Our Pro Bono Profiles blog series highlights Salesforce employees who volunteer their time and talent to help nonprofits harness the full power of Salesforce technology.
GiGi Gianni is in a league of her own. She recently sang the National Anthem at a Chicago Cubs game, which was a dream-come-true for the teenager.
At birth, GiGi was diagnosed with Down syndrome. “They [the hospital] took good care of me, but they thought my life as I knew it was over,” recalled GiGi’s mom, Nancy Gianni. “It completely rocked my world and I was just petrified.”
Pro Bono Profile: Making Dreams Come True For All Kids
Nancy was determined to do everything she could to help GiGi to thrive, but resources for families of children with Down syndrome were few and far between. She did find support groups with incredibly positive, dedicated parents. They’d meet in church basements and other borrowed spaces. This got Nancy thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a place where we can all meet and make our dreams come true for our kids?”
Before GiGi’s first birthday, Nancy opened the first GiGi’s Playhouse – a dedicated destination for families of children with Down syndrome in North America. The nonprofit organization grew rapidly and now provides free educational, therapeutic, and career training programs for individuals with Down syndrome of all ages. Families flock to the nonprofit’s 46 achievement centers located across the U.S. and Mexico.
Each location has one or two full-time staff, with 99% of programs being delivered by trained volunteers – that’s how they’re able to offer their services free of charge. Last year, 10,150 individuals logged 139,000+ volunteer hours for GiGi’s Playhouse.
Salesforce Is The Solution For Database Mayhem
A crucial part of GiGi’s operations is collecting and reporting data to foundations and other funders that help pay for utilities, rent, and other costs associated with operating the centers. When the organization reached about 20 locations, their patchwork of databases just couldn’t keep up with their needs.
“We needed a centralized place to store all of our data,” explained Clare Mitchell, GiGi’s Chief Information Officer. The organization selected Salesforce because it was scalable and flexible enough to manage their volunteer, programmatic, and fundraising data.
Prior to implementing Salesforce, a volunteer had built an app on a Force.com site for families and volunteers to check in and out of each location. The app had been integrated with a legacy database and GiGi’s needed a developer to help connect it with their new Salesforce instance.
Clare applied for the Salesforce.org Pro Bono Program and was matched with Jaswinder Rattanpal, a Technical Evangelist. “That’s how I made the connection to the greatest developer ever,” Clare explained.
Developer Uses His Talent For A Good Cause
Jaswinder got to work integrating the app with GiGi’s instance. He also enhanced the check-in experience for volunteers and parents. For example, the app has a drop-down menu with a list of programs for participants to choose from. Prior to Jaswinder’s project, parents and volunteers scrolled through a long list of services that were offered across all 46 locations.
Now, the menu is filtered based on the programs offered locally, improving the check-in experience while reducing the risk of participants selecting the wrong program. This and other enhancements to the app boosted GiGi’s ability to accurately report data to funders and adequately staff its programs.
Jawinder was also able to use translation workbench to enable GiGi’s staff to translate the check-in app into Spanish – a crucial improvement for the many Spanish-speaking families they serve. GiGi has the ability to translate the app into other languages, too, which is important because they’ve been asked to open locations in more than 40 countries.
“I wanted to solve the Spanish translation problem, but Jaswinder pushed us to think bigger,” explained Clare. “I never expected us to have that kind of scalability.”
Jaswinder and the Pro Bono Program have truly made a lasting impact on GiGi’s ability to power its mission with Salesforce. “It blows my mind because we’re still feeling the effects of his work two years later still,” explained Clare. “We did it right because he advised us to do so.”
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