By Matthew Poe

Are you an accidental admin at a nonprofit or educational organization meaning you have found yourself in charge of a Salesforce organization that did not exist when you were first hired? Have you have seen the potential of Salesforce to bring transformational value to your organization? Are you ready to dive in head-first to maximize the value your organization can get out of its Salesforce investment? You might be considering your first Salesforce certification, but wondering how to go about it, particularly if you are used to working within the confines of a nonprofit budget. Don’t fear, we have tips to share with you. But first, as you start thinking about certifications, the first thing to consider is whether or a not a certification is right for you.

Do You Need a Certification?

A Salesforce Administrator certification is a great thing to have, as it assures an industry-standard minimum level of familiarity with the platform. Through yearly release exams, it assures that certified users are staying up to date with new features and changes. There is also the element of accomplishment and a touch of prestige. Perhaps the certification’s greatest value is that it signifies to an employer (or potential employer) that you are a Salesforce professional. If the Salesforce team at your current organization may expand, or if you are interested in making the jump to an even more Salesforce-focused role, a certification may help keep your career moving forward.

However, there are numerous admins who do not have certifications. You can keep up on new features and platform changes without paying an annual release exam fee. Another thing to keep in mind as a nonprofit, is the Admin exam is geared toward use cases that are more common among the platform’s original users – sales people. If you work at a nonprofit, this may mean a steeper learning curve and less relevance to the kinds of work that you are actually performing in your Salesforce instance. Once you weigh these considerations and decide a Salesforce certification is right for you, the next step is to start planning.

Make a Plan

You have decided to go after your Salesforce certification. Start your journey by making a study plan. The most important indispensable resource is the official exam outline from Salesforce University. This document covers the topics and percent weighting for each concept, and even includes some sample questions.

Although Salesforce offers 50% off training for nonprofit customers, even the discounted amount may not be cost effective for your organization. If the figure is outside of your budget, check to see whether your organization is a Premier Support Customer. Premier Support offers users access to an extensive video library of on-demand training materials. If you do not have access to Premier Support, or the budget to support training through Salesforce University, there are other options. Many Salesforce certified Admins have earned their certifications without these resources.

As with most things Salesforce, the community has stepped up to create valuable content to support your goal. Your very first stop should be Salesforce MVP Jennifer Lee’s excellent and detailed admin exam strategy. In this post, she not only breaks out the topics, she links relevant Trailhead modules, and singles out some resources she found particularly helpful. If you follow her advice, you should not have trouble passing the test on your first try.

Study Resources

The best (and free!) resource is Trailhead, which is Salesforce’s own gamified training site. It is up to date, interactive, comes straight from the source, and is really fun. Start with the Beginner and Intermediate Admin trails, and you will be well on your way. If you learn best by listening and watching, you may want to check out Mike Wheeler’s course on Udemy. At 11 hours, it is quite comprehensive and can be watched on the go using the Udemy app. Keep an eye out for one of Udemy’s frequent coupon codes if you are considering this resource.

Practice exams are your best friend, but the reliability of sample tests on the internet can be questionable. Sample exams from SalesforceBen, CertifiedOnDemand, SFDCstudy.org, and FocusonForce.com, all seem to be reliable and of great quality. Each of these sites has at least some free study questions. The Certified on Demand approach provides sample tests, as well as great explanations and videos, and comprehensive lists of study resources for each topic on the exam. They include the length of time each resource takes to review and rank each resource as “could,” “should,” or “must.” This can be a very useful way to prioritize while digging deeper into topics where you need a little extra study time.

Taking the Test

Even if you have been using Salesforce for years, it is recommended that you do study prior to taking the exam. Salesforce is a large, continuously evolving product and practical experience alone is rarely sufficient to pass the test. Also keep in mind that many people fail the test their first time. Taking the test is its own education, but if budget is a factor, failing may be an expensive and unnecessary lesson. Set yourself up for success by preparing well.

You have studied hard and are ready to test what you know.  There are several options available so you can take your exam and remain within your budget. If you are planning to go to Dreamforce, Salesforce has in the past, offered half-price testing onsite during the conference. You may have an easier time convincing your organization to let you take the exam while you are in attendance, as you will receive a discount. If you will not be attending Dreamforce, or you don’t want to wait, the Power of Us Hub offers 50% off three tests for all nonprofit and higher education customers. This means you can get the same Dreamforce special price year-round if you are a Power of Us member.

After the test

Once you’ve earned your certification, you’ll be connected to many other Salesforce certified professional through the Success Community. You are now a member of a group of professionals who collaborate together and offer assistance via multiple social channels and communication mediums. If you decide to move on from your nonprofit at a later date, consider joining the #BestTeamEver. We hire Salesforce certified professionals with nonprofit experience!

Do you have any tips for getting certified on a nonprofit budget? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

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Matthew Poe

Matthew Poe

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