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California State Parks Foundation: Providing a Platform for Preservation with Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud

California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) is an independent, member-supported nonprofit organization seeking to protect, preserve, and sustain the close to 300 state parks and beaches within the state of California.  Comprised of over 70,000 unique members, CSPF works to defend the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state in the nation.  Across many beaches, deserts, forests, and peaks, the California State Park system requires an extraordinary amount of care and funding to adequately maintain the sprawling natural beauty of the state.  With state and federal funding lacking, and the ever-increasing threat of development encroaching on these sacred lands, CSPF depends on its constituents to bolster protection efforts.

Previous Platform Lacked Growth Potential

Prior to Cloud for Good’s successful Salesforce implementation, CSPF operated within another donor-management platform and was looking for a change.  The transition to Salesforce was based on the need for a more configurable system built to grow alongside CSPF’s mission.  CSPF wanted to leverage the Salesforce platform in order to enable a more streamlined Board, Donor, Volunteer, and Constituent Management business processes that came equipped with self-service capabilities. Their current system was simply too expensive and too outdated, restricting the growth, footprint, operation efficiency, and operational innovation CSPF desired.  CSPF Director of Information Technology David T. Smith likened the prior system to a Ferrari past its prime, “(It) has a lot of power, but it was starting to show its age and did not have features CSPF required going forward.  We had built up significant technical debt and were simply paying too much for such an outdated system.”

Insufficient Marketing Efforts

Part and parcel with their previous CRM came to a companion website for donations, advocacy, and member engagement automation for CSPF’s online fundraising and marketing efforts.  Creative moves management was significantly hampered by the limitations of this platform, with CSPF’s marketing outreach having to scale back considerably due to the rigid nature of the platform.  CSPF simply needed a more effective and efficient marketing system, with enhanced digital marketing capabilities, which could enable a more involved, multi-touch engagement with donors, members, and volunteers.  California’s state park-attributable territory is of tremendous size (1.6 million acres), ranking second only to Alaska (3.4 million acres) in terms of total acreage.  With 280 miles of coastline, 625 miles of lake and river frontage, 18,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to look out for, CSPF was in dire need of a platform equipped for such a far-reaching, all-encompassing marketing effort.

Less Than Desirable Data Integrity

Going hand-in-hand with lacking marketing tools was a contact and database with diminished flexibility due to the inherent side effects of the previous platform’s tools and systems.  David expounds, “Believe it or not, but nonprofit websites are often targeted for testing stolen credit cards.  We struggled to find tools for filtering out fraudulent credit card testing.  Our previous system would process these charges, even though the cards were declined, and create a new contact for each charge.  This led to over 200,000 spam accounts, going back several years, in our database.”  Having these spam accounts clog their systems resulted in diminished email deliverability rates, challenging analytics, and an intensified spam score, possibly affecting the fundraising and outreach goals associated with CSPF’s mission.

Full Nonprofit Cloud Implementation

The Cloud for Good implementation team fully migrated CSPF to the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, making sure to utilize Lightning functionality, new page layouts, and component-based configurations for record pages.  The need for a configurable, complete view of their donors, advocacy allies, and volunteers was an essential facet of the project.  These upgrades were designed as solutions that would provide a platform built to take CSPF to the next level.  With such an extensive overhaul needed to implement the move to Salesforce, CSPF had concerns about potential downtime during the migration phase.  Luckily, these concerns never came to fruition thanks to Cloud for Good’s ETL migration tool and incredible output from Senior Cloud Consultants assigned to the project.  In what was expected to take at least a full week, all CSPF records (including over 1 million opportunity records) were migrated in less than 3 full days.

