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Some of the best conversations are inspired by sitting around the fire and thinking of possibilities and visions – large and small.

In this episode, Kyle catches up with Katie McFadden from Common Voyage and Ryan Ozimek from Picnet/Soapbox Engage after the Dreamforce conference from Salesforce, to learn their impressions and what they will be looking for in the next few years from Salesforce for Nonprofits.

This conversation centers on integrating Salesforce into the way nonprofits work, and integrating Salesforce into the activities that are driving their nonprofit impact. Along the way this conversation may function a little like therapy for those watching Salesforce’s products and platforms for nonprofits change; if that is where you are too, please join this trio as they work it out.

Our Fireside Chats are designed for audiences with varied experiences with technology. In this Fireside Chat with Katie McFadden and Ryan Ozimek on Dreamforce, learn more about what nonprofits can expect from Salesforce, and how Salesforce integrated with your organization can be transformative.

Katie McFadden and Ryan Ozimek on Dreamforce: Transcription

Kyle Haines: Welcome to Transforming Nonprofits. I’m your host, Kyle Haynes. This episode’s a little different than the episodes we’ve done in the past because this episode is focused on a specific vendor and it benefits from having two folks that are incredibly well versed in how this vendor has come to be such an important player in the nonprofit technology space.

In this episode, we talk about Salesforce, and my guests are Katie McFadden from Common Voyage and Ryan Ozimek from PICnet/Soapbox Engage, both leading firms that help nonprofits integrate Salesforce into the way they work, and ideally integrate Salesforce into the activities that are driving impact at those nonprofits.

I’ve known Katie and Ryan for many years, and the insights they have, the perspectives they have, and the experiences they have always are prompters for me. I’m excited for this episode. I can’t wait for all of you to learn more about what these announcements mean. And with that, let’s get into this episode of Transforming Nonprofits.

Katie and Ryan, so first of all, thank you both for making time today. I was at Dreamforce, obviously you both were at Dreamforce. I know what a crazy, crazy time it is, and I know coming out of Dreamforce how busy you are and it just takes a ton of energy to do Dreamforce. So thank you both. For those of you who don’t know Ryan and Katie, I think we’ve known each other for 10 years. Does that sound right?

Ryan Ozimek:  50, when we’re talking about you, it just feels like forever, Kyle.

Kyle Haines:  Well, I saw a picture in my iPhone of the first weekend that we were hanging out, and it was me and David and Justin and Beth, like in a rental car. And I think that was 2017. So my math’s off, but it’s been a while. I’ve known you both for, as Ryan said, for way, way, way too long.

I wanted to bring you both to today’s conversation, because I’ve learned a lot from both of you and we’ve had these really organic discussions, disagreements, areas of agreement, areas of alignment, charging forward, and I’m just really hoping to learn more from both of you what your perspectives on Dreamforce were from last week, just to balance them against things I heard and things I’ve been seeing.

And my hope is that what people can learn from today’s conversation, well, I’m thinking a couple things. People listening to today’s conversation might be people that already are on Salesforce or people who are thinking about moving to Salesforce. And I think both of your perspectives are invaluable as people make that decision and consider what it means for their organization.

Ryan and Katie are nodding vigorously, like you’re nailing it, Kyle. That’s exactly what we can do. So really high expectations for both of you.

Ryan Ozimek:  Yes.

Kyle Haines:  Yes. We will do that. Ryan and Katie, I’m curious for people who don’t know what the hullabaloo around Nonprofit Cloud is. Can both of you, either one of you, give the audience a sense of what is Nonprofit Cloud?

Katie’s pointing at Ryan. Ryan, would you please tell the audience the assembled masses what Nonprofit Cloud is?

Katie McFadden:  It’s relevant that he’s presented this at multiple conferences, so that’s what I’m pointing at him.

Ryan Ozimek:  Well, first of all, Kyle, there’s no other podcast that I’d rather be on right now than yours, so thank you.

And second, it’s a big question right now because I think that a lot of organizations are asking themselves, how is this different from where we came from? You know, the Salesforce Nonprofit Ecosystem and the tool Salesforce has been providing to the community for around 15 plus years or so. So when you say nonprofit and you say cloud and you say Salesforce, you say, well, this is where we’ve been for 15 years, right?

And I feel as though there’s a significant shift happening where Salesforce is looking at its tech stack and what it can provide to the nonprofit community and saying, well, gosh, if we treat the nonprofit community as if it’s part of the larger Salesforce ecosystem beyond nonprofits, what if we gave them all those great tools, but specifically for the Nonprofit space to the nonprofit community, and essentially rebuild a lot of what we learned the last decade using these new tools? Like that’s the Nonprofit Cloud. That’s what we’re seeing today from a very pragmatic, practical perspective.

