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If there’s one thing we can say we’ve been seeing at Innovation for People this season, it’s growth.  As we prepare to take ifPeople to a new level, we’re thrilled to add new skills and smarts to the our team so we can continue to deliver the tech solutions your business needs. Meet our newest team members, Betty and Matt!

Betty McKibben

Betty is our in-house Salesforce Consultant who keeps our clients happy by designing and implementing Salesforce systems that best fit their needs. Betty received a Masters in Library and Information Management (MLS) and has applied her research skills in a wide variety of positions. She draws on her penchant for structured access to information and database design to devise solutions for specific business challenges. Her experience in nonprofit, corporate, and government positions managing  information have taught her all the different facets of satisfying the customer. Betty is passionate about bringing smiles to the customers’ face by saving them time and effort with the solutions she offers. When she’s not being a customer service rockstar, she’s tending her garden of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, reading, writing, or making lists in her spare time.

Matt Abernathy

Matt is our lead Technical Support Engineer. He’s the one who comes to our rescue when something isn’t working technically on any of our client products. He is currently studying computer science and physics at Georgia Perimeter and will continue his studies of computer science at Georgia State soon. This will build on the skill set in system administration and quality assurance that he’s developed at other jobs. Matt is passionate about helping people and solving creative problems so he’ll be enthusiastically working to support our clients and applying his social networking skills to help Innovation for People reach a wider audience. When he’s not making sure things are running smoothly in the office, he’s creating or playing music, blogging, or skateboarding.

We’re glad to have these guys join the ifPeople family. They’ll definitely help power our progress as a company and enable us to deliver even better quality solutions to our clients.

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At United Way’s Colloquium on Social Enterprise, we had the pleasure of participating in a panel about how technology can be used to effectively manage social enterprises. As a company that serves non-profits and social businesses around the country we’ve seen up close how technology can make a difference in a business’s productivity, efficiency, and bottom line. IfPeople’s project manager, Marty Maxwell, shared some great points on how Salesforce specifically plays into a social business’s success. We wanted  to share the hi-lights from the panel with you here.

Why Social Enterprise?

Before getting into how technology is helping social businesses, it helps to consider why technology matters to socially driven business’s success. Purely for-profit businesses have some standard systems that technology supports. They are looking to monitor sales, marketing efforts, product inventory and cash flow. Non-profits, though a different entity also have standard systems that technology supports. They’re often looking for ways to manage volunteers, grants, or in-kind donations. Social Enterprises are often a blend of the two and there are a wide variety of ways the for-profit and non-profit systems may come together in one company. There is an inherent complexity in systems that support social business and it makes them even harder to manage manually. Salesforce is a great tool for automating and simplifying all the processes that keep the wheels running smoothly. Not only that, it’s also customizable enough to build a system that best fits the unique blend of a company’s for-profit and nonprofit provisions.

The Advantage of Automation

One of Salesforce’s biggest advantages, is that it automates tasks and processes. Marty pointed out three main ways that automation through Salesforce helps our social enterprise clients

  • Enforces the rigor of your process:  Whatever processes are in place for your day-to-day business functions, once you’ve implemented it in Salesforce, the chances of inconsistency are drastically reduced. You can exert more quality control over what volunteers, interns, or staff are doing and create better communication across different entities within an organization.
  • Gives volunteers/interns the opportunity to have more meaningful roles. They do more because they need to know less: Sometimes, if you have new recruits for limited periods of time, without a solid system in place, it’s hard to delegate substantial work to coworkers. Without a system, processes are usually executed by individuals with inside knowledge about how the organization works.  Salesforce alters that and creates  a way for you to spend more time on the element of the business you like most, and the part you want for
  • Frees up time for the work that matters.: Instead of pushing paper or doing the same set of meticulous tasks over and over again, automation can reduce the time and energy needed to accomplish a variety of tasks. It can give you time to do more of the work that drives the business and keeps you on tasks that require more creativity and mental energy.
St. Louis ARC and Salesforce 

St Louis Arc is an organization that offers low-cost services to support individuals with developmental disabilities. One of the programs they run, is called respite services. They provide reimbursements to people who are taking care of a family member who is living with development disabilities. However in order for the organization to file for the reimbursement, they must submit very specific forms with a lot of rules and regulations around what is being submitted.

