Paul Selway and John Schulte
BestPrep is a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization that offers six unique educational programs to students and teachers in the US to prepare them with business, career and financial literacy skills through experiences that inspire success in work and life. These programs provide individuals with the chance to gain real-world knowledge through fun, hands-on experiences, such as mock interviews, workplace tours, mentorships, money-management courses and technology-integration workshops. With the help of more than 2,500 volunteers per year, BestPrep reaches more than 60,000 students and educators.
Known for teaching the latest educational technology and how it can be used in the classroom to effectively engage students in learning, BestPrep’s back-end systems needed to reflect the same technological savvy.
However, BestPrep was utilizing multiple data systems to manage thousands of program participants and volunteers, as well as events, sponsorships and donations. This led to multiple silos of data, limited cross-program visibility, time-consuming and manual reporting processes, and data-quality issues. BestPrep needed an integrated solution that could consolidate and centralize data, streamline reporting, and provide staff members with a cross-functional, efficient tool to assist them in their mission.
BestPrep began its search for an integration partner that could handle a nonprofit’s specific program needs. The team started by exploring Salesforce-approved partners and interviewing a few select firms. Ultimately, BestPrep chose Redpath Consulting Group, a Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA-based cloud strategy integration firm that specializes in not only cloud strategy creation, but also Salesforce consultation and implementation.
BestPrep is a unique organization with specialized needs and, thus, required a system that could cater to its business model. After evaluating a number of options, BestPrep decided on a Salesforce cloud solution featuring customer resource management (CRM), form assembly, email marketing and online registration applications—all to improve efficiencies of its daily operations and the effectiveness of its internal and external communications.
Why? For one, Redpath was able to customize Salesforce to meet the specific needs of BestPrep. Every organization operates differently and needs its own applications that enhance, not change, how it does business. Second, Salesforce does not require additional hardware expenses, instead making use of existing technology investments with minimal start-up cost and predictable ongoing expenses. Third, Salesforce automatically provides a disaster recovery solution in the event one of BestPrep’s servers fails or a BestPrep employee’s computer is lost or stolen. All data are backed up securely and automatically in the cloud without additional steps or expense. Finally, Salesforce inherently enhances staff productivity, as team members can access the most up-to-date data at any time, from any computer with an Internet connection.
The pay-as-you-go model also works well for the nonprofit organization, saving it from paying for more than it needs or uses. In the end, the Salesforce cloud was the only solution that provided BestPrep with the ability to streamline data from five databases to one, utilize applications such as iContact for newsletters and email marketing, assemble forms easily and accurately, and automate processes for an easy and simple transition from the old, inefficient methods. The Salesforce cloud empowered BestPrep to leverage enterprise-class technology as a smaller nonprofit organization.
With a high level of concentration on customer service and the project’s objectives, BestPrep spent three months in a phased rollout of a custom, integrated Salesforce strategy. There were a few programs based around the school year, so those programs were prioritized and launched in the first month, leveraging the speed and ease at which cloud solutions can be deployed, as compared to their hardware and software counterparts. These programs took BestPrep’s existing five databases and streamlined them into one, giving staff members an enhanced global view of data, including, for example, information on which individuals were volunteering for what programs and which students enrolled in and paid for the different classes.
By consolidating five disparate databases into one centralized cloud-based system, BestPrep is now a collaborative organization in which the most accurate data are visible to all staff members as needed and/or permitted. BestPrep employees are also now able to pull reports accurately and on demand in 15 minutes, instead of the two days the forms used to require. BestPrep is also seeing improved insights into the services provided, as well as the number of volunteers and students being utilized across all programs.
In addition to the increased administration efficiencies, the Salesforce cloud has alleviated manual tasks for BestPrep employees, such as reformatting every donor or student list into one common format before moving forward with uploading it into a system. Perhaps one of the best benefits has been the online registration capability that allows students and teachers to register for programs from any device with an Internet connection. This has not only proved convenient for BestPrep participants, but it has also improved the perception of BestPrep as a leading technology education organization.
As for advice for other organizations, BestPrep encourages every organization to consolidate its databases, whether or not they reside in the cloud. Organizations should evaluate the time and expense they are currently exhausting trying to access or create information, when it could—and should—be right at their fingertips.
Today, BestPrep is enjoying automated processes, reduced manual labor, more consistent outcomes, and a significantly enhanced global view of the organization and its performance.
Paul Selway is president and cofounder of Redpath Consulting Group, a Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA-based cloud solutions consulting firm. Selway creates weekly blogs on cloud solutions and enjoys educating those who are not familiar with the cloud about what it can do for their business.
John Schulte is vice president of finance and technology at BestPrep, a Minnesota, USA-based nonprofit providing innovative education programs to students and teachers throughout the US.
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