And they’re rolling out new features all the time but it’s taking from the last decade plus of experiences they’ve had in serving the nonprofit community, but using the newest industry focused tools that they’ve been either acquiring or building in the last, say, two to five years at the very highest level.

Maybe Katie can get more specific.

Kyle Haines:  Katie, how did he do? Is there anything you’d add to that?

Katie McFadden:  Well, I think he did a beautiful job because the hardest part for me about answering this kind of question is that there’s so many different layers to what’s happening.

There’s a philosophical product direction layer. How does this affect large nonprofits? How does it affect small nonprofits? What’s the reality for an early adopter of cutting edge technology versus someone who’s been on the same structure for 10 years and doesn’t want the changes? How is your internal culture? There’s just so many different aspects to what’s happening.

There’s a political layer, there’s an emotional layer, there’s a technical layer. And so I think this is a really hard question to answer because it’s kind of like, oh, well, who’s asking? Which part of that mayhem do people want to know about? So I really agree with Ryan’s overarching overview of it.

Personally, I tend first to look at it as a technical layer, putting aside the politics, putting aside the emotions. I’m honed in on this new product, the Nonprofit Cloud coming from the Nonprofit Success Pack world. How is it the same or different? And how is it going to land with the folks we work with at small to medium nonprofits? I think we’re in a space where there’s a lot of unknowns. So that is a hard time to make decisions or to feel confident in knowing anything. So that’s a bit where my awareness is honed in, in the big picture of everything going on.

Kyle Haines:  Will you say a little more about the emotional part? I’m curious about that.

Katie McFadden:  Yeah. Well, Ryan and I, and a lot of people from the community talked about this during Dreamforce around a friend of ours, Samantha Shane. People have put so much sweat equity into the Nonprofit Success Pack and there’s a mourning going on because  it felt like a carnival, like building that tool was a long road with a lot of passion and contribution. And now that it’s not being invested in, presumably it’s being maintained at a minimal level, but it’s not being invested in. The wind has gone out of the sails of that product and there’s not much to hold onto, because there’s this behemoth new product that has many unknowns.

So emotionally, I think a lot of folks are feeling like they’ve lost something. There hasn’t been much addressing that emotion that mourning for the community and there’s not anything to hold onto yet.

Kyle Haines:  I’m curious, Ryan, why you’re nodding as Katie said, there’s not much to hold onto yet. What comes up for you as Katie says this, and does this feel a lot like couples therapy for both of you?

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, I was thinking that way. I just felt resolved right there, how you did that.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah. Thank you. Ryan, I’d like you to repeat back what Katie just said and make sure that you’re listening to hear the words. (laughter) No, I’m really curious.

Katie McFadden:  Can you just acknowledge that emotion I have.

Kyle Haines:  I mean, I could lead you a little bit, Ryan, I know that you’re invested a lot in Nonprofit Success Pack. But I saw you nodding and I’m curious what resonated for you and what Katie said?

Ryan Ozimek:  I spent most of my professional career being very passionate about what communities can develop on their own. And so, when I first came to the Salesforce ecosystem in 2007, there wasn’t a Nonprofit Success Pack. There wasn’t a Nonprofit Starter Pack, there was barely a nonprofit template. It was just a bunch of folks tinkering around to say, hey, what could we do with a powerful tool that could be leveraged for nonprofits?

For me it’s that open source spirit and the Nonprofit Success Pack, for people that don’t know, the code is completely open source, anybody can see it, request to make contributions to it, request changes to it, it’s been there for a decade plus. And I feel like one of the things that has been an emotional challenge has the community going from a group of passionate empowered contributors to the success of the community, to less enabled consumers.

And I feel like, as the community is making this switch, because the new code base I don’t believe is open source and it’s not really community source driven, it’s just very different. And I think from an emotional aspect, there’s that shift in dynamic from being we are contributors to making this better, to we are consumers that are providing some feedback, but ultimately all of the control and all the development is happening directly from Salesforce. And I think from that open source perspective, that is a challenge. There’s a certain community of folks that were attracted to that and now those folks have a different role and I think that is jostling for a lot of people.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah. And so is it fair to infer from what you’re saying that the Nonprofit Cloud is a much more productized offering that is productized by Salesforce, as opposed to something that is more community developed? Is this an evolution for them that you’ve seen? Or part of an evolution you’ve seen, I should say?

