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CDC Foundation

CDC Foundation migrates to Salesforce ahead of COVID-19 pandemic.
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Executive Summary

By now, you’ve heard of the CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a critical organization in the efforts to save lives and maintain strong public health. The CDC Foundation is its fundraising arm, established by Congress 25 years ago to help the CDC do more, faster by forging partnerships between CDC and others to fight threats to health and safety. Since its inception, the CDC Foundation has raised over $1 billion to accelerate the CDC’s life-saving work in over 140 countries.

2020 was a big year for the CDC Foundation. They acquired 115,000 new donors during the COVID-19 pandemic and managed $275 million in donations. Fortunately, says vice president for advancement Laura Croft, they had recently completed a migration to Salesforce, which put them in a good position to manage what she described as “a tsunami of gifts” coming their way.

  • $275 Million
    managed donations in 2020
  • 9600%
    increase in online transactions
  • 894%
    increase in new donors reached

Increasing Transparency and Scaling With Agility

CDC Foundation staff had been pushing for a switch from Raiser’s Edge, a self-hosted legacy system (i.e., not cloud-based) that relied on manual processes. Their wish list for a new system included something that got the green light from executives at the organization; could support remote work; helped break down departmental silos and allowed for cross-functioning between teams; gave frontline staff better access to real-time data; and automated some processes, allowing the organization to scale with more agility.

The switch to Salesforce, which was taken on with help from implementation consultants at Cloud for Good, transformed their operations. While the thought of migrating systems was intimidating, says Croft, Cloud for Good managed it in an iterative way, moving data in small chunks with no disruption to the foundation’s workflow. With the new systems in place, “we were able to streamline and automate processes,” she said. “For us that meant, no more passing folders from desk to desk.”

With Salesforce in place, foundation staff were able to quickly respond to the COVID-19 crisis when it hit in early 2020. “When we activated for the emergency response in January 2020, we couldn’t have imagined nor managed the explosive growth without Salesforce integration,” says Croft. “I shudder to think.”

“First and foremost, be flexible. Don’t be afraid to jump on new opportunities that present themselves.” Laura Croft, VP for Advancement, CDC Foundation, VP for Advancement
CDC Foundation

Optimizing Their Suite of Tools

Salesforce technology – namely real-time data and dashboards – allowed the CDC Foundation teams to raise money and get it out to where it was needed much more quickly than they would have been able to using a legacy system. And because Salesforce integrates well with so many other tools, the foundation was able to connect Netsuite, their accounting platform, along with Tableau for data visualization, Classy for specific fundraising campaigns, and many other tools to further build their capacity and the 360-degree view of the organization they needed during a period of such intense growth. “It allowed us to quickly expand our donor database, begin communicating with them immediately, and really scale our system,” says Croft.

As new donors came flooding into the organization, “dashboards became our best friend,” Croft says. Development teams were better equipped to keep up with the incoming gifts, while programs teams had access to real time data to help deploy funds quickly and efficiently. [Salesforce research tools and processes also helped the foundation maintain solid data integrity as the volume of data grew.

Explore the Solutions:

New Donors, New Opportunities, New Ways of Doing Things

Like many nonprofits involved in the COVID-19 response, the CDC Foundation was “forced to explore opportunities that came our way, and do things we’ve never done before,” says Croft, like their virtual Saturday Night Seder fundraiser last spring, which was one of the first events of its kind during the pandemic (it raised $3.5 million for the foundation), or a livestream Xbox gaming fundraiser.

By maximizing their new Salesforce-powered technology, the organization saw historic growth: 9,600% increase in online transactions; 3,915% increase in the number of donations; and 894% increase in new donors reached. Using Journey Builder and Mobile Studio, the CDC Foundation also found new ways to retain those new donors through customized communications, says Croft.

When asked what advice she’d offer to organizations looking to make a big impact in their next fundraising effort, Croft said, “first and foremost, be flexible. Don’t be afraid to jump on new opportunities that present themselves,” and try to adapt to new ways of doing things, as well. Diversifying the revenue streams, staffing up to support the growth, and learning to meet donors where they are, on their preferred channels, are all key tactics for success, as well, she says.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Croft. “A year later, we’re still in this emergency response – and we’re still finding ways to improve our impact and to serve.”

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