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The virtual scout hall powered by Salesforce

Peter Griffin

Peter Griffin

Adopting Salesforce during the pandemic, SCOUTS New Zealand was able to take scout meetings virtual for thousands of young people and volunteers and lay the groundwork for a data-driven approach to scouting.

Snapshot

  • Salesforce allowed SCOUTS New Zealand to stay connected with its young members and adult volunteers during lockdown through chat groups and online learning tools.
  • The new Community Cloud platform will replace outdated systems to give managers a single view of member records, events management, safety protocols and donor engagement.
  • SCOUTS New Zealand now has the core infrastructure in place to pursue its goal of engaging 25,000 young people as members by 2025.

“Salesforce is what will allow us to scale up to support 25,000 members without having to add substantial headcount. That’s worth its weight in gold.” – Joshua Tabor, Chief Executive Officer, SCOUTS New Zealand 

SCOUTS New Zealand chief executive Joshua Tabor wishes he’d moved the organisation to Salesforce years ago.

Back in 2017, with a new digital strategy in place, SCOUTS New Zealand went looking for a better way to manage records on the 14,000 Scouts, Keas, Cubs, Venturers and Rovers who are part of the movement, as well as the 5,000-strong band of volunteers essential to the scouting movement.

“The problem was that we faced a cash crunch at the time,” says Tabor.

“I thought we just couldn’t afford it. But hindsight suggests we’d have saved ourselves a lot of money and time if we had moved to Salesforce back then,” he adds.

The Wellington-based nonprofit, which has been offering adventurous, fun and challenging activities to young New Zealanders since 1908, soldiered on for a few years with several ageing software applications and databases that were increasingly less fit for purpose.

“We had a national database coded by a volunteer way back when. Our police vetting and charitable donor records sat in other systems,” explains Tabor. 

“We’d inherited these pieces of tech that no longer worked properly.”

With SCOUTS New Zealand unveiling an ambitious plan to almost double its youth membership to 25,000 by 2025, a scalable system to support rapid growth was urgently needed.

A pressing problem

But by the time Tabor was finally able to sign off on a move to Salesforce, the world’s leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, a major new problem faced scouts – Covid-19.

All over the country, scout halls fell silent as New Zealand entered level-4 lockdown. Every business, nonprofit and government department had to move to remote and online working virtually overnight.

Thousands of scouts had activity work to complete in order to gain the badges they proudly wear to show their achievements. Tramping trips for later in the year still needed to be organised. But going online posed a specific problem for SCOUTS New Zealand.

“You can’t just have young people working on Discord or Facebook as those platforms don’t support the same child protection policies that we require,” says Tabor.

The decision was made to accelerate the move to Salesforce. The contract was signed in late March and the system went live in early May. It featured a member record for every scout and volunteer in the country.

“Crucially, using Salesforce Community Cloud, we were also able to set up 1,000 separate Chatter groups including around 11,000 people, all but the youngest of our members,” says Tabor.

The groups, which members could log into via a web browser, used Salesforce content filtering and account permissions tools offering a child-safe environment for scouts to meet virtually and collaborate on projects.

“People would post videos to substantiate the badge work that they had done. We used an online learning app from the Salesforce App Store to manage that. We also had people posting updates, starting polls, organising tramps,” says Tabor.

The power of Community Cloud

For Salesforce New Zealand Managing Director, Craig Skinner, the exceptional aspect of the SCOUTS New Zealand project with 17 full-time employees and over 13,000 members and users, was deploying an enterprise solution in less than six weeks. 

“In order for a project and timeline like this to be successful, there has to be a very clear understanding of project objectives on what they were looking to solve, exceptional executive buy-in from the chief executive and leadership team, and trust and alignment with the partner implementation team who was building the solution,” says Skinner.

“This was a great example of how those elements all came together.”

Serving 47,000 nonprofits worldwide, Saleforce offers a trusted and flexible platform that allows organisations to innovate and drive success no matter what size or stage of their business they are in. The social impact team at Salesforce.org also provides donated and discounted licensing for Salesforce technology. 

“So for nonprofits like SCOUTS New Zealand, they are able to operate on Salesforce’s innovative, world-class technology for a fraction of the costs, providing them with a platform to grow their operations and overall, social and community impact,” says Skinner.

Easy member management

The rapid shift online for SCOUTS New Zealand will advance further in August when a smartphone app, based on the Salesforce Mobile Publisher platform, is launched allowing each volunteer to manage their Scout group from their smartphone.

Says Tabor: “For our volunteers, it will take the hassle out of the admin they need to do. If you’d asked us, as a small not for profit if we could provide an app, I’d have said, ‘no way’.”

Salesforce now underpins Mahi Tahi, the membership portal for SCOUTS New Zealand and for the first time, the organisation has access to data analytics that will increasingly deliver insights to help the organisation better engage its membership.

Designed to scale

Valuable metrics around scout attendance and retention will inform activities and as scouts graduate from the movement as adults, there is now an easier way to keep them engaged as volunteers and potential donors.

With the Scouting movement organising around 9,000 events across the country in a regular year, Saleforce’s process automation technology will radically simplify the organisation’s to keep on top of risk management, from camping permits to child protection and health and safety.

The organisation is also now well-placed to deal with disruption to scouts events caused by further outbreaks of Covid-19.

“Salesforce is what will allow us to scale up to support 25,000 members without having to add substantial headcount. That’s worth its weight in gold,” says Tabor.

“We are a stroppy nonprofit that runs really lean. This is exactly what we needed.”

Peter Griffin

Peter Griffin

Peter Griffin has been a journalist for over 20 years, covering the latest trends in technology and science for leading NZ media. He has also founded Science Media Centre and established Australasia's largest science blogging platform, Sciblogs.co.nz.

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