Where should we draw the line when it comes to automation?
Coming from a Salesforce Consultant, this is really not a smart thing to say, right? But hear me out. I absolutely worship Salesforce, so much in fact, that wherever I am or whomever I am talking to, even if it’s a factory or a hospital, or a newly built residential complex, my mind goes off into planning how implementing Salesforce would help the business. Because that’s how my mind works, that’s what I understand. I can identify the need and offer a solution to become as efficient and cost-reductive as possible.
And then comes the organization that operates completely differently than you’re used to, a non-profit. In our case: Yuppi Camp. What do you do?
You sit down with the stakeholders and just listen. At first, you’d allow yourself to think about donors and donations, easy, right? In fact, it will take way longer than you're used to figuring out the process. You’re actually designing a process with the stakeholders. It’s going to be challenging, there will be ideas jumping from many directions and you’ll constantly find out about new donation channels, twists, and exceptions.
The first steps towards digitalization
Our goal: to help them not use spreadsheets anymore and make their life as easy as possible. We identified three major areas when talking about donors, individual, corporate, and grants, and then proceeded by focusing mainly on the first two, by making it possible to track the entire lead to the contract process.
In addition, we talked about beneficiaries, volunteers, additional staff, employees. Then came the campaigns, the marketing side of it, and slowly but surely, the automation. Christmas emails, birthday emails, anniversary emails, you name it. This is when we had to take a step back, and understand that Yuppi Camp is not our usual company, and it will not help the fundraising in any way to replace the manually written emails with automatically sent out standard ones, so we did the next best thing, automatically create the reminders for them to send out all those emails. Other topics were the Gmail/Outlook integration, the Mailchimp integration, and another custom solution that is not to be neglected at all, the possibility to print out the addresses in a letter format, which comes in very handy for an organization that sends out postcards all the time.
When did we hit a wall?
The surprise for us was the free user license number, and then other storage limitations. The first was solved easily by having shared users, however, for the second one, we had to create a custom solution, which links Salesforce with the NGO’s google drive, so all the sponsorship contracts are visible in Salesforce, but are not physically taking up storage space there. I would say I am the proudest of this one, our developers did a really good job.
Then, integrating ready-to-use document generators was out of the question, so we also had to come up with a solution for that, and we immediately hit a bump, when it came to rendering special characters, specifically Romanian characters, on a visual force page. I’ll make a parenthesis here, for all those who are still undecided whether to love or hate Salesforce, it’s the incredible specialists who offer their free advice on different groups and forums in case you’re stuck, however this time, the one who handed me the saving tip was a Salesforce Architect and former colleague of mine. Who knew that using the legacy keyboard instead of the standard one would make a difference?
Training. This was the first time people got to use such a powerful tool, which offered them new, more practical ways, so the training was something really important. Even if it looks simple to use, those few objects – account, contact, campaign, activity, and opportunity – can be tricky to grasp and fully understand sometimes. And when we got to reporting and how data could be filtered and the variety of charts that can be used, it wasn’t as complicated, as they were already doing all that, however, what takes time is learning that now the spreadsheets are split between objects, so that means different report types for different purposes.
What did I like most about this journey?
I’d say, the challenge. I would see everywhere Salesforce newbies being advised to start in this ecosystem with a non-profit, and there was I, with all that profit experience having no clue about NGOs. With this in mind, comparing the non-profit implementation to a profit one, I’d emphasize that the people from Yuppi Camp a much better system in place have. They actually know how much their typical donor donates when they are most likely to get the highest amount of donations, and so on, whereas I worked for companies that cared very little about statistics and forecasting.
Also, the stakes are high, during the entire period I could feel that these people dedicate their entire life to this cause, they have no days off, no bank holidays, no 9-5 schedules. What I realized is that not too many people are aware of the colossal work and immense dedication that goes on behind the closed doors of a non-profit. They live and breathe for the cause, stretching themselves out quite thinly to manage it all, so at some level, I felt like this is the way we could contribute, and we wanted to put all my effort into making it something really useful for them.
Lastly, this entire experience gave us some food for thought when it comes to keeping up relations, the importance of personal communication, and showing appreciation. As we began to understand just the entire way they operate, how everything is handled very carefully, how every email is written with a personal touch, how they run to meet in person every donor and why every donor’s birthday matters, you can’t help but admit, that in the technology era, there are just some things that work better the way they are, slightly automated, but with a pinch of human touch added.