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Driving Impact for Students: Salesforce for Education and Youth Development Nonprofits

By June 2, 2016

By: Kristi Phillips, Education Sector Account Manager, Exponent Partners

Education and youth development organizations help to create a brighter future for the next generation by improving our schools and ensuring access to basic needs for youth around the globe. Like all organizations, nonprofits working in this sphere look to technology to help them run better programs, fundraise more, and deliver impact.

At Exponent Partners, we work with schools, afterschool programs, college access and success organizations, and other educational programs to develop Salesforce solutions to better manage their constituents and measure programmatic impact. Over the 10 years we’ve been working in the space, we’ve found three key tenets of success. Education and youth development organizations should: (1) automate manual processes in order to focus resources on delivering programs, (2) build for scale to ensure systems keep up with organizational growth, and (3) track the right data to report out on outcomes and understand impact. We’ve been lucky enough to partner with some incredible nonprofits that have implemented Salesforce and seen success with these best practices.

Automate Manual Processes to Focus Resources

When we start working with organizations, staff are often using many spreadsheets to try to coordinate all their data. Moving to a centralized database is a huge step in itself to reduce the amount of time staff spent sorting through data to pull out important information. However, there are numerous ways that Salesforce can save even more effort through workflows, automated approval processes, rollup metrics, and simplified data entry.

Urban Initiatives is an afterschool program that works to empower Chicago’s underserved children to adopt healthy lifestyles, improve their academic performance, and build strong character through sports-based youth development programs. The organization uses Salesforce to track their schools, students, teachers, coaches, program participation and evaluations, and grades.

Urban Initiatives Tug of War

Automation is incredibly important to help staff manage their data so they can spend more time on the field with their kids and quickly address issues. Workflows track academic performance and attendance of participants. With auto-calculated GPAs, program staff know when student performance drops. “For example, a student was failing math,” said Katie Sullivan, Program Evaluation and Volunteer Manager for Urban Initiatives. “We saw the full picture through reports: the F grade, a teacher saying homework wasn’t getting done, and a coach noting behavioral concerns. The coach required 15 minutes of homework at the start of each soccer practice. That turned it around!”

Salesforce’s Process Builder and various AppExchange apps also work together to make data entry low effort for the Urban Initiatives. Empty grade and participation records are created automatically and a customized interface speeds up entry of participation and grade data.

Build for Scale

The societal challenges that education and youth organizations face are growing, and nonprofit organizations are ramping up to tackle them. Case in point, we’ve worked with the KIPP Foundation, a national charter school organization, for over five years as it has almost doubled the number of schools it runs from 99 to 183. Salesforce systems lay the technological groundwork for supporting this growth.

Many organizations rely on application processes to choose participants, and manual application processes greatly hamper the ability to recruit and enroll additional students and increase impact. Salesforce supports all aspects of Breakthrough New York’s program model including tracking for student recruitment, applications, attendance, achievement, progress, and high school and college admissions and enrollment. The staff work with students from middle school through college to help them attend and succeed in college and their careers. This ten-year commitment is unique for college access and success programs. A key aspect of Breakthrough New York’s Salesforce system is its application process and the management of application data.

Moving from spreadsheets and hard copies, Breakthrough New York’s online application process is now integrated with Salesforce. Staff receive the application information automatically in Salesforce and can track prospective participants all the way through the multiple stages of admissions in Salesforce. Automated emails help reduce staff intervention in the process, and configured workflow and list views aid staff in coordinating interviews and notifying those who are selected. Breakthrough New York can scale the number of applications it receives without greatly increasing the staff time needed to manage the admissions process.

Track Results and Outcomes

Ultimately, education organizations are looking to leverage data to move their missions forward. Desired student outcomes can range from meeting grade-level reading expectations for elementary school students, increasing standardized test scores, and raising college graduation levels for certain populations. Salesforce not only helps organizations collect this data all in one place, but also use the data in reports and dashboards to track program results across students and time.

Heading to CollegeOneGoal is working to make college graduation a reality for all students. OneGoal collaborates closely with public schools in low-income communities, providing teachers with content, data and support to implement our three-year model with a group of students, called Fellows. Teachers support the same group of Fellows beginning in their junior year of high school and bridge the gap through their first year of college. It’s working: in a nation where only 9% (Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States, Pell Institute 2015 Revised Edition) of students from low-income communities graduate from college, 82% of OneGoal high school graduates enroll in college and 78% are persisting or have graduated with a college degree.

OneGoal has been using Salesforce for over four years to understand how its students are succeeding. GradTrack, the customized Salesforce solution that Exponent Partners built OneGoal, allows Program Directors to:

  • review OneGoal Fellows’ selectivity level, GPA, and test score growth to differentiate instruction;
  • create college lists, analyzing financial aid identifying match colleges for each Fellow; and
  • track academic, financial, and social Steps to Success once they’ve entered college.

OneGoal Harlem

A student’s selectivity level, which is used to determine best-fit and match colleges, is an auto-calculated field on a student’s record bringing actionable data to the surface to drive program staff action. On the backend, by integrating the rich Salesforce data OneGoal is tracking on each student with National Student Clearinghouse Data, OneGoal can see whether students are indeed matriculating, attending, and graduating from college. The results show clear impact. Topher Rinek, Senior Director of Data and Systems, summarizes the influence of the system on their organization: “Salesforce has become so ingrained in our work that most conversations start and end with Salesforce. We look to Salesforce to help strengthen our processes and automate our work, and we are constantly using the data in Salesforce to improve our program model. Being able to track and manage all of our program data in one place is invaluable.”

These four organizations, Urban Initiatives, Breakthrough New York, KIPP Foundation, and OneGoal, exemplify the diverse ways education and youth development nonprofits are leveraging Salesforce to streamline their programs and drive real impact. To see one organization’s system in action, on June 9 hosted a webinar, Program Management with Salesforce: A Client Lifecycle Case Study from an Education Nonprofit. Breakthrough New York shared how it uses Salesforce to advance its game-changing college access and success program.


Watch Webinar Recording