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Salesforce Trailhead 101 for Non Profit Organizations

An overview of essential Salesforce trailheads for empowered nonprofit organizations.
Salesforce Trailhead 101 for Non Profit Organizations

Salesforce Trailhead 101 for Non Profit Organizations

For many nonprofit organizations, making the move to Salesforce is an exciting and game changing endeavor.  Thousands of nonprofits have validated the multiple benefits of this move including increased fundraising, improved data quality, operational efficiency, and more. You can read more about the specific results on the Salesforce Voice of the Customer Survey.

While the benefits are numerous, a move to Salesforce can sometimes be an overwhelming exercise for many organizations. Investing in a thoughtful implementation and working with qualified partner like Arkus is a solid first step to ensure that Salesforce is properly configured to meet your organizational goals, processes, and long term growth plans.  Along with selecting the right partner, the most successful nonprofit organizations also prioritize investing in their internal Salesforce expertise early and often. To assist with this effort Salesforce launched Trailhead, a gamified Salesforce learning platform for organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Each Trailhead takes anywhere from thirty minutes to a couple of hours to complete and the time invested is well worth it. Think of it as a guided tour for you to learn Salesforce while exploring unique use case scenarios such as “Donation Management”. Additionally, Trailhead allows you to connect a trial account of Salesforce where you can try out the features and functions that are explored in each unit.

There are literally hundreds of “trails” to explore, but I want to share the trailheads I believe are essential for a successful use of Salesforce for any nonprofit:

  • Salesforce Basics for Nonprofits: This trail is a great place to start for nonprofits exploring Salesforce for the first time. With this trail you will learn the basics of the platform and what you will need to prepare for implementation.

  • Donation Management on Salesforce: I consider this trail foundational for any nonprofit organization leveraging Salesforce with the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). It does an excellent job walking you through the donation management process, but almost more importantly it explains how to truly take advantage of the household account and contact model. By internalizing the data model, nonprofits can start to envision and think through not only how to manage fundraising/donors but also programs, volunteers, and just about any organizational use case you can imagine--and all in the same place!

  • Volunteer Management on Salesforce: As an extension of NPSP, also offers a robust and free volunteer management application that works lockstep with the NPSP data model. “Wait are you saying that you can manage your donors and volunteers all in one place?!” Yes I am! This module will walk you the Volunteers for Salesforce application including how to capture all of your key volunteer data in Salesforce, how to create and manage all of your volunteer opportunities, how to keep your volunteers engaged with automated emails and self service functionality, and best practices for leveraging native Salesforce reports and dashboards to measure volunteer performance.

  • Admin Beginner: Last but certainly not least is the Admin Beginner Trailhead. This trailhead is more robust than the others but provides the participant with the key concepts for successfully managing an existing Salesforce instance for your organization. It also does an excellent job preparing you to become a certified Salesforce Administrator.

For every nonprofit organization using Salesforce you will need at least one staff member who will act as your Salesforce Administrator. The individual who assumes this responsibility can range from staff designated as a full time Salesforce Administrator to a power user of Salesforce within one of your departments. While it is essential to have at least one designated Salesforce Administrator, I really recommend having a few staff complete this trailhead to ensure that institutional knowledge of Salesforce doesn’t disappear when a staff member moves on from the organization.

Do you have any other recommended trailheads for nonprofits that you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below, on our Facebook Page, The Salesforce Success Community, Power of Us Hub or directly at me on Twitter @rboyleSF.


Making Change in Banks - One Spreadsheet at a Time

Prying legacy spreadsheets out of the hands of a banker is not an easy task.
Making Change in Banks - One Spreadsheet at a Time

Making Change in Banks - One Spreadsheet at a Time

Having high-quality data for risk management and reporting purposes has never been more important for banks in order to comply with the mounting regulatory reporting requirements.

While Salesforce includes standard objects for keeping track of accounts, contacts and opportunities, bank specific information kept in these legacy spreadsheets can also be included with the creation of a custom object. Custom objects are used to store information specific to any business process and can be linked to other Salesforce objects through lookup relationship fields, reducing the need for typing repetitive data that already resides in another record.

Custom objects can also contain related lists to attach all those emails, calls, meetings, notes, and files that surround a specific record. Custom objects can also have the same security settings as standard objects, limiting who can create, read, edit, delete or view any information specific to that object.