Ryan Ozimek:  Yeah, I think so. I’d be interested to hear Katie’s thoughts too about that.

One of the biggest differences about the new technology that a lot of this stuff is being built on, is it has always had additional costs for solutions outside of the scope of the nonprofit ecosystem. And they’re really powerful. If you just zoomed in and you didn’t have a million billion nonprofits that are already using Salesforce, and you said, what is the most elegant proper technology stack for them to be able to leverage the most on this technology? Like it actually might be all the underpinnings of the Nonprofit Cloud, but from that productized closed source perspective, I think it’s a bit more challenging to get the endorsement and the support of a community of contributors.

I don’t know Katie, if that’s how you have sensed it as well?

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, I feel like there’s this new product, there’s a negotiation going on and on the one side there’s Salesforce wanting to streamline and put everyone in the same house. And I philosophically can get behind that philosophy. I think that makes sense. It definitely makes sense for them and it’s kind of a backhouse, it makes sense with all the layoffs, it just streamlines their whole backhouse and the negotiation is okay. And we benefit from that in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of tools we’re inheriting in this new product that are amazing that we’ve never had before.

The other side of the negotiation is, how are we different from the things that are known in the core industry’s cloud? You know, how does that not work for us? And that’s a tricky negotiation. I feel pretty disempowered in that negotiation—because of the lack of community piece. There’s both sides of this, how we move forward together using the industry’s cloud, but also respecting how we’re different and how we need different tools from financial cloud or healthcare cloud or public sector cloud.

I don’t feel like we’re having those conversations between the community and Salesforce. I think they’re kind of just giving a directive and I think those conversations will inevitably happen because if this product is a huge flop, they’ll have to acquiesce and hear and adjust, but it’s not very collaborative at this point, I think because they’re just rushing to get the most basic thing out the door that aligns with this new philosophy.

Kyle Haines:  Am I understanding what both of you said? That part of the concern is that it’s a double-sided coin? I think that’s what you said, Katie, that by treating it as more of an industry solution, in some ways it might be positive that something could get leverage from another industry cloud. But the concern is, and I’ll use not a great example, is that they leverage something from the automobile cloud if that’s really a thing. And like that doesn’t really work for the nonprofit community. We don’t think about people that way.

Is that sort of the gist of what both of you are sharing is around some of the unknowns right now and how Salesforce is going to approach that?

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’ll give you a specific example around households, which is one of the parts that I fear the most. There’s households in the Financial Services Cloud because there’s intergenerational wealth and it’s cool to piggyback on that. And in my exploration of it, people are literally building it. The complexity that they need [for larger organizations] introduces a complexity that a small nonprofit is going to really struggle with. And so there’s a negotiation, right? And I don’t feel like we’re having that conversation. We’re just getting Financial Services Cloud sense of the household.

Ryan Ozimek:  I think there’s also going to be a big challenge. I’m betting that the overwhelming majority of the organizations that are currently using Salesforce that are in the nonprofit space will tend to be on the smaller end of the spectrum, not the larger end of the spectrum. And my concern is, is this over-engineering for the needs of those smaller organizations?

You know, one of the things that people often say, or they point to will be, well, look how easy it is. You’re stuck in a larger other ecosystem proprietary tool and you want to customize a simple report – that has always been very easy to be able to do just quickly out of the box in Salesforce. And people are wowed by how cool and easy it is to do that. They don’t need complex reports, they just need to be able to change them point and click and be able to see it refresh.

That’s going to be more challenging in a more complicated data model, to be able to do things on the platform based on these new complex data models and solutions they’ve got. And in addition to that, being on a platform means you should be getting the benefits of all these great apps in the ecosystem that will obviously change over time, but over the course of the next couple of years, it might be a bit challenging to be able to get all the benefit out of the data model underlying this. It is just more complex and more unique for the nonprofit community rather than leveraging more of the standard objects and data models that existed in Salesforce. So those are some of the headwinds I think that are right in front of it.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean the thing that I wonder, piggybacking on something you said, Katie, is what makes a large nonprofit from a data model perspective? What makes the underlying data model need its complexity to be any greater? Maybe the functionality needs to be greater and the scale of needs around CRM might look different, but it really causes me to want to know more about the changes to the data model and how they might impact even large nonprofits.

