Community Commons Sprints – the what, the why and the how beneficial

A number of people alongside a very special Sprint dinosaur, with myself lying in front, wearing a T-Shirt with Astro holding the Ukrainian flag, cut into a heart shape.

Written by Paul Ginsberg

31st January 2023 runs something called the Community Commons Sprint. These are opportunities for people to come together and work on Salesforce-related open source products that are primarily of benefit to nonprofits; although it includes amazing exceptions such as the Dynamic Lookup Roll-up Summaries (DLRS) which most admins and consultants use at some point in their Salesforce journey.

Today I want to share my experience of my first in-person Sprint. But – spoiler – I also want to emphasise that what I got out of it last week was only possible because of time served. My Dutch teacher says: “stap voor stap” (step by step). Sometimes you need to walk the metres to make the kilometres

With that in mind, read on. It’s not to say “ooh, look at me, I did fantastic things”, although I did; it’s to say that by keeping on showing up, putting in effort, trying to have conversations, eventually you – or I – hit payday, as all the experiences build on one another. And, if the article is too long, there’s a conclusion at the very end.

Disclaimer: this is just my story from the Sprint. Any oversights are due to my poor memory or me trying to avoid writing a novella. Everyone else present will have their own different experience too.

Brief Recap

– There was breakfast, which I ended up skipping due to my need for sleep outweighing any other considerations 🙁

– I did arrive in time (10am) for most of the official welcome/intro however!

– Then we walked around, writing up common Salesforce challenges that we wanted to solve, and stuck them on windows using post-its, including ideas such as:

  • A formalised way to match NFP with a new admin supported by an experienced admin/architect
  • Out of the box Flow templates for thank you processes
  • Open source document generator
  • Community-created resources for common scenarios
  • NPSP Flow Replacements
  • Refugee Support Starter Pack
  • Declarative Lookup Rollup Summaries (DLRS)
  • NPSP Nonprofit How to Series

– These included existing challenges people were already working on, and brand new ones too.

– The most popular options were then chosen (through the judicious use of some coloured dots), and people split into the teams working on the projects that they were more interested in.

– Most teams self-organised, in that there were no team leads to start with.

– With a break for lunch, we then continued until around 4pm, and skipped off to Electric Shuffle and dinner for those who wanted.

– The following day was more of the same, although we wound down by around 3pm,  with a report-in from each group.

My Experience

The Volunteers for Nonprofits logo - a seedling cupped in a hand

When it came to choosing projects, it was with a heavy heart that I saw there was an idea for training admins at nonprofits. Apparently this idea comes up at many Sprints. Sounds great, but Gordon Lee, and many others, have written about the pain that inexperienced volunteers regularly cause. To alleviate this I had worked on a skills-matching scheme that hadn’t worked out for various reasons.

So I went up to the team leaders for this particular project, explained my perspective and experience, and asked to have five minutes of the group’s time at the start. I would give my input and disappear so they could discuss how/if they wanted to progress.

The outcome hugely surprised me. My group thanked me for sharing my experience and agreed that it wasn’t worthwhile trying the previous approaches. Instead the focus was to work on a specific targeted scheme where the charities would be identified first. There would be strong oversight from experienced people in the ecosystem, as the pinch point is with the charities (are you one? Drop Silvia Denaro a line as she wants to hear from you!), not the volunteers. Better to train a few, work out what works and doesn’t work, with regular check ins, than a free-for-all. 


The reimagined volunteer program may be successful, but it will require a lot of dedication. Cori O’Brien (Organiser of Sprints) also came over. She asked what outcome we could get today. One regular risk she sees is that people go for bells and whistles, and end up biting off more than they can chew. As with all things “agile”, go for a minimum viable product and get something done and then build on top of that.

With that in mind, my next items are two blogs: 

  • What nonprofits should look for in a volunteer
  • What a volunteer should look for in a nonprofit

…while the rest of the team will continue working on the core objective.

