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Bringing the Focus Back to the Mission: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

With nearly 170,000 children (“Littles”) matched to 170,000 volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) across the US, the impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is huge. But what’s not readily known is that until recently, it could take up to a year and a half for a match to be made. It became very apparent that BBBSA’s legacy CRM was due for an overhaul. “BBBSA was actually a leader in the industry in terms of tech. But there came a point when our legacy system became a hindrance rather than an empowering technology,” says Jarrod Bell, Chief Technology Officer with the nonprofit.

BBBSA engaged Traction on Demand approximately a year ago to come up with a Salesforce solution that would include a complete digital transformation, which would allow the CRM to scale with the nonprofit. It had come to the point where the legacy system could take 10 minutes to load a record and, unsurprisingly, this was leading to frustrated users and a high turnover of staff. Although the solution was to address various business processes, the big picture of what needed to be improved was really twofold: how to improve data flow and communications between the National Office in Tampa, Florida and its 270 affiliate offices, and how to re-instill confidence in the thousands of system users.


Considering the needs of thousands of users and 270 affiliate offices across the country

Jarrod Bell, Chief Technology Officer, BBBSA
Jarrod Bell, Chief Technology Officer, BBBSA

It’s interesting to ask about a digital transformation project, only to hear words like “trust, “users” and “process” come up more often than “technology,” “solution” or “results.” But in speaking with the main stakeholders it quickly becomes apparent that from the beginning, the focus was always on the users. This project was about enabling the people who made the mentorship matches every day. “You can imagine the complexity and the scale. As we started out, there was a lot of trepidation but the Traction on Demand team did an excellent job,” says Jarrod. “The level of effort they put towards the project. They would say they would do something and then the next day it was done. Talk about building trust.”

Cerigwyn Parsons, Co-owner, CM Consulting Group
Cerigwyn Parsons, Co-owner, CM Consulting Group

This is a sentiment echoed by Cerigwyn Parsons, co-owner of CM Consulting Group, who was brought on to help support the alignment of visions on both the National Office and affiliate sides. Her involvement in this project as a consultant was significant because she had previously worked for BBBSA, meaning she already knew what the affiliates needed in terms of support from the National Office and vice versa. “When we first met with Traction on Demand, we talked about the overall goals of this project,” says Cerigwyn. “Aside from the technical solution, the main goal was to establish trust between the national office and the agencies.” She explains there needed to be a boost of confidence after a previous false start to a similar project.

“A major focus… was giving users the training time needed to get up to speed with the new system, in order to instill confidence in them moving forwards.”

Traction on Demand Gets Down to Work

“Jordan Schwartz and Jack Mercer from Traction on Demand quickly became students of BBBSA and used the language of the organization. They didn’t just talk about Salesforce; people would say, ‘You sound like you work for BBBSA.’ That alone made me feel very confident that we had the right people for the job,” says Cerigwyn.

The Traction on Demand team built a new Salesforce org with a cross-cloud solution:

  • Sales Cloud to keep track of the Littles and Bigs
  • NPSP to manage constituents in households and set up the system for future donation management capabilities
  • Marketing Cloud to send out surveys and other communications to the constituents
  • Community Cloud as an intake portal for inquiries and applications

In addition, they implemented a number of third-party apps to further automate processes and increase efficiencies:

  • Okta, a single sign-on network
  • Formstack, the Salesforce form and survey builder
  • WalkMe, a digital adoption platform that would become an important part of the training phase

A major focus during this stage of the project was giving users the training time needed to get up to speed with the new system, in order to instill confidence in them moving forwards.

Jack Mercer (left) and Jordan Schwartz led the Traction on Demand team.

Less focus on the tech, more focus on the mission

“The problem in the tech world is we get so focused on the bits and bytes that we forget this is a product that’s going to be used by someone. We needed to get people excited to get them on board,” says Jarrod. While many results were instant— communicating more efficiently with Chatter, accessing data easily, creating dashboards and more— Jarrod says one of the most instant improvements was the sending and collection of surveys. “Our surveys are a very important source of outcome measurement and to make sure the relationships are going well. In the past, it would have taken 45 days to collect them all, but now we can do it in 24 hours.” With less time being spent on these types of tasks, more time can now be put towards matching Littles with Bigs.

Cerigwyn says the success of the project ultimately hinged on everyone’s dedication to the project. “It mattered not just on a technological level but on an emotional level. Something that we knew mattered—the kids—was important to us. Truthfully, we laughed a lot. We enjoyed the project and we enjoyed working together.”

Interested in reading the breakdown of this project? Read our BBBSA case study.

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