Why Nonprofits Need the Salesforce Idea Exchange (And Why It Needs Nonprofits)

As nonprofits, and nonprofit-servicing organizations, we are accustomed to coming to the amazing and rich Power of Us Hub for support, community, and help.

Yet for some things, Salesforce as a CRM platform, and not the Nonprofit Starter Pack, is the primary limitation.  As customers of Salesforce, nonprofits are entitled to participation in sister communities with which you may (or may not) already be familiar: The Salesforce Success Community and the Salesforce Idea Exchange.  You may be familiar with the Success Community as the home for local and regional User Groups.  However, the Idea Exchange is equally important to nonprofits, and here’s why:

The Idea Exchange is where Salesforce itself gets a sense of the pulse and needs of its customers.

Administrators and users at all the other companies who are customers of Salesforce, just like nonprofits are customers of Salesforce, can put in their suggestions for changes to limitations in the platform that are hindering their use or features they want to see, and these get voted on by other customers for helping Salesforce prioritize what to add to the Seasonal Releases.

As nonprofit customers of Salesforce (and yes, I’m going to keep saying this), you’re using a CRM platform that has spent over a decade supporting business-to-business needs.  Of course, the problem here is that many nonprofits have what could be called business-to-constituent needs.  Nothing more clearly illustrates this schism in the Salesforce CRM platform than the lowly Opportunity Contact Role.

Literal Salesforce CRM platform development happens separately from the amazing developer and product manager team at the Salesforce Foundation who create and manage the development of the Nonprofit Starter Pack.  We’re all bound to what and how the Salesforce platform itself moves and evolves.  And you, as customers of Salesforce, are entitled to have a voice in this movement and evolution.  The very same Salesforce login that you use to access your organization’s Salesforce instance and the Power of Us Hub will also work if you login to the Idea Exchange, which will allow you vote on and post Ideas of your own.  Go ahead, I dare you! (log in at the upper right of the Web page)

Sometimes, as Salesforce administrators and developers, the reasons why we bang our heads against the wall have nothing to do with anything that the Nonprofit Starter Pack can control, and everything to do with how Salesforce itself operates.  Searching the Idea Exchange can sometimes be as personally validating (“Good grief, I’m not crazy, EVERYONE has this problem!”) as it can be empowering (“Voting feels good!”).  These Ideas surface important information for Salesforce, including where to structure its resources.  Not every Idea has to be a winner.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to open our mouths and say something, and realize that we’re entitled to in the first place once we do.  One of the larger narratives coming out of Dreamforce is that Salesforce itself is substantially considering how individuals directly affect business to business transactions.

Nonprofits use Salesforce differently as a platform than for-profit counterparts.  For for-profits using Salesforce, “CRM” means Consumer Relationship Management while for nonprofits it means Constituent Relationship Management.  Both “C”s stand for people, and not other businesses.

I’m going to assume that by now, as a Salesforce customer, you at your nonprofit have logged in to the Idea Exchange.  Here are a few things to help you on your journey:

  • Vote on Ideas! A while back, I posted a list of a few of the thorns in my side, but there are many, many others.
  • Comment on Ideas! And, in your comments, clearly explain why #Nonprofits need this Idea (see what I did there? Hashtag your comments!)
  • Create Ideas! And, while you’re at it, add #Nonprofits directly to the title line of your new Idea.  Because, as nonprofit customers of Salesforce, you have an equally valid and important concern in the development of the platform, and adding this to the title of your Idea will help you surface this to others inside and outside of Salesforce, including other nonprofit customers.
  • UPDATE: There’s now a community-owned and shared document for IdeaExchange voting on Ideas relevant to nonprofits, a one-stop-shop for Success Community Idea links, here.

Every Idea on the Idea Exchange requires 2500 points (250 votes) to reach review by the Salesforce Product Development Team (those are the folks who help prioritize and make decisions about where the Salesforce platform, as guided by input by Salesforce customers, goes next).  While it’s true that not every Idea gets implemented, Salesforce has been increasingly vigilant about posting Ideas they’ve “retired” in every Seasonal Release.  Don’t know why Seasonal Releases are important? Check out here for more information.

For folks who grew up in the 70s and 80s, do you remember this?  The Idea Exchange isn’t quite like how Schoolhouse Rock! talks about Congress, but it does operate in a similar way.  Ideas need votes!  And yes, even if the whole Idea Exchange says “yes,” the Salesforce Product Team can say “no.”

But let’s say you’re passionate about an existing Idea, or you’ve created one yourself.  How do you promote it?  One of the mistakes I’ve seen made is letting Ideas vote for themselves.  Nope! You’ve got to Tweet, Facebook, email, and otherwise promote the heck out of them!  Every Idea on the Idea Exchange has embedded social media links to help facilitate this.  Because voting is important, only one vote per Salesforce User is allowed, but if your Idea has merit, if you can excite people about it, tell folks why it’s important, and you’re willing to organize and promote votes, then there’s no reason why your Idea can’t at least get to 2500 points (250 votes).  Where else can Nonprofits, as customers of Salesforce, promote their own hashtagged and outlined Ideas?

  • There’s an IdeaExchange Group in the Power of Us Hub (requires login) to follow and collect all the Ideas being promoted and collected in the Hub.  Be sure to @-mention it when you post your Idea to the Hub.
  • Add your Idea link for voting to the appropriate Groups (System Administrators, Developers, etc.) in the Power of Us Hub and Success Community.
  • Through your local and regional User Groups.
  • Ping a Salesforce MVP for help promoting it.
  • Ask your Salesforce implementation partner firm to promote your Idea through their own email lists and social media.

It helps to encourage folks voting along the way, and let them know how many votes are needed (think how well PBS does its fundraising telethons), and thank folks for voting.

And thank you! For reading, voting and getting involved.  Salesforce administrators are being increasingly asked to be community participants, and you’re a part of this!  And, remember, you’re a Salesforce customer, too!

Co-Founder, BrightStep Partners • Salesforce MVP

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Posted in Best Practice, Community
2 comments on “Why Nonprofits Need the Salesforce Idea Exchange (And Why It Needs Nonprofits)
  1. Amanda Byrne says:

    Great blog! I started it so proud of myself for submitting ideas, and explaining why features were needed. But then ‘well crud, I should have been promoting those.’


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