Here are some examples of bank-specific spreadsheets currently in use today which could be turned into useful Salesforce custom objects:

Site Visits

With a Site Visit custom object containing a date field for Inspection Due Date, a Picklist field for Property Condition, and a Text field for Comments, you could easily determine when a site visit is due, select the condition of the property using predefined values, and enter additional notes on the condition of the property. Users of the Salesforce1 mobile app could collect all this data on-site, take pictures of the property, and attach those pictures directly to the Chatter feed of the Site Visit record without having to complete any additional information when he or she arrives back to the office. Add a Status Picklist field, a little Process Builder magic, and when the status is “Completed,” another Site Visit can be automatically scheduled and assigned for the next year without any user intervention. If a paper copy is absolutely needed, use a tool like Conga or Drawloop to extract the data into a PDF file.

Loan Underwriting/Portfolio Management

With an Underwriting and a Portfolio Management object, you can keep track of all relevant data around the status of new or existing loan requests. Add a couple of Lookup fields to an Account, Financial Account, or an Opportunity, and your loan officers can easily find the status of a loan in underwriting, check to see if this year’s tax returns have been collected, or determine whether or not the covenants have been met for the year. Conjure up another spell using Process Builder and notifications can be sent to supervisors when loan approvals are about to expire or when documents are uncollected after a due date.

Customer Complaints

Ok, maybe not as glamourous as the first two, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requires banks to keep track of complaints and how they are resolved. With a Customer Complaint object, or with the use of Cases, you can keep track of the complaint, log the date it was received, attach the complaint email using Salesforce for Outlook or Gmail Integrations, save a copy of the letter directly to the Files related list, and add any relevant notes around how the complaint was resolved. Close out the case, or add a status field on the custom object, and data around resolution time can immediately be stored using a Formula field. Since most complaints need to be solved within 15 days, you can again use your wizardry skills with Process Builder to send reminder email notifications and make sure the deadline is never missed. 


Equally as unglamorous as complaints, but another great use of Salesforce, is keeping track of collection activities around past due loans, overdrawn accounts, or workouts. Loans that are nonperforming still require a lot of calls to clients, attorneys, real estate agents, title companies, and appraisers, and Salesforce has many built in functions for logging and scheduling these activities. Information around these activities can be very sensitive and oftentimes should not be visible to everyone, but with the creation of a collections object, those tasks, notes, and files can be visible to a particular profile, the record owner, a public group, or permissions can be granted to specific individuals.

Reports and Dashboards

With all of these spreadsheets in Salesforce, data is easily viewed on one page and extraction becomes easy through the use of Reports and Dashboards.  When that first day letter from the Fed comes, and your bank needs to start gathering lists of loans originated (or not originated) within a certain time frame, you can quickly run a Salesforce report based on their request, using the data in your newly created custom objects.

Portfolio Managers can have a single view of all covenants made, documents due, annual reviews pending, and year-to-date site visits completed on one dashboard. Department heads can see which underwriter has the capacity to take on a commercial loan for a new client, reducing their wait time. Compliance can easily see adherence to resolution times of complaints, complete with a copy of the actual letter or email sent back to the client to solve the complaint.

Risk management in banking has changed over the past decade, largely in response to regulations that emerged from the financial crisis. With Salesforce, you reduce some of that risk by having secure high-quality data in one place using standard objects like Accounts and Contacts, and by creating custom objects to keep track of all data collected for any specific business need.

Got some tips on breaking down silos of data in your bank, or have some great custom objects you want to brag about, drop them in the comments below or tell us all about it on Twitter, on the Salesforce CommunityFacebook, or chat with me @ScottTSearle.

4 More Hidden GTD Project Categories

A look at the GTD project categories that might not seem so obvious
4 More Hidden GTD Project Categories

4 More Hidden GTD Project Categories

If you are looking to bring your GTD game to another level, digging into a good podcast can really help. I happened to listen to the GTD Podcast episode #32 "The Better You Get," where Meg Edwards and Kelly Forrister went over some great new project categories to consider as part of your mind sweep.

Four Hidden Project Categories

  • Projects or Issues
  • Processes or Procedures
  • Creative Opportunities
  • Competency Building

These were so good that I was inspired to grab my capture tool of choice and write down four more to consider.

Repeating Routines

I have found that I have a lot of daily routines that I set up as repeating projects in OmniFocus. Everything from feeding the fish (every two days) to watering the plants (every 10 days). These really help for projects that are better suited for an irregular repeating cycle. If it were daily, my fish and plants would die. The pro tip is not to be afraid to set the repeating cycle to be very irregular. With OmniFocus you don't have to think in only daily or weekly terms -- try every 3 weeks or 18 days. During your next weekly review, ask yourself if there are things that are slipping through the cracks and could be helped with a repeating project.

