Destined to ring bells

Back in 2007, the Colorectal Cancer Coalition rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It came together so fast and Eric was out of town. There was no way I could attend. 

I must have been destined to ring a stock market bell. Yesterday I participated in the closing bell ceremony at NASDAQ in New York City Times Square.

I was there with Convio, now a public company listed on NASDAQ (before anyone asks, no I do not own any Convio stock and have no plans to make any purchases…my investment in companies is on behalf of my organization, not personal). I was honored to be one of 5 or so client representatives Convio invited to join executive staff, long time employees and their families for the ceremony. Convio has been incredibly supportive of the Coalition the last 3 years, and I was thrilled to celebrate their success with them.

At the NYSE, it appears that the closing bell happens on a podium above the action. At NASDAQ the ceremony happens in a studio in Times Square, not a trader in sight. 


The studio is street level, so folks can watch from the outside. It was a miserable, rainy day yesterday. Not many folks outside seemed to care. 

Essentially, aside from some short speeches, ringing the NASDAQ closing bell is one long string of photo opps. It starts with green screen photo of small groups. Very touristy.

Then you’re led into the studio for the speeches and actual closing bell. More photos in small groups. At this point, Gene Austin, CEO of Convio asked the clients in attendance to come up one at a time to have their photos taken with him and Vinay Bhagat, Co-Founder. I have to say, Vinay’s kids are adorable and stole the show.

Once the bell ceremony was over (aka everyone stand on the platform together, wave and clap and feel a little silly) we headed outside for more photos under the large video tower. At this point, the video wall is showing all the photos taken inside, a few seconds each. Here’s where I got lucky. I just happened to have my iPhone in my hand, camera app open when my picture taken with Gene and Vinay rotated through:


Pretty cool picture to send to Grandma. 

Thank you to everyone at Convio for a fun break from the routine.

My top 5 Salesforce/Common Ground administrator tips (as presented at the Convio Summit)

I just got back from 3 fabulous days in Baltimore at the Convio Summit user conference.

This year, there were enough nonprofit organizations already on Common Ground to warrant a session or two aimed at users, rather than just to sell existing Convio clients to the application as was found at previous Summits. 

I am so excited about the direction Convio is taking with Common Ground. They understand what nonprofits of all shapes and sizes need and want in a database, and I think they're making really intelligent decisions about how to implement it in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Victoria Miller from Trisomy 18 Foundation and I presented a session on Tuesday afternoon we called Getting Maximum Bang out of Your Common Ground Bucks. 

Victoria and I designed the session together, and I presented the content for most of it. Trisomy 18 Foundation is a very small organization that looks much larger than it is, mostly thanks to Victoria's efforts. She's an amazing woman who was a pleasure to work with. Our session was aimed squarely at the nonprofit recently launched on Common Ground, which at this point is most folks currently on Common Ground. Our persona for the attendee in our session: The implementation partner just left, and now the nonprofit is trying to live with this tool day-to-day. 

I wanted to show them just how easy it is to do little things that make a big difference, so they could save their consultant resources for the big stuff. And we did as much as we could live, using a vanilla demo version of Common Ground, to show attendees exactly where and how to do what I was talking about. I figured that at 4:15 pm folks have had enough PowerPoint for the day. I'd say half the room fit our target perfectly, which helped make the session successful. I was grateful the other half were consultants or Convio employees who also positively participated in the discussion, which was more of an open exchange than a lecture. Victoria and I even demonstrated how you can take an everyday engagement strategy and turn it into a process in Common Ground. The feedback I got after the session was incredible, and I enjoyed every second of it. 

Part of my presentation was a slide that I framed as "Judi's top 5 things every Common Ground administrator should know or do that your implementation partner or Convio may have forgotten to tell you." I was asked afterwards to post this content on the private Convio Common Ground community forum, which I will do. But I thought it might make a good post here too. Nothing huge or mind-blowing here. The "if I knew then…" stuff that a seasoned Salesforce admin will think is no-brainer…but this wasn't a session for seasoned Salesforce admins, and I'm mostly self-taught in this world.

Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments.

1. Turn on the Weekly Backup

Setup -> Administration Setup -> Data Management -> Data Export


There are other tools for backing up Salesforce data that are far more robust. But this is simple, included with Salesforce, and doesn't require special software to read/use the data. You get an email once a week with a link to download a .zip file. That file is only available for 48 hours. When decompressed, the folder is a .csv of every object in the Salesforce instance. You can get this export weekly or monthly. If you want a backup more frequently than that, you'll have to use another tool.

