Turning Volunteers into Salesforce Gurus

St Kilda Mums is charity based in Victoria, Australia, founded by me (Jessica Macpherson) and friends in 2009.

St Kilda Mums rehome new and pre-loved baby goods and nursery equipment to families in need. These donations are distributed as gifts to families experiencing hardship through partnerships with maternal and child health nurses and local social service agencies.

We operate in 3 cities. Clayton in Melbourne, and in Geelong and Ballarat we trade as Geelong Mums and Eureka Mums. Administration is centralised in Melbourne – accounting, HR, fundraising and marketing.

In Search for Salesforce Volunteers

St Kilda Mums has used Salesforce since September 2013. We do not use the NPSP user pack, but rather a customised instance, primarily to process donations, but increasingly for all manner of business processes. I chose Salesforce as we had no budget and other products built for NFPs were so costly by comparison.

(I am now a Certified NPSP Consultant and I always recommend installing the NPSP to charities - it has come a long way in the last decade!)

When we first started to use and customise our Salesforce instance I put a post on our Facebook page asking for help and a local dad called James Kent responded and volunteered to help us set up. He built a simple API integration with Paypal that allows us to accept online donations easily. He actually worked overnight at one stage to ensure it was set up properly for our Tax Appeal for FY14.

Because James was working full time, and I needed more help with further customisation, I advertised on both Seek Volunteer and LinkedIn for IT volunteers. I was surprised by the skill and experience of many of the applicants. Although few were experienced in Salesforce, I did not let this deter me as I knew so little myself, but was keen to learn, and I had a vision of what Salesforce could do.

The Road to Australian Employment

The volunteers had many transferable skills and we learnt together – me with my vision of how I needed business processes to work, and they with their technical skills. They taught me that many people who are new to Australian struggle to find employment in Australian businesses. Without practical work experience, their resumes don’t even get them into the first interview round.

They were all keen to volunteer as it gave them a chance to get inside an Australian business and work with Australians, learning the quirks of our language and the peculiarities of our workplaces. There have been many laughs as they learn how we do things, and they are always keen to take on new responsibilities and attempt new ways of doing things.

Many want to get their Salesforce admin or developer certification, and volunteering with us means they have plenty of real life experience to apply in their studies. They have often several years experience in IT in their home country and are hard working and as sharp as tacks. They are a joy to work alongside.

Once they complete their certification they quickly find work – for three reasons – they have some Australian work experience to add to their resume, they have me as a reference and Salesforce certified staff are in high demand. The shortest period of time was just three weeks for one particularly smart and engaging volunteer.

One of our volunteer success stories is of Raji who had never worked in IT before. She was a young mum who volunteered two days a week with her daughter in tow. Her daughter would play quietly at her feet in my office and slowly but surely Raji gained the skills and experience she needed. In her home time she completed her certification and she was employed after 12 months volunteering with us as a Salesforce Administrator.

From this idea, Blaze Your Trail was born.

Today, local recruiters refer job hunters to Blaze Your Trail directly and we have a constant stream of dedicated volunteers, often working several days a week as the work they are doing is challenging and interesting and most importantly helping them get the skills they need to get the job of their dreams. I am always delighted when I am asked to be a referee and when they resign their volunteer role, as it means that they are on the next step of their journey to being an Australian.

The Salesforce 1-1-1 Model

What we love about Salesforce is the way that the 1-1-1 model is really lived by Salesforce employees. Salesforce staff regularly volunteer with charities as a team, and they assisted St Kilda Mums in the early days by adding the Salesforce for Volunteers App as part of their pro bono program.

St Kilda Mums benefited from very generous workplace donations that are then matched by the company and we feel that we have a very close, collaborative and mutually rewarding relationship with the Salesforce team, particularly now that Blaze Your Trail is a partner.

The annual World Tour is a highlight and it’s wonderful that it is free as I am able to invite all my volunteers along to it. Thank you for being generous in spirit Salesforce, you really do lead the way in corporate social responsibility.

And what of that wonderful Dad James Kent who volunteered to help me way back in 2013? Well he has gone on to develop a product that makes it easy for charities to integrate their donation platform with Salesforce quickly, check it out www.movedata.io

First published on Salesforce.org | April 8, 2016 | Australia | 1-1-1 Model , Volunteering

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