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The Road to Dreamforce – SolarAid’s Story

By August 4, 2015

Author: Tessa Kipping, Corporate Partnerships Manager, SolarAid

If you work in a small charity using Salesforce as your database you may not have realised what a giant, philanthropic and all round sound company Salesforce actually is.

With budget constraints, criticism over fundraising, oh and a complex and ever changing social issue to solve I’m sure many of you aren’t (I wasn’t) tuned in to the massive networking and enabling capacity Salesforce have set up for their charity clients.

Generally in the charity sector we’re a busy, underfunded and tech-not-very-enabled bunch. So I understand that the Salesforce database often gets overlooked as just another tech solution that we have to learn, another solution that we’ve not enough time or money to understand and use fully.

Last year I attended Dreamforce. I went to talk about how we use the platform across our fundraising and programmes (our social enterprise). I went to explore and learn, because we liked the ethos of the company, we knew they were big and a potential funding source – and really because our account manager is amazing and she said it would be worth our while.

Arriving at Dreamforce is daunting, you’re alone, jet lagged, nervous and have no idea what to expect. What you get is a diamonte studded, glam rock version of a networking event with added star dust sparkle, out of this world experiences, oh and a cloud computing conference right in the epicenter.


They close the streets to host it. CLOSE THE STREETS!

Like it’s the London Marathon or something. The show begins, a whirlwind of personal development sessions (yes Tony Robbins I now adore you), Foundation Keynotes (these were the best eye openers, explaining how other charities used the product for good), free stuff, technical support, meetings greetings, and a cacophony of parties.

I didn’t stop talking for the entire week, which my colleagues would say is nothing new. I met the Foundation team, other charities using Salesforce, Salesforce technicians, marketing teams, corporate clients of Salesforce, Will.I.AM’s body guard (another story) and saw Neil Young, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton talk. The people I met working with Salesforce in other UK charities have been the most useful network of amazing, committed and knowledgeable people I’ve ever met in one place.

It enabled me to fully understand what the tech revolution can offer to SolarAid, and to all charities. Salesforce’s commitment to philanthropy is epic, they understand that with technology the world can address massive social issues like clean energy access for the world’s poorest. I have seen how companies use Salesforce, why partners are a vital part of the eco-system, and how to choose which of the endless possibilities to implement first.

The final session of Dreamforce is a Q&A with Marc Benioff and Parker Harris who set up Salesforce. Marc is an honest, fun and straight forward guy – it was the first ever session I’ve seen with a CEO who admits to not knowing most of the answers, his team were seated in the first rows and for every question Marc asked the most relevant person to stand up and answer. When you can see that the company isn’t driven by ego, you start to be able to understand and unpick their product. Salesforce needs to work for you and your charity and the company and its partners will work tirelessly to ensure that happens.


Most importantly though Dreamforce allowed me to think big and not be scared of technology. Charities need to embrace tech solutions. App technology is stealing the show (think Mpesa, Mkrishi) and many charities don’t have the money or resource or energy or inclination to address their own tech issues (go try and print double sided in colour in ANY charity office in the country) let alone to address the needs of their beneficiaries and clients through technology. Dreamforce is the place to figure out what solutions are on offer and how your charity’s target audience can benefit from them.

After Dreamforce I have been able to use my networks that I met there to support me to understand the database and my role at SolarAid. I have been able to get things funded that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible – my conversations are larger and yes, I am bringing some salesforce sparkle to our work too. I would really encourage you to think bigger, use Dreamforce as a springboard for bigger and better ways to tackle your chosen issue. Use the opportunity to meet contacts in California, network with other charity clients, share stories and swap expertise- you never know, you might just change the world.

Interested in attending this year’s Dreamforce? Register today using the Nonprofit Discount Code: NP15350F. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

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