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3 Pieces of Advice for Starting with Salesforce

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By: Sara Brophy, Customer Success Manager, If I had a penny (or cent) for the number of times I’ve been asked for best practices when starting with Salesforce or the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), I could probably retire today. Over the past 10 years (for me) at, it’s been the one question that remains constant – and for good reason. Starting a CRM or platform journey requires an investment – in either time, money, or manpower – usually all three. Because of this, understandably, you want to start that journey with your best foot forward – particularly if you’re at a smaller charity or nonprofit. Revisiting this question, I decided to ask a number of organisations in our online community, the Power of Us Hub, what advice they would give – after all, they’re the ones that have been through it. I can summarise those responses into three main points – Partnerships, Scope, and Communications.

Partnerships that allow you to flourish

Deciding whether or not to get the help of a Salesforce implementation partner is an important decision and deserves careful thought. I don’t need to tell you, there is a price tag regardless of whether you use a partner or not. If you task an employee with managing your implementation, they will need to take the time to fully understand the requirements, data architecture, and also what’s possible with Salesforce in order to do a good job. And at the same time, they are taking time away from their normal duties. Let’s say you do decide to get a partner. How do you know which one to choose? Well, it’s a simple answer – you research. I asked Siebe de Boer from International Justice Mission the Netherlands ( IJMTN) for the “key piece of advice” he wished he knew at the start of her Salesforce journey. He replied, “do the implementation with an implementation partner that you fully understand”. Siebe is right, and I would add – make sure they fully understand you too. Also, ensure they ask you the right questions. Speak with organisations similar to you, and ask which partner they used. Ask the community in the Power of Us HUB, or join your local User Group and look for feedback. You may end up in Alan Wilson’s enviable position of being able to say “because we had the advantage of our partner’s experience, we haven’t really had to learn anything or had the need to extend our requirements beyond the basic.” Alan is the CEO at Develop Your Child CIC and this positive comment towards their partner is a testament to their experience.

Start small, gain confidence, and grow

Over and over again I hear this simple message: Start small. Siebe from IJMTN adds: “There is always room to extend the use of the Salesforce platform.” Correct! Many organisations start with something relatively small such as an isolated project – a transition from Excel sheets, a shift from an Access database, capturing donor information, a need for a booking system beyond paper and pen etc. And this is OK – this is exactly the advantage of using a platform like Salesforce; you can build on it as and when your organisation is ready. Sherry Bevan from National Childbirth Trust UK, an organisation relatively new to using Salesforce, says of their journey: “the more we explore Salesforce, the more we can see new opportunities to streamline and automate our processes in the future”.

Communicate your way to success

Another key to success in getting started with Salesforce is communication. A CRM rollout in any organisation can create unease. Existing systems, even with their flaws and limitations – are familiar, and not all employees or teams, will embrace change easily. Sherry from NCT UK shares: “Get teams talking. Get them talking together in the same room about the processes. Get started early with the communication and engagement. You can’t please all the people all of the time and very few people read every single update so it’s almost impossible to over-communicate”. She also added: “If there’s no news, people might assume that means nothing is happening so it’s important to keep communicating even when you’re busy beavering away in the background.” Sherry is absolutely correct – this is classic change management. It’s relevant to every organisation because – even in small organisations, the same principle applies. It’s also both relevant if you are doing your implementation in-house, or if you are using a partner. And it’s important if you are defining training requirements too – communication is always essential. If you are interested, check out this Trailhead on change management here.

Success Resources

Finally, there is a catalogue of resources to help you prepare for your Salesforce journey, and see you through to the point where you’re scaling your Salesforce roll-out. Regardless of your choice around outsourcing to a partner – as a developer, an admin, an end-user – everyone can gain value from these. Success resources are available for everyone in the form of local meet-ups, virtual webinars, large events, virtual Office Hours, the Power of Us HUB to name a few. To keep on top of what is happening and avoid information overload, I recommend keeping the Power of Us HUB front and centre as your source of truth; everything that is happening will be mentioned and listed there. So finally, if you would like to continue the conversation with myself, Alan, Siebe or Sherry (and the rest of our community!) you can connect with us in the Power of Us HUB, below: Sara Brophy, Alan Wilson, Siebe de Boer, Sherry Bevan small nonprofit, big impact CTA E-Book