Fast and efficient communication is often the backbone for any large nonprofit. This is especially true for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC), a quickly expanding and diverse organization that spans more than 120 agencies. It is committed to matching mentors with Canada’s youth in 1,000 communities throughout the country.
BBBSC believes in the value and values of mentoring.
As it grew, BBBSC realized that it needed a better way to keep volunteer mentors, participants, and donors in the loop — and to ensure clear communication with staff when they were out in the field. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM clearly met all of our needs, even if they were to shift later in a dramatic fashion,” says BBBSC’s Dynamics CRM system manager Malcolm McAuley. “It’s a very flexible, scalable, and robust system.”
Because BBBSC functions as a federated model, mapping technology to the organization’s mission is often a complex team effort. “No technology frameworks or requirements are set,” says Jonathan Leard, program manager for the Annapolis Valley and Halifax agencies. “Each agency makes its own decisions according to the specific needs of local demographics. And while some are more progressive and eager to embrace new technology, others don’t have the staff or the funds, or might not be aware of the benefits.”
McAuley consulted with individual agencies to help them assess their needs and illustrate how upgrading their technology could have wide-ranging benefits. Challenges proved not only financial, but also practical. Training and maintenance — having an employee who is skilled at performing upgrades, for example — are important considerations, especially when many agencies serve large territories with limited staff. The Annapolis Valley agency covers 7,000 square km with just four employees. “Having access to the right software, especially on the road, factors largely into an agency’s success,” says Leard, who managed technology upgrades for two agencies.
Recently, more than 80 of the organization’s agencies adopted Microsoft Dynamics CRM, representing a user base of 745 people. “This solution allows staff to access important case information from their tablets or mobile devices and get what they need on the go,” explains Leard. “This kind of flexible and immediate access is invaluable to our work.”
Prior to implementing Dynamics CRM, much of the organization’s technology was far from cutting edge. To meet the new system’s basic requirements, a number of agencies were challenged with having to simultaneously upgrade their Microsoft operating system and Office suite software. Many of the agencies turned to TechSoup Canada for help. “TechSoup Canada’s donation program made upgrading our system possible,” says Robin Benedict, the Annapolis Valley agency’s executive director. “We were able to affordably acquire Microsoft Office, Simply Accounting, and Windows 7 and are now prepared for any future CRM upgrades and are fully up-to-date.”
McAuley is especially excited by the prospect of having more agencies utilize TechSoup Canada. “It frees up time and money so staff can focus on what is most important — finding the right match for the thousands of children and youth across Canada waiting for mentors,” he says. Today, more than 28,000 mentors are building positive relationships with more than 33,400 children and youth in 1,000 Canadian communities.
Unlocking a child’s true potential creates a future where anything is possible.
BBBSC has provided technology support for participating agencies in a variety of ways, including monitoring the new CRM system performance. It also serves as a liaison with Microsoft to ensure the system is reflective of the needs of the organization’s collective mission. Leard heads up a Dynamics CRM committee, which helped establish a core set of organizational standards. He also created a mediated monthly CRM forum where staff can get answers to their questions.
“Thanks to Microsoft upgrades acquired through TechSoup Canada and Dynamics CRM, all of our information is in one place,” says Leard. This translates to easier access by agency employees, as well as increased security and protection. “We can see in our notes what was said in the last call with a donor or mentor, which makes our customer service that much more effective and consistent.”
One of BBBSC’s next big CRM-related ventures will be exploring if and how they can apply this technology to its donor management system. “Having important information about our program participants and donors all one place is crucial.” There’s also a lot to explore in terms of HR management. “Technology now plays a key role in our day-to-day operations, and we’ll forever more be reviewing how it can best serves our needs,” he says. Together, Microsoft and TechSoup Canada are committed to supporting BBBSC on its journey, every step of the way.