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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Salesforce: WWC Embraces Change and Much Needed Updates!

Posted By: Lisa Syravong

Almost every nonprofit and small independent business has it—outdated office equipment, ancient computer software, technology that is older than 5 years (yet to the office seems new) and a lack of funding to address the age-old question: “Why are we still using this, and how do we move into the 21st Century”? Yes folks, it’s the 21st century, and I’m well aware 2009 is almost over…

Washington Wilderness Coalition is certainly no exception to having outdated equipment—we have dedicated staff, all working tirelessly with outdated computers, computer software and drum roll please….Filemaker Pro Ebase. Ebase is a program, where we track our members, activists, donors and their contact information by way of logging donations, adding new information, pulling donor contact information for phone lists, email lists and the occasional membership mailing. However, we are still operating Ebase under the same license that we were granted in the late 1990’s. Staff over the years was able to highly customize our version of Ebase to one where we can track various levels of donors, track how often they attend our events, sign campaign postcards, if they have indicated they are supportive of certain campaigns and not others, you get the picture.

The difficulty with using a highly customized version of Ebase is that only the basic template is able to be updated yearly, and with staff turnover over the years we are left with fewer and fewer people who are courageous enough to use the program, let alone be able to update or migrate to a new version.

Enter into the picture-the scheming and dreaming of staff for 2-3 years. IF we could find a program that we could use that would hold our immense level of data, and IF we could find a way to pay for the new software (our current license is free, as long as we can suffer through using it), and IF we could find a way to take our old data and transfer it into a new template and program-THEN we could actually have a program that all staff could use and easily!

Early in 2008-our Executive Director helped with finding a way, a new program called Salesforce was identified, costs were drawn estimated for what it would be to actually migrate our data and to set up the licensing, and it became an opportunity to ask for grant support from the community. For those of you who know little about grant writing, a capacity building grant is one where we ask for financial support and apply for a grant from a corporation, foundation or other business to underwrite a new program that allows us to expand our work. It is a way to ask for funding for a much needed project, one that the organization will be able to launch into using and be able to fund in a sustainable way for years to come-even after the grant funds are spent.

We approached the Boeing Company with the idea that if we could fund a consultant to migrate our data-we could apply for free licenses from Salesforce (which offers free licenses to nonprofit organizations) and to finally embrace a database program that would be easily to use, integrate with our email programs, and one that all staff would have access to for our various departments.

Thanks to the support of the Boeing Company we will very soon migrate our data to Salesforce. This summer, we have been working with our wonderful consultant from N-Power, one who is able to take our data from Ebase, and transfer it into a working template in Salesforce. The staff is still nervous, as we face a busy fall campaign season with events, community festivals and up to a week of training sessions for at least some of us. We also face a new opportunity to embrace change and to grow as an organization. Updating our software will allow us to contact you, our supporters, in much more relevant ways, and call upon volunteers who express particular interests, focusing on matching specific skills with jobs that are needed to effectively carry out wilderness preservation. In other words, staff will be able to operate more efficiently so that you can participate in protecting the wild lands and waters you love more.

In September or early October-we are planning on the completion of this project—more than 18 months in the making. We appreciate the opportunity and the support that have been given by the Boeing Company, as well as N-Power, both of which are making this project possible.

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