One Year Later: 3 Ways Nonprofits Will Thrive in the Next Normal

By Salesforce.org | March 11, 2021 | , , | Nonprofit

By: Carmen Dowell, Director, Technology Investments at Salesforce.org and Kate Smiles, Project Coordinator, Tech for Social Impact Tech Grants at Salesforce

The first shelter-in-place orders in the United States began one year ago, thrusting everyone, including nonprofit organizations, into an all-digital world. Organizations with a high digital maturity did particularly well in pivoting their work to meet the many challenges created and exacerbated by the pandemic.

Thanks to global vaccine distribution with the help of Vaccine Cloud, a new normal is on the horizon. Many nonprofits are now contemplating what lies ahead, and seeking to settle into a new way of working that carries forward lessons learned over the past year.

Here’s how three nonprofits plan to build on their creative pandemic responses to continue evolving in 2021.

Deploy a Single Source of Truth to Scale Service Delivery

United Hatzalah and its vast network of over 6,000 highly-skilled volunteers is no stranger to crisis, providing fast and free emergency medical first response throughout Israel to all people regardless of race, religion, or national origin. Emergency response is already a challenging field and COVID-19 significantly increased the level of risk faced by volunteer medics while also exponentially increasing the demand for their services. 

Thanks to their operational excellence, including robust usage of Salesforce across their organization, United Hatzalah has been able to not only respond to the crisis, but also play a key role in the national vaccination program by delivering thousands of vaccines to Israel’s most vulnerable populations. Their assistance in vaccine distribution not only benefits the individuals they serve, but allows the nation to move more quickly toward a new normal.

Doctor seeing patients in their home

United Hatzalah has helped deliver thousands of vaccines to Israel’s most vulnerable populations.

Friends of United Hatzalah’s Vice President, Michael Littenberg-Brown, shares, “The nature of the global pandemic has required us to think about our mission not just as a front line emergency first response organization, but as a network of volunteers that can provide a humanitarian response to crisis on a national level. Salesforce has been integral to our humanitarian projects. From the beginning of each new project, we are integrating every aspect of the program with Salesforce to both better plan how to use our resources efficiently and how to track our impact.”

United Hatzalah’s success, which equates to actual lives saved, emphasizes the critical role a digital-first strategy plays in its ability to face new and unexpected challenges. When asked what lessons from 2020 they plan to carry forward, Littenberg-Brown highlights the importance of leveraging “Salesforce to help create a single global approach to managing our international teams, finding ways to create uniformity across our international branches so we can truly operate as a single global team.” 

Continue Providing User-Centered Digital Experiences

Volunteer Ireland’s mission is to connect communities through volunteering. They saw a sharp increase in demand, both from organizations needing help and individuals wanting to give back in a time of uncertainty and isolation. Volunteer Ireland uses Salesforce Experience Cloud to manage I-VOL, a national, searchable database of volunteering opportunities in Ireland.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, Volunteer Ireland was able to customize searches to connect volunteers with roles specifically relating to the pandemic, highlight opportunities that could be fulfilled from home, and leverage Tableau to map their data, helping volunteers find opportunities in their communities. As featured in their recent Storybook, “How Irish Communities Stepped Up to the Mark: Stories of Irish Volunteering During COVID-19”, over 20,000 people signed up to offer support through I-VOL, engaging in a variety of roles, including serving at COVID testing centers and supporting at mass vaccination sites. 

Man checking in at vaccination site

More than 20,000 people signed up to help at vaccination sites through Volunteer Ireland’s I-VOL database.

Like many other sectors, the pandemic has forced the nonprofit sector to evolve quickly in 2021, and creating compelling digital experiences to engage and connect with their constituents is a great place to start. Emma Hopper, Operations and Development Manager at Volunteer Ireland, agrees, “The new normal has led us to reflect on how best we are using our Salesforce platform to reach the most people in the most meaningful way…Salesforce has been integral in giving us up to date information when we needed it during this unprecedented time!”

Leveraging what they’ve learned in 2020, Volunteer Ireland is working to establish a new national Volunteer Reserves Programme to train volunteers to respond in future national, regional, and local emergencies. They plan to build upon I-VOL to create digital experiences that will engage and connect all of these new volunteers, whether that work is in person or remote in response to a new understanding of what is possible in an increasingly digital world.

Use Data-Informed Decisions to Drive Impactful Work

The path to a new normal will continue to require nonprofit organizations to respond to a higher demand for their services globally, often being called to provide support beyond their core mission. VisionSpring’s mission has always been “to help others see well and do well.” In response to the pandemic, they placed greater emphasis on “do well” by utilizing their well-established supply chain, which is ordinarily used to distribute eyeglasses. When the pandemic hit, they pivoted and used this impactful resource to provide over 2.8 million units of COVID-safe materials and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their program partners around the world.

Man reading newspaper with kids

VisionSpring shifted their supply chain from supplying eyeglasses to supplying PPE to program partners across the world.

According to VisionSpring’s CEO, Ella Gudwin, “It would never have been possible without Salesforce, which allowed us to consolidate information, track multiple products, support institutional partnerships, develop dashboards to track our progress, create custom reports to accommodate a new sales process, and act as a determining factor in our decision-making. With Salesforce, we are able to chart the path back to the ‘see well’ part of our mission, while being fully immersed in the ‘do well’.” 

In 2021, VisionSpring plans to continue to meet the need for PPE, while also continuing to serve as leaders in their field through the development of their COVID-safe vision screening and outreach guidelines and toolkit. Leveraging Salesforce for data centralization allows them to be a nimble organization with offices and staff around the world. 

Join us at Nonprofit Summit on April 21st to learn how nonprofits around the world plan to take on the next normal together. 


About the Authors

Carmen Dowell, Director, Technology Investments at Salesforce.org
Carmen Dowell
Director, Technology Investments at Salesforce.org

Carmen partners with nonprofits to leverage technology to bring about greater change, through her work at Salesforce.org. She is also passionate about responsible execution of corporate philanthropy with an emphasis on how the public and private sectors can partner for maximum impact. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Kate Smiles, Project Coordinator, Tech for Social Impact Tech Grants at Salesforce
Kate Smiles
Project Coordinator, Tech for Social Impact Tech Grants at Salesforce

Kate is a Data Analyst and Salesforce implementation team leader who builds capacity for impact measurement and data utilization within the nonprofit and public sectors. She’s an expert in leveraging data analysis and technology to help nonprofit and public sector organizations examine both how they conduct their work and the impact they have on program participants and communities.