I think this might be a broad sweeping statement – that both of you should openly challenge – is a household for the largest nonprofits in the country, they work the same way as the nonprofits for the smallest community-based organization. And so I’m really – gosh, we should have done a video. I’m getting a lot of head nods. (laughter)

Katie, I do think that embedded in what you’ve said, even for large enterprise nonprofits, is they should understand what the changes of that data model are going to mean from a variety of perspectives, is that fair?

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, I mean, I hundred percent agree with you. I don’t actually think there’s much difference in the data model from a large nonprofit to a small nonprofit. I think all I would reference is a large nonprofit tends to have the resources to overcome a complex data model with tools and system administrators who will wrap their head around even the most complicated data models. So to me it’s just the resources to be able to work with it that I think is different between the two.

Kyle Haines:  That’s a very fair point.

Ryan Ozimek:  I think Salesforce is at a critical juncture right now to be able to say “who are we serving and at what priority?” Is it only going to be larger organizations? Is it mid-size and larger? Is it really all the small folks and everybody up? The approach I think right now has been this great technology can serve the needs of larger organizations really well, but can it be simplified or kept simple for the smallest of organizations that make up the far majority of the clients that they’re currently serving today? And that is a challenge to say, do we serve everybody or just some? And I think that that is going to be really interesting to see how it plays out in the next year or two.

Katie McFadden:  I just want to echo on that. I think that is one of the biggest, long-standing questions here. I don’t have clarity about the intentional game plan for NPC short and long-term with respect to what you’re talking about. Like, is this going to work for small, medium, large? I know it’s scrappy right now and it would be very helpful to have clarity on that from Salesforce, but we’re just getting enabled on the technology and getting keynotes to see the marketing. I don’t really know what their strategy is and if they have one that’s forward thinking long-term.

Kyle Haines:  And it makes me wonder apropos of something one of you said earlier, maybe the short-term plan is that for smaller organizations, Nonprofit Success Pack might be the thing that’s right for them. If they can’t avail themselves of whatever it takes to do Nonprofit Cloud or avail themselves of all of the other industry clouds, maybe this is a fork in the road for them, at least temporarily. And then trying Nonprofit Cloud out in larger enterprise environments.

Katie McFadden:  Yeah.

Kyle Haines:  I think that’s it, you two. I think we figured it out.

Ryan Ozimek:  That was so easy. Thank you for this therapy session and for the problem solving, all together.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah. I know we only have a little bit of time left. I wonder what are the things that you might say to your existing clients or somebody considering Salesforce, how would you help them? What are the top things that they should be thinking about in evaluating? Are we going to do Nonprofit Success Pack or are we going to do Nonprofit Cloud? And that’s got to be an easy question to answer in 60 seconds or less. They’re both pointing to one another to see —

Katie McFadden:  Ryan, I think you have a sales call right after this. So what are you going to tell them?

Ryan Ozimek:  Here’s what I’m going to say. A lot of this is wait and see. You know, I want our organizations to be near the cutting edge but not the bleeding edge. And it feels like this is very much the bleeding edge of this technology right now, I think has a lot of promise. And the things to be looking out for are going to be where Salesforce is able to devote resources to at least meet parity in what the NPSP (Nonprofit Success Pack) has. And to get there is going to take time. It’s going to take at least a year or more plus and the whole ecosystem supporting it but what were you going to say Katie?

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, there’s always these people up in the forefront who want to be on the bleeding edge. I’m like, if you want to bleed, cool, we’re all going to hang back. And once people stop bleeding, we’ll step in and use what works. So I’m definitely in the sit tight camp.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean, my thought is that organizations just need to be aware of where they are and if they’re on the bleeding edge. I’m going to take this metaphor really far, like, are they starting to pass out and lose blood so quickly, they’re going to need to be resuscitated or, can we put a bandaid on this? Or it’s just a little bit, a little minor cut.

Katie McFadden:  Yeah, exactly.

Kyle Haines:  No, that’s, I mean I think that comes up often. I talk about it doesn’t matter what the technology is, it’s just really understanding where they are and if they’re early on, just make sure you’re going into it with eyes wide open. These are early days and we’re going to be the people who figure out the pain points along the way.

Sometimes the boo-boos are going to hurt.

Katie McFadden:  Yeah. Have an EMT on hand if you can afford it.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah. Well, Katie and Ryan, thank you, thank you, thank you for making time to connect today. I can’t promise this is the last time that I’m going to bring the three of us together, because I really do always enjoy getting to see you and debate these ideas and hear both of your perspectives. I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate both of you making time.

Ryan Ozimek:  Thanks for having us.

Katie McFadden:  Thank you. Yeah, it’s great to be here.

Kyle Haines:  Bye 

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