Marketing Cloud Design & Configuration

With 200,000 fake email addresses consistently bouncing and negatively affecting CSPF’s email marketing efforts, a move to the Marketing Cloud was essential to clean and enhance those efforts.  Fully connected with the Nonprofit Cloud solution, Marketing Cloud would allow CSPF to fully integrate its systems and greatly expand its marketing reach.  CSPF typically holds 10-20 volunteer events a month, with even more taking place during the state’s extended Spring and Summer seasons.  With the large state of California divided up into 9 distinct regions, according to volunteer base and the respective State Parks found within those regions, email campaigns had to be highly customizable and segmented for the varied audience.  Through AMP scripts, data extensions, and automation studio, the Cloud for Good team was able to implement a fully customizable system to better reach their opted-in volunteers with emails showing recipients the events closest to them based on their home zip code.

Cleaning & Reconfiguring of Code

CSPF required a thoughtful reexamination of its code and it needed it fast.  A key member of the Cloud for Good implementation team described CSPF’s move to the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud as, “one of those classic cases where, previously, their tools defined their processes and this time we were able to get the processes to work with the tools.”  Utilizing the solutions proposed by Cloud for Good data architects, custom code was generated to simplify complicated constituent categorizations and scoring for CSPF’s many donors.  The batch and data processing within CSPF’s prior system was quite complex and required a heavy dose of reconfiguring to ensure future configurability.  Cloud for Good in-house developers worked with the CSPF IT and membership teams and mapped out the custom code and laid everything out for CSPF so they could simplify everything together as a team.

A Member View as Tall as the Redwoods

During the process of migrating data, at least one member from each unique CSPF department attended meetings and helped offer insight into the migration.  By championing individuals within each department, CSPF and Cloud for Good were able to determine and dictate what data was most valuable, resulting in a bit of a “spring cleaning” exercise.  Some records within the previous system dated back over 20 years and many contacts had to be removed to restore data integrity and optimize storage usage.  Through the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, CSPF is able to better understand, and more effectively engage with, their donors, members, and volunteers opening up far more possibilities for engagement, moves management, and fundraising outreach.  Achieving this newfound level of data clarity was a total team effort, with one Cloud for Good Account Executive remarking that Director of Information Technology David T. Smith was “probably the best client-side project manager I’ve come across.  He was a facilitator and the driver of success in this project.  He got it done for his organization and he got it done on the timeline they needed to hit.”

Reenergized Marketing Strategies

Salesforce Marketing Cloud has granted CSPF enhanced digital marketing strategies and a more efficient marketing process unattainable with their prior platform.  The removal of over 200,000 fake and duplicated contacts caused CSPF’s email deliverability rates to skyrocket and drastically lowered their spam score, paving the way towards higher open rates, click rates, and a broadened awareness of CSPF’s mission.  David adds, “Once you clean up your data and ensure your data has integrity, all of your metrics become drastically more valuable and actionable.”  Marketing Cloud has allowed CSPF to send email campaigns with increased effectiveness and efficiency to the over 20,000 opted-in volunteers across 9 regions in California.  What once would have been an extensively manual process, involving copying and pasting to account for the various contact groups, is now automated and seamlessly integrated into their broader marketing goals.

Preservation of Purpose

In the end, Cloud for Good’s Salesforce solutions has served the ultimate goal of enabling California State Parks Foundation to progress its mission of faithfully protecting California’s breathtaking state parks.  These solutions have paved the way for a significant outpouring of support from their constituents and communities as well, with the organization exceeding their #GivingTuesdayNow fundraising goals by an astounding 422%!  It’s clear that advocacy for the natural beauty of California is a priority for so many within the state, and to see the fundraising figures add credence to that fact is impactful given the historic difficulties the year 2020 has presented.

The nearly 300 units within the California State Park System are perpetually faced with detrimental threats: climate change, diminishing state funding, a lack of human resources helping to maintain these parks, the list goes on… By moving CSPF to a more configurable and efficient reporting system, helping to update their marketing efforts, and cleaning up the data central to their purpose, Cloud for Good played a considerable part in ensuring CSPF’s efforts and the natural habitats central to those efforts were preserved for generations to come.

Written by Blake Becker

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