Sustainability expert simplifies grant management, increases efficiency, and improves collaboration with Salesforce
Solidaridad is paving the way to make business better for the planet, better for people, and better for posterity. From sugarcane and livestock to gold and coffee, the organisation works with partners across the globe to create sustainable supply chains that benefit employees and the economy without damaging the environment.
Operating from nine regional centres across Asia, Africa, North and Central America and Europe, Solidaridad combines a global vision and strategy with local knowledge and expertise to make the biggest impact in each region.
“As an expert in sustainable business models, we need to lead by example. We recognised that by taking advantage of digital processes, we could be more efficient and sustainable ourselves,” said Nicolaas van Boeckel, Global IT Manager at Solidaridad.
Smarter grant management
Solidaridad must comply with strict data publication requirements as part of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and as a condition of receiving funding from the Dutch government. But with a complex grant management system, the organisation ended up relying on spreadsheets to track data.
“Our old system wasn’t user friendly, and we had issues sharing access with other regions,” explained van Boeckel. “I’d worked with Salesforce at another NGO, so I knew immediately that it could help us keep track of our funding and monitor our projects better.”
The organisation has built its grant management application, Plaza, on Force.com, part of the Salesforce App Cloud. “With Salesforce, you can put together an application in real time, and you don’t have to physically install it on every server and computer. For a global company, that’s a huge benefit,” said van Boeckel. “It also means we can release applications faster, without worrying that they’ll be out of date by the time they’re deployed. I wouldn’t call myself a developer, but being able to create this application quickly, and on my own, was a real game changer.”
With a secure cloud-based platform, users from Beijing to San Francisco can access the application without the issues they were facing with the legacy system, and Salesforce’s user friendly interface means adoption rates have been high.
A culture of sharing
Plaza helps the funding team track grants from receipt to allocation, and gives Solidaridad visibility of the goals it’s accomplishing with each donation. With 700 projects, hundreds of donors, and thousands of contracts in the system at any one time, Plaza helps the organisation demonstrate financial accountability as well as improving efficiency.
For example, with financial data all in one place, Solidaridad has been able to automate reporting. “When reporting to the Dutch government we used to have to manually prepare hundreds of pages of text with many attached spreadsheets with data. Now we publish our data from Plaza to IATI and send only a eight page narrative report to the Dutch government. It’s saved a huge amount of time,” explained van Boeckel.
With the grant team now free from paperwork, employees can spend more time analysing data to determine best practices, identify lessons learned, and hone the organisation’s strategy. Communication and information sharing has also improved. “As all grant-related information is now accessible via Plaza, we’ve eliminated the need for hundreds of internal calls and emails,” said van Boeckel.
Solidaridad is now helping other NGOs take advantage of its app. “Sharing best practices and knowledge is core to our culture. We hope other organisations will be able to enjoy the same efficiency gains as we have,” explained van Boeckel.
Following the success of its Plaza application, Solidaridad is in the process of migrating data to Sales Cloud to establish a single, central CRM system. The team is also using Salesforce Chatter to collaborate on projects and create a sense of community. “We have Chatter conversations specifically for each key project, so anyone can log in and see the full history,” added van Boeckel.
With Salesforce, Solidaridad’s employees are happier, more efficient, and able to do their jobs more effectively. “Now that they’ve seen what Salesforce can do, people have been coming to us with new ideas for innovation all the time,” said van Boeckel. “The beauty of Salesforce is that we can expand our system ourselves, without relying on external developers.”
Next, Solidaridad has plans to explore how Salesforce can help it make the most of social media and create more bespoke customer marketing journeys.
“With Salesforce, we can reduce the effort involved in day-to-day tasks, freeing up time and creativity for developing our strategy and improvements to fundraising,” concluded van Boeckel.