Today’s guest post is by Matt Eldridge. Matt served as IslandWood’s Senior Vice President. IslandWood’s mission is to inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship. They do this through events and programs at several facilities, including their flagship 250-acre outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island in Washington. IslandWood uses Salesforce to help their team manage events, programs, and fundraising.
IslandWood was an early adopter of Salesforce in about 2008. Since then, its use of Salesforce has increased steadily. After many years of organic growth, the organization decided to take a step back and evaluate how to improve its Salesforce usage. At the top of the list was understanding how IslandWood’s peer organizations were devoting resources to supporting Salesforce internally.
To do this, IslandWood conducted a benchmarking staffing study of 20 Seattle-area organizations using Salesforce. The goal of the study was to understand how IslandWood’s Salesforce-related staffing compared to that of similar nonprofits.
Peer organizations were asked how many FTE (full-time equivalent) staff they had in the following roles: IT Director, Salesforce Administrator, Salesforce Power User, and Salesforce Developer. We found that the organizations that appear to be using Salesforce most effectively have the greatest degree of Salesforce-related staffing as well as an investment in ongoing training. This is consistent with previous findings from Salesforce.org.
Before the study, IslandWood had 0.3 FTE Salesforce Admin and several fractional power users. The results of the study provided the basis for a set of internal recommendations to increase Salesforce staffing to be more in line with that of peers; as well as to ensure ample training and role clarity for departmental power users.
As expected, the larger organizations tended to have the highest levels of Salesforce-related staffing. Here’s how the data broke down:
Through qualitative interviews and follow-up conversations, three organizations were identified as ones that utilize Salesforce to achieve the most impactful results. In particular, Salesforce was cited as a key tool in bolstering revenues significantly through education program recruiting, fundraising, and earned revenue programs. These three organizations also have the greatest level of Salesforce-related staffing for their size.
Based on this study, the central recommendations for our team were:
- Increase Salesforce Administrator staffing. Centralized Salesforce Administrators perform an essential function in maintaining data and overall CRM integrity, managing major refinements and upgrades, and supporting Salesforce power users who often have delegated Salesforce Administrator privileges. Without sufficient Salesforce Administrator staffing, power users are not positioned for success and it can be very challenging to maintain and advance an organization’s use of Salesforce. There is a significant opportunity cost to inadequate Salesforce Administrator staffing, and we were at a key juncture to address this issue in a meaningful, lasting way.
- Ensure ample training and support resources for Salesforce Administrator(s) and power users. Filling a role is only part of what is needed – Salesforce Administrator(s) and power users alike must have enough training and access to support resources to do their jobs effectively. The training required by each power user will vary depending on their scope of duties and needs of their particular team.
- Refine and clarify Salesforce Administrator and power user roles and responsibilities. Input from respondents and outside advisors underscores the importance of making sure that power users and the Salesforce Administrator(s) have clear roles and shared expectations for their respective functions. It is important to take a fresh look at these roles and responsibilities so that training and Salesforce privileges can be aligned effectively.
Appendix: Methodology and Survey Questions
The benchmarking study lasted approximately one month. Twenty organizations were invited to participate because they were either members of the local Salesforce Nonprofit User Group, or were known to be active Salesforce users. We chose organizations of a similar size, each having annual budgets greater than $2 million and more than 15 employees. Of the 20 organizations invited, all of them responded.
Budget and headcount data were gathered from respondents’ most recent, publicly available IRS Form 990 filings because we wanted to keep the survey as short and easy to complete as possible. Respondents were approached initially by email. Some were contacted by phone if they did not respond after two emails. Each respondent was asked to provide the following information about their organization:
Number of Salesforce licenses
Number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in these roles:
IT Director (or equivalent)
Salesforce Power User (if applicable)
Salesforce Developer (if applicable)