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8 Inspiring Stories for Your 2018 Holidays

By Rob Acker December 19, 2018

“When I see the next generation of people stepping up, that to me, is such a crescendo of hope and opportunity and inspiration.” – Maureen Sedonaen, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco

While it’s easy to get stuck in news-driven anxiety, it helps to take some perspective at the end of the year to reflect on the bigger picture. This holiday season, let’s celebrate the people and organizations who are connecting us all to a better world. We are inspired and humbled to support missions like yours, in nonprofits and education institutions of all sizes.

It is my hope that these 8 empowering stories will remind us that a better world is possible. You’re building it. And thank you.

1. Homes in Time for the Holidays

Everyone knows that the holidays are best at home. That’s why I’m inspired by Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, which builds and sustains affordable home ownership opportunities to provide local families with a springboard to a secure and stable future.

Habitat is blazing its trail to help families connect to housing opportunities, using technology as a propeller for impact. With the help of the Nonprofit Success Pack and Salesforce app ecosystem, Habitat has moved from paper and spreadsheets onto the cloud. This means getting people into homes more easily, with real-time data that ensures staff knows exactly where homeowners are in the application cycle at any given time. Weeks spent preparing impact reports can be done in just a few hours. But that’s not all. Habitat’s amazing community can now connect via Community Cloud, a place where staff engages with homeowners directly and homeowners ask questions of each other.

“The way you can tell your story with data, creates this space where you can think and dream and imagine what else you could know.” – Maureen Sedonaen, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco

2. Blockchain Creates a Pathway to College

In 2017, Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) created an amazing program called the Dallas County Promise to build pathways to college for students who never thought a degree was in their future. Nontraditional students and first generation students are taking advantage of coaching and free tuition to any of the district’s seven colleges.

K-12 schools, businesses, community organizations, and universities all became part of the Promise platform that was built and launched on Salesforce in just seven weeks. Using Education Cloud, the Promise can tell high schools how many of their students have signed up for the program, how many are at each stage of the process, and which questions students ask most frequently. Once students sign up, they get personalized content via Marketing Cloud to guide them through processes like applying for financial aid and completing their college application.

But that’s not all. DCCCD is using blockchain technology to create an updatable record for each student that lasts them throughout their future. What previously took weeks now can be instantaneous! Institutions and employers can immediately verify a student’s credentials without going through the hassle of requesting a transcript, receiving it by mail, and verifying it. This platform allows students to see all of their credentials in one place, each of them backed up by the blockchain.

Make sure to check out the Education Cloud keynote from Dreamforce 2018 to hear from Dr. Joe May, Chancellor of DCCCD, and Mark Flanagan, Director of IT at Dallas County Promise.

Salesforce volunteers help K-12 youth get Future Ready at a career coaching event at Future Executive Summit, Dreamforce 2018

3. The Future is Brighter in Schools

We were constantly inspired this year by our trailblazers in K-12 education. Two of them – Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) – are harnessing the true power of our technology as a platform to support student success in K-12.

BDEA, an alternative charter school within Boston Public Schools, built a solution for its entire student and teacher community to holistically understand and collaboratively manage and advocate for each student’s progress. We got goosebumps seeing the fruits of their labor in helping their students successfully navigate through K-12 and beyond into college and career!!

OUSD not only turns to Salesforce to manage curricular materials across their schools; it’s also developing a more complete picture of students so staff can proactively intervene to help support them when it’s most needed. Hear more from Oakland Tech High School teacher Steve Wright from his Dreamforce 2018 session and learn more about Education Cloud for K-12.

4. Universities Honor Diversity of Thought

We are excited about the work of the London School of Economics and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. LSE is participating in the Widening Participation initiative, which strives to bring access to the most underrepresented student populations, providing a wide range of perspectives in the classroom.

Thanks to Salesforce, LSE has improved their outreach to these students and enrolled a more diverse class. The School’s achievements were highlighted last year by the independent thinktank Reform, which suggested that if other universities made the same progress as LSE in 2015-16 alone, more than 3,500 students from diverse backgrounds would also be in universities.

LSE shared this story as hundreds of universities in the Education Cloud community celebrated the first Higher Ed Summit Horizons event in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region (EMEA), dedicated exclusively to success in higher education institutions, at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Horizons is a satellite of the global Higher Ed Summit that has taken place in the US for several years, bringing together thousands of education leaders. By the way, did you know that we support higher education in German, French, and Dutch?

Community members are stronger – and have more fun – together!

5. What Unites Us is Good

“The sense of belonging to something bigger than me, of belonging to something that makes me a better person, and of belonging to people who value me for who I am and what I can contribute. When I’m in my Ohana, I’m home.” – Trish Perkins, Salesforce MVP

In 2018, the Power of Us Hub welcomed 10,000 new members! Working together, our members answered over 30,000 questions; helping each other grow, scale, and achieve their missions.

