How we’re using at Citizen Schools

A couple of weeks ago, I laid out the factors that have contributed to our decision to consolidate onto and the platform.  In this post, I’ll outline the different ways in which we’re using the platform.  As part of our project to convert from Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce, we’ve had to do a quick as-is analysis for our consultants, so this is very much on my mind at the moment.  As I put it together, I realized that we’ve done quite a lot in the last 3.5 years – still more to go, but it’s pretty substantial, and more importantly, we did almost all of it ourselves.

One observation that I’ve had is that a lot of non-profits rely on consulting partners to do their implementations and then support them afterwards.  Consultants are great (I’ve been one myself) – they bring a ton of experience to the table and can be a great aid in eliciting business requirements, translating them into a new system and getting the organization going.  My concern, however, is that no matter how much knowledge transfer/training/documentation gets done, it’s never the same as having staff get into the system and get their hands dirty with it (so to speak).  To me, that’s one of the real beauties of the platform – it allows you to do a tremendous amount of customization without ever writing a line of code  and I think that is a great way to get your staff involved and really owning the system.   Look for an upcoming post about this topic detailing how we’re working with our consultants on our current project.

With that – here are the different ways we’re currently using Salesforce at Citizen Schools:

Lead Management

Lead management functions are currently being heavily used by two of our external facing groups, Campus Talent Recruitment, who recruit our Teaching Associate staff members and increasingly by Civic Engagement, who recruit our volunteers (whom we call Citizen Teachers).  Leads are captured at college career fairs, signing up people at various events, and increasingly (particularly for Citizen Teachers) on the web.    For the latter, we’re primarily using Web-To-Lead forms across a variety of web platforms, all feeding in to Salesforce and using a simple lead assignment rule to allocate the lead to the appropriate staff member for followup.

For Citizen Teacher leads, we’ve got a pretty clear process for qualifying, managing and converting, which feeds into our volunteer recruitment process (see below), but for Teaching Associate leads, we’ve got a bit of a gap due to a missing piece of our architecture.  Our primary platform for job applications is Taleo and we currently have no integration between Salesforce and Taleo, so at this point, we may have leads who actually apply for jobs and may or may not be hired, but we’ve got no easy way to track that cycle from first contact to hire.  I’m working on a quick and dirty solution to that (which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post), while we evaluate longer-term strategy.

Volunteer Recruitment

Citizen Teachers and Apprenticeships are recruited side-by-side by Directors of Civic Engagement (DCE) and support staff in our  different regions (Citizen Schools currently operates in MA, NY, NJ, NC, TX, NM and CA).  A mix of custom and standard objects are central to these processes, which have multiple starting points and process flows, but which culminate in one or more CTs being assigned to an Apprenticeship record (through a junction).  CTs are also provided with Customer Portal licenses to use our CT Nation online community.   A custom online application is hosted on Salesforce Sites and allows volunteers to apply to the program and provide information for an automated background check.

Apprenticeship Management

The Apprenticeship is one of the fundamental units of analysis for Civic Engagement, both in the individual regions and on a national basis.  DCE’s are typically recruiting volunteers for a specific number of apprenticeships (based on the number of students and schools in their region) and have metrics to track progress towards goal (number recruited vs target number by campus, apprenticeship sector, and Corporate partner vs other types).

Program/Student Management

All student and program data are tracked in Salesforce, with most data being input and managed at the individual school level through the customer portal.  Custom object structures have been developed for managing student demographic and performance (attendance, grades, test scores) and campus levels.  Extensive use of custom apex and visual force and custom objects are used (only Contact, Account, Person Account used from standard suite of objects).  Regional and national staff are the primary consumers of the data entered at the campus level, with extensive use of custom reports and dashboards to produce reporting and moderately frequent export to Excel for more sophisticated analytics.  Limitations in the object reporting capabilities of Salesforce have been somewhat of a constraint on analytic use.  As a result, we’re seriously evaluating moving our campus users to Platform licenses, although that means we’ll need to migrate our students off of Person Accounts and onto pure custom objects.


Community Management

Our CT Nation online community ( is a hybrid site, using Salesforce Sites to host public facing pages (using custom CSS and VF page templates, with content managed through the CMSForce app from the AppExchange) and to host authentication services.  Upon login, the user token is passed to and the user is logged in and can transition between private Salesforce content specific to the authorized user and the user’s GoLightly account.  User provisioning and license management are performed through  Salesforce Content is used to host Apprenticeship Curricula and made available to VisualForce pages through Content Delivery publication.

Student Alumni Management

Our 8th Grade Academy program includes ongoing support and outreach by Citizen Schools staff, and provides us with important data about student progress through high school and into college.  Alumni Engagement staff are key uses of Activities, Student (person account) and Program Record objects.

Staff Alumni Management

As staff transition from full-time to alumni status (particularly our Teaching Fellows), our Staff Alumni Engagement team keeps in touch with them by cohort and communicates with them via monthly newsletter.  We also keep track of where they’re employed and engage them in advocacy campaigns and the broader thread of education reform.


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3 Responses to How we’re using at Citizen Schools

  1. […] in June, I posted about how we’re currently using at Citizen Schools and laid out the different […]

  2. richarddstuart says:

    Will, for Alumni Management did you create a new Alumni Object or Create and Alumni Account and simply add contact fields?

    • Will says:

      Hi Richard, we modeled alumni as Person Accounts, with the idea that our relationship was with them as an individual, not as a contact associated with a particular account/organization. In retrospect, due to limitations in the Person Account model, I would be more likely to model them as a custom object with a lookup to the Account object. We would lose some of the out of the box Contact functionality, but nothing major. The only significant consideration comes with alumni who are also donors or volunteers, where you then have to deal with the issue of potential duplicates (one alumni record, one contact record), but I suspect the overlap would be relatively small.

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