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Impact and Interoperability: How Technology Powers Collaboration

By November 10, 2021

When the Afghanistan crisis reared its ugly head again this year, a group of veterans, active-duty service members, former government officials, civil servants, and nonprofit organizations came together to work online to help individuals and families evacuate the country.

Humanitarian responses, whether to a natural disaster or a protracted conflict, have always been complex and have rarely, if ever, involved a single agency, nonprofit, or entity.

The same could also be said of vaccine distribution during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration required at mass scale between governments at the national and local levels, private entities, healthcare institutions, philanthropic donors, nonprofits, and individuals is immense.

Whether you are trying to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, meet the complex challenge of climate change, or any combination of the critical problems of our time, it is clear that no single nonprofit can solve global challenges alone.

Team members working collaboratively
Interoperability breaks down technical and organizational silos within your nonprofit, as well as between other organizations you may partner with.

And you should have technology that allows you to come together with other nonprofits, government agencies, private sector partners, and the communities you serve so you don’t have to go it alone. recognizes that technology doesn’t rescue individuals from peril, ensure equitable vaccine access, or distribute food to the hungry — humans do those things. But technology is a critical enabler to make more of those moments of impact possible.

And there’s not a single technology system — including Salesforce — that meets every single need of your complex organization. That’s why invests heavily in making sure you can make use of the tools you have and focus less time on reconciling data and more on delivering on your mission.

The answer to how this happens is interoperability.

Interoperability is defined as “the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.” Put another way, interoperability breaks down technical and organizational silos within your nonprofit, as well as between other organizations you may partner with. By breaking down these silos, you are able to better collaborate, share information, gain insights from your data, and ultimately collectively achieve greater impact on the challenges of our time.

Let’s take an example of technology systems you may use at your organization today. There are some tools like Vera Solutions’ AmpImpact or TaroWorks that are built to automatically work with Salesforce because they were built on Salesforce. But what about those tools that weren’t? Maybe your organization uses Outlook 365 for your email, Salesforce as your CRM, Google docs for your document management, and an ERP for inventory management. While all these technologies were designed differently and not necessarily built to work together, with interoperability, these systems do work together.

On a unified platform like Salesforce, and by using tools like Salesforce’s MuleSoft or an app on the AppExchange, you can connect disparate systems and unify the important information they contain. Now the information that exists in different places can be securely shared and made usable. You can pull insights out of Tableau, unlock data to streamline business processes, and connect Salesforce to all your core business systems, so your programs can “speak” to your operations from inventory management to finance.

But it’s impossible to do this alone! Here are a few examples of the partnerships invests in so that the technologies that power the nonprofit sector can work together.

Salesforce partnered with Google to integrate Google Analytics and our Marketing Cloud to help organizations drive better insights and engagement with their constituents. With Google Analytics and Marketing Cloud for Nonprofits, organizations of all sizes can track campaign performance and donor conversions, resulting in stronger fundraising and advocacy campaigns.

The team at Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue uses both Salesforce and Google Analytics in their work to close the gap between food surplus and food scarcity. Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue’s CEO and co-founder, said that unifying her organization’s data “allows us to look at our data across platforms — web and app — to understand the full journey of our users. We’ve been able to cut our reporting time by 50%.”

Amazon is more than just where you get your last-minute holiday gifts. Amazon Web Services or AWS is also the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. By partnering with AWS, Salesforce makes it easier for nonprofits using both technologies to build and launch custom applications, natively leverage AWS services in Salesforce, and securely connect data and workflows across both Salesforce and AWS.

Girls Who Code (GWC) is an international nonprofit organization focused on closing the gender gap in tech, and has been using Salesforce since 2014. GWC has always been a data-driven organization, and developed their measurement and evaluation capabilities very early on. But as they scaled their program offerings, their data needs expanded as well. With information stored in disparate systems, they needed a way to connect it all and be able to pull out insights about their programs. They began using Amazon Web Services (AWS) alongside Salesforce to develop a new data management and analytics program at GWC.

Now armed with a data warehouse built on AWS and pre-built connectors with Tableau, they can make use of their robust data sets across systems. This has allowed them to pull out insights on the needs of their constituents, like students and teachers, and pivot quickly to new programming and campaigns. “During the last academic year, GWC pivoted our after-school programming priorities from growth to supporting our existing educators as they encountered an incredibly difficult year with most after school programs going virtual or being temporarily suspended,” shared Feargus Leggett, chief financial officer at GWC.

Collaboration takes many forms, and continues to engage the private sector, donors, and nonprofits to drive change and deliver impact in the moments and places that matter. joined the NetHope Center for the Digital Nonprofit as a founding partner to help international humanitarian, development, and conservation nonprofits build the necessary capacities to successfully adopt and scale innovative technologies in their work around the world.

And as a founding member of ImpactCloud, collaborates with more than 20 other cloud-first tech companies to co-create solutions that help nonprofits advance their missions. In November 2021, we joined with our ImpactCloud partners, AWS, nonprofits like NetHope, the Pacific Disaster Center, and the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) in a crisis response scenario to a simulated earthquake in Rwanda. The goal was to test how cloud-based technology companies would provide technology in the first hours of a sudden disaster to emergency responders on the ground.

The challenges facing humanity in 2021 are intersectional and complex. We all must continue to look at how we use technology to bring people together to overcome these challenges. Interoperability is a key value that enables collaboration and empowers governments, nonprofits, civil society, and the private sector to deliver innovative solutions that can enable effective, efficient, and equitable impact faster.

Because we are all stronger when we work together. is proud to sponsor the NetHope Summit on the organization’s 20th anniversary. Since 2001, NetHope has built a trusted community where private sector technology companies and international humanitarian, development, and conservation nonprofits come together to tackle the world’s toughest challenges.

Register now to join us November 15-19 at the NetHope Global Summit to learn how nonprofits are using technology to go faster, further in times of crisis. On Tuesday, November 16, tune in for a fireside chat between Salesforce CTO and co-founder, Parker Harris, and Dr. Ahmed Al Meraikhi from the UN Secretary General Office. Also speaking that day will be Salesforce CFO and President Amy Weaver in conversation with Dr. Bruce Alyward of the World Health Organization.

About the Author

Jessica Hood, Vice President of Innovation + Digital Transformation,
Jessica Hood
Vice President of Innovation + Digital Transformation,
Jessica leads the team responsible for ensuring the executives of top nonprofits and education institutions are set up for success as they lead their organizations through a digital transformation. She has 20 years of experience in the social sector, helping organizations scale and deliver impact with technology. Jessica is a volunteer with Girl Scouts of Northern California as a STEM and Camp CEO mentor. She served as a judge for CARE Scale X Design Pitch Night and sits on an advisory council to their technology team.