A Little Hope Goes A Long Way
Chronic depression has been a shadow of mine since high school, and while I’ve learned to live and deal with it, life events sometimes darken the world for me; so to say that 2016 wasn’t great for me is an understatement. From a bitter election to my dad’s cancer diagnosis, it felt like the year ground humanity down; Carrie Fisher was the last straw. I was reminded last week that hope is the best defense against despair. When it comes to hope a little can go a long way. So I want to start 2017 with a few Bozeman nonprofit organizations and Salesforce heroes that gave me hope in a hard year.
First up is Bridget Wilkinson from Bozeman Area Community Foundation on the day that the online giving platform, Kimbia, went down for the local Give Big day that she spent a year organizing. Over 130 local nonprofits had spent months working on social media, local businesses had volunteered their locations as donor lounges; thousands of hours went into preparing for a day of giving only to have the online platform stall out at 9:30 in the morning. I had talked Bridget into letting me play tech support for the day, and by 10 am the writing was on the wall, Kimbia wasn’t functional. At 10:30 four of us put our heads together and came up with a plan. Katie worked media communication with Bridget, a board member set up a phone bank with a local business ( Foundant), and I set up a google spreadsheet to hand enter donations. Yes, a google spreadsheet. Our goal for the day was $300,000 in donations. When the dust settled (two weeks later) we had raised over $430,000. 19 volunteers hand entered over 2,000 donations recorded on printouts of the google sheet. Bridget has entered legendary status (which she deserves) among Montana nonprofits (I heard at a conference that Bridget had another backup plan in case the first backup plan failed). It reminded me that technology, while important, is never a replacement for relationships; people give to people.
Late in 2015 I met Christine Armstrong the Volunteer & Outreach Manager at Family Promise of Gallatin Valley at her office after hearing that she needed some help with Salesforce. The vision of Family Promise is near to my heart, and I wanted to help. Her salesforce instance was overwhelming her and an hour with me didn’t do much to help. In fact, I left feeling that I had made things worse and that she was going to avoid the system and just work in excel as much as possible. I could not have been more mistaken. She was at the first User Group meeting and started using two hours a week to focus on learning Salesforce. She presented on custom fields at a future user group meeting and by mid-summer, she was working with a Salesforce tech from the National office of Family Promise to get her instance upgraded. She came to nearly every Summer School user group session where she used what she had learned to help other users with their Salesforce issues. Her grit and perseverance inspired and helped me to believe in the resilience of awesome admins.
Wendy Wigert, Director of Operations with Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) is a force to be reckoned with. She is friendly and personable, but when it comes to Salesforce and data she is also on the ball, in control, and comes to a discussion with strong opinions and unapologetic (and reasonable) expectations. It doesn’t work for every personality, but Wendy pulls it off with style and as a result, MCC continues to grow as it provides Montana with valuable services and develops the leaders of tomorrow. It seems like every third person I meet in Montana has served with MCC. NiM migrated two Access databases for MCC last year and provided initial training for their staff. Wendy had her team in Trailhead getting badges and learning Salesforce before the first Access database was even exported. She doesn’t just talk about Salesforce with her staff, she learns it and creates the space for her staff to learn it as well. And while that might be rare, it’s best practice and what we hope for; it meets our expectations for a good admin and project champion. However, she was a first on two things in consulting. First, she created the time and space for her staff to correct all data errors that they could find; by hand one record at a time; this included several thousand duplicate records. When I told her about a dedupe tool she pointed out that she and her staff would know the data much better by looking at each record and that at the end of it would be sure that the data was pristine. I had my doubts that the work would get done, but she hired a temp, created time for her staff, and they had it knocked out within a few weeks. She also instituted a bi-weekly learning meeting (called Brain Trust) where her staff show up and answer questions and solve issues together. There is a strong economic argument that the best expense an organization can make is increasing knowledge of internal processes, and MC is proving this to be true. Wendy has transformed their data footprint with a smile on her face; encouraging words to her staff to level up with Salesforce, and personally demonstrates to me what can be done with focus and commitment.
Then there’s Thrive. They have been making families stronger and supporting kids for over 30 years. When my son was struggling with reading we met with teachers and guess who showed up… yep, someone from Thrive. When my daughter started having lunch with a college-aged mentor once a week guess who set it up; also, Thrive. The best teacher I have ever experienced, quit construction in his 40’s and got a teaching degree because of his volunteer work with Thrive. Vanessa Skelton helped implement Salesforce a few years ago and now co-leads the Bozeman Salesforce User Group with me. Last year I had the privilege to share office space at Thrive. I witnessed first hand the passion their staff holds for the children they serve when one staff member was brought to tears when she received bad news about a mentee. I’m not totally comfortable with the fact that her sobs brought me hope, but as someone who uses cynicism as a shield, the raw grief and vulnerability of that moment motivated me to embrace the sad instead of pretending it away.
I saw Rogue One the day that Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) passed away. Maybe I was more reflective than I should have been, however, the movie left me pondering the relationship between Hope and Sacrifice; that rebellions and nonprofits are built on them. Thank you to all of you who stand for a better world against all odds and give of yourself personally each day to our community; you are being watched and you are making a difference! I would love to hear where you found hope in 2016 and your aspirations for 2017.