Reflections from an industry expert on the recent SSI Review article

By: Idealist Consultant | 2.26.14

By Jo Ann Lewis, Salesforce Professional (10 years and counting)


I was very interested to see the recent Stanford Social Innovation Review of the Salesforce Foundation discussing the way growth has affected their outreach and mission as an organization.  I have been involved with Salesforce, in one form or another, for almost 10 years. In fact I was caught off guard to see myself in one of the images, taken some years back, as I helped in their volunteer efforts!

People from help to prepare meals as part of a Stop Hunger Now effort in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of the Foundation)



This blast from the past moment got me thinking about the changes that I have seen in both the Salesforce Foundation and in the products that they develop specifically for the nonprofit industry.  This article does a great job of recounting how the Foundation came to be, their original operating model and their slow evolution from Grant Maker to Software Vendor/Developer.  It is a must read and I learned a lot about the Foundation’s history and future direction! 

What the article doesn’t mention however, is how the Foundation’s evolution transformed the way so many nonprofits approach technology and its application to their everyday operation.   Nonprofits that, in the past, would never have had access to anything more advanced than a spreadsheet are now able to apply cutting edge technology to the problem of managing the internal life of their organization.  As the Foundation moved from not just distributing software but into reselling and developing solutions, it is the nonprofits that benefit from this focused attention to the unique problems the industry faces.

Over time, I have seen the Foundation’s Nonprofit Starter Pack go from a fairly good attempt at providing a quick start setup of the Salesforce environment into a highly robust platform with an emphasis on the needs of a growing nonprofit.  I started my Salesforce journey with the unlimited possibilities of the full Salesforce solution.  When, years later, I moved to an organization that used the Nonprofit Starter Pack, I remember feeling like the platform lost a little of the power and promise of a “full” Salesforce instance. The Foundation’s new attention to development and revenue has allowed them to transform their “one size fits all” solution into one that recognizes that there is diversity of needs even among nonprofits.  In recent years, I have seen the Nonprofit Starter Pack grow and evolve into a dominant platform in its own rights.  I will even admit that there are some Starter Pack features (like the Contact Merge Tab) that completely trumps the same experience in a standard instance.  The Foundation’s transformation has had the added benefit of causing an explosion in the ecosystem of nonprofit focused add-on apps from other vendors.  This surge has helped to showcase what nonprofits can accomplish with access to well developed technology. 

Enjoy the deep dive into the Foundation’s inner workings provided in this article and keep in mind the as the Foundation grows, the mounting impact that they have on those that do good is unmeasurable. 


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