Thursday, April 21, 2011

Learning more about using Salesforce

I've now edited and updated this post - see the latest version on the Seattle NPSF blog

Amongst other things, I'm one of the leaders of the Seattle Salesforce Nonprofits User Group. We meet once a month to learn more about how nonprofits can make the most of using such a powerful and flexible tool.

This month, inspired by a conversation at NTC, I thought we should look at the various resources available for learning more about Here is an annotated version of the list that was presented at the meeting (thanks to Laura Meerkatz at NPower Northwest and the meeting attendees for the additional suggestions):

Where to start:
The Help & Training link at the top of every page in your Salesforce database!
(we all agreed that the secret to success here is knowing what questions to ask, and that it can take even the most experienced of us a few tries to find exactly what we are looking for. But with the right questions, there is a wealth of detailed information available)

Then, for Salesforce as a whole:, which includes the Learning Center, with links to webinars, videos and tip sheets that you can download.

For training specific to nonprofits, you'll want the equivalent Foundation page:

We looked at the Foundation's Webinar calendar, and a couple of group members said that they had called in to the Foundation's weekly Office Hours and found them to be useful.

Video & Do-it-Yourself Training:
Salesforce's YouTube channel -
Lots of stuff here, including some good introductions to the ideas behind Salesforce, that could help convince senior management or reluctant colleagues about the benefits of adopting CRM.

Salesforce Foundation's YouTube channel - There are some introductions to useful applications and partner products here, but mostly members watch the Nonprofit Starter Pack: HOWTOs for their clear and concise explanations.

Another very comprehensive collection is the videos from Dreamforce (both 2010 and 2009) - - members commented that there is so much material here that it is difficult to know where to start, but if you want to dive more deeply into a topic, there is bound to be a session about it somewhere!  I suggested starting with the Administrators sessions or the Nonprofit and Higher Ed track

An alternative is the Salesforce Training & Certification podcast series, available via iTunes.  Many of these sessions are geared towards developers, but administrators and "super-users" can pick up useful tips from the "Admin to Hero with" series of podcasts.

There are more introductory sessions posted online at the Salesforce Training site:

Training with an instructor:
Laura gave us an introduction to the Salesforce Foundation class run regularly by NPower Northwest, which covers a lot of the basics. 

We also discussed the CRM Administration for Nonprofits course run by Etherios - we've heard good things, but none of our group had taken this course.

One of us had taken an Administration Essentials class run by Salesforce and found it to be really helpful.  It was noted that nonprofits get a 50% discount on the class rates (but that the Etherios course still works out cheaper :-)

We agreed that the best overall deal on instructor-led training was to attend Dreamforce.  If you can register while the nonprofit rate is still available, the depth and choice of sessions available during the three days of the conference is an unbeatable investment of time and money for anyone who wants to learn more about CRM and using Salesforce (at any level of experience).

Community resources - forums and blogs:
The "official" Salesforce forum is at Answers - - and there is a nonprofit category.  There is also the Idea Exchange, where you can suggest new features for Salesforce and vote up other people's requests.

For the nonprofit user community, however, the must-follow forum is the Nonprofit Salesforce Practitioners Google Group -  It's a community-run site, followed by all types of nonprofit SF users.  Ask a question and it might be answered by someone who has just learned how to do this themselves, or one of the original developers of the nonprofit templates, or a Salesforce Product Manager, or a Foundation partner or consultant.  The discussions are wide-ranging and often look at best practices, as well as technical issues, evaluation of third-party apps, and the merits or otherwise of the NP Starter Pack!  The content sprawls, the search can be tricky, the message subjects are often confusing, and valuable questions might get overlooked, but for all its flaws, the NPSP Google Group is an invaluable and irreplaceable repository of knowledge about all things Salesforce for Nonprofits (and as such, it's worth glancing at the daily digest and contributing to the discussions at any level).

There is also the Nonprofit Starter Pack Users Google Group - - which tends to feature more questions from newbies, but since these are usually answered in prompt detail by Kevin Bromer from the Foundation, you can learn a lot from this group (particularly if you are using the NPSP!).

Finally, we talked about some of those who blog about their Salesforce experiences.  A lot of these are more geared to developers, but a few of my personal recommendations are:
Cloud4Good, written by Tal Frankfurt and his team:
Judi Sohn's tips as a long-time SF "super-user" -  (Judi is one of the amazingly dedicated NPSP Google Group moderators)
Button Click Admin, not specifically for nonprofits, but provides useful advice every Monday -

Gokubi, or Steve Andersen of the Foundation.  He might be an infrequent poster, but what he doesn't know about nonprofit CRM just isn't worth knowing :-)  -
(Many of them don't post regularly, so it's worth just adding a few feeds to your preferred reader, and checking in now and again for updates.)

Hope that you find this list useful, and please feel free to add anything I've missed, or your particular favorites, in the comments.

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