Nonprofits differ from for-profit businesses because they are driven by a mission to have a positive impact on society. But whether organizations are for-profit or nonprofit, they share a common requirement: they need to solve problems and create value for others.
To do this successfully, non-profits need the skills, processes, and technologies that mirror those in the for-profit world. Just like their commercial counterparts, nonprofits must find and hire talent, and motivate their teams to serve target communities. They need to invest in cross-channel marketing and branding to tell their story and attract contributions from donors and demonstrate and quantify the impact they’re having.
Nonprofits also need to use technology to help them manage these functions in a streamlined way. However, they often face some hurdles that set them apart from most for-profit businesses.
One of the most pressing problems that nonprofits face is providing field agents working in remote areas with easy-to-use solutions that don’t require an Internet connection. In this post, we look at how TaroWorks, headquartered in Washington, DC, has partnered with Salesforce Nonprofit and AppExchange to solve this dilemma.
The Challenge of Supporting Nonprofit Boots on the Ground Workers
Whether a nonprofit is delivering food, water, mosquito nets, education, or legal expertise, field agents must keep accurate records of their interactions to ensure that people receive the right services and assistance, and to provide transparency and documentation for legal and financial purposes.
Field staff operating in remote areas — often without wireless or Internet connectivity — have traditionally relied on pen and paper to keep these records. Even when they are working in locations where they can connect to the Internet, field personnel may find some software tools too complex and time-consuming to use.
As a result, agents often use manual methods to transfer their handwritten notes to databases when they have a chance (provided nothing has happened to this information). This leaves plenty of room for errors and omissions.
Bridges to Prosperity, which builds footbridges in 21 countries to serve people who lack access to a formal transportation system, faced this issue. A couple of years ago, the nonprofit decided it wanted to scale and improve operations in areas with tough terrain and spotty mobile phone connectivity. As Abbie Noriega, director of evaluation for Bridges to Prosperity said, “Once we had a staff that was bigger than a few people at headquarters and a few people in a program country, we really started to feel the burn of paper … it doesn’t work anymore to have really valuable and important data bouncing around in a binder in the back of somebody’s pickup truck.”
TaroWorks: Solving for the Last Mile
Cloud-based solutions, such as Salesforce Nonprofit can provide nonprofits with much of the functionality they need to run their organizations. But they can come up short when it comes to solving this last mile challenge. Functionality in offline versions may not be as robust, and synching problems can also create issues. In addition, field agents may not have the time or interest to learn how to navigate an application — they want something that’s as easy to use as pen and paper.
The Grameen Foundation, an international nonprofit focused on alleviating poverty, set out to solve this problem. It wanted to provide its own remote personnel with a mobile CRM and field service app that could be used offline to collect data, analyze metrics, and manage fieldwork.
Grameen didn’t want to reinvent the wheel by building its own CRM platform. So, it teamed up with Salesforce to build an application on the Salesforce platform. According to Elaine Chang, TaroWorks’ Chief Operating Officer, the decision to partner with Salesforce was an easy one. Since 2000, Salesforce has provided all eligible organizations 10 free Salesforce licenses, industry data models like Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), and other free and discounted products through its Power of Us program. As a result, thousands of nonprofits were already using it.
Grameen built an offline CRM solution platform and mobile functionality on Salesforce’s development platform. The solution worked so well that Grameen decided to sell it to other nonprofit organizations with similar requirements — and TaroWorks was born.
Launched by the Grameen Foundation in 2013, TaroWorks has now reached more than 90 social enterprises and nonprofit organizations across more than 30 countries, supporting over 200,000 micro-entrepreneurs and helping to improve the lives of over 3 million of the world’s poor.
Field agents at these organizations use TaroWork’s mobile app to collect and monitor data and manage sales and inventory without an Internet connection. Using the TaroWorks app on their Android phones, field agents input data into simple forms, similar to those that they used in the pen and paper world. They can also capture photos and electronic signatures on the app, and add them to relevant records. Once agents regain connectivity, the information syncs back to the Salesforce cloud database. Organizations can also download videos, text documents, and .pdfs from the database to the TaroWorks app for marketing and training.
As Esther Adams, program manager for Proyecto Mirador, a nonprofit that has installs clean cookstoves in rural homes in Honduras, said, “We had an incredibly organized office … but it was all on paper.” Working with Salesforce, TaroWorks, and Mogli SMS (another Salesforce partner), Proyecto Mirador significantly improved workflow and operations — such as client registration, installation surveys, and inventory management — regardless of Internet connectivity. As a result, field agents can focus on their work rather than on technology.
TaroWorks is also highly customizable, allowing organizations to create their own business processes, such as inventory management or barcode scanning. Customization is critical for many nonprofits, which often have very specific processes that require collaboration between different people — whether they are online or offline.
Once data is uploaded, nonprofits can use Salesforce reports and dashboards to analyze data, customize reports for different stakeholders, and build dashboards to visualize multiple metrics at once.
TaroWorks’ decision to partner with Salesforce has helped it to build visibility and adoption among the thousands of nonprofits that use Salesforce. Because TaroWorks is built directly on the Salesforce platform, all of its functionality is pre-integrated with Salesforce, so there’s no need for nonprofits to buy, use or manage third-party connectors to sync data between the two.
Salesforce provides TaroWorks with a dedicated Salesforce account executive on product and marketing initiatives, including lead generation, webinars, product development, and more. In addition, TaroWorks presents regularly to Salesforce reps so they’re informed about the solution as they talk with potential nonprofit customers.
As Elaine Chang, chief operating officer at TaroWorks, told SMB Group, “We cannot exist without Salesforce. Salesforce AppExchange, in particular, gives TaroWorks “a powerful marketing tool,” Chang said.
This joint endeavor helps both Salesforce and TaroWorks deliver a more comprehensive, integrated solution that nonprofit organizations need to empower their staff and improve and expand the services they provide. And in some cases, organizations that were not already using Salesforce have switched to it because they wanted to use the TaroWork’s solution.
The whole is definitely bigger than the sum of its parts for customers as well. As Esther Altorfer, Chief Operations Officer at Sistema.bio, which manufactures patented high-efficiency biodigesters that transform organic waste into renewable biogas and organic fertilizer put it, “We needed a comprehensive CRM tool that connects the field team, central office, and manufacturing plant. We were looking for a smart, integrated, mobile, and digital management platform that would help us maintain high data quality and to be able to share the data immediately through the whole company. Salesforce and TaroWorks gave us that capability.”
This post was sponsored by Salesforce.
© SMB Group 2022