Students from OUSD proudly showcasing their 3D printed keychains in a Computer Science Education Week event at Salesforce

6. Next-Gen Changemakers are Future Ready

We know we live in a world where not everyone has equal access to opportunities. In 2018, we deepened our philanthropic commitment in communities where we live and work with three commitments:

    1. At the first-ever Future Executive Summit during Dreamforce, we hosted 400 youth from Bay Area workforce development organizations to develop their networking skills and gain new career perspectives.

    2. We gave away more than $30 million in grants to address pressing issues in education, workforce development, and homelessness in the communities around the world where we live and work. This includes $18M in grants focused on the Bay Area, $2M to support great school leaders across the US, $1M in grants to support the UK’s next generation workforce, and $1M in grants to empower a diverse workforce in Germany.

    3. We gave a $2 million grant to New Leaders, an organization devoted to developing dedicated, skilled educators at every level — equipping them to elevate instruction and achievement across classrooms, schools, and districts. This grant marks the largest-ever investment we’ve made in an education non-profit and furthers our commitment to improving access and exposure to a quality education for all.

And with Computer Science Education week this past Dec 3-7, our employees volunteered more than 900 hours leading 3D printing and coding workshops, career chat sessions, and more volunteer projects in local schools in 16 cities across 9 countries!

What is your company doing to help prepare our future workforce for better careers? We invite you to join us with Philanthropy Cloud (see #7), volunteer at your local school with Circle the Schools in the Bay Area, or host an Hour of Code workshop online wherever you are.

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7. Philanthropy Moves to the Cloud

In June, United Way Worldwide announced that it is partnering with Lyft, the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S., to provide limited free rides to people with specific non-emergency healthcare transportation, employment, and veterans’ needs.

Then, in October, Lyft extended its culture of giving back to its employees by choosing Philanthropy Cloud, enabling its 3,000 employees to raise funds, organize volunteer activities, and engage in advocacy opportunities. Philanthropy Cloud will enable Lyft’s employees to become more directly involved in the social impact initiatives their company spearheads, or those of their choice, making deeper connections in their communities.

Get inspired by the Dreamforce keynote on Philanthropy Cloud for more.

Example of using Salesforce Einstein Vision to help classify the quality of clean cookstove installation, to provide fast feedback to nonprofit employees in the field

8. AI is for Everyone, Anywhere

Proyecto Mirador is a nonprofit that builds clean cookstoves in rural Honduras. Their work empowers women and reduces carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, with their work offsetting 1.4 million tons of carbon, saving 7 million trees, and changing the lives of 800,000 people. And, Salesforce has gone net zero in carbon emissions thanks in part to carbon offsets with Cool Effect and Proyecto Mirador.

But to serve rural communities, it takes time for stove technicians to travel from one home to another. So, Proyecto Mirador worked with Nonprofit Cloud to use technology to scale up their impact. Proyecto Mirador became “AI ready” by getting off of paper and moving to the cloud.

Now, using Einstein Vision, Proyecto Mirador technicians can get near-instant quality control feedback on their chimney installations via text message. Using text, any employee can engage with Einstein Vision (a Salesforce AI product)and submit images to determine a good or bad chimney installation.

A nonprofit employee takes a photo of cookstove installation to get feedback in near-real-time

Einstein Vision helps Proyecto Mirador train more cookstove technicians in order to reduce training time and implement efficient quality control to manage 3,000 – 5,000 stove installations a month.

The Good News is Our Community

What makes us successful is our community. We’re stronger together, and you can see the spirit of everyday collaboration for a better world in stories like these.

What impact are you celebrating for this year? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter: @SalesforceOrg or in the Power of Us Hub.

In 2019, we’re looking forward to another amazing year for changemakers, starting off with Higher Ed Summit 2019 in San Diego next spring.

And now, let’s connect with friends and family and enjoy some time to reflect. Because next year, we have a lot more good to do.

Happy holidays!

About the Author
Rob AckerRob Acker is the CEO of, where he’s focused on delivering world-class technology to nonprofit and education organizations, driving community engagement and distributing strategic grants to communities around the world. Since 1999, more than 30,000 nonprofits use Salesforce technology for free or at a discount, Salesforce employees have participated in 3.5 million hours of volunteer time, and more than $240 million in grants have been delivered.

During his time at, Rob created a revolutionary self-sustaining business model with support from Salesforce that allows nonprofits and education organizations to leverage technology, community engagement and grants to accelerate their mission. has since increased its grants by four times, its customer base by 10 times, and has become a leading corporate social enterprise focused on improving communities around the world. Rob’s visionary approach has led to being named one of the top corporate philanthropies, according to San Francisco Business Times.