Astro with an expansive gesture, sandwhiched between the words "Sprinty's Community Resources" and " Commons"

The great news is that these materials are going to be uploaded to the brand new Nonprofit & Education Community Resources library (based on Experience Cloud) which has just gone live – also part of the overall Sprint process! No more blogs written once and largely disappearing into the ether, but a permanent resource of genuinely useful information, including NPSP how-to videos (again, from this and previous Sprints).

So it comes together in a beautiful way; my experience (from a failed project), everyone’s blogs, videos and other contributions. Building on top of each other’s work: making it much richer than the sum of the parts.


After a brief attack by a friendly Sprintosaurus (as pictured at the very top of this article), I took some time out to see how one of my client projects was going. They are a new client and I was helping with an AppExchange package update. The previous week I discovered that they were out of space in their partial copy sandbox. Quite rapidly I pinpointed this down to 10m records in their NPSP Error log. How the heck? I don’t think I’ve ever come across so much data. The error was 

“operation performed with inactive user [user id] as owner of opportunity”.

Well, I’d been troubleshooting but hadn’t really made a lot of progress. So I asked Lizzy Roberts (I think!) and she pointed me to the table of Customer Success Managers literally in the corner of the Sprint room, hanging around in case anyone had a problem they could assist with. They couldn’t but they knew a person that could (which is just the same thing in my opinion). Peter van der Meij came to rescue and explained that the Recurring Donations were owned by an inactive user, causing the Opportunities to be created by an inactive user, something which Salesforce doesn’t allow. A quick change of ownership, some 10m deleted records later (which took a day or two), and the problem had been dealt with!

So, the timing was extremely fortuitous, but I do wonder how long that would have taken me to solve had I not been there with so many experts in the room.

Personal Connections

A cartoon with crying and angry stick figures. The text alongside goes:

How do you respond to "This work is crap"?
A. Oh? *cry*
B. Oh? Why? What can I do to make it better? *circled*
C. What bug crawled up your nose and died?
D. I will kill you!

As ever, I loved chatting with Emma Keeling (who’s written her own absolutely great Sprint write up, with a different focus), a number of my fellow monthly Nonprofit Ask Me Anything EMEA panelists and a host of others; but each time I extend my circle too. One such example was Pei Mum Lim. She happened to be sitting on the same table as me during the Sprint discussions. During the social event on the first evening we were talking about my continuing journey of self-discovery, now that I realise that I am on both the Autistic and ADHD spectrums. Speaking to a neurotypical person about this, and just hearing the questions asked, was deeply fascinating and helped further my own understanding (cartoon extract above). I’m really looking forward to continuing the conversation with her at Czech Dreamin.

Final Thoughts

Last time I attended a virtual Sprint, it was useful but I wasn’t sure whether the project I was working on would see the light of day.

In person events are different, and I had benefited from my previous experience. I felt safe and secure in the knowledge that I could easily transfer to a different group if it turned out that my skills could be used better/more appreciated elsewhere – it’s actually easier to do in person than online – especially as there was so much more going on in the room that I wanted to be involved with! And that’s all before the hidden benefits of networking, where you exchange experiences and make new connections, which are likely to benefit you for years – if not decades – to come, you just don’t know how at that precise moment 🙂

So, was it worth the time and money? This Sprint was based in London. I took the train over from Amsterdam and stayed at a friend’s, so the accommodation was free. It does give me some bias, but at least one person flew over from the US at her own expense (the wonderful Shari Carlson, team lead of DLRS and a team member of Sprinty’s Community Resources). I’m not the only person thinking there’s a very high ROI, and worth the time away from billable activities, if you can afford to do it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to the next one.

p.s I didn’t even mention the First Time Buddy (peer-support) system, which may be making an appearance at YeurDreamin. Basically: this article could have easily been double the length! Thank you so much Cori O’Brien and my fellow Sprinters for making it such a wonderful, friendly, event.

Interested in joining the next sprint? The virtual Sprint sign up for 29th and 30th March is now open, or you can join the Trailblazer Group so you are notified when there’s an in-person Sprint in your neck of the woods.

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1 Comment

  1. Sharm Das

    Hi Paul, great article! Especially the non-profits and volunteering etc. We have some left over ‘trainee’ modules that are just sitting there with no idea why as there is no documentation and everyone connected has left!