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Pencils of Promise Increases Impact with Salesforce

By Jackie Roshan July 7, 2014

Pencils of Promise mobileWhen our founder, Adam Braun, pulls out his phone in the middle of giving a speech the entire crowd goes silent. Every time. Within seconds he pulls up a graph displaying the number of schools Pencils of Promise has built – currently 221. Our mobile dashboards pull data in real time, and considering we now break ground on a new school almost every 90 hours, these constant updates are essential to a team that is always on the go.

Founded 5 short years ago with only $25, Pencils of Promise (PoP) now operates across Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos to provide basic primary education to children living in rural communities. We build schools, train local teachers, run scholarship programs, and implement WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) education curriculum so that our healthy students fill the seats of their colorful new schools each and every day. Along with our repertoire of programs, we thoroughly track the success of our students and teachers in order to scale what works and cut what doesn’t. With so much data being collected across geographies, it quickly became evident that PoP needed to find an easy way to centralize our work. Cue Salesforce.

When we first began considering platforms, the need was obvious – we had tons of data living in completely separate spreadsheets, Word docs, Google docs, and even on paper. The time it took to communicate progress on the ground to our New York office was painfully slow, and even then usually stayed siloed within whichever department requested it. We looked into various CRMs and Salesforce not only offered 10 free licenses to nonprofits, but was by far the most customizable and had a wealth of documentation to support administrators and developers. The choice was an easy one.

Pencils of Promise Guatemala May 2011

Aside from using Salesforce to track our donors and dollars, we wanted to track all of our program data, which we had never seen done before. The first step was figuring out how we wanted our dashboards, reports, and records to look (in that order). Starting with data visualizations allowed us to understand the different buckets that we needed our reports broken into. Then, we were able to start thinking about what those summary fields would look like on an actual record, in addition to who uses that record and what they will need to see (for us, each country might need different sets of fields). With very little expertise and a few hours spent studying Salesforce help pages and blog, we were quickly able to get the first few pieces of our Impact App up and running!

Our Impact App currently tracks communities, schools, build projects, students, scholarships, and attendance records all of which roll up into country profile pages which aggregate data points that feed directly to our website in real time. Workflows and notifications have been set up to notify our teams of build proposals or dropping attendance rates, and dashboards allow not only Adam to quickly access impact progress on his phone, but also our teams on the ground to finally see aggregated metrics that inspire them to keep up the amazing work. We use Chatter to congratulate each other, share touching stories from the field, and collaborate on projects – all of which is bridging the gap that formerly existed between our international teams and our New York headquarters.

The current app is only in its second major version, with an upcoming rollout of teacher data, workshop attendance stats, test scores, and WASH metrics soon to be added. Improving our database and the way we report on and analyze data is and will always be an ongoing process, with multiple iterations of improvements. Just like Salesforce seasonal releases, it gets better and better!

2014 Pencils of Promise Ghana

In the PoP office, “think twice before opening a spreadsheet” are the words we live by, and they truly do make a difference to the quality and collaboration behind our work. Centralizing everything we do means we are able to scale quicker and more efficiently as we hope to accomplish our biggest dreams – like building 500 schools by 2015.

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About the author:

Jackie Roshan
Jackie Roshan is Data Operations Manager for Pencils of Promise. You can follow her on Twitter, @Jackie_Roshan.