In addition to all the standard best practice reasons for having a backup, I sometimes use these spreadsheets to help me understand the data that's in our Salesforce. I find it's much easier to open an object file .csv in Excel and figure out/remind myself what requires a Salesforce ID, what's a checkbox, etc. than to poke around in the interface or export on demand.

2. Get Users to Grant Administrator Access

Ask your users to visit Setup -> My Personal Information -> Grant Administrator Access and put in a date some time in the future that you don't have to worry about it for a few years. Then you can login as them from the Manage Users section:


Why would you want to do this? No, administrators don't want to peek at anyone's data. We don't care. I logged in as Carlea just yesterday as she was getting an error in an application that I had to figure out whether it was a problem with her account or her computer/browser. I couldn't recreate the error, so it was an issue on her computer. Nice time saver. I also will log in as a user in order to build my tutorials, as my administrator view can sometimes be very different and I want my screenshot-based lessons to show what they see. Finally, on some objects we have some semi-complex sharing rules to make sure certain users can edit records even if they don't own them, and logging in as a user helps me make sure that everything is where it should be.

3. Get DemandTools

When in doubt, "use DemandTools" is the answer to almost any question when it comes to massaging data in Salesforce. Best of all, the wonderful and generous folks at CRM Fusion match the Salesforce Foundation grant, so this tool is freely available to nonprofit organizations who qualify for the Salesforce grant. As a Mac user, this is the reason why I have a VMWare Fusion virtual machine so I can run Windows XP.

Here's a little demo video I found if you're not familiar with it:

4. Surf the AppExchange

Almost seemed too obvious, until I talked to new Common Ground clients who had no clue that either 1. the AppExchange existed or 2. that they could use it to get apps to run right alongside Common Ground. 

I often have to explain that Common Ground itself is on the AppExchange and the process for installing nearly any app is the same as it is to upgrade Common Ground (which folks were already familiar). Pay special attention to the free and discounted for nonprofits sections.

5. Join NPSF

Bit of a shameless plug as I've been co-moderator of the Nonprofit Salesforce Practitioners listserv for a couple of years now. As of this moment there are 1134 members representing nonprofits, consultants, vendors – even a few employees. The only thing we all have in common is that it's Salesforce and nonprofits. It's a great place learn about new apps or to figure out a new way to tackle an old problem that's still relevant to nonprofits but outside of the Common Ground application.

What did I miss?

What’s new and cool in Convio Common Ground version 3

It’s been a little over a year since I fully deployed Convio Common Ground at the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. Still no regrets. It’s a great fit for us.

A few months ago, we started using Common Ground’s GL Export utility to align Salesforce/Common Ground data with QuickBooks. Finally.


I don’t have the resources to hire anyone or purchase a tool to automate a sync between Salesforce/Common Ground and Quickbooks, so it’s a manual download file/upload into QuickBooks process for now. But it’s not difficult to manage…once we got everything mapped correctly, that is. We only move data from Common Ground to QuickBooks. Not the other way around. Common Ground’s utility makes it possible by marking and locking posted donations. Duplications can’t happen. A donation can’t be edited after-the-fact in Common Ground once posted, which would throw everything off. 


Only an administrator can reverse a donation, where it can be backed out of QuickBooks and then re-posted correctly. Here’s what you get when you try to edit on a posted transaction in Common Ground.


Syncing Common Ground to QuickBooks began for us in late June, and I have no idea how we managed before. What used to be hours and hours a month of my time meticulously reconciling double-entered transactions is now about 10-15 minutes of time in Common Ground to run the utility. What used to be hours and hours and hours and hours of time on our office manager’s part of double entry and reconciling is down to just entry in Common Ground, imports into QuickBooks and then batching deposits.

But that’s kind of old news in Common Ground. On to the new…Common Ground 3, which was released to users this past week. 

From an administrator’s perspective, this was the easiest upgrade yet. You simply install the package as you would any other from the AppExchange. Then you run an upgrade utility which does the rest. Last time, you then had to make a whole bunch of other changes…changing page layouts, adding buttons, resetting this and that. This time, the upgrade utility completed in all of 49 seconds and reported no errors. Afterwards, thanks to new upgrades from Salesforce aimed at developers like Convio, there was minimal configuration. I’ve had a few glitches here and there since (see below). But for the most part it was a smooth process.

Batch gift entry – Here’s the new features added according the release announcement:
  • Add donations of most record types
  • Add stock gifts including assets
  • Create pledges and add pledge installments
  • Associate a donation with an open major gift or pledge
  • Add multiple designations on a gift
  • Select designations and campaigns by typing in the first few characters
  • Include custom donation fields
  • View household data and add/edit contacts in a household
  • Create and edit donation contact roles
  • Search contacts by ID
  • Convert a lead to a contact

Pretty cool, huh? You set up the batch with the fields that you need, including any constants that are consistent across all entries:



Then you enter gifts in a single screen at one time.