They were running into the issue of submitting the forms incorrectly and being denied reimbursements because of mistakes that broke a rule. In one month, ifPeople installed a Salesforce system that achieved higher accuracy that what has been produced in the past 11 years that the organization has offered this program. Improving accuracy put them on a faster path to receiving their reimbursements and keeping their constituents happy.

Salesforce is a tool that is helping all different kinds of organizations, but we’re happy to see how well it can be used  to address the very specific issues social enterprises face. We’ll continue to use this powerful platform to increase the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of businesses and nonprofits that are doing good.

Homelessness is a palpable social ill in Atlanta. Experts estimate more than 10,000 people in the state become homeless every day. There’s no doubt that homelessness has a grip on Atlanta’s streets and one organization that is intimately engaged with the issue here in Atlanta, is United Way. United Way has been working to reduce homelessness for decades and now they are starting a new conversation about how to approach this complex social issue.

On April 29,  United Way hosted a Colloquium on Social Enterprise. The city’s leaders in Social Enterprise gathered to discuss how social enterprise can be a big part of the solution to homelessness in Atlanta and what lessons we can learn from each other as businesses that are dedicated to the social good.

The Colloquium was exciting because it addressed a breadth of issues within social entrepreneurship but addressed challenges that are most prevalent in Atlanta. The event opened with the question of what social enterprise is and some of the special challenges that come with being a social enterprise that’s addressing homelessness.

All the guests enjoyed a lunch where we were able to enjoy some really solid keynote speakers each with a distinct perspective on social enterprise and homelessness. Former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Program Director of the King Center, Wesley Tharpe, and President and CEO of the Social Enterprise Alliance, Lisa Nitze each delivered inspiring and informative speeches.

It then went into various panels and workshops that broached subjects like collaboration, sustainability, and our favorite subject, technology and business management. We were glad to be represented on a panel about technology’s role in social enterprise management. Marty Maxwell, ifPeople’s Project Director discussed with other panelists how technology can be used to strengthen and maximize the efficiency of social enterprises.

At Innovation for People, we know an idea is only as good as the quality of its execution. We work tirelessly to help social enterprises use technology as a tool that brings our clients closer to their goals.All the ideas that are coming to the surface through this event are an encouraging signal for us. It’s a sign that the sector is growing locally and values driven businesses are taking their place in the market. Let’s continue to put our heads together through events like these to build the kind of thriving social economy we want to see.

Tirza and I were in a meeting together and took note of a sponsored youtube clip that kept coming up as a suggested video in her side bar. Out of curiosity we decided to click on it and were greeted with this video introduction to Rochelle

As individuals who are not particularly interested in Mormonism, we were pleasantly surprised by how endearing the video was and how effectively it got its message across. The basic elements of this campaign were things that should be part of every nonprofit’s messaging attempt to reach its constituents. These were the main components that we think made this campaign so effective:

1. Be Human: This didn’t start off with statistics about Mormon families with special needs children or numbers on how fast Mormon membership is growing. Instead it started with an approachable and open person that viewers could connect with. When rolling out a campaign for your organization, it’s easy to jump into details and statistics that make the case for whatever you are promoting. However it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a person on the other end of that ad you’re producing. Create with the intention of connecting to a human being.

2. Use Universal Themes: If you listen to the themes that are exalted by Michelle, many of them extend beyond the specific situation she’s describing. Even though she is talking about her experience as a mother of a special needs child, the themes that clearly come across have to do with being part of a supportive community, loving her family, and being a mom. They are themes that can resonate with people who are not Mormon or don’t have special needs children.It lends itself to being relatable to a wider swath of people.

3. Don’t Say the Message, Show it: What was most compelling about the video was that they used the campaign to demonstrate their intention rather than just telling people to do something. The video series aims to make Mormonism a relatable, and engaging religion to partipate in. It aims to make them more approachable and for the wider audience to see the Mormon faith as a community they can be part of. Rather than having a priest just stand up and say “Mormons are great, we are diverse, we’re just like you, and we are a community you could be part of”, they built a message that shows that through story telling and character development. Use your campaigns to creatively SHOW your message rather than just telling people what you want them to do, and it will likely create a greater effect.

Recently, the Atlanta Business Chronicle held the Environmental Awards, a ceremony celebrating businesses who are Atlanta’s top Environmental achievers. The ceremony hilighted organizations for being innovative, inventive and taking the lead in various environmental issues. One notable winner was the Atlanta Green Chamber of the South.

