Want more practice learning Salesforce? Don’t have experience beyond Trailhead? Build an app to help you track good or bad habits. This is a win-win-win: hone your app builder skills, improve your habits, and you’ll have a cool app to show off in job interviews.
Salesforce Skills Used
Create a custom object and fields
Create dashboard components
Make it mobile friendly
Problem solving: how to turn real life issues into measurable data
Send email every 3 days with stats
Bonus: Screen flow for easy tracking
My version: Migraine Tracking App
Forget record-triggered flows or apex triggers. The real demons are migraine triggers. I want to build an app to track when I have one of my trigger foods and when I have symptoms.
I have a threshold for tolerance of delicious triggers. I can eat some chocolate, dairy or red wine without reaching the threshold and getting sick, but I don’t know what the threshold is. Can building my own tracking app help?
Before the proverbial ink dried on the first article on why you shouldn’t Salesforce volunteer at a nonprofit, I could already sense the exceptions the community would raise that I didn’t have the time to address. The Salesforce Trailblazer Community, after all, is made up of passionate tech nerds who have a keen eye in finding exceptions to things. It’s in our nature since we have to sniff out those nuances to be great at what we do.
Folks sent in anecdotes, counter-points, and personal stories about how their experiences were mutually beneficial and what I put out there was a disservice to the nonprofit world. My opinion is that those experiences are the exception, and don’t reflect the greater trend of nonprofits that are harmed when a volunteer is only using them to get experience.
Nevertheless, there is merit in the exceptions raised. So, this follow-up aims to address those exceptions, and clarify when it is a good idea to Salesforce volunteer at a nonprofit.
First, go through this checklist before you ever touch a nonprofit’s Salesforce instance:
Answer: Why do you want to volunteer at this nonprofit? What is about their mission that resonates with you?
If you answered “it doesn’t matter, I just want to gain experience,” then read this article. Come back when your answer is clearer.
1. You have an experienced mentor willing to help and/or they have a Salesforce admin on staff.
This is the best case scenario that covers two pain points that many in the community have echoed.
Having someone senior by your side to sanity check your strategy, thoughts and deliverables ensures that what you build is actually useful and will be used by the org. This mentor should be someone in the NPSP community.
Having someone on staff not only signals the nonprofit’s investment in the project, but also serves as your single point of contact so that you’re not spinning your wheels chasing down answers when you could be building an amazing solution instead.
The bottom line is that expectations are key. If people don’t have a skill in something, they shouldn’t use nonprofit resources to attain that skill, but if they do it carefully with help from those who know what they are doing (hub, or a mentor), it can be helpful.
I actually feel that volunteering your time towards a non profit is a great way to learn Salesforce. With that said, I absolutely DON’T think that a new person should be doing an implementation especially without direct guidance. If someone is new to Salesforce and are volunteering their time to a non profit the non profit should either have a dedicated Salesforce admin on staff that the volunteer reports to, or the volunteer should be matched with an experienced mentor at a consulting firm who can dedicate the time to ensuring they are successful.
Tip: Make sure all changes are documented and accessible, because they will have follow-up questions. That leads me to my next point.
2. You’re available to unpretzel your mistakes.
If you’re in it for the long haul with this nonprofit, then you’ll be around to help troubleshoot, train, and make sure the users are set up for success. Eventually, they’ll find mistakes, want more functionality, and have general questions. If you’re not around indefinitely to help, make your time commitment clear from the beginning and ensure all parties agree to this before starting any work.
Set a deadline for reviewing if it’s working and evaluate its success (ie. in 3 months we will sit down and review progress). Open-ended is usually a recipe for problems. The volunteer should make a 6-month commitment for a specified number of hours each week/month. If they can’t make that commitment for that length of time, then they shouldn’t do it.
Tip: Keep the project very simple — define the engagement as setting up NPSP to track fundraising. Or setting up volunteer management. Nothing fancy.
3. They approach you and are explicitly and specifically asking for help.
You still need to tread lightly here. In my experience, most users aren’t aware of what they’re asking for, let alone nonprofits who are diving into the world of Salesforce NPSP for the first time. The worst case scenario here is the blind leading the blind with the best of intentions.
The nonprofit needs help but doesn’t have clear requirements or a strategy, and the volunteer is willing to help but is inexperienced. That is a big hot mess waiting to happen.
I generally tell people that want to go this route to pick a nonprofit that has existing infrastructure and can support an intern or a volunteer, then ask politely.
Otherwise, I tell people to start with the PTA in their local public school. It is an easy nonprofit that a lot of people have access to — particularly people with children. Approach the school’s PTA board, ask them how they track fundraising, see what they say, and if they say Excel or something like it, suggest that maybe you can help with this thing called Salesforce that is free for up to 10 users for them. The PTA is always my go to for this type of self-serving learning on the job because odds are the PTA will take all the help they can get, they won’t move to anything permanent as the stakeholders are continuously changing on PTAs, and hopefully whatever comes of it is helpful.
Don’t forget your own mental health when jumping to help a nonprofit. You can’t pour water from an empty glass, and overcommitting even with the best of intentions can ultimately be tough on everyone. If you find yourself desperate for work experience, try to find your own center before reaching out. People can generally sense your emotional state and being frantic can put off other people.
Tip: Spend 90% of your volunteer time having conversations with the team, and 10% on building the solution. Dig into what business pain they’re trying to solve, and what success looks like for them. Be diligent to help paint a picture of how you can help transform the way they work.
Other options to gain experience
Go through a volunteer platform where the nonprofit knows what they’re getting themselves into. Here, they have a deeper sense of what they need and are specifically making a call out to the community for help. Go help!
The flow will display either a photo or remind you to upload one. On any object!
How It Works:
The Flow looks for a file attached to that record with the title “SalesforcePhoto” (or another phrase of your choosing).
The File gets the title from the name of the file when you upload it. If you upload SalesforcePhoto.jpg, the title becomes “SalesforcePhoto.” You could also open the File details in Salesforce and change the title.
Invocable methods used with Flow allow you to launch something in an admin friendly format that uses the massive power of Apex. For example, you have an intake screen that collects answers to a few questions, then you use Apex to loop through many related records dispersing those answers in places hard to reach from Flow.
Creating an invocable method in a nutshell: First you write an apex class with @invocable method (label and description) and whatever code you want the apex to do (easy, right?) Then make your Flow including your input and output variables. Then add an Apex action in Flow to send/receive those variables.
Here are some things I learned about sending data between Flow and Apex.
Record Collection Variable
List containing 1 sObject record
Record (single) variable
List of Lists of sObject
Record Collection Variable
This is NOT an exhaustive list at all. I didn’t try sending a record variable (not just the ID from Flow), but I assume that will work. There are also generic sObjects that are pretty special, but I didn’t try.
“Here is the use case: sending a family of a deceased relative one letter with all the names of people who have donated in memoriam. So, one letter to the family for many people who gave. Client is a large hospice so this is happening weekly. Open to different options — apps? exports & merge? other? Thanks!”
Broad use case: Use the new Collection Sort feature in Flow to find a specific number of records that meet your criteria, and sort them with one or more criteria (criterion?)
Example use cases: I want my top 3 open opps to have a giant dollar sign image on them or I want to automatically nudge/shame the five users who logged in least last month or I want to focus a campaign on my most active volunteers in the summer.
Our specific case: I want to look at a contact record in Nonprofit Success Pack and see immediately that they are one of my top ten donors.