Excel is not a database

Before I founded Cloud for Good I worked for a small nonprofit organization that loved to collect information. When I joined the organization, as a director of resource development, I inherited the organization’s most kept treasure. An Excel spreadsheet with all the donors and foundations we contacted in the past six or seven years, their social interests, who contacted them, when, how much money we asked, how much we received etc… This was (by far!) the largest spreadsheet I have ever seen in my life.

Overall, it seems like spreadsheets can be ideal for manage the organization’s knowledge. The Microsoft Office package is installed on most computers. Additionally, it is a very simple to use tool that we are all familiar with – we can easily create new columns and save. However, do not be tempted.  Excel is not a tool to manage and cultivate relationships!

 Excel is great with numbers but it is very limited. As a resource developer I could not efficiently track year to year donations or identify that one of our graduates could have been a potential donor. It was a great tool to analyze quantitative information, but it did not enable me to manage relationships between the information I tracked – it is “flat”.

  • Yes, you can add more columns to manage the information; however, how many columns will you need to track all the phone calls, emails, and meetings with your donor, volunteer, or student? Not to mention tracking all their donations, preferred days and time to volunteer, and program attendance. This is important information – if you wish to form a relationship with the constituent (or the foundation).
  • When your organization collects all the information (just like in my previous organization) the spreadsheet could include thousands of values and become very difficult to manage.
  • Your spreadsheet will not support your business process nor will it include workflows and automatic reminders. For example: Excel will not remind you to send a thank you letter every time you receive a donation.
  • Reporting in Excel can be very challenging. How would you know who gave last year but not this year and attended one of your programs’ graduation ceremonies?
  • And what about security? Everyone who has access to the spreadsheet can make changes and delete anything. You cannot determine who can see all of the information and who can edit specific columns.

 

Your database is one of the most valuable assets for your organization.  A good database is necessary to help you grow and provide better services to the community. It should support the organization’s mission and should be adopted by your entire organization and not only one team. It should be easy to use (you don’t want a system that only one person within your organization can use), flexible (it should evolve with your strategy) and it should support the type of work you do.

Salesforce Summer 10 Logo

Salesforce Summer ’10 release is here and is even better than before. Here are my top 5 favorite features from the new release.

1. Chatter

What is Chatter? Chatter is a collaboration application that can help you join forces with your co-workers, the applications in with which you work, and the content on which you work, in real-time. For example, your development team can use chatter to share updates and exchange information directly on the Donations records – no more endless email exchange (did you send the thank you letter? Did we receive the donation? Etc…)

To enable Chatter:

Setup | Customize | Chatter | Settings

Note:

  • To turn on Chatter, the new user interface is required.
  • All users have Chatter profiles with a personal photo, contact information, and professional experience.
  • The People Tab provides a list of all users.
  • Feeds provide real-time information (just like Facebook…i.e when a person changes a status on Facebook, you get notified. For Chatter, when collaborating on a document and your coworkers complete a thank you email, you get notified with a status update immediately. )

2. Cloud Scheduler

Wow! This will make my life easier! The Cloud Scheduler allows users to propose multiple meeting times – this should reduce all the back and forth communication when scheduling a multi-attendance meeting. You can let Salesforce propose meeting times, based on the Salesforce users’ calendar (it should be up-to-date!), or select your own meeting times.

To enable the Cloud Scheduler:

  1. Setup | Customize | Activities | Activity Settings  and click on Show Requested Meetings in Calendar Section.
  2. Add the new Meeting Request button to the page layouts for Contacts and Leads.

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3. Campaigns

More control over the Campaign Members object. For example, with cross-object formula fields it is now possible to display information from Leads, Contacts or Organizations on the Campaign Members object.

4. Answers Available in Force.com Sites!

Force.com Sites allows people create public websites and applications that are directly integrated with your Salesforce database. We have already delivered several Site based solutions for nonprofits, such as a fully featured university admission process (we also used Salesforce Customer Portal) and program enrollment forms.

Now, it is possible to expose the Answers community on Sites as well! The new release even enables the moderator to escalate a question into a case or promote a reply to an article. Salesforce has been using Answers for a while now. Check it out!

5. Last but not least, Drag-and-Drop Dashboards

Dashboards are great, but they can take time to create. With the new release most dashboard customizations happen on a single screen, therefore, it makes it easier for administrators to edit dashboards and minimize the time that it takes to create a new dashboards. The builder layout is a completely new way of creating dashboards and was very much-needed.

Note: Your profile should include “Drag-and-Drop Dashboard Builder”

Release Resources:

Summer ‘10 Release Preview
Summer ‘10 Release Webinar
Summer ’10 Release Notes
Developer Preview
Spring ’10 Release
Summer ’10 Release Training
Information about the release dates

Spring ’10 is salesforce.com’s 31st release and it brings many exciting new features! I would like to add/update my earlier post about the release and this time, share with you my top 10 favorite features.

Did I miss anything? I am sure I did… so please share your favorite new features in the comments sections as well!

1. Rich Text Support – A new (and exciting) rich text field type!

2. Mobile Lite – View and update accounts, leads, opportunities, cases, solutions and dashboards – ensuring that you can stay connected even when you are on the go.

3. Enhanced Dashboards

a. Create tables with up to four columns.
b. Quickly search for a dashboard in a dashboard finder.

4. Answers – I love this one! Harness the expertise of your community right on your Web site.  It seems to be the “answer” to the Ideas module.

