A Deep Dive on How the National Aquarium Brings the Oceans to Life with Salesforce
Every year, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD welcomes more than 1.3 million visitors, manages over 1,000 volunteers, and runs a variety of programs all aimed at changing the way humanity cares for our planet by inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. But ensuring each person has the experience of a lifetime proved to be a challenge, due to antiquated technology and disconnected spreadsheets that failed to serve the organization and its unique needs.
Now, with the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) as its foundation, the Aquarium’s development, guest services, youth program, and marketing departments all run off of Salesforce which has enabled the Aquarium staff to work more collaboratively, save time, and cut down on costs.
Constituent Relationship Management Across the Organization
At its core, NPSP serves as the National Aquarium’s constituent relationship management (CRM) tool. Understanding prospect and donor relationships is extremely important, and since the development and guest services teams are run off of a single platform, the Aquarium is able to get a holistic view of each member or visitor.
The development department takes advantage of the out-of-the-box functionality to track donors and campaigns and uses the third-party-application, Classy, for online donations. Staff use NPSP for moves management and to make thoughtful forecasts in real-time about what to expect in any given fundraising cycle using reports and dashboards. At the end of each fundraising cycle, staff can understand which activity produced the strongest ROI by using the campaign hierarchy.
When a guest comes to the box office to purchase a ticket or become a member, guest information is automatically pushed to Salesforce so staff can see whether that guest has donated in the past. “Development is all about building relationships with donors and strengthening their commitment to the Aquarium,” says Melanie Bricker, Director of Development Services. “With NPSP, we have a 360-degree view of a donor at any given time so we can continue to build and cultivate these relationships.”
Cultivating these relationships also means collaborating to give special guests the VIP treatment. For example, if a VIP guest wants to get behind the scenes, development or marketing staff no longer need to use email and a paper application to schedule a visit. Staff can now put in a request via Salesforce and have it automatically sent to the guest services team where they can approve it and work through the details like access and security.
“Being able to work in one system reduces all the back and forth we used to have to do,” explains Michael Grandel, the Director of Business Intelligence at the National Aquarium. “We don’t have to worry about the right team getting notified or if things change, whether they get updated. Salesforce does that all for us.”
Creating an Experience Through Exceptional Programs
Key to the mission of the Aquarium are the programs they run. Summer camps, youth programs and conservation events all live in Salesforce, meaning their website info is always up to date with details and scheduling information. “Salesforce makes it very simple for us to manage our programs,” says Grandel. “Our processes were very complex and time consuming and with Salesforce, the overhead has just dramatically shrunk.” Salesforce has allowed the Aquarium to create an application process for students that automates everything from managing letters of recommendation to scheduling interviews with parents and notifying admitted students.
The Aquarium also runs conservation events through its partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA requires very granular details around events like how many pieces and types of trash volunteers picked up and what areas have been remediated. “It’s a lot of data that we have to collect,” explains Grandel. “Now instead of using paper, we use Salesforce and we can immediately see a dashboard that tells us the metrics we want to track.” Next up on the programs side is managing research requests within Salesforce. “We will be able to manage the entire review process in Salesforce, including collaborating with our Board on approvals.”
But the Aquarium is just getting started with its vision of becoming the connected nonprofit on the Salesforce Platform. This year, they’re rolling out Marketing Cloud to automate and personalize their customer journeys. Their vision includes rolling out a branded Community to manage the digital experience for all their constituents and Wave Analytics to take reporting to the next level.
As the oceans are here to stay, so is the Aquarium — working to keep them safe and sustainable for generations to come. And as Grandel explains, “Salesforce enables our ability to scale and will only continue to grow with us.”
The National Aquarium, Inc. works with implementation partner Cloud for Good.