Technology & AI
Salesforce.org: Embracing innovative technology to enable social good around the world
By Dale Benton
May 19, 2020
By connecting nonprofits and educational institutions to innovative technology, Salesforce.org creates a better world for tomorrow
Technology, when used for good, can truly change the world. This is the core belief of Salesforce.org, a social enterprise that places the greatest technology the world has to offer into the hands of nonprofits and educational institutions to enable them to connect their organizations and accelerate their impact. Salesforce.org is defined by three key pillars: technology, resources and people. These key pillars represent the ways in which Salesforce.org can deliver on its vision of empowering nonprofit organizations and educational sectors all over the world.
“Technology can do the most amazing things when used for social good, but it has to be applicable and appropriate for a nonprofit to be able to use,” says Charlotte Finn, VP Global Strategic Relations. “What we’ve done is developed technology specific for those areas. So, we’ve taken fundraising technology, volunteer management technology, donation management technology and student management technology and really tailored them to our market. This approach has made a significant difference.”
Formally known as the Salesforce Foundation, Salesforce.org leverages the Salesforce Customer Relationship Platform (CRM) and made it accessible to nonprofit organizations and developed its own non-profit specific technology solutions. What this does is allow some of the smaller nonprofit organizations to access and leverage the same technology as some of the largest nonprofit or corporate companies in the world. Finn points to Child’s i Foundation, a foundation designed to ‘rewrite the script’ for all children in orphanages across Uganda.
“Childs i Foundation was founded by one person with a vision of simplifying the process of tracing blood relatives for orphaned children and reconnecting them with their families,” says Finn. “What she did was build a case management system using Salesforce CRM to track a child’s family then work with the Ugandan government and local social services top accelerate the flow of adoption in the country. It was really incredible.”
Child’s i is a perfect example of the way in which Salesforce.org delivers on its vision but in order for the foundation to be able to benefit and leverage Salesforce’s technology, it called upon Salesforce.org’s second key pillar: resources. As a foundation, Salesforce.org is a granting foundation and grants funding specifically in the areas of workforce development and education. Finn believes that in order to drive technology and innovation, the organization must start enabling the next generation to have incredible opportunities to do so.
Across its entire global portfolio, Salesforce.org has granted more than $220mn into nonprofit and educational organizations to build what Finn describes as future ready programs. These future ready programs will create the next generation of technology enabled individuals all around the world. “Take the UK as an example: in the next few years there are close to 745,000 IT jobs that are going to be made available and this is just in the UK alone. We have to think about how we can fill them,” says Finn.
This is where the organization’s third pillar comes into play – people. Salesforce.org provides every single employee with seven days’ volunteering and actively encourages each employee to go out and volunteer with nonprofit organizations to train and develop the skillset and capabilities of individuals. To date, the organization has registered more than 3mn hours of volunteering work worldwide. “Every single year we are asking ourselves, how are we going to continue this and improve and give more time?” says Finn. “Every single year, we surpass our volunteering targets because we are an organization made up of employees who are passionate about the real difference each and every one of them can make individually as well as collectively.”
An inescapable challenge that comes with technology and innovation is readiness and whether or not there is the right skillset and capabilities to fully embrace technology. As an organization looking to connect nonprofit and educational sectors from all over the world to the latest technology solutions, this challenge is only exacerbated. Finn recognizes this and admits that there are more mature and ‘tech-ready’ countries and markets in some parts of the world than others.
The one thing she does note however, is the demand for technology. “There is a huge appetite to become tech ready and in fact, sometimes it’s the systems and solutions that aren’t ready to match that appetite,” she says. “There are some incredible, innovative organizations down there that want to harness the powers that technology can give them. But because they are so innovative, because they are so amazing the delivery, especially to the last mile, when you're right out in the field, it's not there yet. Sometimes it’s actually technology that has to be ready. So as developers, we have to catch up with some of their innovative concepts.”
To this end, Salesforce.org builds and invests into a number of education programs and educational workforce development programs that are accessible both externally and internally. One such example is Trailhead. Trailhead is an online tool that provides training, badges and accreditation to all staff and employees. Finn feels this is key because it shows that technology education is just the beginning, and Trailhead enables them to take that education and make a real difference.
Given the incredible rate at which technology has evolved and will continue to evolve, the technology conversation has shifted immensely. Historically in the nonprofit sector, Finn feels that people have always looked to tackle situations by themselves. Only through public and private partnerships and working collaboratively with NGOs and organizations like Salesforce.org can the sector truly embrace and ride the digital wave. “There is much stronger appetite for the collaboration amongst companies to enable this to happen,” she says. “As more and more of these entities are coming together and creating a collaborative approach, we are starting to see more of these challenges being addressed and tackled more successfully, much more quickly.”
The technology conversation shows no signs of slowing down and Salesforce.org will continue to play a key role in enabling the nonprofit organizations of the world to access the greatest and most innovative technologies the world has to offer. For Finn, it will always be about one thing. “It really is to enable technology to be used for social good,” she says. “I know it’s a trite answer but it’s true. We can really help the world through technology. The work we do is truly game changing.”