4 Reasons to Choose Salesforce for Humanitarian Organizations

By Salesforce.org | October 2, 2019 | Human Services, Nonprofit, Public & Social Benefit

By: Rob Jordan, CEO, Idealist Consulting

After 15 years working with nonprofits across multiple cause areas implementing Salesforce technology, one thing I know to be true is that Salesforce is great for humanitarian organizations. And I’m speaking from personal experience here: I started my career with the Peace Corps in Ukraine helping humanitarian organizations select, acquire, and implement technology to advance their mission. Shortly thereafter I worked with the American Red Cross as a disaster action team captain for the 9/11 tragedy.

Left: Rob Jordan onsite in Hebron, Palestine for “Project Palestine”   Right: Rob Jordan representing Idealist Consulting at the ACE awards in Washington, D.C.
Left: Rob Jordan onsite in Hebron, Palestine for “Project Palestine”
Right: Rob Jordan representing Idealist Consulting at the ACE awards in Washington, D.C.

It was this combination of experiences that inspired me to start Idealist Consulting and help humanitarian organizations bridge what Kofi Annan referred to as the “digital divide.” As a result, we were led to the world’s #1 CRM – Salesforce.

Over the last 15 years, we have worked with all types of humanitarian organizations: from development programs like the World Food Program to emergency response organizations like AIRLINK. It’s worth noting that one of our first clients, the American Himalayan Foundation (AHF), was one of the first 50 humanitarian nonprofits to utilize the Salesforce.org Nonprofit Cloud. Organizations like AHF have trusted Salesforce for over a decade, making it one of the longest-running CRM platforms within the humanitarian space.

As such, it should be no surprise that Salesforce was named 2019 Humanitarian Company of the Year by the American Red Cross.

After over a thousand nonprofit projects, with many of those working directly with humanitarian-focused organizations, I want to share the four fundamental reasons our team advises these organizations to choose the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud.

1. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

Our team regularly helps humanitarian organizations get a 360-degree view of their organization, programs, and impact. You don’t need to be reminded that big funders like USAID want to know where their money is going. Effective M&E starts with managing all of your data in a single place, which Salesforce was literally built for. Take the World Food Program USA as an example, which will be moving to NPSP where they will be managing their communities, groups (gender), households (family), and individuals (person). Housing all of their data in a single place makes M&E simpler. Being able to pull accurate, up-to-date, and usable data, in real-time.

Monitoring and evaluation of their different operations allows NGOs to meet the USAID reporting requirements needed to achieve their missions effectively. Moreover, they are able to monitor:

  • Targets to implement strategic decisions,
  • Successful partners to evaluate milestones and final outcomes, and
  • Outcomes for funders to evaluate success.

The USAID reporting requirements are just one example of an evolving focus around outcomes. With increasing attention by donors and governments on meeting the targets established in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all humanitarian organizations will need to adopt an “impact first” culture, ensuring they’re putting data at the center of their decision making and in their efforts to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. That evolving focus is also represented by the fact that the IATI data standard has already been updated to facilitate reporting on the SDGs.

2. Data Multitenancy

Within large humanitarian organizations, the people who support emergencies tend to be different from those that support the development programs that occur post-emergency; there is little overlap. Meaning, donors will often respond to an emergency by giving a one-time donation to the organization at that immediate time; however, those donors differ from those that give donations to the organization over the course of a couple years, to the programs that are more focused on international development. It can sometimes appear like these two departments are entirely different organizations due to how they communicate, collect, monitor, and use data.

Salesforce allows these two departments to coexist in the Nonprofit Cloud – a single platform for impact – as opposed to having two or four disparate systems. You can also setup privacy controls in which staff are unable to view client data and vice versa, even though they’re working from the same system. By managing your operations on a single platform, this can lead to incredible advances in collaboration, information sharing, and impact reporting. Imagine being able to share the impact of a donor’s donation, in a meaningful time frame, and what that could mean for retaining donors. What’s more, this data is managed in one of the most trusted data environments in the world.

3. Management Information System capability

Humanitarian organizations are collecting more data than they know what to do with. Salesforce helps them not only collect this data, but make it usable – get clear on what data is most relevant, how to organize it, report on it and learn from it. Are we targeting the right populations? Are we responding in a time frame that is making an impact post-emergency? What is the first action we need to take when entering a country or area of crisis?

Ultimately, Salesforce can provide a Management Information System (MIS) acting as an all-inclusive program, proposal, and financial management system used to enhance an office’s program management and reporting capabilities. All of this while providing a communal environment for its partners to manage activities and programs.

World Food Program response team delivering food after a cyclone hit Mozambique.
The World Food Program response team delivering food after a cyclone hit Mozambique.

4. Access your data online and offline, from anywhere in the world

Humanitarian organizations operate in some of the most dynamic environments on the planet. From the first world to developing countries, humanitarian organizations need a dynamic solution that can operate across multiple countries but also multiple devices both online and offline.

Salesforce does just that, by providing offline capabilities through the mobile application or partner offerings such as TaroWorks, while ensuring security, integrity, and privacy. As a result, data can be collected quickly and efficiently for proper monitoring and evaluation.

World Food Program-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster supporting a response team in Mozambique.
The World Food Program-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster supporting a response team in Mozambique.

Salesforce enhances collaboration, learning, and adaptation

According to USAID’s Program Cycle guidance (ADS 201.3.5.19), “Strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management link together all components of the Program Cycle.”

Salesforce is ideal in this capacity. It allows proper collaboration with partners, it organizes data resulting in learning outcomes faster, and it reveals the information that is gathered through collaboration and learning activities to make better decisions and adjustments as necessary.

I only wish I had access to this technology during my Peace Corps service. I have no doubt that we would have made a greater impact.

Premium PartnerIdealist Consulting is a Salesforce.org Premium Partner that helps nonprofits succeed with Nonprofit Cloud.

About the Author
Rob JordanRob Jordan, CEO, Idealist Consulting, started Idealist Consulting in 2006. From his roots with the Peace Corps, he had a vision for a better way of doing business. Today, that vision is realized through our unique people-first culture serving progressive organizations of all stripes: from nonprofits to small businesses.