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What Doesn't Kill Us

Five Signs Your Nonprofit’s Database Isn’t Keeping Up

Nonprofits are in the business of making change. And sometimes that change is happening right within your own organization — in how you do your work, manage your projects, take care of your data, and more. So often, this internal change is the kind that growing nonprofits have the least time and resources to anticipate. As you do your good work in your community, what are some signs that your nonprofit database is keeping up, or not? How do you make sure your technology is growing and changing as your mission does?

This is one of the many reasons we believe that databases are more than a one-time project. A database isn’t just a tool implemented once — like a good relationship, it needs care and attention so you can continue to rely on it. Here are five signs it might be time to devote some fresh attention to your database and how it’s working for your organization. Think of it as spring cleaning for your technology!

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Salesforce DIY for nonprofits

I Inherited This Salesforce Instance — Now What?

As User Group leaders, Ashima and I are often talking to nonprofit staff who have “inherited” a Salesforce instance, and don’t really know what to do with it. That’s to say, they’ve started a new job at a nonprofit, most likely in fundraising, and because they have some experience or aptitude for technology, they’ve been also asked to “sort out Salesforce”. Maybe the organization had previously hired a consultant, or had benefitted from the help of a skilled volunteer, and now the staff who were part of the original implementation have moved on, there’s little documentation, and no-one’s quite sure what the next steps should be.

In some ways, it’s harder to help someone who is new to an existing Salesforce implementation than it is to help someone who has just signed up for a new trial. There are plenty of resources for the organization that is starting out with Salesforce: workbooks, videos, classes, and a supportive community ready to assist “newbies” online. And for those of us who do help out, it’s easier to answer questions about brand new instances – we are all familiar with how a trial looks before customization, and we know which features will be there with a fresh start.

Providing help for a new user inheriting an established Salesforce instance can be trickier, because the user probably doesn’t know how best to describe what customizations have been done or what packages are installed. So it can take more time, and a series of questions and answers, to diagnose problems or provide specific help.

With this in mind, Ashima and I are creating a workshop designed specifically for new staff members who find themselves in a Salesforce admin role with no-one to train them for it. We’ve called the workshop “I Inherited a Salesforce Instance, Now What?“, and we’ll be offering it for the first time on Thursday, December 11.

We’re still finalizing the “script”, but the aim of this session is to give a new admin a set of tools to discover what they have inherited, and how much attention they might need to give to it.

  • We’ll show how to figure out which versions of which packages are installed, what’s been custom-built, how many active users there are, how much data there is, and if that data is reasonably clean and tidy.
  • Then we’ll give advice on how to upgrade or update any features that need it, and on data clean up. (We’ll also help participants decide if they can do this themselves or bring in an expert!)
  • Finally we’ll discuss ways to improve user adoption, including a few simple customization tricks to amaze and delight!

There will be a long enough break in the middle of the session to allow each participant to use the “discovery checklist” with their own organization, and come back and share with the rest of the group what they have found out. The whole session will be recorded and resources will be shared with participants.

So if you’ve recently been landed with a Salesforce instance in your new job, and you’re not sure what to make of it, please consider joining us on December 11th. We can’t promise to teach you absolutely everything that we both know about Salesforce in three hours, but we will try and give you enough knowledge to see how much (or little) attention your Salesforce instance needs, and prepare you to ask the right questions and take the most effective next steps. Or if you have a friend or colleague who would value this kind of help, please tell them to sign up.

All the details, including cost, are on the registration page.

Hiatus

New resource available: Ready for Salesforce?

Once a nonprofit decides to use Salesforce, how do you get started? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guidebook or a map? We have seen many nonprofit organizations make the leap into Salesforce, and we have noticed a process, or a way of thinking about the journey, that can help ease the transition for many. Ready for Salesforce? gives a way of thinking about the process to help get any nonprofit started on their journey with Salesforce.

Please check it out, or share it with a colleague.

