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5 Tips to Get More Out of Nonprofit Cloud

By August 17, 2018

By: Tal Frankfurt, Founder and CEO, Cloud for Good

Nonprofit data management takes a little collaborationHappy National Nonprofit Day!

National Nonprofit Day was founded to encourage individuals to get involved with nonprofit organizations. We take August 17 every year as an opportunity to thank nonprofit organizations for they work they do to improve the world, our national and communities and encourage others to get involved.

One of those nonprofits that I would like to call our in this post is Common Sense Media. Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

Cloud for Good has been working with Common Sense Media to help them harness the transformational value of Salesforce to increase their collaboration while decreasing their data silos.

While Common Sense’s development team was utilizing Nonprofit Cloud for a long time, they were unable to see the complete picture of donors and other major VIPs because the other teams were on separate systems. To understand how these key players were interacting with other departments like fundraising, marketing and programs they had to request the information for the separate departments. Here are 5 tips from our experience with the Common Sense Media implementation and 1,000 other nonprofits and higher educational institutions for how to increase that collaboration across departments.

1. Manage the change – The Common Sense Media leadership had a big vision. They realized the value of “sharing” constituents across departments to create new value and provide better service. In order to create that organizational transformation we had to start evaluating processes first before we dive into building the system. Salesforce (or any other technology) is not going to enforce process that have yet to be implemented. If you are changing the way your process gifts, enroll students into programs or sign volunteers up for shifts, you should spend time with your team to make sure that they understand those changes and the implications this change may have on their work. Your new technology is not going to achieve your organization’s goals, it is going to enable your team with the tools and knowledge to achieve it. The Salesforce Basics for Nonprofits Trailhead Trail can help you think about how to structure your processes to translate them to the cloud.

At Cloud for Good, when we think about change management, we like to consider three building blocks:

  • Toolset – What supporting materials do your employees needs to help them use the new technology?
  • Skillset – What new knowledge and skills do they need to learn in order to be proficient in the new processes?
  • Mindset – How do you motivate your team to adhere to new processes and tools vs. continue with the existing behaviors? ·

The way you communicate around the implementation should be positive and reflect the value that the new tools can bring to your organization. Make sure you are including your team in different aspects of the implementation (from selection to adoption). Each user will bring a separate set of skills and will be able to provide feedback on different areas or ways the tool is being used. The more people feel like they were involved the more likely they will be able to adopt and even champion the new technology.

“Before the implementation, our thinking was that every individual belonged to a specific department because they were the ones who communicated with them. Today, we look at individuals as Common Sense Media constituents vs. the development constituent or program constituent,” said Gordon Lee, Salesforce Solutions Architect, Common Sense Media.

2. Involve stakeholders and let business processes drive your implementation – It is important to remember that a tool should never define or drive your business processes; rather, a tool should facilitate, support, and automate your business processes.

We often have customers who include inefficient processes in their requirements, but further discussion often reveals that the process was created due to limitations of their current tools. When analyzing your business processes, we recommend that the discussion of solutions be kept out of the conversation initially; the focus should be on what you need rather than how you are going to get to the goal.

Involve your stakeholders in the build out and review of your business process maps. Oftentimes there are nuances to one or more business processes that only a minority of your end users are aware of or familiar with. It’s also helpful to include both champions for change and those who are perceived as resistant; in our experience, those who resist often uncover far more about your current process than even the champions.

3. Data, Data, Data – Common Sense had spent 13 years building a database of over a million members (and millions of interactions with those members), but they lacked a single source of truth that was able to provide them with a 360° view of those members, donors, and programs.

Effective nonprofit data management might involve data governance or CRM redesign“We needed a better way to track and manage our donors, prospects, advocates, members and constituents. Our data was stored in multiple places and we were not able to speak to the Common Sense constituents with one voice,” said Omar Khan, CTO, Common Sense Media.

Nothing sinks a new implementation faster than bad data. Users and implementation project leaders will quickly lose faith in the tool if incomplete, incorrect, or irrelevant data is present, not only for the final migration, but also for ongoing integrations and data entry.

4. Don’t be afraid of a nonprofit CRM redesign – Especially if you are already using a CRM to manage the data specific to one department, you may need to take a step back and reevaluate how the platform will be used for your entire organization. In some cases, it may make more sense to start over fresh and engage the different departments to make sure the platform fits their needs.

“We had spoken to multiple Salesforce consultants prior to engaging with Cloud for Good. However, those consultants kept patching on top of our existing Salesforce instance, which was primarily used for the developmental team. We needed to stop that entire process and think a little bit more strategically as to what the system was going to be used for,” said Gordon Lee, Salesforce Solutions Architect, Common Sense Media.

5. Integrate and automate whenever possible – Cloud for Good also partnered with Common Sense Media’s web engineering team to feed the information from their multiple Drupal instances, which managed their website sign up experience, into Salesforce. Teachers, schools, and districts can now apply online for their Digital Passport and Ed Tech Certifications. All data submitted from the application is stored in Salesforce, allowing reports to run and dashboards reflect current trends and submissions. This makes it possible for Common Sense’s education team to utilize Salesforce for their entire education Certification process and the marketing team can pull all the information and segment it to communicate the right message to their members.

These integrations made it easy for teachers, schools and districts to take part in their certification program, which recognizes the latest technological teaching strategies and make sure participants get some well-deserved credit for their work. After the first year of implementation, Common Sense saw a 240% increase in certifications and since all the information was in one central locations, they were able to decrease the processing time of these certifications by 75%.

Using Nonprofit Cloud as their single source of truth, Common Sense Media is now able to identify their members, donors and activities all in one place. They can then use NPSP to segment out their constituents based on activity or interests and talk to the audiences in different ways, while remaining true to the Common Sense voice and brand. Ultimately, this collaboration between departments leads better engaging with those individuals and organizations who have donated time or money to the Common Sense Media cause year-round.

Want to know what other nonprofits are doing with technology? Read more stories or download the Nonprofit Trends Report for statistics and insights you can use.


Premium PartnerCloud for Good is a Premium Partner that helps nonprofit organizations succeed with Nonprofit Cloud and helps higher education institutions advance with Education Cloud.

About the Author
Tal FrankfurtTal Frankfurt (@TalFrankfurt) is Founder and CEO of Cloud for Good, a certified B Corporation and an Inc. 5000 company that works with organizations to create transformational value with Salesforce. While working as a spokesperson and director of resource development for a nonprofit organization, Tal was looking for tools to better manage his constituents (donors, volunteers, the media etc.). He heard about Nonprofit Cloud and this started a snowball effect. The rest, as they say, is history. He founded and led one of the first Salesforce Nonprofit User Groups and was exposed to the growing need for many nonprofits to integrate technology tools such as Salesforce to achieve their mission. Subsequently, Tal founded Cloud for Good, a consulting firm that works primarily with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Tal ​was chosen in 2010 to be one of the first Salesforce MVP Program members and was inducted to the MVP program Hall of Fame in 2018.