It would be easy to focus on the challenges of the year — the pandemic, the economic crisis, social injustice, divisive leadership — but at Trailblazers Together, we chose to celebrate instead. We came together to celebrate our community of 49,000 nonprofits and schools that work on building a better future every day.
It was a year that no one planned for. As the world changed, seemingly overnight, 58% of our schools and nonprofits had to respond with modified or new services while facing budget cuts or restricted staff.
Additionally, the events around the world, and in our communities, accelerated a push by constituents to streamline communications, automate processes, and enable rapid decision making. So while there was an unmatched willingness to overcome these obstacles, it was not possible through resilience alone.
With this shift to digital comes a playbook that was built and designed by organizations in our community. It is a roadmap to help others engage, measure, and even completely pivot in order to drive outcomes at speed. This playbook can be broken into three parts:
As social distancing pushed us apart physically, our phones and computers kept us together virtually. As reliance on digital platforms increases, there is an opportunity to engage in highly human and personalized ways, at scale, across an infinite number of constituents, donors, alumni, students, and advocates. Reaching people on any device, anywhere, at any time, maintains a critical sense of connection.
At Trailblazers Together, Katharine Johnson Suski, the Executive Director of Admissions and New Student Programs at Iowa State University, spoke about the importance of creating connections with students throughout the uncertainty of the year. This is, in part, made possible by engaging with students on social media — where many spend their time — to join conversations, uncover what’s important to them, and build stronger relationships with them over time.
at Iowa State University, spoke about the importance of creating connections with students throughout the uncertainty of the year.
Single Source of Truth
A single source of truth creates a unified view of data across your entire constituency. For nonprofits, this means a holistic view of donors, constituents, advocates, and volunteers. For schools, it’s managing the student lifecycle, from recruitment, to student experience, to alumni engagement across students, families and faculty.
This view helps create a better understanding of what services are needed, what channels are most effective, and what information needs to be shared.
Tiffany Loftin, National Director for the Youth and College Division for NAACP, spoke to this at Trailblazers Together. She mentioned how, with a centralized system, the national organization can train thousands of young people across the country so they can lead the work locally.
spoke at Trailblazers Together.
When you combine a digital engagement strategy and single source of truth, you have actionable intelligence. The holistic view of all your data helps measure outcomes at scale, and make data-informed decisions.
As 62% of our customers saw a decline in funding this year, that intelligence will enable decision making on how to spend limited resources. Understanding metrics like return on investment will enable efficiencies in future investments in a resource-constrained reality.
Both Iowa State and NAACP have exemplified what it means to use insights and data to scale their reach and grow their impact. With the intelligence they gathered, Iowa State delivered a reimagined student experience, and NAACP trained and galvanized thousands of members across the country.
Being Prepared, No Matter What the Future Holds
The playbook outlined above — digital engagement, single source of truth, and actionable intelligence — is essential for getting us through these times. The playbook, and the power of this community.
The pandemic did not break this community. In fact, it made us more resilient, more transparent, and more agile. Together, we can work through these challenges to get our kids back to school, distribute vaccines, provide health services to our community, and ensure our programs reach those who need them most.
Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and former CTO of the U.S. under President Barack Obama, said it beautifully when she explained that, “A digital transformation requires that we use our network, and our humanity. It’s not just about the tech. Really, it’s ‘community organizing innovation’ — tapping into your organization’s collective genius.”
To keep this momentum going, please join us at the Nonprofit Summit on April 21, 2021, or the Education Summit on June 16, 2021. Registration is coming in early 2021.
About the Author
Rob leads the business that enables Salesforce.org to be the most impactful nonprofit social enterprise in the world. He has responsibility for the management of Salesforce.org and focuses on delivering world-class technology to nonprofits and higher education customers.