Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re hosted by special guest, Marc Baizman. Before becoming a Senior Admin Evangelist at Salesforce, Marc worked at and in the nonprofit world. In our mini-series, Salesforce for Good, we’ll explore all the different ways Salesforce is used in the nonprofit world, and meet the folks who are making that happen. This week, we have Zachery Tapp, who at the time of this interview was Senior Director of Technology and Business Intelligence at Cradles to Crayons.

Join us as we talk about just how complex nonprofits can get with their business processes, how Cradles to Crayons receives, tracks, and sorts their donations, and the growth that Zachery has seen in the nonprofit Salesforce community.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Zachery Tapp.

The complex business operations of Cradles to Crayons.

Cradles to Crayons provides essentials for kids from birth to age twelve for low-income and homeless families. “We have a mantra at Cradles that quality equals dignity, so we never want to give away anything that we wouldn’t be comfortable giving to our own kids,” Zachery says. That means that everything in their warehouses in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and New York needs to be inspected by an army of volunteers. It also means some heavy logistical work allocating those items to kids and families that need them and getting them to a place where they can pick them up.

Marc has actually volunteered as one of the people who sort through items. “The level of quality is higher than I was even expecting as a volunteer,” Marc says. Getting all of this to happen involves a huge amount of logistics. “We leverage a customer community that really connects our programs portion to our inventory data,” he says, all of which lives in Salesforce. Their implementation handles everything from vetting to assigning work to volunteers to evaluating donations and generating documents.

“We take donations of every essential, so figuring out not only how we account for that stuff once it comes in the warehouse but how do we ensure that the person who cleans their closet out and drops it off at our warehouse gets properly thanked and acknowledged for their efforts,” Zachery says. They leverage Campaigns to help, which also enables them to do more complicated things like help someone organize a neighborhood drive.

How Zachery got involved in tech.

“I was a sociology major,” Zachery says, “when I graduated I thought for a while that I wanted to get into community organizing, and then I realized pretty quickly that I was too much of an introvert.” He ended up doing AmeriCorps for two years which landed him firmly in nonprofits working in information systems. He started out working with someone with a computer science and engineering background but had to step in and finish the implementation with Google as his guide, eventually becoming the Salesforce admin.

Zachery split his time with another organization in the same building, and both companies were using the Nonprofit Success Pack (at the time the Nonprofit Starter Pack). “A lot of my time there was spent bringing their Development module online,” he says. They were working on moving a homebrew solution to the cloud, and that meant a lot of learning to make that happen.

Why being a solo admin doesn’t mean going it alone.

As an accidental admin, “the term ‘solo admin’ was very real in that you felt like you were on a bit of an island unless you had established contacts,” Zachery says. As the platform has progressed, he’s really taken notice of the strength of the community through the Power of Us Hub. “Salesforce has done a really great job of lifting up individuals,” he says, lifting up the people who are really great resources for the rest of the community.

Zachery also got a lot of help along the way through the great consultants he’s worked with who have opened their networks up to him (Marc included). “The Salesforce community always has an open-door policy,” he says, “very rarely if ever have I gotten an ‘Oh, I don’t have time for that.’”

As far as advice he has for other admins in a similar spot, Zachery has a few things to say. “I feel like I initially learned a lot by just googling every single problem that I came across,” he says, “but learning the parts of the platform that you don’t use every day is huge.” Finding the time to work with every part of the platform makes you a much more well-rounded admin, and you never know when it may serve you in the future.



Full Show Transcript

Marc Baizman: Welcome to the Salesforce For Good miniseries on the Salesforce Admins podcast. My name is Marc Baizman and I’m a Senior Admin Evangelist here at Salesforce. Before I was an Evangelist, I worked at and in the nonprofit world, and I made many incredible connections with people doing amazing things with Salesforce technology and nonprofits, and I really want to share some of them with you.

Marc Baizman: In this podcast miniseries, we’ll be talking to a variety of folks in the Salesforce nonprofit ecosystem, including admins, architects, consultants, and employees. By the end of the series, you’ll learn what makes the nonprofit sector special, how Salesforce technology supports the missions of some amazing organizations that are making a huge impact, and you’ll learn about the fantastic community of people that are making it happen. Today, we’ll be talking to Zachary Tapp to learn about his journey to become the Director of Technology at Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit in Boston. Let’s welcome Zach to the podcast. All right, hi, Zach.

Zachary Tapp: Hey.

Marc Baizman: How are you?

Zachary Tapp: Good, good.

Marc Baizman: Thanks so much for joining me today on the Salesforce Admins podcast.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, thank you.

Marc Baizman: So, Zach, why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you do and your organization that you work for?

Zachary Tapp: My official title is Senior Director of Technology and Business Intelligence, which is a very long winded way of saying that if it touches technology or analytics at Cradles to Crayons, there’s a good chance that I am involved.

Marc Baizman: Very cool.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, and Cradles to Crayons’ mission is, basically, we take everyday essentials for kids from birth to age 12 and we provide them free of charge. We take donations of those goods, we provide them free of charge to families who are in low income or homeless situations. We do that by mobilizing an army of volunteers to come into our warehouses in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and soon New York. They inspect all of those items, so they’re things like clothing, coats, shoes, toys, books, backpacks, school supplies, nursery items, some higher ticket items like strollers and car seats, and they make sure that they are quality items. We have a mantra at Cradles that quality equals dignity, so we never want to give away anything that we wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to our own kids.

