5 Easy Tips for Nonprofits to Hit Goals in 2021

People working together in Corona times

Written by Paul Ginsberg

20th January 2021

It’s no secret — 2020 took an unexpected turn for everyone. Despite the downsides, we experienced tremendous leaps in innovation, passion, and generosity. We also saw what we could achieve by looking at our existing environment with fresh eyes. 

Now that the calendar has turned to a new year, it brings with it fresh opportunities to set and reach a host of new goals as we enter into the “new normal.” With that in mind, here are five tips to help your organization reset, refocus, and reach new highs in 2021.

This article was first published article on Salesforce.org blog but, to be honest, it’s also very suitable for commercial organisations too. Salesforce.org discontinued their own-brand blogging in 2023, so the rest of the article is reproduced below. for posterity

1. Align with Your Vision

With a new year comes a new chance to get back to the basics. It’s easy to get distracted! You’re going about your day when someone comes along with a great idea, leading you to change your track slightly and follow it through. Sometimes the rewards are amazing and sometimes it turns out to be a dead end. Don’t worry about that, though — experimentation is how innovation happens.

Without allowing ourselves to pursue ideas and learn through trial and error, we are doomed to follow the same paths as we have previously — and get exactly the same results. 

In times of uncertainty, using your vision statement as a north star is imperative. Periodically returning to revisit your vision statement to ensure that your goals fully align is of critical importance in helping you to maximize your impact and fulfil your vision.

People working together in Corona times

In times of uncertainty, use your vision statement as a north star.

2. Analyse Your Data

You put huge amounts of effort into connecting your systems — whether it’s (virtual) event ticket data coming straight into Salesforce, newsletter click throughs, or stakeholder queries. But are you getting the most of all that rich information? Or perhaps something that used to be critical has now changed — an important trend that you can see in your data. Having data-rich insights like these can allow you to quickly and effectively pivot to meet your current needs.

Have sessions where you play around with the data through reporting and dashboards to see what insights the exercise sparks. Are your assumptions right about where your donors come from? Who has engaged with you but hasn’t been sent any follow up? Pro tip: cross-filter reporting comes in handy here.

3. Prototype and Test

Society moves forwards, so innovation is critical to ensuring your organization evolves and finds new ways to tackle challenges. But how you tackle this can have a great impact on the end result. Agile is the name of the game. Small, incremental changes usually achieve the best results. Develop, test, implement feedback, and iterate some more.

What does this look like in the Salesforce context? There are often two parts to this process. 

  • The design work. Rather than start development straight away, mock up the new screens in a sandbox. These exercises will help your users envisage the solutions you are planning to implement and make them more tangible, reducing development clarification requests and significantly improving the accuracy of build estimations. 
  • Nonprofits spend a lot of time collecting, monitoring, and evaluating data. Before you jump into Salesforce, it could be beneficial to first use a more basic tool, like Google Forms, to collect data from a test group. This ensures that you collect all the necessary data points and that the questionnaire makes sense to the person filling it in, before you start the heavy design work. The Together Plan did this in 2020, helping them launch new services in record time, with far less reworking required on Salesforce.
A screenshot of the Nonprofit section on the AppExchange, highlighting the most a number of nonprofit-specific apps

4. Return on Investment is Critical

Nonprofits often operate with constrained resources, so making the most of what we have is imperative.

  • Time: It may take a volunteer or junior employee a week to input data into Salesforce. This is theoretically free until you include the time investment in training, mentoring, and data correction.

Alternatively a Salesforce Administrator could use automated tooling such as Data Loader. After the learning curve, that job will take a short amount of time and the end result will be more accurate.

So in exchange for some initial staff time outlay, you get a higher quality result and the volunteer can instead be engaged on more interesting tasks which will allow for a higher value return elsewhere.

  • Product Development: Use the 80/20 rule to determine how much configuration and development is worth the effort to achieve an overall result. Could the scope be changed in order to free up your time and resources for alternative requirements that will further your mission in other ways?

Alternatively, perhaps one of the general or nonprofit-specific products on the AppExchange is suitable, freeing up staff time to do more productive work elsewhere.

AppExchange products have the benefit of a security review, and are tried, tested, and regularly updated. They also have the reassurance of a fixed cost, which may be less than in-house development, given the pooling of resources.

5. Prioritize Employee Happiness

Technology isn’t the only piece to the puzzle that is accomplishing your goals this year. Ultimately, it starts with us. If your staff and volunteers are both understanding of, and aligned with, your vision (see point 1!), your organization is set up well for success. Prioritizing employee and volunteer happiness and ensuring these important members of your team have a better experience will result in happier team members who are more likely to stay with your organization for longer. 

By investing in your team, you’re not only building a happy and invested workforce, you’re also cutting down your staff acquisition costs and improving outcomes. 

My thanks to Ines Garcia MVP and Sarah Metcalfe for their help in preparation of this article.

About the Author

A Salesforce admin/consultant since 2011, Paul is a nonprofit specialist. He is a firm believer that Salesforce can be used to unlock organisations’ and individuals’ potential.

Passionate about the Salesforce community, he was awarded a Golden Hoodie in 2018 for his efforts and in 2021 he is helping launch the inaugural Nonprofit Dreamin – the nonprofit conference created for, and by, nonprofit professionals within the Salesforce ecosystem.

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