The Collaborative Un-Conference Model
NPSP Day in NOLA, my first NPSP Day, followed the standard un-conference format, which Shonnah explained in her March 21 blog post. The magical thing about un-conferences like NPSP Day is that they depend on attendees to set the agenda through structured collaborative exercises (many of which were created by theatre practitioners - more on that later). That means that each NPSP Day’s content is different, even when the structure of the activities is identical. Below, I’ll discuss some of the content that made the NPSP Day worthwhile and I’ll share how that content helped me grow as a consultant.
Relationships with Clients
This NPSP Day was unusual in that consultants and partners outnumbered nonprofit users! This gave the consultants a wonderful opportunity to listen to a small group of users and gain insights into how the best partners build relationships with their clients. Here were some of the takeaways:
Honesty at the beginning of a relationship is key. The best partners are up front about their area of expertise and they build relationships with other partners so that they can recommend trusted colleagues.
Setting clear expectations is a collaborative responsibility of partners and clients. The best partners have processes for helping clients collaborate in creating project plans and following through with responsibilities to the project.
Making mistakes is part of life. Consulting is no different. The best partners aren’t the ones who make no mistakes (spoiler: they don’t exist). The best partners are those who recognize, own, and work with their clients to fix their mistakes.
About half of us recognized this acronym, a quarter of us knew we should recognize it, and a quarter of us knew quite a lot about it and its implications for the Salesforce community.
GDPR = General Data Protection Regulation.
It’s the EU law that includes the right to be forgotten and the right to request data about oneself. Granular and specific opt-ins are also part of how many are interpreting the law. Many present at NPSP Day assumed that the law would not affect US-based orgs. NOT TRUE. The law applies to all EU citizens even if our orgs have no EU presence.
Building a Salesforce Team
It’s not news that experienced Salesforce admins and developers are in short supply. The shortage is especially hard on non-profits who might not be able to afford market rates. We discussed the necessity of finding resources to raise IT salaries, as well as opportunities for hiring on an apprenticeship model rather than trying to find the perfect “forever employee.” Building a team can include collaborating with organizations like Pep Up Tech to find talented people who need their first job, supporting them as they develop in the profession, and planning for them to leave for higher wages in two-three years. In this model, non-profits get the benefit of making the development of Salesforce professionals part of their mission! I have personal experience with this approach: the Louisville Urban League offered me my first Salesforce job. I learned more than I ever would have at a for profit company. Even better, I am now and will always be a League supporter and advocate, even though I have moved on professionally.
We also discussed hiring for problem-solving skills, capacity for teamwork, and confidence first and Salesforce skills after that. Partners and users agreed that teaching Salesforce skills is easy. Teaching problem-solving skills is hard. Teaching the capacity for teamwork is even harder. Instilling confidence, the currency of consulting, is hardest of all. We discussed rethinking job descriptions so that the best problem-solvers (even if they have never worked with Salesforce) could see themselves in Salesforce-related jobs.
As a person with two degrees in experimental theatre at my very first NPSP Day, I was heartened to discover that most of the people at NPSP Day held degrees in the arts and humanities! Not a single one of us had a degree in a tech field. Our presence in the room underlined that the problem-solvers and team-builders make the best Salesforce professionals and those folks often build those skills first in non-tech fields.
Three Collaborative Team-Builders and the Information They Shared
I learned from everyone at NPSP Day, but I want to highlight three people and a specific thing I learned from each:
Anne Young (Salesforce.Org, Power of Us Hub) - Anne suggested using the Power of US Hub not only as an online community, but also as the place to start when building in-person user groups and communities in response to a question from Allie Tabberer, an Admin at the Oklahoma City non-profit Canterbury Voices. This is useful for me as I have been searching in vain for the Salesforce non-profit community in my new hometown of Louisville, KY. Now I’m going to use Anne’s suggestions to build a community here!
Patty Simonton (Patty Simonton, daizylogik) introduced us to their product FoodBank Helper, a comprehensive tool for food banks whose staff work in the field. The tool's automations help users decide what size food bag to give to families and alerts them to special needs for the family like diapers and formula.
Katie McFadden at Common Voyage shared a couple non-profit use cases for Einstein. I was particularly interested in how educational non-profits are using the tool to predict which students might drop out and then provide extra interventions for those students.
Theatre (The More About That Later Thing)
My journey to becoming a Salesforce Consultant began a year ago, when I left a tenured faculty position as a specialist in experimental theatre and team communication. I spent the fall of 2017 doing Trailhead modules and earning my Admin certification. Since then, I’ve been working as the sole Salesforce Admin at the Louisville Urban League to earn my experience.
This NPSP Day was my first professional event as a Salesforce consultant! I was really nervous that my “old” skillset and my new identity as a Salesforce professional would clash. But, NPSP Day allowed me to create conversations with many other people whose journeys were just as weird and rich as mine! I learned that the Salesforce NPSP community is committed to collaboration, support, and mission-driven work. (Bonus: I also learned a neat trick for getting related records to show only the information I want on a Lightning page!)
NPSP Day was well worth both the time and the small fee. I look forward to the next one!