 

Hiatus

New resource available: Introduction to Salesforce for Nonprofits

Is your nonprofit considering a CRM like Salesforce, or do you know of another nonprofit considering Salesforce? We know of many reasons that nonprofits may find a CRM beneficial, and how Salesforce has evolved for nonprofit use, so we sum it up in a new Resource, Introduction to Salesforce for Nonprofits. Please check it out, or share it with a colleague.

Our intention is to build a whole library of shared wisdom, so please check back in the future as more Resources are added.

Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again…

Postponing an adventure while in the midst of the journey can be a decision fraught with uncertainty. Recently, a client and I arrived at the mutual conclusion that it wasn’t the right time for their organization to continue their journey. It was a difficult decision to make, but the organization is going through a major transition and the team members are struggling with the changes.

As a Sherpa, I sensed something was going on, but couldn’t put my finger on it. The “somethings” included:

  • Removing individuals from the journey
  • Lack of response via email and phone
  • Lack of knowledge within the organization regarding the activities of each other
  • Failure to complete practice to be done between treks
  • Cancelling scheduled meetings
Back in my controlling days, I would have been quite upset at this disruption of my life. And to be frank, I got a little angry when I didn’t receive a call or email cancelling a meeting.

But very soon I realized that that everyone in the organization was undergoing something very challenging and tough – the dreaded “R” word: Reorganization. My Sherpa-sense was tingling as I intuited that things might get challenging. So, I began to prepare myself mentally for the unknown that lay ahead.

As a Sherpa, my job is to help the journey continue, even when it is stalled. I reminded them to contact me to reschedule meetings when needed. I encouraged them to work on their internal issues before seeing me, so that they could better communicate with each other as well as with me. And above all, I tried to help them deal with the changes they were experiencing as we continued to build the database.

Yet with all my encouragement, accommodation and support, an overwhelming sense of dread permeated every conversation. So at the start of our last trek, I let them talk about their progress – and everyone reported that they were behind. Very, very behind. I even heard, “I’m so behind that I don’t even want to think about it. I haven’t done anything with this project.” That was my cue to gently guide them away from this journey for the time being and let them work out their internal changes.

So, while each expressed that they felt torn, and their collective belief that the database they were creating would relieve the pressure they were feeling, they also realized that they didn’t have the time or energy to devote to the journey. As we talked, we came to a collective understanding that although they are eager to learn and grow, it would be best to put the journey on hold for a few months.

At the end of our conversation, I sensed a collective sign of relief, like an out breath after you’ve been holding your breath for a while. It made my heart lighter. The journey hasn’t been cancelled, merely rescheduled.
just say no

Just Say No

As the mother of a rambunctious toddler, I have had to tell Zola “no” on more than one occasion. Even the most perfect of children has to hear that word, usually for their own protection.

I’ve also had to tell a potential client “no.” And then I wonder if I was crazy for turning down an opportunity to gain new business. I’ve yet to become independently wealthy, so, like any growing business, Database Sherpa needs new clients to survive and thrive.

Yet I have come to realize that saying “no” is as important as saying “yes,” and here’s why. At Database Sherpa we believe that the key to clients understanding their database is to be actively involvement in its creation. By rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty (figuratively, of course, unless you count messy toner cartridges), clients will learn more about the nitty-gritty of their database. Why is this important? By digging into their data with us, clients will have a greater understanding of the components of a successful database, and will be able to modify and expand it with very little help or guidance. This is one of the guiding principles of Database Sherpa: Walking with a client, then letting them continue their journey on their own.

On two separate occasions, a potential client has asked for our help—but told us that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to work along side us when creating their database. Instead, they wanted me to do their work, reducing me from a Sherpa to a kuli (in Hindi or a porter) carrying their luggage.

Did I deviate from my principles? No. In the kindest and gentlest ways, I said I wouldn’t be able to help them at this time, but if they found that their needs have changed and that they want to delve deeper into their data, to give me a call.

Do I need new clients? Of course, but not to the point of sacrificing my values. I know that potential clients who are willing to walk with me are out there. I know that this business will grow organically, and I know that word-of-mouth from happy clients, rather than compromise will make that happen.

Will I continue to say “no”?

Yes.