Spring ’12 Release – what’s exciting for nonprofits?

Happy New Year!

Salesforce recently dropped the release notes for Spring ’12 and there are several features in there that should be useful for nonprofits. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Analytics Edition – this is a paid add-on (not sure about the pricing at this point), but something that every nonprofit needs to seriously consider purchasing.  Joined Reports, Bucket Reporting, and Cross-Filtering (i.e. – Contacts WITHOUT Donations) each provide great value to nonprofits when reporting on their data.
  • Chatter Now – Instant Messaging right inside Salesforce!
  • Chatter Customer Groups – This is a big one.  It’s already available, but is going to be turned on by default with Spring ’12, so start thinking about how you’ll want to use it.  This is great for creating private Chatter groups for volunteers, board members, etc.
  • Social Accounts and Contacts – Keep up to date with your constituents.  Let’s you see their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Klout, and LinkedIn (for an additional fee) profiles right on the Contact page.  Even if you aren’t big on social media, this let’s you add a picture to your Contacts which is great for the development team.
  • Cross-object Workflow on standard objects – Finally.
  • Workflow Field Updates can fire another Workflow rule – This is pretty cool, allows you to “cascade” workflow field updates.
  • Cloud Flow designer GA – Killer new tool for nonprofits. Dead simple drag-and-drop creation of “wizards”.  For all the orgs out there that have wanted a custom Donation entry wizard but didn’t have the resources to build one, this is your chance! Also great for creating online forms (volunteer signup, RSVP for an event, human services applications, etc.) since you can add a flow to a public Sites page with literally one line of code.
  • Up to 3 filters on Filtered Dashboards – This is a HUGE improvement that allows orgs to consume and analyze relevant data in an elegant way (and will make creating dashboards much easier, not to mention that you’ll need fewer of them). Dashboards are underutilized in general, and even more so by nonprofits.  I would strongly encourage admins out there to invest time in building at least one filtered dashboard for your organization.

There is a bunch of great stuff in this release for developers too, but I just wanted to call out some things that will be useful for nonprofits that don’t have developer resources.  Let me know your favorites!

Take care,


Internet Access Should be Free for Education and Nonprofits

The thoughts behind this post came up when a colleague of mine pointed me to an “ngo-in-a-box” collection of software and my negative reaction to the Linux operating system and software that needed to be installed and configured (who has time to deal with all of that?). Then, I realized that I live in a bubble where high-speed access is ubiquitous and I can afford it. This is hardly the case in places where the world’s poorest live (like Sudan).

Even then, in my experience working in Sudan, cloud computing with limited access is more efficient for communication and getting things done than desktop software.

If cloud computing is the next big thing for nonprofits, and I truly believe that it is, then we need ISPs to step up and donate or severely discount service to nonprofits. With access to high-speed internet and donations/discounts from Google Apps and Salesforce, we remove all technological barriers to running an efficient and transparent org.

Salesforce and Google have defined corporate philanthropy for technology companies, and enjoy great admiration for their efforts. We need Comcast, et al. to step up and contribute. Massive corporations can help solve massive problems with little in the way of lost revenue and no new infrastructure requirements.

Of course, the natural extension of this is that access, at this point, should arguably be a human right. Internet access is the new gatekeeper – it holds the keys to a level playing field and all people should have the ability to open doors for themselves.

We’ll table that discussion for another day, and pick the low hanging fruit. Nonprofits are working hard to change the world for the better. They deserve to have free high-speed internet access, where it is available, at no cost. (Yes, even the ones fighting service providers for net neutrality.)

I want to give credit and thanks to mobilecitizen.org which has teamed with Clear to provide wireless broadband to education and nonprofits at a significantly reduced cost. Kudos!

If you know of any other ISPs that are providing nonprofits with free or discounted access please leave a comment!

Take care,

Cheap Salesforce.com Licenses and how to use them

As Salesforce.com grows and their licensing structure and offerings change, it can be hard to keep up with what licenses give you what features. (Note to Salesforce: Please don’t become like Microsoft with your licensing. Simpler is better.)

What often gets overlooked are the free or cheaper Salesforce.com licenses. I’ve used them for a couple things recently, so figured I’d share. Prices listed are based on prices listed at Salesforce.com today. They are subject to change and if you’re a nonprofit you can likely get a discount via the Salesforce.com Foundation.

Chatter Free (free)

Not much to say about this one. If you have people at your company that aren’t Salesforce.com Users, you can give them a Chatter Free license to allow them to participate in your social network. If you’re not yet on Salesforce.com, you can sign up for free at Chatter.com. I’ve not done much with these yet, but I know some people have set it up for their family domain.

Force.com Free (free)

Salesforce.com was shouting from the rooftops about these licenses at Dreamforce 2009, yet they remain somewhat of a secret. You can get 100 Force.com Free licenses either in a new org or added to your existing org by contacting your Account Rep. Here’s what you get.

  • Up to 100 users
  • 1 free application
  • Up to 10 database objects
  • 1GB of storage

So, what can you do with this? The best thing I’ve seen so far is a brewery app that tracks the brewing process from ingredients in the door through bottling, and even generates the regulatory documents in a VF page.
Right now, I’m building an app based on Coherence to track whether what an organization thinks they are is in line with what they say they are or what people are saying about them. The app can track data from many sources and then generates a score to show how Coherent an organization is.
You also get Chatter with these licenses so even if you don’t want to build an app, you could import and Chatter about some of your existing data as well as use Salesforce.com analytics.

Chatter Plus ($15/month/User)

I discovered these before Chatter Free was around, and there are a couple key things you get with Chatter Plus that make them actually pretty useful.

  • Accounts (read-only)
  • Contacts (read-only)
  • 10 custom objects
  • 1 custom app
  • Dashboards
  • Reports
  • Workflow
  • Calendar and events
  • Tasks and activities

As you can see, you start to get a nice set of features for a completely reasonable price (especially if you are a nonprofit). One of the biggest differences here, that you don’t get with Force.com Free, is access to the Calendar and Events.
We recently used this with a client to bring artists they contract to perform, into their Salesforce instance. Artist bookings are tracked in custom objects and the contracts are generated by Conga Composer. The contracts are then attached to the Artist’s Contact record via Chatter and approved/denied by the artist with a Chatter comment. (The security model ensures that artists only see their own contracts). The Salesforce Calendar is used by the org to track artists and resources needed at performances, and artists can see their upcoming schedule. Additionally, artists can now collaborate with the org and each other via Chatter groups.
We took a process that existed entirely outside of Salesforce and involved manually generating contracts, sending them via email, waiting for a response via email, not having a central place to track approved/rejected contracts, and managing event resources in a bad web app… and brought it all into Salesforce for a minimal license fee per artist. In addition, tons of value was added to that process by building a community within the organization that includes the artists they work with every day.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if/how you’ve used these types of licenses.

Take care,

Observation on iPad and the Cloud

After re-reading my iPad Productivity post I realized that every single one of the apps I use for productivity is either a cloud app or has cloud-based sync. That truly is a key feature for me since I want move freely between my computer and iPad.