Unfortunately, something went a little screwy with our upgrade and while we can successfully enter gifts and commit them, which should create the actual donation transactions…it’s not working. The donations aren’t being created. Which brings me to the next great thing about Convio Common Ground: support. I opened a ticket with Convio and now someone else who knows a lot more than me is digging in code trying to figure out what went wrong while I do the rest of my job. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

Duplication management – This is killer. Convio has had a duplication management utility in Common Ground for a while, but I didn’t use it that often. It was slow. It didn’t learn (if you told it that a match wasn’t a dupe, it still pulled up the same match on the next global search). Now it will remember if you mark a match as “Not duplicate.” It’s faster. And if you end up with an empty household account after merging contacts, it will delete the childless account.

You know those Windows 7 commercials…”it was my idea” Convio added a feature here and I think I can say that. I asked Convio a while back if there was a way that I could dedupe right from a contact record. While I do use utilities to search out for duplicates en masse, most of the time I trip across a duplicate during everyday activities. I do a search and 2 identical results come up. Or a staff member points a dupe out to me. I don’t want to wait while a utility searches the entire database and then I have to fish for the one I saw. I just want to quickly dedupe the entry I found and move on.

Now there’s a button on contact records:


Click it and it will immediately show you potential dupes (in this case, each staff member intentionally has both an individual and staff contact record so I’m using it as an example)


Click “Review” and you’re taken to a screen to finalize the merge. 


Yes, I still set aside time each month or so (particularly before we do a large mailing) to do mass clean-ups of our data. I typically find very little to clean up…usually it’s combining people with the same address and last name into single households. But I love this new ability to do easy stuff as we catch it. 

Only glitch here is that it refuses to merge two contacts that originally started as leads (now converted). Convio support is looking in to that as well.

Last but not least, Common Ground has made some improvements to their new segmentation features. This was introduced in a previous version of Common Ground, but it works much better now.

Let’s say you want to send communication to everyone in your database who has made a donation (maybe even within a certain dollar range) this calendar year to one of two specific purposes and is an individual (as opposed to a corporate/company contact). You want to be able to email those that can get your communication via email, and if they don’t want email (or haven’t provided an email address) and can get regular mail, send it  via snail mail instead and then track the results as a total campaign.

Without Common Ground, this kind of reporting/campaign can be a pain to set up and manage.

Convio has built out a tool that makes segmenting like this easy, and they keep improving on it. 


You define the parent campaign, then appeals are set up as sub-campaigns, and each sub-campaign/appeal has its segment definitions.


You can build criteria that’s simple or ridiculously complex. Each segment you build can be assigned a priority, so in the end you’re not sending the same letter to John Smith because he’s a Board Member but then another to him in the same appeal because he’s a donor. His status as a Board Member may mean he gets that letter, even if he qualifies for the other one. The possibilities are endless.

Once you build a segment, you can use it again or edit and move around priorities, then update it which repopulates the campaign members with the new results.

The biggest challenge I have now is that we’re using Campaigns so much for so many different purposes that I’m now having to get more diligent on using record types and campaign member record types to help sort the different uses and we’re using more efficient/accurate page layouts (email recipients, fundraising appeals, donors, webinar attendees, etc.) 

Finally, I’m looking forward to the Convio Summit in Baltimore, October 25-27. This year there should hopefully be many more Common Ground users at the Summit to connect to than in the past. Victoria Miller from the Trisomy 18 Foundation and I are presenting a session on Tuesday afternoon: Getting Maximum Bang out of your Common Ground Bucks. 

 This isn’t going to be a session where we bombard folks with case studies or lots and lots of features and tips. We’re both from small organizations, after all. Instead, Victoria and I are designing a session where folks can take the big, scary world of Salesforce/Common Ground and figure out how to translate an organization’s individual strategy and needs to real-world implementation in Common Ground…without always having to use a developer or consultant. Sure, there are times where you have to call in outside help. I certainly have. But there’s a lot things that Common Ground can do right out of the box in a point & click interface that most new administrators in smaller orgs either don’t know about…are intimidated by…or they’re overwhelmed with the options…or a combination of all of the above. Just because you can do something in Common Ground, doesn’t mean you should. I hope by the end of this session, we can all start to tell the difference. It’s not as scary as it looks. 🙂 We want this to be more of an open and active exchange of ideas than a panel-and-their-PowerPoint session.

If you’re going to the Summit, please find me and say hi!