What's a Poor Nonprofit to Do Post-Salesforce Implementation?
The other day I spoke with the Development Director for a small nonprofit organization. She had just been dumped by her consulting firm after they determined her project was complete. They told her they could no longer devote consultant time to addressing her problems with customizable roll-ups or resolving her ongoing email-platform integration issues. The project funds were depleted and the consultancy raised the bar on what they were willing to take on. Aside from the less-than-professional impression this left behind, my contact raised an important question: where does an organization with limited resources turn to for ongoing Salesforce support?
Here are several options to consider:
Join The Power of Us Hub, a community created specifically for nonprofits on the Salesforce platform. You must have an active nonprofit login to join, but this is an incredible resource for your organization. Community members can post and respond to questions and there are product-specific forums to find help from experts in those areas.
Train yourself and your staff on Trailhead. If you are left holding the Admin bag, start with the Administer Nonprofit Success Pack Trail (NPSP). The more you learn, the more comfortable you will be troubleshooting your own org.
Access the NPSP, EDA, and other Salesforce product documentation, available on help.salesforce.com. The documentation is clear, well-organized, and searchable, enabling users to easily find information on the specific product area they need help on.
Of course Salesforce documentation doesn't cover all the third-party applications that you might have integrated with your instance. But many of those products have good documentation and user guides on their own websites. Use them! Also, if you are paying for their product, you should absolutely expect some support if things go sideways with your integration.
Find another nonprofit-focused consultancy that offers ongoing maintenance and support services. Lobby the key stakeholders at your organization (the Executive Director or the Board) to provide the funds for this service. It will undoubtedly be cheaper than hiring an Administrator or paying for training and you gain the added benefit of an experienced team. The Salesforce Partner website is a good place to start. And don't forget to tap your professional network for their recommendations!
Hire an independent consultant. You could potentially pay much less than you would signing on with a consultant firm. The downside is that your independent consultant may not have all the expertise you're looking for and may also lack the team resources that a larger firm has put together.
Find volunteers who have some Salesforce experience and are either intrinsically motivated or who want to increase their hands-on experience. This can be a great option for those on tight budget; but it's also critical to find the right volunteer, because a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Unless your volunteer is particularly attached to your organization, skilled volunteers are likely to move on to paid engagements and won't be able to continue supporting your org. You might want to structure your volunteer engagements as a short-term "projects," even if what you really want is ad-hoc support to resolve a few pressing issues.
Don't forget, you usually get what you pay for. Just like nonprofit organizations needs to raise funds to accomplish their missions and pay overhead, consultants need to make sure that they are charging a fair rate that will sustain the business and the employees. If you choose to rely on volunteers you could end up unhappy with the level of support you receive. Or worse, you could end up with a data mess.
If I were in the Development Director's shoes, I'd have sit down with the key stakeholders and make the argument that finding and paying for qualified support for Salesforce is worth the investment. Otherwise they may end up with a system that was not only costly to implement but is now so frustrating or buggy that no one wants to use it.