One of Omatic’s newer Salesforce Implementer / Consulting partners is Cloud for Good, which specializes in donor management, case management, and marketing automation implementations for nonprofits that use Salesforce. For more than 10 years, Cloud for Good has been helping its clients create transformational value on the Salesforce platform.
Omatic recently sat down with Susan Wright and Laura Maker, both Directors of Professional Services with Cloud for Good, to discuss the differences and similarities in both accounting and fundraising departments’ technology solutions, and how mindful integrations can pave the way for greater success.
Both Susan and Laura hold multiple Salesforce certifications and also have deep nonprofit and consulting experience. The topic is an important one – fundamental to nonprofit operations and equally imperative to nonprofit technology providers whose mission is to ensure the effective flow of data.
Accounting and fundraising are two connected, yet often disparate, departments found within most nonprofit organizations. While the departments are intrinsically linked, the data that each side maintains is gathered and utilized for different purposes. Through integrations made possible by leveraging Salesforce functionality and using integration solutions like those developed by Omatic, both the accounting and fundraising teams stand to benefit from heightened workflows and greater data clarity.
Why is it beneficial for accounting and fundraising departments to operate on two different systems?
Susan Wright (SW): Fundraising and finance use similar data differently. Fundraising has more freedom/flexibility to make their own rules, while finance must follow more rigid guidelines. Fundraising is also heavily focused on CRM and relationship management – cultivating the gift, stewarding the donor, etc., while finance is purely interested in the amount received or committed and how the funds are promised to be spent. So, operating in two separate systems gives fundraisers the flexibility to store data and information used to cultivate relationships, while finance can focus on the money coming in and out.
How do these department’s priorities differ?
SW: Finance is focused primarily on the tracking of funds in and out. Fundraising on the other hand is all about cultivating people and organizations to continue or increase giving.
Laura Maker (LM): I think a big priority for both fundraising and finance is the idea of gifts. But these gifts may be attributed differently between the fundraising and finance departments. For example, a gift from a family foundation may be attributed to the foundation entity by the finance department, but the fundraising department may attribute it to an individual donor.
How do these differing priorities affect overall technology goals for an organization?
SW: Fundraising wants a CRM with lots of people data and the ability to plan cultivation. Finance is not interested in any of that – they just need info about the funds received and committed so they can make sure it’s recorded properly and placed in the proper accounts.
LM: We want systems that work for individual departments and for the organization as a whole. In the case of finance and fundraising, that often means maintaining two separate, integrated systems. It’s important to identify which system is the master for which pieces of data.
What issues can arise between these two departments when you migrate fundraising from a legacy system to Salesforce and separate the accounting from fundraising?
SW: Well, accounting and fundraising should already have been separated. Even if there was an existing integration, often people just trust the integration and don’t really know the business rules that are built into the integration. By moving to new systems, the integration has to be recreated and this requires the organization understanding and being able to articulate the business rules. Also, definitions can get clunky – the value of gifts received this month to the fundraising team could be different than the value of gifts received this month to the finance team. One team is probably including pledges and the other might not; the same applies for pledge payments. So, during the “technology” project, common terms will need clear definitions that work for both sides of the house.
LM: If an organization was using Financial Edge with Raiser’s Edge, they will need to replace the integration between financial and fundraising systems. This is where integration tools, such as Omatic Software, can come into play and help connect these two systems for the betterment of the overall technology platform. Integrations such as these help to unlock a nonprofit’s ability to connect and generate value from their technology.
In what ways can technology integrations fix or circumvent those issues?
SW: It’s incredibly powerful to document the business rules and definitions and then to create the integration to support those. Then everyone understands what’s happening. Many organizations have lots of conversations happening between fundraising and accounting that seek to reconcile and understand each other’s data. Clear rules and an integration implementing those rules should reduce the human conversation time.
LM: Well-designed integrations enable different systems to work seamlessly together. The integration should be as simple and minimal as possible to meet the functional needs of each department.
What are Cloud for Good’s best practices for ensuring disparate technology integrations coexist together harmoniously?
LM: When multiple integrations are needed, they should be orchestrated from a central hub – otherwise the organization can end up with a spaghetti-like pile of integrations that are difficult to understand and untangle from one another. Using a middleware tool to manage multiple integrations allows them to be designed cohesively.
How can Cloud for Good help to solve problems of a breakdown in flow or a breakdown in cross-department communication?
SW: We facilitate business process conversations and discovery, document the current process, and document a future state. Flow charts are very helpful. Perhaps a RACI would be helpful. We’re great facilitators and change managers.
LM: Agreed! When it comes to designing integrations, we create data flow diagrams before we build anything, so that all stakeholders can understand how the integration will move data between systems. Documenting the data flows helps us confirm that each user group is aligned on how the integration will impact their system.
When is the right time to deploy an organization-wide integration? Who do you believe should be involved in that decision-making process?
LM: When users are forced to spend time on reconciliation, that could be better spent focusing on their mission, because of anomalies between systems, it makes sense to integrate those systems. An organization-wide integration is an important and impactful part of an organization’s technology landscape. The IT team, technology leadership, and business leadership should be involved in making the decision to integrate systems.
What do you need internally to ensure these integrations are successful?
SW: Buy-in from the top to the bottom and the necessary bandwidth for people to participate in the integration are absolutely paramount. Both finance and fundraising need to participate in the facilitated discussions.
LM: Yes and yes. You need functional experts to make sure the integration meets the business needs. And you also need technical experts to extract and format the data properly between endpoints.
What does success look like following an integration?
LM: The business users have the data they need to complete their workflows and make informed business decisions.
While there are several factors to consider before integrating your nonprofit organization’s accounting and fundraising departments, know that the thoughtful execution of such an integration can provide your organization with heightened data clarity and synergy between departments. Technology solutions exist to unburden our business processes and empower the employees that help deliver on nonprofits’ missions. With the right tools, teams, and implementation partners in place, your nonprofit organization stands to advance your unique mission and ensure clear, reliable data across accounting and fundraising departments for years to come.
About the Panel:
Laura Maker leads a team of consultants at Cloud for Good as a Director of Services in the nonprofit space. She is a Salesforce-certified Sales Cloud Consultant, Administrator, and Marketing Cloud Email Specialist with over ten years of experience in nonprofit development, communications, operations, and board service.
In her role as a Director of Professional Services at Cloud for Good, Susan Wright is responsible for overseeing and leading consulting activities, including the management of multiple projects, leadership, and management of consulting team members, practice development, and pre-sales support. Susan is a Salesforce.com Certified Administrator with over seven years of consulting experience.