Sho-net Systems held their launch event for The Platform at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham last night. The Platform is based on the Salesforce.com cloud-based CRM system, where licenses are available free to charities thanks to the generosity of the Salesforce Foundation.
Bimmy Rai, Project Development Officer for Newham College for FE, was ‘master of ceremonies’ and introduced keynote speaker Stephen O’Brien, past Chair of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Appeal. I’ve heard Stephen speak before and he’s always thought-provoking when it comes to challenging charities to find more creative ways to work with their Trustees in support of fund-raising. Stephen presents a clear message about how to work with Trustees and how to find ways for them to contribute to fundraising. For example, he said he didn’t believe in using e-mail to target high-potential donors because it is too easy for them to be deleted by the recipients. He felt personal letters can make a much bigger impact when sent to senior, influential potential donors. These also need to be followed up with ’phone conversations.
He emphasised the importance developing links and maintaining them over the long-term. Lead times for turning a potential donor into actual cash can be highly variable and therefore having a good contact tracking and relationship management system, such as provided by Salesforce.com, is very important.
Stephen’s session was followed by a Q&A discussion and covered topics such as how to have conference calls in the cloud and how to ensure ’clean’ data are captured from web forms.
I felt there was a very strong theme about charities developing better selling skills, even though that might be language that sits uncomfortably in the voluntary sector. Of course, most people don’t want to be ‘sold to’, so the approach has to start with identifying potential benefits for donors and therefore understanding their perspectives is very important.
Clyde Williams, Sho-Net Director, said he always felt like the poor relation doing a Saleforce demo after hearing Stephen speak, but it was pretty clear that, if Stephen gave the vision, Clyde and Salesforce had a way to turn that vision into reality.
Clyde explained that, for many charities, multiple spreadsheets are often their main form of database and that this is a pretty inefficient way of managing fundraising activities.
Tools such as Salesforce.com enable charities to integrate web forms with their fundraising database and avoid unnecessary re-keying of data.
One of Salesforce’s features is campaign management which enables data about individuals, captured from web forms, to be progressed through the various campaign stages. Ultimately, the amount of money raised can be reported in real-time. Campaign management also enables you to send e-mails directly to your contacts, using templates to create personalised messages for individuals or groups. For example, you could send a group e-mail to anyone who is at a particular stage in a campaign to encourage them and ’move’ them on to the next stage.
I’m always a sceptic when it comes to software demos and it particularly worries me when I see them set up for cloud-based solutions where losing your Internet connection is a killer! There are risks of getting bogged down in features rather than benefits, but such is the power and simplicity of Salesforce.com, it’s really easy to prove the benefits and Clyde is great at drawing those out.
The thing that always wows me with Salesforce.com is it’s dashboard/reporting functionality. I think it’s also a feature that will wow Trustees and Management Committees because they can see up-to-the-minute performance data. Maybe I’m a bit sad, but there’s something captivating about watching a dashboard dial moving round day-by-day towards your fund-raising target. Automating the analysis and reporting frees up time for staff to focus on managing relationships, or for addressing performance shortfalls.
I like to use the term ’single source of the truth’ in relation to process management and Clyde certainly advocates using Salesforce.com to be that single source. The challenge for many charities is migrating diverse databases into one place and doing that in a way that cleans up existing data.
I work with Clyde to bring a process perspective to Salesforce.com implementations. Charities should not see Salesforce.com as an IT solution, or as the implementation of a database. It’s an opportunity to streamline workflows and make a step change in the efficiency and effectiveness of fund-raising processes.
If your charity is still working with multiple spreadsheets that are full of duplicate data and errors, or if you simply don’t have adequate visibility of your fund-raising process and performance, give me a call, or drop me an e-mail, and we can have a conversation about how quickly it’s possible to address these issues.