Nonprofit Study Results: The One Solution Everyone Seems to Want

By Salesforce.org | May 22, 2013 | , | Products and Services, User Tips and Tricks

guest-sam1In the previous post, we discussed “Four Key Challenges that Nonprofits Face when Implementing Salesforce,” as confirmed by an in-depth study of organizations of all sizes and types.

Today’s post focuses on the other half of the study: Which proposed solution seems to get the community most excited?  We’ll also hear from Alicia Schmidt, the Director of Online Marketing & Adoption at Salesforce.org, with some reaction to the study as well as a preview of what they have in the works.

One clear winner

Of all of the solutions tested in the “Salesforce for Nonprofits – Challenges and Solutions” study, one stood out clearly as a top priority for the community.  Specifically, that solution was:

“Create a one-stop nonprofit resource center for training, tutorials, and documentation.”

One-Stop Resource Center

In fact, the reaction to the concept of a one-stop resource center was off the charts compared to the other solutions tested.

help

Comments poured in about how useful it would be to have one central place to go for all of the support, guidance, documentation, training, and discussion that organizations need to work through in order to be successful with their Salesforce work.

This brief comment sums up the overriding sentiment pretty well:

“Oh my god, this would be incredible.”

Help is on the way

Before getting into the details about this solution, the best news in this category may be that a one-stop resource center is in fact under development now by Salesforce.org.  Here’s what Alicia Schmidt, Director of Online and Adoption Marketing, had to say about the study and about what is currently in the works:

Alicia Schmidt

Alicia Schmidt, Director of Online & Adoption Marketing, Salesforce.org

“The results of this survey have confirmed our instincts about what the Foundation needs to do to better support our customers and has given us a clear direction in which to invest our resources. While the Foundation has always done a great job giving away technology, we haven’t always done a great job supporting organizations after they receive our products — not because we didn’t have the desire, but mostly because we haven’t always had the resources. With the revenue from our relatively new social enterprise model, and armed with the data from this study, we are now ready to commit to several strategies to help our nonprofit customers take full advantage of Salesforce.

As Sam mentioned, our first commitment revolves around creating a one-stop resource center and community where our customers can find resources and training specific to our community of users, learn and support one-another, and connect with Foundation employees, MVP’s in our community, and partners. We are calling this one-stop center the “Power of Us HUB” and we will be sharing more as we get closer to the launch of this resource in July of 2013. In future blogs, we will also share more about all of our planning around helping our customers be more effective with Salesforce technology.”

This centralized resource hub is welcome news, and will hopefully be the start of something that makes a real impact for the nonprofit Salesforce community. Naturally, building such a resource center is a complex undertaking.  But from what I’ve seen, a great deal of thoughtful work is going into trying to create a space that will actually be useful to the organizations who use Salesforce.

Of course, it will take time for that kind of hub to evolve into its potential as a living resource full of useful content, resources, and interactions. So it’s important to manage our expectations for how sophisticated and comprehensive it will be at launch, and for the time it needs to grow into its potential.

It’s also important for us in the community to participate in making such a resource center a success.  Naturally that includes contributing to it whenever we can.  But it also includes actions as simple and important as taking a minute to give feedback about what resources were helpful, which could use improvement, and which are missing.

Themes

A few themes also emerged from the study, representing principles that some felt should guide the creation of such a resource center.  A few of those themes included:

Organize the ecosystem:  Many people felt that a resource center will be especially useful if it makes use of existing resources which are currently spread out around the Salesforce community, rather than recreating what’s already out there.

“The danger here is to create something which only contains Salesforce.org resources. It seems that a directory that organizes the ecosystem would be most useful.”

Many consulting partners also felt this principle was important, both so those resources they have worked hard at creating for the community would be included, as well as to ensure there are players in the system with clear incentives to keep creating additional resources and improving the quality of existing ones.

“[Contributing] is a way to show you care about the community, as well as for people to recognize your name and your brand.”

“The best approach would be to create a system of market incentives to incent the creation of helpful content from the community.”

Nonprofit focus:  One major challenge identified in the study is that many organizations have a difficult time with translation from standard Salesforce usage and terminology to more common nonprofit use cases.  So respondents were especially excited about the idea that a resource center could organize resources which are specifically relevant to the nonprofit community.

“There is tons of training and stuff, but also it can be slightly overload.  A one stop shop specifically for non-profit users would be great.”

Ease of use / organization:  Not surprisingly, another common theme was that ease-of-use was paramount.  For busy nonprofit staff, there just aren’t enough hours to waste time searching around for the specific resources you need.  So excellent organization and ease of use were top concerns.

“This would be exceptionally helpful if it was categorized by the needs that organizations commonly have.”

Other top-requested solutions

Aside from the resource center, it’s also worth mentioning a second tier of solutions which ranked highly in the study.  Those are:

  • Create a “beginner’s roadmap” for basic DIY Salesforce implementations.
  • Offer nonprofit-specific Salesforce administrator training classes or webinars.
  • Curate a library of best practices and/or demo videos from the nonprofit Salesforce community.
  • Create an open-source library where organizations can easily share customizations (reports, dashboards, workflow rules, apex code, etc) with each other.

As for where these solutions are on any roadmap, it’s probably safest to say the answer is a mix, since the major players in the ecosystem — from Salesforce.org to consulting partners — are juggling a range of priorities.

However it does seem like there is a renewed level of commitment at Salesforce.org, from what I’ve seen, to extend the level of resources and support available to the entire community of organizations who use Salesforce.  Obviously it will be a lengthy process, and will require the patience and active participation of the community itself.  But it certainly is an encouraging trend.

Just the beginning

Naturally, there is a great deal more detail in the study that can’t fit in a blog post.  But my hope is that it has provided Salesforce.org, and the community at large, with a wealth of solid quantitative and qualitative data to help understand the nature of the needs in the community and the biggest opportunities.  Ultimately, the hope is that this effort — combined with the ongoing efforts of so many around the community — will help organizations use technology in smarter and stronger ways that enhance the important work they do in the world.


Thanks to Sam Dorman for authoring this guest blog for the Foundation. Sam Dorman is one of the social change sector’s recognized leaders in the technology arena, helping nonprofits deliver technology that works for people. After years of experience working in nonprofits at both a staff and executive level, Sam is known for his track record of helping organizations successfully navigate the confusing waters of technology change, delivering innovative solutions with wide internal adoption and deep external impact.