables that are relevant to any non-profit organization of any size.
  • Salesforce 101 - This session covers some of the technical questions and considerations you'll need to address when you're running your operations in "the cloud."  In particular, the Q & A during the session is great and you will likely find your most commonly heard questions and concerns covered during the recording.
  • Salesforce Implementation Best Practices for Non-Profits - This is one of my personal favorites.  Surprisingly, there is not much literature available on best practices for non-profits, and this session covers not only the best practices, but also common mistakes and pitfalls that non-profits tend to encounter in their implementations.
  • Understanding your data - Salesforce Reporting for Non-Profits - Reporting is one of those areas that is just plain tough, whether you're a non-profit or a for-profit.  This session covers reporting from all perspectives - from the info your Board will need, to the reports your Executive Director will need, and even the day-to-day operational reporting that helps keep the lights on.
  • Volunteer Management with Salesforce - Managing volunteers is a time-consuming task for any non-profit.  This session covers the key concepts of doing it well with Salesforce and offers some of the best insights I've come across on doing it efficiently so you can focus on the core mission of your non-profit.
  • Google Groups - Non-Profit Salesforce Practitioners - This is a Google Discussion Group that we participate in that I whole-heartedly recommend.  If you have a question that can't be answered here, then you're probably asking the wrong question.

Check them out and reply in the comments section to let me know about your successes and challenges - whether you use Salesforce or not!