5 Ways to Convince Your Organization to Go Digital

By Norah Stevens-Kittner | October 7, 2020 | Customer Stories, Nonprofit, Products and Services, User Tips and Tricks

So you use Salesforce in your department already and see that by implementing it in other departments, your job and that of your colleagues could be easier, more productive, and more impactful–but your leadership doesn’t see it that way. What to do? Change is hard and choosing to make a difference in how your nonprofit operates is even harder. But we’re here to help you help your organization so this transition is as easy and painless as possible. 

What kind of nonprofit do you work for? Susanna Sharp, Salesforce Administrator, says, “In my experience, nonprofits seem to fall into two categories: those that see the value of organizational data and those that don’t.” 

If you work for a nonprofit that is already data driven, your path forward in implementing a one-platform solution will be easier. Why? Because managing more than one operation, such as fundraising and program management, in a common technology solution — making use of all of those data points you’re collecting means you don’t have to spend hours cross-checking systems and dealing with old data. Having everything in one place means you can create more of an impact through organizational efficiencies.

If you happen to be at a nonprofit where past resourcing decisions were driven by service delivery over infrastructure, we hear you! It’s hard to predict the future and know exactly what you’ll need. I mean, who would’ve thought we’d be grappling with a global pandemic in 2020? But now you’re realizing that all the data points that you’ve set up in disparate systems aren’t organized in a way that allows you to look holistically, pull insights, and make data-informed decisions. 

First, know that you aren’t alone in your peer group to have heard these objections from your leadership. Every one of us reading (and writing) this article are your cheerleaders. Keep reading for a list of common objections to consolidating fundraising and program management on the same platform — and tips and tricks on how to overcome each — sourced from seasoned objection overcomers. 

Nonprofit executives meetingHaving your data in one place means more impact through organizational efficiencies.

Objection #1: I don’t have any say in organizational decisions.

How to handle it: Be an advocate — not just for centralizing organizational data, but for yourself and your career. You work for a nonprofit, so you already know how to advocate for what you believe in. Use this as an opportunity to boost your profile within the organization; be seen as a leader affecting change. They may not change today or tomorrow, but they will see you as a leader and, when you’re recognized as such, you will be looked to as an authority when solutions are needed and decisions need to be made. 

Objection #2: Centralizing technology and being data driven aren’t priorities for my organization.

How to handle it: So your Director or CEO is focused on programs and not organizational data? Tie the request for this upfront investment to your mission. Adding this line item to your budget once will allow you to serve more people, save more coral reefs, or cure more diseases. With the efficiencies that technology offers, staff can make better use of time by focusing more on building and delivering programs than on time-intensive work that can be automated. No one signed up to work at a nonprofit so they can spend two hours trying to find a constituent’s phone number or creating four spreadsheets to share with four different stakeholders. Implementing tech solutions allows staff to do the critical work that brought them to your organization in the first place, resulting in more time back to focus on programs.

Objection #3:  It costs too much to implement. We don’t have room in our budget for the licenses or the headcount to manage a database like this.

How to handle it: Hand your execs the money and apply for free technology. Salesforce gives away 10 free licenses to nonprofits and has a Pro Bono program where you can apply to get help from a volunteer Salesforce employee. Imagine what other resources and grants are out there to help your organization implement the best solution while minimizing the cost to your current day-to-day operations. At a minimum, there’s a group of students eager to show off their skills and add to their resume by taking on your organization as a project.

What about the extra headcount to manage the database? Well, I can’t imagine you aren’t also using another program in other departments that need support. We’ve heard from Salesforce.org customers that having duplicate systems doubles the staff time needed to administer your technology solutions (or file your paperwork). Having everyone on the same platform could allow you to maintain or cut your tech support budget, rather than increase it.

“I believe we are saving at least 2 headcount out of a 35 headcount organization by having a single platform. Normally, my job would be done by a full time employee. If you had two systems, you’d need two people with the volume we’re doing because of the volume we have with programming. Our program levels are up to 78,000 a year now with 35 demographic and contact points for each. It would be so inefficient to have separate platforms for services and fundraising.”   – Mark Stark, Volunteer Administrator, Healthier Kids Foundation

Perhaps most importantly, ask your Development Director what the results would be if they had better information on their donors and could see how they are engaging with the organization. Or what if you were able to tell them where and how their funds made an impact in a timely fashion?

Nonprofit employee working at the computerStarting with a tiered approach to implementation is often beneficial.

Objection #4: It’ll take too much staff time to implement correctly.

How to handle it: Start with a tiered approach. The good thing is that you don’t have to sign up for everything all at once. You can make implementation bite-sized by starting with the basics and adopting other features as you go. 

That said, it’s always good to start with an organizational plan to make sure things are implemented correctly right from the get go. If you’re looking to implement Salesforce, I’d recommend Salesforce.org’s Jumpstart program, which provides discovery, hands-on implementation, and training for Fundraising and Case Management. Or, check out any one of our amazing implementation partners that specialize in setting up Salesforce for nonprofits like yours.

Once your plan is in place, start with one department or one project. Let’s say you use Salesforce for fundraising already; get your Programs team up and running next. Work through the dependencies and the onboarding, then move to another team, like Marketing. It’s an especially great way to not be totally overwhelmed in case you (likely) wear more than one hat in your org. 

Salesforce also has something called a sandbox. You might already have one if you’re using Salesforce. A sandbox is basically a copy of your organization’s Salesforce instance and its data. It allows you to play around, configure, test, and train with data without impacting your real, live data in your Salesforce instance. If you want to test and break how something will function before it goes live, have a field day! Once you like what you see, you can go live so everyone in the organization can make use of it.  

Objection #5: My leadership just won’t listen.

How to handle it: Use data to make the case. If you are seeing the value enough to suggest using it across other departments, what better way to convince your execs than to show them the value you’ve gotten through data? Show them that you’ve saved fundraising staff’s time by 30% by making it easier to find and engage with potential donors, or that you’ve increased a program’s rating from 3 stars to 4 ½ stars because you finally confirmedusing data that you’re targeting and serving the right populations. If they could imagine the possibilities of 30% more staff time across the organization, why would it still be a hard decision to make? Let them make data-driven decisions by handing them that data on a silver platter. Then all that’s left to do is sit back and receive all the kudos that you deserve.

To learn more, download the e-book on the value of having your programs and fundraising on the same platform.


About the Author

Norah Stevens-Kittner, Director of Product Marketing, Nonprofit Mission Delivery at Salesforce.org

Norah Stevens-Kittner is a Director of Product Marketing, Nonprofit Mission Delivery on the Nonprofit Cloud team specializing in program and grants management. She has worked at Salesforce.org since 2015 in several roles including customer marketing. Prior to Salesforce.org, she worked at several nonprofits in fundraising and marketing. She holds a B.S. from Guilford College in Biology and Spanish.