They took home the award for “Green Reach” the category that awards organizations for education and community outreach efforts. Their Business Growth and Sustainability Series is becoming a staple in Atlanta’s business community for providing a forum for informing businesses how to be more sustainable. The work of the Green Chamber is consistent with its mission. They have slowly built a network and community of people who are committed to the movement for a greener Atlanta.

In celebration of this recognition, The Green Chamber of the South is hosting a “Green Reach Party”, at the Emory Conference Hotel on May 9th from 6:30-9:30pm.With hor’doeuvres, cash prizes, a cash bar and the bright supporters of Atlanta’s Green Community, you’ll have a great time. It will be a great opportunity to celebrate with the men and women who are supporting the causes that make a difference in Atlanta’s environment.

You can register for the event here.  As Green Chamber of the South members we’re proud of their accolades and look forward to continuing to support their growth.

Hope to see you there!

The country’s biggest Salesforce conference is back. Registration for Dreamforce ’11 is open and with their nonprofit discount, there’s no reason your nonprofit shouldn’t be there! Dreamforce ’11 is offering a heavily discounted registration fee of only $250 to the first 500 nonprofits that sign up. The conference will be held in San Francisco this year from August 30th- September 2nd, and there will be a good number of nonprofits who can benefit from learning about the power of Salesforce,

Wondering why you should come to Dreamforce 2011 this year? Well as usual, it’s full of learning opportunities that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. You can get practical training in the Hands on Labs. You can get one-on-one consulting with Salesforce experts on the conference floor. You will have have more than 400 sessions to choose from, fifteen of which are especially dedicated to nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions. Most importantly, you will be in a room of Salesforce users from around the country who can share their expertise, experience and resources with each other. With huge stars like Stevie Wonder and Will.I.Am at last year’s Dreamforce, it’s guaranteed to be as fun as it is informative.

The discounts for nonprofits don’t just stop at the registration fee. Dreamforce is also offering heavy discounts for the Pre-Conference Training and Certification courses. You can get a one day course for $599, and a two-day workshop for $1298.  These classes give you a deep understanding of Salesforce tools and will give attendees something new skills to bring back to their organization.

This deal goes pretty quickly so make sure you take advantage of it while you can! You can register and find out more information about Dreamforce 11 here. We’ll see you in August!

Starting a new system for managing your donations can be intimidating, especially with all the options available to you. You can choose between something as simple as excel or as technically involved as salesforce.com. Whatever you do choose, it’s not the tools that will ultimately make the difference in your system’s success. How well you understand your goals and work process will. So what questions do you have to ask yourself to clarify your system’s goals and find the right tools to implement them. Idealware and Techsoup teamed up to build a workbook that will help you make the right decision for your organization’s needs. Below is a sneak peek of a few questions from the report that can help guide your decision:

1- Do you need a new Donor Management System?

It sounds like a counter-intuitive question but it’s probably the most important one you’ll ask yourself. If you have something that is working really well for you and your team, investing the time and resources to change everything may not be worth it. Before going any further, really think about how effective your existing donor management system is and if it’s worth it  to change it.

2- Where are you now and where are you going?

What are your top 5 fund raising activities and how do you want your system to help you execute them better? Once you’ve got a clear idea of where you are now, start to think about your organization 2-5 years from now. Take a long view with the system so that it doesn’t just accommodate your immediate needs, but is also helpful to your organization in the near future. You want something that will grow with your organization.

3- What Donor Management Features Do you Need?

Now that you have an idea of where you are and where you want to go, you can use this vision to guide the specific tools you will need for your system. The Idealware-Techsoup  report includes an extensive list of features from as basic as storing donor information, to forecasting pipelines. Determine where your needs are on the spectrum and you’ll be able to see what caliber of technology is best suited for you.

4- What Donor Management Features Do you Have?

Take stock of the existing features that your organization is implementing to meet its goals. This will help you identify which systems are currently in place and how they can be used and improved for the new system you are bringing in.

5- Should You Have Integrated Online Features?

There are several ways to integrate online transactions with a donor management system. Like any of the other features your new system will have, it depends on your needs. Functions that your nonprofit may perform like broadcasting email, managing online payments, or using an online donor portal,  are all things that could use online integration. The report outlines different scenarios that help you decide if this is what you need.

The task may seem overwhelming from the outset, but if you approach it strategically and can wade the tech solutions out there to find one that works just right for your nonprofit. Click here for the full report.