Strengthening Community Through Technology with Salesforce + The Center

Since their inception in 1983, New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center (The Center) has empowered and protected these communities, fostering a welcoming environment where people are celebrated for who they are.  An expansive array of community services ranging from advocacy, health and wellness programs, arts, entertainment, and cultural events, as well as parenthood and family support offerings, set The Center apart as the leading catalyst for positive change within the LGBTQ community.  

In late 2017, The Center entered a strategic partnership with Cloud for Good, starting their journey by migrating their fundraising from Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce.  Since then, The Center and Cloud for Good have continued working together to bring their community space rental program into Salesforce and continue enhancing their use of the platform in collaboration with Cloud for Good’s Managed Services team. 

Why The Center Chose Salesforce

When asked what prompted The Center to make the move from Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge over to Salesforce, Jeffrey Klein, Chief Operating Officer for The Center, was forthright in the organization’s decision-making process: “It was a really big decision for us to take on.  We were deeply ingrained in Blackbaud’s suite of products, so it wasn’t as simple as switching one, singular system; we were switching a bunch of interconnected systems.  It wasn’t a decision that we took lightly.”  For Klein and The Center, three main factors emerged that guided their tech overhaul: “First was the pain we were experiencing just doing our daily jobs,” said Klein. “Many staff would talk about how they adapted their work to fit the needs of Raiser’s Edge, rather than Raiser’s Edge adapting to the changing needs inherent to our modern development and communications departments.”  The rigid, inflexible nature of Raiser’s Edge is, unfortunately, a familiar refrain from its customers.

Klein continued, “Second, Blackbaud as a company doesn’t provide a very open environment.  It was very much a situation where you buy a product, and if you wanted to integrate an additional business function, you would have to buy another product on top of that.  As Salesforce emerged as an alternative, it appeared much more attractive, as it provided a different set of options that allowed us more flexibility.”  The Center has over a dozen applications intuitively integrated into their Nonprofit Cloud, ranging from utilization of Donor Drive for peer-to-peer fundraising and Click & Pledge Event Management for The Center’s event rental process to Pardot for high-impact email marketing.  “Lastly, we had bought into a number of Blackbaud products that we felt didn’t live up to the expectations or needs we had as an organization.  There was no true integration between their own products and certainly no options to allow us to integrate this critical data with other company’s products” Klein concluded.

Aligning Technology with Organizational Values

Consistent ground-breaking innovation atop a foundation of configurability and connectedness represents the best of what the Salesforce Advantage and the Cloud for Good Difference have to offer.  The Center needed a single, secure, and scalable platform able to keep up with the organization’s forward-thinking methodology.  Raiser’s Edge had helped The Center grow and establish its technology footprint, but the time for a more open platform that would empower, not hinder, its staff had come.  

With help from Cloud for Good’s migration accelerator, which utilizes pre-built mapping logic to reduce time and risk in the migration, The Center successfully migrated to Salesforce in record time and even experienced a 20% increase in registrations for their annual pride event during the first two weeks following the go-live in 2018.  Looking back on their successes with the new technology, Klein mused, “Working with Cloud for Good has been amazing.  They’re a core part of The Center’s technology strategy.  Even though we’ve only been live on Salesforce for about two years, it feels so much longer because of the amount of innovation and change we’ve been able to incorporate during that time given the breadth of the Salesforce ecosystem.  We’re now able to innovate and adapt without the constraints of a system that wouldn’t move with us.”

Assimilating seamlessly to The Center’s overarching technology strategy, Salesforce was gradually applied to the organization’s various departments, steadily incorporating itself into the organization’s program management, event reservation, fundraising, and marketing departments, all the while connecting them together and providing a much more robust view of The Center’s constituents.  “As a community center, we want to help the entire person; not just help enroll them in a group, or come to art and cultural programs, or donate, or volunteer… We want to know the 360-degree-view of the people we work with so we can help them learn about more ways to get involved in their community,” replied Klein when asked how the flexibility of Salesforce’s technology has aligned with the organization’s values.  

Creating Impactful Engagement + Communication Through Pardot

Implementation of the marketing automation solution Pardot has enabled The Center to explore intuitive communication with its network and utilize those 360-degree-views to engage their constituents in new, creative ways.  With tools like Engagement Studio, The Center can now take their constituents along different marketing journeys that branch off according to configurable logic flows.  The organization now benefits from a much vaster system of interactions and intelligently automated communication.  

Members, volunteers, and supporters are sent only the most relevant information according to their interactions with The Center, and the nature of these custom marketing paths ensures those receiving communications are not overloaded with material that might not apply to them.  “These tools provide us with the flexibility to accurately reflect our community and the identities that are really important to them,” said Klein of The Center’s adaptable marketing strategy.  These advancements were simply not possible with their previous Net Community marketing platform.  

One such advancement has made a particularly profound impact on The Center’s fundraising.  Previously, with Net Community, there was no option for donors to opt to cover the fees associated with credit card transaction processing.  With Salesforce, The Center has been able to add a checkbox giving donors the opportunity to raise their donation in order to cover the small fee directly on the giving pages.  The Center quickly found that adding this new option had a drastic, positive impact on overall fundraising, resulting in $80K additional funds raised in just one year, as a direct result of this simple checkbox.

Finding Peace of Mind with Salesforce Security

Luckily, The Center was unaffected by the Blackbaud data breach, as all their data had been transferred to Salesforce long before Blackbaud came under attack.  In considering the negative effects of such a breach, Klein considered the importance of an organization’s data integrity: “Staff will always be the most valuable resource for any organization, and your database will always be the second most valuable.  If the database went away, we’d essentially have to start from square one.”

Interconnected systems, enhanced security, and a breaking down of departmental silos have united The Center’s efforts.  It’s also united The Center’s staff like never before.  “I think one of the most important results of our Salesforce technology has been the effect it’s had on staff culture.  In our previous system, staff was siloed to the point that there was little learning from each other and no sharing best practices.  Now, we’ve broken down those silos and given staff a chance to come together and learn from one another,” said Klein.

Creative Solutions to Modern Problems

Even with The Center operating as a distributed workforce since March 2020 due to COVID-19, Salesforce technology has banded the organization together and led to invaluable innovations.  COVID-19 dashboards were created to grant visibility into operations across all departments as staff works remotely.  In describing the value these dashboards have created, Klein relayed that “The Center has been able to show all staff how the entire organization is doing, even if we aren’t physically connected to our colleagues in the same way.  Demand for our services has gone up around 40% since COVID-19 started, and the dashboards provide our staff with a comprehensive insight into how exactly we’re serving our communities and that heightened need.”

Advances made possible through Salesforce and the intuition of The Center’s progressive platform are making a true difference in the LGBTQ communities.  New tools are assisting these communities in surviving the pandemic and ensuring that they can thrive long past the public health crisis.  In the same way, The Center helps foster a healthy environment for the LGBTQ community, so too does Cloud for Good-implemented Salesforce technology foster a healthy environment for the organization’s success.  As a result, The Center is better able to celebrate the diversity of LGBTQ communities and advocate for greater justice and opportunity for those they serve.

For more information on The LGBT Community Center, including how to support their mission, visit their website, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram.


Written by Blake Becker

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