Salesforce Show and Tell

Day 2 of the Salesforce Non-Profit Roadmap session was focused on refining plans and sharing information. We had sessions and reports from Salesforce Product managers and developers, and we discussed and demoed some of the creative things that our community has developed. The Salesforce guests showed off Apex, the new scripting language that will be available for live use sometime next year; and we had a fascinating (but non-discloseable!) peek at where the reporting is going.

A lot of the talk focused on ways that we can — or will be able — to get around Salesforce’s core assumption that we deal with companies and contacts when, in fact, donation management is about individuals and households. And a big topic was integration, with a lot of questions centered on what can or should be done in Salesforce and what should be programmed on top of it. Two technologies that popped up a lot were Facebook and Ruby on Rails. I learned about (and immediately grabbed) a Salesforce library that has been developed for rails, and Alan Benamer sang the praises of Facebook both as a compelling social network and a fundraising tool, via their new “Causes” feature. Facebook has been in the news for opening up a powerful API, which makes them pretty much the “Salesforce of Social Networks”.

In the afternoon, we got to th fun stuff – showing off what we’ve done. Six of the participant’s showed off projects big and small.

Ben Munat showed us ChipIn, a fundraising widget that currently is available as a wep page plug in, but will soon be integrated with Salesforce, Facebook, and other application platforms.

  • Sonny Cloward showed us a very clean and elegant Salesforce template for fund development created using Salesforce’s Person object. The Person object, which can be used in lieu of Accounts and Contacts, was introduced late last year to a somewhat underwhelming response, the problem being that it’s an either/or choice. If you use Person objects, you can’t use Accounts and Contacts, and, in most cases, you have both companies and individuals among your constituents. All the same, Sonny’s template transformed Salesforce into a clean and simple CRM that would be far easier to teach and support, and maybe quite suitable for small organizations.
  • Rem Hoffman demoed the very sophisticated case management system that his company, Exponent Partners, has put together. This was a real ooh and aaher, as he demoed how a Mental Health agency, swamped in paper, could use it to track cases and print all of the paperwork with about a quarter of the effort that had been required. I’m very intrigued by Rem’s work, as I believe that case management options in the workforce development industry are all pretty painful. As far as I know, Social Solutions is the only company talking about opening up their application; most are the worst examples of grabbing a company’s data and locking them out of it.
  • Ryan Ozimak of PicNet demoed his Joomla/Salesforce integration, which is also very cool and clean, and promising. At present is is likely the fastest and easiest way to develop a web site with Salesforce Contact integration, and the next steps will open up other objects for clean integration. Ryan (who is sitting next to me as I type) has just let me know that this is around the corner.
  • As usual, Steve Anderson of One/Northwest had an amazing demo, showing how he has developed Apex code that completely masks the Account/Contact model so that a user can easily add and remove individuals from households. This was very slick, as his automation made tasks that take multiple screen views and actions today and almost magically integrated them. For example, if you have the household of John Doe and the house hold of Jane Doe, and you want to combine them, then you add Jane Doe to John Doe’s household and – poof! – the household is automatically renamed to “John and Jane Doe” and Jane Doe’s household is deleted. This completely removes the limitation that use of Person accounts involves – you can still have accounts and contacts. The problem being that Apex is only available in the sandbox for now.
  • Finally, Evan Callahan of NPower Seattle demoed a simple translator lookup app that he created for a client. What was cool about this was both that he put together a very intuitive and functional tool for finding a translator with the proper skills and availability, and he did it with some very simple code and a web form. In both Steve and Evan’s cases, they took innovative and undocumented approaches that produced powerful results. Must be something in that moist Seattle air.

Today we dive into how the Salesforce community can better operate as a cohesive support infrastructure and wrap up at noon. If you are a Salesforce license donee, keep your eyes open for a survey that will let you in on this critical input. And look for a bigger event next year — this was a great exercise for all parties.

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