An inclusive perspective on CRM data
The mission of Amplify is to empower underrepresented voices in the Salesforce.org ecosystem and those who support them to be fearless leaders in technology. To help nonprofit and educational organizations like yours put your values into your technology, here are six practical steps to put equality in your CRM.* We’ll also discuss how to be inclusive to respect your constituents’ unique attributes, while also recognizing that key stakeholders may require data in a standard format.
1. Respect Your Constituents’ Privacy and Manage Data Respectfully
Collect only what you need. While respecting data privacy is a must for any organization, it’s especially important for nonprofits serving individuals who are members of one or more minority groups.
The Racial Equity Tools website suggests making a list of the points you want to collect and categorizing the purpose for each as descriptive, monitoring, or evaluative. If the data point is only descriptive, and has limited benefit to stakeholders or constituents, consider not asking the question – or at the very least, making an answer optional.
The UX Collective suggests being fully transparent about the data you are collecting and why. Using Salesforce Field-Level Help text is a great way to provide more information about the data you are collecting. Field-Level Help text can be added to fields by using the Object Manager in Setup.
2. Review the Field Names in Your CRM for Equality
Choose your words carefully. Is there implicit bias in your questions or field names?
Consider common data collection for those caring for children: the forms or fields usually ask questions about “mother” and “father.” Many children live with grandparents or family members and friends. Over 430,000 children are in foster care on any given day.
From the outside, maybe it seems simple enough to just scrawl “grandma,” “aunt,” “foster,” or “adoptive” above “mother” and “father” on endless forms, but I (Angela), can tell you from experience that it is emotionally exhausting to have the differences in your family structure highlighted by paperwork when more inclusive options could exist.
For most forms, a “Guardian 1,” “Guardian 2,” or “Emergency Contact 1,” “Emergency Contact 2” and a “Relationship to Child” text field would work just fine. On medical forms or questions, consider using “Biological Parent 1” and “Biological Parent 2”.
3. Consider Open Text Fields for Self Identification
Avoid over-simplified picklists. A very common demographic question relates to “race”. (We put this in quotes, as race is frequently conflated with ethnicity.) Amplify recommends open text fields for race. Too often, the picklist will usually include an incomplete list of options, and an instruction to pick one. I (Marisa) am not able to represent myself, or my daughter, for that matter, when forced to select from a picklist of races.
Data collection around gender is also grossly oversimplified. Gender tracking is often binary (i.e., a choice of male or female). This excludes people who are nonbinary. Amplify recommends open text fields for pronouns and gender, to provide constituents with an opportunity to self-identify. (This is assuming that you need to be collecting this information at all, regarding your constituents.)
A Preferred Pronoun custom text field with help text.
For a deeper explanation of how to thoughtfully create demographic tracking mechanisms, we recommend reading Respectful Collection of Demographic Data. For more information on gender tracking in databases, please read The Importance of Inclusivity in Your Database by Jude Shimer. For specific information on designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion, please see this article by UX Collective.
4. Consider Your Reporting Requirements in Salesforce and NPSP
Balance your business operation needs with human needs. Nonprofits are frequently funded by institutions that require very specific reporting needs regarding the constituencies that they serve.
The open text field recommended above is a more “human approach,” which is what Amplify advocates. However, open text fields will make segmented reporting inside Salesforce more difficult. Some funders, especially government entities, will require data to be in their format, which will necessitate picklist fields and segmented data to facilitate reporting necessary for service funding.
In NPSP, some key functionality is dependent on picklists. But the good news is, for these dependencies, you can build out as many custom values as your constituency demands for these fields, such as the gender field and its functionality tied to Relationship records.
You can also work with your constituents and potentially engage a partner to customize your solution to your balanced needs. We additionally encourage nonprofit funders to be more inclusive in how you request reports on organizations whose services you support.
5. Equity in Data Management: What Are Your Assumptions?
Identify judgments and assumptions. When measuring impact, sometimes you have to make judgement calls and assumptions. Be sure to document the judgements and assumptions in a code book so those who review your measurements later know the judgement or assumption you made and why. For more information, see this tip sheet from the Racial Equity Tools website.
Assumptions can sometimes be programmed into databases. In our work as Salesforce Consultants, we’ve seen databases set up to always treat the Contact record for a male member of the Household as primary. Picture this: a male member of the household may have never written a check to an organization or participated in an event, but that male member appears first on tax receipts or organizational mail, just by default.
Thank goodness the Salesforce.org Nonprofit Success Pack offers options for managing Households! By navigating to NPSP Settings and choosing People, then Households, you can customize the Household Name Format, the Formal Greeting Format, and the Informal Greeting Format.
Examples of standard Household Name Format in the NPSP
Examples of the Formal Greeting Format in the NPSP
The Informal Greeting Format in the NPSP
By clicking the Manage Households button on Accounts, you can choose Contacts to exclude from the Formal Greeting or Informal Greeting. You can also adjust the order of names in the greetings.
With a simple drag-and-drop you can go from this:
A screenshot with the male member of the Household as number 1 in the naming order.
Different household member of the Household as number 1 in the naming order.
6. Embrace Continuous Improvement
Commit to a learning mindset. Any company, community, or social group will inevitably face times where they make mistakes, no matter how well meaning they are. Amplify originally began in 2013 as Girlforce, a Chatter group in the Power of Us Hub dedicated to empowering women in the nonprofit community to become leaders in technology. As our membership grew, we learned our mission, and even our name did not resonate with many of our members. We were challenged to intentionally become more inclusive and to address intersectionality. In 2017, we formally changed our name and our mission in response to our members’ feedback.
We are still learning. Sometimes it feels like the more we learn about bias, the more we see it all around us. Our work may never be done, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to it. We’re taking action when we become aware of a better way.
Want to dive deeper? Here is a short list of resources so you can continue your learning journey:
Whether you’re a Salesforce Admin, a nonprofit fundraiser, an education administrator, or a corporate social responsibility advocate, be thoughtful and deliberate in implementing and maintaining data collection mechanisms at your organization. Every day is the right day to be inclusive and build community.
Want to talk more about these topics? Ask your questions in the Amplify group in the Power of Us Hub, or learn more on Trailhead in these modules:
- Business Value of Equality
- Culture of Feedback
- Equality Ally Strategies
- Impact of Unconscious Bias
- Inclusive Leadership Practices
About the Authors
Angela Adams is Executive Vice President of Now IT Matters and has managed product and professional services delivery in the social impact sector since 2004. Part geek, part wayfinder, and all analyst, Angela is adept at finding themes hidden in complex business processes and creating and executing a plan for transformation. Angela is co-founder of two nonprofits, Amplify and The Nourish Collective.
Marisa Lopez is a Salesforce Evangelist who has helped hundreds of nonprofit organizations leverage Salesforce to forward their mission. Her titles include Director of Account Management at Presence Social Impact, President at Amplify, and Mom, although she often refers to herself as a Technology Therapist. Her greatest accomplishment is raising her beautiful, independent, level-headed daughter.
*The statements provided in this entry solely reflect the personal opinions of its authors, and do not constitute official statements from or on behalf of Salesforce.org. The statements also solely are informational and reflect considerations for organizations when planning data retention programs and/or policies. Nothing in this entry constitutes legal advice or counsel, or provides any guarantees of compliance with a given law or other requirement. Each organization must determine for itself what approach is best for them, and whether that approach satisfies any applicable laws or other obligations. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.