Habit Builders

Another close project category to consider in your mind sweep are projects to help build good habits (or break bad ones). These are things that you know you should be doing, might always be doing, but need some re-enforcement. I have a daily health project (every day) that reminds me to do things like stretch, drink water, exercise and take a probiotic. While exercise at this point isn't something I need OmniFocus to remind me to do, it feels good to check it off. Years ago my dentist told me I need to take better care of my teeth and to use a waterpik "regularly." This turned into a repeating project, only three actions, and I have had good checkups since. Are there any habits you are trying to form or to enforce? Try making them a project and setting them to repeat.


It always seems strange to write down someone's name as the project in OmniFocus, but it works. I use people projects as buckets to capture things I need to do for that person, or things that person has committed to me. For my direct reports, this is my way of keeping on top of any open items or things to review together. It also helps in my weekly review, as my employees are certainly one of my areas of focus, and coming up with a next action for each one keeps them top of mind. For others, such as my child, I use this technique as a way of capturing all her tasks that she struggles to capture herself. There is nothing like reminding a teenager that before they can go get pizza with their friends, they have to write that thank you note that they promised to do four days earlier. I have found that the person in question eventually gets tired of being reminded, knows I will not forget, and starts to capture it themselves (Right @justedelstein?). Do you have open loops with your spouse, business partner, child, friend? Don't be afraid to make them a project.

Internal Commitments

This last one has been the hardest and newest for me to build on. An internal commitment is something that you want to do, said you are going to do, but is really only for yourself. It isn't something you have committed to others and usually isn't something that will get you in trouble if you don't do. They are things that are softer than goals but still rattle around in your brain. My "ah-ha" internal commitment recently was reading books. While I have a goal to read a certain amount of books each year, I find I go through long stretches of days and just don't do it. My new approach? Make finishing the book a project in OmniFocus. This will put it in my face daily, reviewed weekly and bring my level of awareness up a notch or two.

Do you have any hidden GTD project categories, leave them on on Facebook page, in the Salesforce Success Community, Power of us Hub or directly with me @JasonMAtwood

Midwest Appreciatin'

I was thrilled to be a part of the Midwest Dreamin’ (MWD17) planning team this year, and experiencing the other end of one of these community dreamin’ events has given me an even greater appreciation of them.
Midwest Appreciatin'

Midwest Appreciatin'

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Midwest Dreamin’. The first year I attended because my company was not going to send me to Dreamforce; I was still too new to the platform at that time. It was easy to make a business case to go to this regional event - a pass and a set of train tickets to and from Chicago was right around $100, and I could go for just one day and not even stay in a hotel. Approved.

I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that this would be a fraction of the crowd of Dreamforce, a fraction of the insanity, and I assumed a fraction of the available content. I was wrong.

The sessions that people bring to these regional events are the same sessions they’re taking to Dreamforce. They’re often dry runs for “the big show,” and the presenters are taking these topics and sessions seriously. I saw a session on motivating and engaging users, another one on change management, and everywhere I looked were people that I recognized from the community. I was texting my boss things like “I just walked past Mike Gerholdt!” He responded with things like “That’s great?”

I met some of the wonderful Women in Tech leaders, and they encouraged me to come back to Michigan and start the WIT group here. I owe a lot of my success within the community, a lot of my connections with amazing people, to that very first dreamin’ event.

My second year attending, I got to present, and I volunteered. I didn’t go to a lot of other sessions because I spent the whole time checking people in, chatting with new and old friends alike, and continuously offering to help again the following year. Persistence pays off.

In January, I was officially asked to join the planning team to help put together content specifically for nonprofits. I was over the moon. I danced around my house, shouted excitedly to my husband, and then calmly responded via email that yes, of course I’d be happy to help.

And thus I was introduced to the sheer amount of work that goes into these events. Planning starts at least a year in advance - there are contracts, vendor relationship maintenance, speaker relationship maintenance, marketing, collateral creation, and all of that on top of the things that I had actually thought about like “where are we gonna get food?”

I was lucky because I was being brought into a group that has done this a few times. Their process is tried and tested, and I was able to just slip in and add on. It’s the difference between building an entire house and repurposing a room.

For the months leading up to the event, I was part of phone calls, email updates, and planning sessions, many of which went right over my head. My part was easy. I just had to reach out to people in the community that I already know, ask them if they’d like to present, and help them find a topic if necessary. Child’s play compared to some of the other items on the master to-do list. I had the most fun job on the entire team.

In the final weeks before the event, we did dry runs with our presenters, finalized details (all of the details. So many details.), handled last-minute surprises, talked timing of arrivals, and essentially lived and breathed MWD17 nonstop, during all waking hours, even when we were doing other things.

