Disaster Recovery with Volunteers and Technology: Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma

By Salesforce.org | April 26, 2018 | , | Nonprofit, Volunteering

By: Cheryl Curry, HomeKeeper Training & Support Specialist, Grounded Solutions Network. Cross-posted from the HomeKeeper blog.

AmeriCorps VISTA Kylie DaytonAmeriCorps VISTA Kylie Dayton returned to Sonoma County ready to make an impact in her home state. When the Northern California wildfires destroyed over 5,000 homes in her county, she built new skills to serve the urgent needs of the local community.

Kylie spoke to the HomeKeeper team about the resources that helped her and Habitat Sonoma tackle this work.

Graduating from NYU gave me a sense of accomplishment – but I was compelled to return to Sonoma County, where I grew up. I wanted to do work locally, in the place I still considered home. This proved to be a really meaningful decision in several ways.

In September 2017, I was hired at Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County as a Family Services Associate. I spent the first month learning to track our Aging in Place program in HomeKeeper. I’ve always been open to learning to use new technology, and my next step was to attend the HomeKeeper Bootcamp at Intersections 2017. But we didn’t make it – hours before we would have left for Intersections, one of the worst wildfire disasters in California history tore through our community. My priorities – and the priorities of so many of us in Northern California – were about to change drastically. This sudden tragedy made me feel it was even more important to do this work.

Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County uses HomeKeeper and Salesforce as a nonprofit CRMHabitat Sonoma and our staff are still adjusting to this new reality. After the fires, the organization felt a call to arms to implement new programs and to help people in 50-120% of Annual Median Income bracket (a larger scope for us). We also wanted to support temporary housing. We got valuable insight from Habitat affiliates that had coped with disaster, like New Orleans and Colorado. While planning next steps, we received offers of support from every direction, and all of us had to be open to new ways of thinking and doing.

One remarkable gesture was a valuable training opportunity. Salesforce.org offered me a ticket to attend Dreamforce 2017, Salesforce’s annual event in San Francisco. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I got advice on what panels to attend (it is a HUGE event). I learned about reports, dashboards, and data migration. I also learned I was in good company – I met many others who had “fallen” into the role and taken on big challenges with their nonprofit CRMs. This made me feel it would be possible to solve these problems with the tools available, and it really made me an advocate for our use of HomeKeeper and other Salesforce tools to make processes easier.

After attending Dreamforce, I was prepared to work on solutions, in collaboration with consultants and volunteers. We quickly put out a survey to assess needs, then tackled more complex solutions. The Salesforce.org Pro Bono program quickly offered assistance, recruiting a volunteer to help our Fund Development team track grants in the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP).

Habitat Sonoma spent the rest of 2017 preparing programs for high-capacity assistance. We added additional features to our HomeKeeper using Form Assembly.

Habitat Sonoma’s disaster intake form quickly adds info into HomeKeeper, a Salesforce app.

Habitat Sonoma’s disaster intake form quickly adds info into HomeKeeper, a Salesforce app.

We now have a disaster intake form available, and I’ve worked on dashboards that are providing important metrics to inform the planning process, like income levels and burn areas. Sonoma County is in the process of cleaning up – I still see burned buildings on my way to work – so it feels good to work on long-term recovery.

One silver lining is that this experience has opened my eyes to the flexibility and potential of Salesforce. While implementation can be challenging, HomeKeeper and Salesforce ultimately make our jobs so much easier and will allow us to meet the huge needs of our community with new capacity and efficiency. After Dreamforce, I debriefed with other staff who’ve been working on Salesforce, where I had an opportunity to share the wisdom that had been shared with me. I’m excited to keep making an impact in my community.

Up next: Learn about human services nonprofits using Salesforce.

About the Author
Cheryl CurryCheryl has used Salesforce since 2012, and considers it a tool that can help people feel empowered, and help build a more equal world. She leads training, development and user support for HomeKeeper, a HUD-Approved Salesforce App. This app for homeownership and housing counseling programs helps create positive change in communities around the country. She is based in Portland, Oregon.