5. Personalized Email alerts – You can now set the “From” Email Address in email alerts to the address of the default workflow user.

6. Search Box – Providing an auto-complete capability that works just like Google.

7. My Domain – Brand your login and navigation URLs,  such as: http://cloud4good.my.salesforce.com (limited release).

8. Adobe Flash Builder for Force.com – A powerful tool that will enable Adobe Flash(R) development on the Force.com platform.

9. New Report Builder for tabular reports (developer preview).

10. New UI? I am still waiting for this one… 🙂 [UPDATE: It’s Alive!!! Learn how to activate it]

Spring 10 BugVery soon the logo at the top left corner of your Salesforce account will change from a snowman into a little red beetle. This means that Salesforce Spring ’10 was released!

I attended a preview webinar of the Salesforce Spring ’10’s new features (check out the Upcoming Events page on my website for to learn about future webinars) and I would like to share just a very limited sampling of the many exciting new updates:

1.  New User Interface

It is about time that Salesforce made some changes in this department. The new UI is more conducive for the social networking era, cleaner, and much simpler.

So… what do you think? The new UI will be available for everyone on February 5th. To activate it go to: Setup | Customize | User Interface.

2. E-mail

There are several interesting enhancements in this field, one of which is the possibility to preview emails (I assume that you already know how to use email templates but if not, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will gladly show you how) before sending them. Here’s how you do it: Setup | Email | My Templates | Send Test and Verify Merge Fields

3. Rich Text

This is one of the most exciting new features 🙂  We will be able change the color of the text, bold, and even add pictures in rich text area fields. For example, they put a picture of an iPhone and bolded the price using this new feature. The only problem with Rich Text is that now users can show their creativity –but sometimes their creativity is not such an aesthetically pleasing thing.

Spring10 -Rich Text

4. Sophisticated Data Modeling

More detailed information about the Spring ’10 release could be found in the Release Notes.

In today’s financial crises many organizations are facing the same paradox when considering the implementation of a constituent relationship management (CRM) platform. On one hand, many organizations are struggling to maintain their core activities and essential services. Therefore, it is the wrong time for them to implement new technology, both in terms of the organizational change such systems require and it’s cost.

On the other hand, precisely at a time of cutbacks, many argue that it’s time to become more efficient. Implementation of a CRM can help strengthen the organization’s capacity to fundraise and provide better social return on the philanthropic investments.

Unfortunately, I have no magic solution, but I can offer some tips for a smoother CRM implementation.

1. Collaborate

CRM is not a tool just for the executive director or the board; it should serve their needs, however, if your development or education teams will not use the platform the implementation will fail. Therefore, you should form a team that will represent all the future users and have them involved in all stages of the implementation, from choosing the right system to the ongoing training and support.

2. The Face of the System

You must select the right people to be “the face of the system” and invest in them! Provide them with additional tutorials, and continuously ask them what should be done to make the system more user-friendly.

3. Use the Management

It is important that the organization’s management will publicly support the system and talk about the value it will bring to the organization. I know a CEO who recorded a short and funny video clip to explaining how the system advances the organization’s mission. This gave a boost to the rest of the team and made the process more enjoyable.

4. Drive Traffic to Salesforce

When the users will use Salesforce, they will understand that it can make their lives much easier. First, you should make sure they know how to log in. I know that it sounds silly and simple; nevertheless, I found that it can be quiet challenging for some people. Spend some time on this in the training.

Second, use the Salesforce features. For example, don’t send meeting summaries as attachments. Upload them to Salesforce and send an email with a link to the file. Use the Ideas module to vote on ideas – not only on the future of the organization. You can also vote on food for the next organization’s meeting 🙂

Do you have something to add? What did you do to better implement your system and what did you do wrong? Please comment on this post.

Recently, a few customers approached me with the following question: “We finished the implementation and training successfully, but we want our Salesforce administrator to continue learning… what should we do?”

Here are some ideas:

1. Send your administrator to a Salesforce User Group

Almost two years ago, upon my return from the Dreamforce conference in London (If you could not attend Dreamforce 2009, you now have the possibility to watch these sessions on You Tube.), I volunteered to open and lead the Israeli nonprofit Salesforce user group.

The user group was a great platform for me (as a director of resource development and the Salesforce administrator of a nonprofit organization) to meet other Salesforce users, share knowledge, face common issues, learn about best practices, and network.

I am happy to announce that I recently volunteered to open the Tennessee/Arkansas nonprofit Salesforce user group. This group will cater specifically to the needs of the Salesforce community in Tennessee and Arkansas and will meet in Memphis.

Here is the information for the First Meeting:

  • Date: Wednesday, January 2oth
  • Time: 9:00-11:00
  • Location: Memphis, TN – I am looking for an organization that would be willing to host/sponsor the event, if you can help please send me an email.

To RSVP for the meeting press here.

Can’t make the meeting but want to stay in the loop?  Join the Tennessee/Arkansas Google Group.

2. Refer them to the Salesforce Community website

This is one of my favorite resources. There’s a lot of information in the Salesforce Community website: Best Practices, “How To’s”, Training & Recordings, and Best Practices.

3. Encourage your administrator to open a Developer Account
This is a great and free platform for your administrator to “play” with Salesforce, customize, and create. Whatever they do on the developer’s account does not harm your organization’s information because it is a separate platform that will never expire.

4. Tell him/her to visit my blog for additional useful tips and information about Salesforce and sign up for my newsletter.