And then came the event itself. Midwest Dreamin’ was held August 10th and 11th this year at the seriously beautiful Palmer House in Chicago. I was excited and a little bit nervous, since I knew relatively little of what needed to be done on the back-end. On the evening of the 9th, when we had our first round of registrants coming in and our Expo Hall vendors were setting up, there were more than a few questions that had me responding with “let me just ask Eric.”

It’s a different feeling, being on the other side of one of these things. I was, of course, excited to see all of my friends in this Ohana, though it was tempered with the knowledge that I couldn’t just run off to have fun. I had things to do. Responsibilities. Not that I resented that - not at all. I had just spent months having weekly phone calls with the team, and it was just as satisfying to get to see them in person and spend time with them. Not to mention seeing the work that we had all put in pay off.

I was also filled with a whole new appreciation of Midwest Dreamin’, as well as the other community events that have started to pop up all over the world. These events are planned and coordinated by people with day jobs, some of them pulling double duty as community leaders in other aspects, and they still manage to find venues, sponsors, and speakers to provide people like me the opportunity to engage with the community and learn. Kind of like superheroes. Or just really organized people.

Moral of the story: support your local dreamin’ event. Find yours here:

And join us next year at Midwest Dreamin’ July 12th and 13th at the Palmer House, Chicago.

Have you attended one of these regional events? Want to learn more about what goes into planning one? Tell us all about it on Twitter, on the Salesforce Community, Facebook, or chat with me @thesafinhold.

Mind-Body Fitness and Salesforce

Getting and Staying Fit with Salesforce
Mind-Body Fitness and Salesforce

Mind-Body Fitness and Salesforce

“Nurturing yourself is not selfish – it’s essential to your survival and your well-being.” ~Renee Peterson Trudeau

We all know the positive benefits that can be attained by incorporating a solid mind/body fitness regimen into our lives. There’s no need to cite statistics that show how, even with minimal effort, we can be healthier and happier. We have heard it all before, and the facts speak for themselves. What we may not realize however, is that a similar regimen can be applied to attaining and maintaining Salesforce skills that can provide similar results. Listed below are some ideas for you to consider, as you build your training plans.

Make a Plan

First and foremost, make a plan and communicate it to others, so that they can offer support and help keep you accountable. You may find them joining in and sharing their ideas; after all mindshare is the best share, right? Here at Arkus, we schedule a block of time well in advance and invite everyone to join in the fun. The idea is to put some skin in the game, quiz and encourage each other. You may be working on attaining different skills than others, but you can still hold yourself and others accountable while sharing thoughts and hopefully a fair amount of laughs.

Find Your Learning Style

We all have unique learning styles and environmental preferences, as my colleague Amy Bucciferro wrote about in her post “Salesforce Learning Tools for Every Style”. She does a great job covering this topic, and I strongly suggest you spend some time on understanding what works best for you. Keep in mind, this can and will change; be flexible and open to try different techniques.

Know Your Rhythm

You may want to spend some time learning about ultradian rhythms, and then map out your daily cycles of alertness and focus and plan your days accordingly. Learn what the best times are for you to, well, learn. This may well vary according to priorities and overall workload, but see if you can find those sweet spots, the periods most conducive to focus and retention, and schedule your training accordingly. I have found that by understanding how my body ticks, I can plan and adjust my days (and nights) to be more productive and efficient. Trust me, it’s worth a shot.

Ultradian Rhythm Getting and Staying Fit with Salesforce

Set Realistic Goals

It's important to be realistic about what we expect from ourselves. Let’s not go overboard; we do not need to tackle Mt. Everest in one afternoon. Remember to be kind to yourself - the last thing you want to do is to set yourself up for failure. Establish a realistic timeline, identify your goals, and be sure to target specific dates. Use whatever GTD system you have in place. I find it best to register for certification exams in advance and work toward that deadline. There will be times when you will be tempted to “jump ship” when facing a demanding workload or shifting priorities. Stay strong and adjust (remember how we were going to be flexible) rather than abandon. Knocking off one Trailhead badge can do wonders for you, giving you an endorphin rush while brushing up on your skills.


Mind-Body Fitness and Salesforce Trailhead


Remember that fitness of mind and body belong together; taking time to exercise both will  enable you to learn and perform at your peak, while maintaining your health and well-being. What are some strategies or techniques that work for you? Want to share your experiences or opinions? Please feel free to reach out on the Arkus Facebook page, in the comments below, in the Success Community, or to me directly via Twitter at @sfdcclicks.