Questions We Asked, and Were Asked, at the Habitat for Humanity Affiliates Conference
Questions We Asked, and Were Asked, at the Habitat for Humanity Affiliates Conference

Questions We Asked, and Were Asked, at the Habitat for Humanity Affiliates Conference

03/21/2024 by Andrew Fretwell
After a week with hundreds of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates in Atlanta with Salesforce, we reflect upon what we learned from, and with, them.

A key group of the Arkus team, myself included and three of my esteemed and certified teammates — Cate Howes, Zoe Waldridge, and Emily Baert - made the trip to Atlanta in March for the annual conference run by Habitat for Humanity International.

We’re proud to be a partner to Habitat Affiliates Wake County, San Fransisco, and Houston among others, and after the inspiring turn-out for our virtual Pro Bono Day last year for housing-focused organizations, we were excited to connect with hundreds of Habitat for Humanity team members in person to continue our learning. 

During the day we swapped questions and stories with an incredible array of nonprofit admins and leaders. We heard some amazing inquiries and walked away with powerful insight ourselves. Here are the top four questions we asked and were asked. Still have questions after reading through these? Find ways to get more support at the end of this piece. 

We asked: How do you manage all these data sources?

TLDR: We can do better. 

Every Habitat for Humanity affiliate navigates a very complicated, and usually very siloed, set of data sources and tools to accommodate a myriad of functions that each affiliate serves. First is the common nonprofit data stack to support finance, HR, marketing, fundraising, volunteer management, and program management. 

Beyond that, affiliates follow the entire journey of their homeowners from mortgage application, to real estate acquisition and purchasing, construction management, homeowner sweat equity, and loan satisfaction. We at Arkus are crafting an approach we call the “Unified Homeowner” to bring all this data from multiple sources into a single view…more on that in a future blog post.

And that is just one side of an affiliate's operations! Affiliates also run restores, Habitat’s retail hardware stores, which requires a point of sales tracking, loyalty programs, shift management, etc. 

And because Habitat thinks not just about addressing housing injustice, but tackling public policy to address it systemically, there is also an entire advocacy side that requires a different sort of engagement, marketing, and tracking need.

Putting all this together what do you have? A lot of data systems, and probably a lot of Excel sheets floating around, none of which are current and accurate. That creates inefficiencies and headaches - and exactly where Salesforce differentiates itself from most other tools, not as the best data silo out there, but the uniter of your data sources.

We were asked: Should I be worried about Habitat International’s Fundraising 2.0 Plan?

TLDR: Not at all…at least if you’re using Salesforce for fundraising.

Throughout the week, questions we frequently got while sitting outside the Exhibitors’ Hall were around the newly proposed “Fundraising 2.0” plan that Habitat International is putting forward. 

The question we got the most was — do we need to be on Raisers Edge to provide the reporting requirements under this plan? The answer to that is an emphatic NO. 

Simple reporting and easy exporting are deep in the wheelhouse of Salesforce. Any Salesforce instance used for fundraising via the Nonprofit Success Pack or Nonprofit Cloud that is well configured can easily provide for the reporting needs that Habitat International requires from affiliates as part of its fundraising proposal.

We were asked: Is it time for us to think about a refresh of our Salesforce instance?

TLDR: Probably!

Another common question we got from affiliate team members went something like this…”We set up Salesforce a while ago with the donated licenses. But it wasn’t set up very well and no one who was here when we set it up is still around. So now we don’t use it even though we should, can you help us? Other affiliates approached us curious to get our thoughts on the introduction of the new Nonprofit Cloud, and what it meant for them.

Whether you feel like your Salesforce is a riddle from 5 years ago that no one can remember how to solve, or if you’re itching to see how you can get more out of your widely used instance, this is a great time to take a step back and speak with some experts about how you utilize Salesforce and what the art of the possible is for your affiliate with Salesforce - either through looking to Nonprofit Cloud, adopting data unification tools like Mulesoft, Data Cloud, or Tableau, or through leaping with Salesforce into the newest data frontier of Artificial Intelligence!

We asked: What’s the secret sauce of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates?

TLDR: Good People and Great Purpose!

Throughout the week, our team was struck by two things. The first was the sense of joy that permeated all our discussions and the joyful energy that was ubiquitous at keynotes, sessions, and even casual conversations in the hallways. No matter what the topic was, conversations were upbeat, if not determined and clear-eyed, and laughter was everywhere. Old friends and new ones chatted each other up in the lobby and connections, both professional and social, were being made everywhere we looked. Even when witnessing contentious disagreements, we never saw anyone being disagreeable. To borrow from a cliche, “Habitat for Humanity is great because its people are good.”

The other thing that struck us was how the clarity and sincerity of purpose that Habitat for Humanity champions so authentically poured out of everyone present. Whether exploring the struggle of black home ownership, discussing best practices to ensure local community involvement in building decisions, or on how to most effectively engage donors to amplify impact, the purpose of Habitat for Humanity was a binding force that seemed stronger than gravity. 

While we were struck by the goodness and commitment to purpose at this conference, we were not surprised. Arkus has worked with many Habitat for Humanity affiliates and even has former Habitat staffers on our team! Across all our Habitat clients and partners, we have seen hard-working nonprofiteers of high moral character and integrity, without exception. That is why we at Arkus are so devoted to serving the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate community and look forward to growing our existing Habitat for Humanity practice in 2024.

If you are part of the Habitat for Humanity community and want to discuss how Arkus can support your Salesforce and data needs, reach out to us and say hi! We welcome and appreciate every opportunity we have to grow our understanding and support of the work you do.