You are using an older browser that might negatively affect how this site is displayed. Please update to a modern browser to have a better experience. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Getting Integrated: A Closer Look at Nonprofit Program Management


Nonprofit organizations perform important and very challenging work, and it’s becoming more critical than ever to not only demonstrate the impact of that work to stakeholders but also track program effectiveness. Of course, this relies on a system of data collection, processing, and reporting –– something that’s been manual for many organizations.

In an ideal world, however, nonprofits would have access to a cloud-based solution that automates this important process and provides everyone, regardless of location, direct line of sight into this data.  In doing so, this can create greater cohesion and connection across nonprofits with multi-location chapters, eliminate the silos that plague many organizations, and improve reporting, outreach, and collaboration. Luckily, this is no longer out of reach for most nonprofits. And this is where tools like Salesforce’s Program Management solution come into play.

In this edition of Getting Integrated, Dylan Ebersole, the Nonprofit Practice Lead at MST Solutions, answers questions about the challenges nonprofits face today, how technology is changing the industry, and how nonprofit program management software can be used to improve nonprofit programs.

Here’s the full transcript:

What are the greatest challenges nonprofits face today?

Today, I would say that dealing with COVID-19, has brought in a new challenge for nonprofits. You see a lot more virtual fundraising events and virtual services. For example, we work with some nonprofits that give mentoring and guidance to high school students and college students. Those sessions are now virtual.

But generally speaking, one of the big challenges has always been that nonprofits are working with various systems and have different people manage different processes. You get a bit of a siloed experience — you’re not connecting all of the pieces. You may have your donors in one place, and volunteers and the people you serve in another system. You don’t get a full picture of how the constituent engages with the nonprofit organization.

How is technology changing the way nonprofits operate?

Technology lets nonprofit organizations get a more holistic view of the people they engage with. In one place, they can see donations, volunteer efforts, and the services the nonprofit offers up to its constituents. Prior to a technology platform, that information might have been siloed in different places or kept in Excel sheets. Data and insights were often shared via email, limiting the visibility. Technology expands the view and makes it accessible to those who need this insight to inform decisions.

Why is program management so important to the success of a nonprofit?

Better program management helps program directors better understand which of their programs are successful and then make adjustments to better fit the need. Having it in a system where donors and volunteers are managed as well, helps create a more complete picture in one place. All of this data in one place empowers nonprofit leaders to make decisions quickly that help improve their programs and, ultimately, achieve the outcomes they’re looking for.

What is nonprofit program management software?

It’s simply a framework in Salesforce for nonprofits to track their programs, services, service deliveries, and groups that are impacted by what they’re offering. Program management software helps the organization track program engagement and impact so they can make better decisions.

What are the benefits of investing in program management software?

It improves the visibility of programs and the ability to track and report. Program management software helps organizations more quickly understand the impact they’re having and share those results with nonprofit leadership, donors, and the board. It also helps them share the information with people that work at that nonprofit, and show them the work they’re doing, all in one place.

What is an example of how program management software is being used?

MST Solutions is working with a nonprofit organization that helps high schoolers achieve post-secondary success. The organization provides mentoring and guidance, and they needed to understand the program outcomes. They wanted to get some baseline data and, over time, see if they’re positively impacting whether students go to college or not. They’re tracking the program using the Salesforce Program Management Module, as well as collect data from the national student clearinghouse to see whether they’ve been enrolled in college or not. Having both of those features gives them the ability to quickly see results and whether the program is successful or not, and where it’s successful.

What are the primary challenges of implementing program management software?

One of the big challenges for nonprofits is understanding how to organize programs and the different groups that benefit from those programs. Planning out that structure on the front end is really important. That’s where Salesforce consultants and partners come into play. We discover exactly what they’re looking to do, how they’re tracking it today, and figure out how we can migrate their existing data into that program management structure and organize it for the future. This helps them report on things easily and better track what’s going on with their program.

Can nonprofits start on a smaller scale with Salesforce?

Salesforce is very scalable. Organizations can start with just a handful of licenses and a need for very little storage. But, it’s built for scalability. If in time the organization grows and has a hundred people, or hundreds of people and lots of contacts, organizations to track, and complexity, the platform can scale and can support the need for growth.

How does a solution like Salesforce support reporting?

Salesforce allows for reporting in specific areas like program engagement or donations, but it also allows for cross reporting. For example, you can find out how many volunteers are also donors, or how much the typical volunteer donates. Salesforce brings information that may have historically been siloed into one report and quickly analyze it.

How do those reports support more impactful program management?

Better insights always lead to better decision making. Knowing more information about your programs and the impact they’re having, as well as areas where they’re not doing as well helps organizations make decisions quickly. Ultimately, that information leads to better outcomes.