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How Two Nonprofits Built a Custom Solution to Support Essential Workers

By Guest Author December 2, 2020

By: Dave Boyce, Database Consultant at 501 Commons

The COVID-19 pandemic forced nonprofit organizations across the country to make a stark choice: Either adapt to the new reality or risk the communities they serve being left to fend for themselves.

Father and son

Imagine Institute is a nonprofit organization based in Washington State that provides relationship-based early care education and training to childcare workers.

Imagine Institute, an organization in Washington State that provides relationship-based early care education and training to childcare workers, faced such a dilemma. With the pandemic creating new and unique problems for families across the region, they needed a way to quickly identify qualified childcare workers and place them in facilities that were open to families of essential workers in Washington.

To achieve this, Imagine Institute worked with 501 Commons, a management support organization that provides consulting services and expertise to nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest. With the pandemic sweeping across the country and affecting families everywhere, they had to act fast to build such an important system.

The Data Solutions team at 501 Commons worked diligently with Imagine Institute to create a substitute shift reservation system that allowed eligible facilities to request substitute shifts, Imagine Institute Staff to outreach for available substitutes, substitutes to accept shifts, and facilities to follow up after the shift with comments.  

This system supports thousands of substitute care workers and facilities all through Salesforce-hosted technology. The finished product utilizes online forms, email, SMS notifications, and a multilingual call center to route calls to the remote support staff that handles automated uploading of daily COVID statistics from the state. 

The Data Solutions team conducted a series of weekly sprint meetings with Imagine Institute staff. These meetings consisted of identifying a prioritized list of items to accomplish that week. Then at the next sprint meeting, the team demonstrated the new functionalities that they were able to implement in the sandbox site. Once these functionalities were approved, they were then moved to the production site. Afterward, the team would discuss a whole new list of priorities to accomplish for the upcoming week.

Imagine Institute COVID-19 website screenshot

501 Commons’ Salesforce consultants helped create a system that identifies qualified childcare workers and places them in facilities that were open to families of essential workers in Washington.

This sprint method allowed for new functionalities to be incrementally deployed on a week-by-week basis, instead of launching wholesale changes every few months. This enabled both 501 Commons and Imagine Institute staff to maintain a consistent communication chain, minimize wasted time, and see progress unfold in tangible ways.

At the end of the project, 501 Commons’ Data Solutions team helped Imagine Institute create:

  • A new Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) Salesforce Instance
  • A customized shift management tool using NPSP Volunteers for Salesforce 
  • An integrated call center with the Twilio for Salesforce App
  • An online Salesforce Flow form to connect facilities to available substitutes
  • Salesforce’s Cumulus CI development platform provided the ability to quickly build and deploy a managed package to extract, transform, and load (ETL) daily COVID statistics reports from Washington State

Cate Bridenstine, Imagine Institute’s Executive Director says, “501 Commons’ quick response and dedication to quality and collaboration has helped us do our part in supporting essential workers and their families during this critical time.”

With the pandemic here to stay for the foreseeable future, Imagine Institute now has an integrated system that ensures they can continue serving their mission without delay to benefit the families who need them most.

As Washington State’s only management support organization for nonprofit organizations, 501 Commons provides expertise in technology, Salesforce, IT infrastructure, finances, accounting and bookkeeping, human resources, leadership development, fundraising, management consulting, and other key areas of nonprofit operations.

In the spring of 2020, 501 Commons proudly became a Salesforce Partner, an opportunity that empowers them to help other organizations amplify their strengths using Salesforce’s powerful tools. This partnership gives 501 Commons’ Data Solutions team the ability to build a deeper understanding of Salesforce’s capabilities and what tools and techniques are proven to best serve the nonprofit community.

Learn more about how and why to upgrade to the latest version of’s Nonprofit Success Pack.

About the Author

Dave Boyce, Database Consultant at 501 Commons

Dave Boyce serves on 501 Commons’ Data Solutions Team, working to expand offerings for analytics using such tools as Power BI and Tableau. Analytics, data querying, and lean process management are some of his top professional passions. As a Database Consultant, Dave works with nonprofits to enable and empower them to use technology in new and economical ways. With more than 20 years of programming experience, Dave enjoys guiding nonprofits on their technology journey. An entrepreneur at heart, his most rewarding experiences in his career have been working with nonprofits, learning about their mission, and helping them streamline their business. He holds Salesforce Certifications for Administrator, Platform Developer I, and Nonprofit Cloud Consultant.