By Kate Russell

A friend of mine uses the phrase “think big, start small” all the time. While this is relevant to so many of life’s challenges, its practicality offers a great approach for small-to-midsize nonprofits implementing Salesforce, the world’s leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room – why would a nonprofit use an application called Salesforce? I’m glad you asked.

While the nonprofit industry’s bottom line focuses on mission, not money, there are a slew of use cases that are shared with the for-profit sector. For example, sales people and development officers both need to develop and nurture relationships with their prospects, and while the HVAC repair shop needs to track requests for service, so do those organizations fielding requests for help with drug treatment or an animal rescue.

Whether you’re a tiny two person shop that provides lunch for the homeless, or a 30 staffed water safety watchdog growing from local to statewide in scope, Salesforce may be just what you need. It allows you to harness technology to do your jobs better and more efficiently.

Now that we have that settled, let’s look at how as a small-to-midsize nonprofit (we’ll abbreviate as SMN), you can launch this exciting yet daunting endeavor. Make no mistake about it, Salesforce is a spaceship (I don’t mean literally), that can be used to run nearly any type of business or SMN. While it has these extensive capabilities, you don’t have to get distracted by ALL those shiny objects.

Let’s return to our newly adopted mantra – think big, start small – and see how it translates in the real world.

Think big. If you had all the tools necessary to do your job the best way possible, what would that look like? Dream big, my friends. As consultants at Cloud for Good, we hear many different answers to this question. The most common denominator typically revolves around unlimited resources (staff, money, space, etc.). Our goal as consultants is to translate those lofty aspirations into achievable steps.

Where do we start? Much like chasing dollar bills in a wind storm, you start with those items closest to you. I know what you’re thinking, who chases dollar bills in a wind storm? Here’s where that random analogy takes us.

As a SMN, you most likely want to expand your donor base (psst: we know that’s really code for bringing in more donations). Consolidating Excel spreadsheets, your President’s contact list, those post-it notes scattered everywhere, and your list of top foundation prospects into one place is a good start. In Salesforce that translates to Contacts and Accounts.

Start small. This first step can be daunting, so what should your nonprofit do? Don’t expect the clouds to open up and rain money now that you’re in Salesforce.

Perhaps you are already doing mass email or direct mail appeals? You will want to utilize Salesforce’s Campaigns and Opportunities. Think of these as the effort used to bring in the donations (Campaigns) plus the way to track those incoming donations (Opportunities). When you marry those two you start to understand what is the most effective way to appeal to your prospects (Reports) and drum roll please…convert them to donors!

Especially when combined with the Nonprofit Starter Pack, SMN can get a lot of mileage by starting with these tools that are all native to Salesforce. Fear not there are plenty of other resources for your other needs, too. But remember what we learned – think big, start small and don’t get distracted by the thousands of other shiny objects Salesforce and its partners have to offer.

At Cloud for Good, we often call these smaller projects “Quickstarts” where we help you get up and running with Salesforce and get you rolling with the basics. After all, we want you to be superstar nonprofits that are conquering the world one mission at a time.

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Kate Russell

Kate Russell