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Pro Bono Week Spotlights Collaborative Nonprofit & Education Solutions

By Cori O'Brien October 25, 2021

By: Cori O’Brien, Senior Manager, Open Source Commons

Each year, we celebrate Pro Bono Week: a time to recognize professionals around the world who volunteer their skills for causes they care about. This year, we are highlighting contributions made through Open Source Commons, a unique program that highlights the partnership between and our community of customers and partners. Formed as a response to the work our community was already doing, the program provides a framework to support nonprofit and education professionals looking to volunteer their ideas, skills, and expertise to build innovative solutions and share them with the broader community.

In addition to bringing together people from across these sectors, Open Source Commons equips volunteers with the spaces, tools, and training they need to collaborate and create apps, content, and programs that benefit the greater community. These professionals give their time, talent, and passion to help close the gap between the social impact created by the community today, and the potential for impact in the future.

Here are three ways nonprofit and education professionals give their time and talent through Open Source Commons:

1. Build Sustainable Apps to Meet Unique Community Needs

Woman holding a baby while writing at a desk community members who volunteer their time and expertise on the Summit Events project through Open Source Commons.

With a wide range of solutions available through Nonprofit and Education Clouds, plus apps available through the AppExchange, nonprofits and educational institutions already have access to powerful tools for scaling their missions and impact. However, the community’s needs are as diverse as the communities and constituents they serve. There is plenty of opportunity for new innovation to meet niche needs in both sectors.

Take, for example, the Summit Events App. Technology professionals in the education space identified a need for a lightweight, customizable events management tool that leverages native Salesforce capabilities. Through Open Source Commons, a group of committed individuals led by Ryan Blake and Thaddaeus Dahlberg came together to build the Summit Events App, a free, open source events management app for nonprofits and educational institutions. The app supports the full events lifecycle and is compatible with Nonprofit Success Pack and Education Data Architecture.

“In my professional career, I’ve always tried to find a way to give back to an industry that’s provided me with so much,” says Ryan Blake, Summit Events project co-lead and Enterprise CRM Director at University of St. Thomas. “This project has also really elevated my Salesforce knowledge and experience.”

With support from Open Source Commons, the Summit Events App recently passed Salesforce’s rigorous security review, which means the app is now available for download! Access to the Salesforce security review process is one of the many benefits provided through Open Source Commons.

2. Enable Community Members to Effectively Use Salesforce

Screenshot of virtual call community members who volunteer their time and expertise on the NPSP Videography project through Open Source Commons.

Access to digital tools is only the first step in using technology effectively. The community also leverages Open Source Commons to train their fellow nonprofit and educational professionals on how to make the most of technology to scale their missions and impact.

Salesforce MVPs Bill Florio, Barbara Christensen, and Charise Van Liew co-lead a team of community members to create content for the NPSP How-To Series. The series includes short, digestible how-to videos for open source Nonprofit Cloud products, including Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), Program Management Module (PMM), Outbound Funds Module (OFM), and Volunteers for Salesforce (V4S), making adoption easier for nonprofit customers. Scripts are written, reviewed, recorded, edited, and published by the community, for the community!

“Volunteering not only helps thousands of nonprofit users, it helps me master new features and be part of a wonderful community — and it’s fun!” says Barbara Christensen, Salesforce MVP.

After going live on Youtube in 2016, the NPSP How-To Series channel has 1.2K+ subscribers and 65 videos with 200K+ views. There are 33 more videos in production now.

3. Create a More Inclusive Community

Screenshot of virtual call community members who volunteer their time and expertise on the diversity, equity, and inclusion project through Open Source Commons.

Technology is only as good as the perspectives and voices that go into building it. After noticing a lack of diversity at an Open Source Commons event in 2019, a chronic problem in the Tech sector, Brittany Alana-Daley and a group of customers and partners formed a project team to identify, mitigate, and dismantle structural barriers that contribute to people from marginalized communities not knowing about, or feeling invited to participate in, Open Source Commons events and the broader Salesforce ecosystem.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is long-term social change work. It’s the first step in understanding the current reality and what challenges need our attention now. In March 2020, the DEI project team, currently led by Charise Van Liew, Sarah Pilzer, Grace Kim, Karen Fitton, and Sindhuja Ram, administered a survey at an Open Source Commons event to understand the experiences of the community members that participated. Here are some key takeaways from the survey results:

  1. Black participants did not feel represented
  2. Black participants reported having a positive experience similar to attendees as a whole.
  3. Few participants identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community
  4. The group with the most representation was straight, white women (32% of participants)

The team continues to collect community participant data and iterate on the questions to include, and will be publishing additional reports in the next few months.

“I contribute to the DEI Open Source project because I want to help create events that are open and affirming to people who have traditionally been excluded from working in tech,” says Sarah Pilzer, a Salesforce Golden Hoodie recipient and the director of operations at Country Dance & Song Society. “I believe that this project is a good way for me to use my privilege to be a multiplier and lift up the underrepresented voices in our community.”

You can contribute your skills for good, too! There are a total of fourteen Open Source Commons projects that need your time and expertise! The teams get together throughout the year at virtual Community Sprints.

Join the Open Source Commons & Community Sprints group in the Trailblazer Community to learn how you can get involved!

About the Author

Cori O’Brien, Senior Manager, Open Source Commons
Cori O’Brien
Senior Manager, Open Source Commons
Cori’s passion for Salesforce and helping Nonprofit organizations utilize technology to fuel impact started when she discovered Salesforce as an ISV Partner in 2010, and was introduced to the community via the first Open Source Community Sprint event in Seattle, 2015. Being welcomed into the contributor community as a non-developer was a life changing moment, and she has been hooked ever since. Cori joined in 2018 focused on building the Open Source Commons program.