When you think of harnessing the power of technology, the first industry sector that leaps to mind might not be nonprofits. But Coastal Cloud, a cloud-based information technology services and business consulting firm, is an organization that appreciates that it’s not just Fortune 500 businesses that have been transformed by the digital era – or can benefit from it.
Caitlin Thomas, Coastal Cloud’s Director of Nonprofit Solutions, who joined the company in August 2017, said she has spent the last ten years of her career in nonprofit technology, a business sector that now comprises 20 percent of Coastal Cloud’s clientele. Previously, Thomas worked as an account executive for nonprofit customers using Salesforce.org, the nonprofit serving arm of Salesforce.com., meaning she is intimately familiar with the sector’s information technology needs.
“The number one hurdle for nonprofits is the evaluation and the buying process. Selecting what product to use that will meet its individual needs can be overwhelming.” But Thomas said Coastal Cloud is an excellent choice for nonprofits to consider for several reasons.
“One is our ability to be nimble in the industry,” she said. “We are very education- and empowerment-focused through the buying process. We take the time to explain options and to educate about evaluation and best practices of nonprofits,” she said, something not all their competitors do, added Thomas.
“Many implementation partners or technology vendors just want to get the contract across the line, so they bring out the dog-and-pony show, showing all the bells and whistles even if they would be too expensive, time-consuming or not what some nonprofits could maintain,” said Thomas.
Goodwill of Kentucky
When Goodwill of Kentucky needed to explore the possibility of a new database technology solution, Coastal Cloud was chosen as their new vendor, winning the bid “hands down,” said Lori Collins, Goodwill’s Vice President, East Division.
“Being a nonprofit, we work with individuals to help move them out of poverty and to provide different programs that can help with that. In order to make good decisions about how we run our mission-based business, we need to have good, reliable data at our fingertips to track outcomes on programs we offer,” said Collins. She said the Coastal Cloud team spent several hours with them to demo several features “and help us get our heads wrapped around it.”
Collins said her team has been “beyond satisfied” with Coastal Cloud’s service and expertise. “I feel like they’ve really taken the time to understand who we are, what we do and why we do what we do, and then they applied that knowledge into developing a product for us that truly meets our need. It really feels like they’re on our team,” she said.
Platinum level certified
Thomas said that Coastal Cloud’s expertise in technology solutions for nonprofits is top-drawer, noting that they are one of the few partners that is platinum level-certified in both salesforce.com and salesforce.org platforms, with both for-profit and non-profit experience. “Many nonprofits have a profit-making arm or do e-commerce, like many ministries or mission systems. If you host e-commerce where single moms in Nigeria re-sell their goods, that’s a for-profit model. But if that organization also has development and fundraising and social services, we have experience to handle both. As someone who has worked with many partners when I was an account executive for Salesforce, this is unique to Coastal Cloud,” said Thomas.
One hidden gem that many nonprofits don’t know about, said Thomas, is that Salesforce.org offers a free existing architecture of Salesforce for nonprofits called the Nonprofit Success Pack. “It is built, funded, supported and maintained for free by Salesforce.org. It’s an amazing offering that really speaks to the nonprofit language of fundraising, programs and social services,” she said.
With funders expecting ever-higher accountability from nonprofits, many organizations struggle with data and tracking outcomes. Often, data is not “actionable” because it is not accurate or not all sitting in one place or on one system, explained Thomas. But the nonprofit director said Coastal Cloud can help nonprofits develop ways to demonstrate their effectiveness. “Salesforce customers are very competitive in the funding space because of their ability to report accurately. We can automate reports to be emailed to your funders on a weekly or even a daily basis if needed.”
Thomas said that she gets satisfaction from translating technology for nonprofits so they can succeed. “Why I do this is so that the people who are working for nonprofits can focus on mission and who they serve, and not have technology holding them back,” she said. “I would hate to see kids in poorer areas not have access to technology because the area nonprofits that serve them don’t understand or have access to it. That’s why I love what I do. I want as fair a playing field as possible.”