By Blake Becker
Youth Villages is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children, young adults, and their families, across the United States. For over 30 years, Youth Villages has been nationally recognized as a leader in the field of children’s mental health. A mission that once served 80 children in its first year from one, central location has expanded drastically over the years. Today, the lives of more than 30,000 children and families are dramatically improved by Youth Villages’ efforts each and every year. Dubbed “The force for families,” Youth Villages provides the help necessary for children and young people with emotional, mental, and behavioral problems to live successfully and strengthen their support systems. While the challenges created by COVID-19 were unforeseen, technology provided by their Salesforce systems has helped Youth Villages stay true to their mission of delivering impactful assistance to these vulnerable and troubled groups, despite the added difficulties stemming from the pandemic.
A Timely Transition
The organization’s various programs range from intensive residential and in-home treatments to crisis services, foster care, and adoption. One particular program, named LifeSet, even helps former foster and at-risk young adults successfully transition into a life of financial and psychological independence. As you could imagine, fundraising plays a pivotal role in supporting and growing Youth Villages’ mission. While Youth Villages has the benefit of receiving government assistance for many of their community-based services, fundraising efforts are essential to programs like LifeSet, as well as critical in contributing toward the continual improvements made to Youth Villages facilities and grounds. Perhaps the most important beneficiary of their fundraising, however, is the community awareness and education that comes from those efforts. Events represent fantastic opportunities for Youth Villages’ services to be promoted on a much larger scale. Unfortunately, the pandemic has hindered the organization’s ability to put on these enriching events for communities nationwide, but Youth Villages presses on despite the hindrance.
Through cross-cloud Salesforce solutions, Youth Villages has effectively transitioned its fundraising efforts to a multi-channel approach, incorporating direct mail, email campaigns, digital marketing, and virtual events to honor their company-wide commitments. Seeing direct mail among that list of COVID-19 responses might come as a surprise, but the tried and true method of generating support has found a new life in the time of COVID-19. Youth Villages’ Assistant Director of Direct Response Programs Cindy Vanelli explains that “Salesforce has allowed us to completely build our direct mail process within the platform. It’s provided us a way to communicate with people without being face-to-face. The timing and effectiveness of direct mail during this time simply cannot be understated.” As the crisis evolved, Youth Villages was able to adjust their messaging and reinforce the direct mail campaign with digital communication. No matter the channel of communication, Youth Villages spent the time necessary to ensure all aspects of their messaging remained relevant and resonant.
A Platform of Progress
Although it’s proven quite timely and valuable, direct mail is far from the only aspect of Youth Villages’ business processes positively benefitting from Salesforce’s versatility. “Salesforce is super flexible and can basically do anything we want it to do,” said Vanelli. And they certainly capitalize on that flexibility: various Youth Villages mentoring and volunteer programs are run through the Salesforce CRM; referral teams handle all contact and donor data gathered from 72 locations across 20 states; relationships with state legislators, strategic partnerships, and community campaign efforts are tracked; even Steven Tyler’s Janie’s Fund operates within the same Youth Villages Salesforce instance. Vanelli continues, “We partner with local organizations, mental health facilities, behavioral centers across the US. The business planning, policies, and contact records created through those relationships, all that information is kept in Salesforce.” The reliability and adaptability of the Salesforce platform have helped sustain Youth Village’s efforts, as has the organization’s willingness to quickly transition their mission and make the most out of the online environment.
Certain changes were an inevitability given the state of our public health crisis, but no challenge has proven to be insurmountable for the forward-thinking organization. Following the unfortunate necessity of canceling all Spring 2020 fundraising events, Youth Villages, determined to maintain their level of support for children, announced their very first virtual Spring Celebration. This annual event, typically taking place in Massachusetts, routinely raises over $1M for the organization’s cause. What could have been a major loss of potential raised funds and awareness has been transformed into an unprecedented event, and an opportunity to double down on Youth Villages’ commitment to building a better future for troubled children and young adults.
A Culture of Care
In addition to virtual events, Youth Villages has also had to transition other aspects of their business in response to current public health regulations. Typically, a certain number of face-to-face visits with kids and their families are required to monitor their behavior and ensure that progress is being made. “This has been a big learning experience for the organization,” said Vanelli, “Those home visits are so important and we had to change how they’re conducted for the protection of the children, their families, and our staff.” Engaging with various facilitators of remote technology, like Telehealth, Zoom, and Skype has allowed Youth Villages to retain a sense of connection between children and the organization as best they can, considering the circumstances. Even so, in the rare scenario where video and phone calls can’t provide the necessary care, Youth Villages employees will visit the child’s home wearing a mask and gloves. From Youth Villages’ perspective, these safety precautions and personal protection practices are a small price to pay or the health and wellbeing of America’s youth.
The end result of this interconnected, hybrid strategy, incorporating technology to complement their humanitarian mission, has truly made a difference in the lives of children and young adults during an extraordinary time. “Salesforce is a complete gamechanger for Youth Villages’ outreach, community engagement, and the ability to assist our youth. It’s just nice to have a CRM that will do what you need it to do when you need it most. With the help of Cloud for Good and the Salesforce products they helped us implement, we are now able to remain nimble and effective in delivering our mission to those who need it the most, when they need it most.”