Marc Baizman: Right.

Zachary Tapp: Those volunteers come into our warehouse, they inspect all of those items, and then we work with community partners. A lot of times it’s other nonprofits, so community development organizations, health centers, social workers, teachers. Basically, any organization that works with kids from birth to age 12 in low income or homeless situations, and they place orders for those items. They’re typically very highly tailored to an individual child.

Zachary Tapp: If I’m a social worker, for instance, and I have a kid who needs some school supplies or some items, I would log into the Cradles to Crayons portal, a Salesforce customer community, and place an order for the items that the kid needs, and about a week later we fill it in our warehouse. The partner can either pick it up at our location and we also operate hubs in all of our markets, so for those partners that tend to be a little bit further out, they can pick up from those locations.

Marc Baizman: This is amazing.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah.

Marc Baizman: I mean, the mission is really, really inspiring, and yeah, so full disclosure to everyone listening, I have, in fact, been one of the volunteers who has gone to the warehouse to help sort the materials. I think for me as a volunteer, one of the things that was really, obviously, the why we’re doing it, there are sort of pictures all over, which is pretty amazing and inspiring. But, also the level of quality, as you mentioned, is I think higher than maybe I was even expecting as a volunteer. When sorting the goods, the standards were pretty rigorous as to what made it versus what didn’t. I believe that even for stuff that doesn’t meet your rigorous standards, it still goes on to other organizations. Right?

Zachary Tapp: Yep. We work with other organizations who take items that, for whatever reason, don’t meet our standards or other items that, you know, we get donations of anything and everything, so if they are for adult clothing, we have organizations that we work with.

Marc Baizman: Partners.

Zachary Tapp: That we partner with to make sure that those items find a safe home. I think it’s interesting that you mentioned the volunteer experience because I really think that that’s, it’s what drew me into Cradles to Crayons. Right? I was a volunteer as well before I came to cradles.

Marc Baizman: Oh, cool.

Zachary Tapp: I think it’s really, when I think about our organizational superpowers, I think it’s really what we do. One thing that we do really well, when you come in, you feel productive. You understand the impact that you’re making. It’s a very tangible experience. Right? You’re literally in some cases packing the order that is going to a child later, later down that week or the next week or whatever. I think it allows volunteers to come in, quickly ramp up, make a quick impact, and understand what our mission looks like at a relatively low level.

Marc Baizman: Let’s say you’re there for, you know, three or four hours, you know exactly what you did at the end of that. You can kind of quantify, it’s not necessarily a a squishy thing. It’s like, no, I did this thing.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah.

Marc Baizman: Which is pretty cool, and I helped this many children.

Zachary Tapp: Yep.

Marc Baizman: I’d love to hear maybe about you and how you got into the nonprofit sector. I feel like there’s always interesting stories about how people find themselves in the nonprofit world, and also the weird intersection of nonprofit and technology, which is kind of fun.

Zachary Tapp: Yep. I was a sociology major.

Marc Baizman: Of course, yeah.

Zachary Tapp: Which is …

Marc Baizman: Naturally.

Zachary Tapp: Puts you right into the nonprofit sector. When I graduated, I thought for a while that I wanted to get into community organizing, and then I realized pretty quickly that I was too much of an introvert, I think, for that. I looked at, I knew after college I wanted to do AmeriCorps, so I did AmeriCorps for two years. That is really what got me into the nonprofit sector. I moved to Boston shortly after college and started as a program evaluation AmeriCorps vista with a great organization here in Boston called Generations, Incorporated. They, thankfully, had me on for a second year as an AmeriCorps vista as the information systems vista, and that is really where my journey with Salesforce, well, my journey with Salesforce probably began that first year, but I think it really took off after that second year.

Marc Baizman: Tell me, this is a few years ago now, and I should give another disclosure notice. Zack is also my neighbor. He was not when I think you first started, but you ended up moving literally down the street from me. Kind of a fun coincidence. How did you learn about Salesforce? It sounds like the organization that you worked for, Generations, Inc had Salesforce. How did you get yourself up to speed back in those days?

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, so when I came on, we actually used it first for program evaluations. We had another vista who learned about the system and actually implemented. He had much more of a, you know, he’s coming from more of a computer science, engineering background as an AmeriCorps vista, which is incredible in and of itself. He implemented part of the solution, so he implemented that program evaluation portion of it. I stepped in as the evaluation vista, and really had to ramp up as a power user really quickly. Right?

Marc Baizman: Right.

Zachary Tapp: It was by the end of that year, I was kind of dabbling in some more admin-y type things with, really, Google as my …

Marc Baizman: Good old Google.

Zachary Tapp: As my guide for the most part. The next year, I stepped into that information systems role, and that was I think really where-

Marc Baizman: You were formally the Salesforce admin at that point?

Zachary Tapp: Yeah. I mean, you know, Generations, Incorporated at the time, I was the solo admin and really still relatively fresh out of college, and then after that year they actually brought me on. I spent my time working, basically, half time at Generations, Incorporated and another organization called Peace First, which thankfully were in the same building.

Marc Baizman: Convenient.

Zachary Tapp: Yep, so it made life really easy. Both Salesforce users and I got the opportunity to really see how two different orgs worked at the same time, working for both and also kind of working internally for both. So, yeah.

Marc Baizman: No, that’s great. Did either of those organizations use the nonprofit success pack, out of curiosity?

Zachary Tapp: They both did.

Marc Baizman: Oh, cool.

Zachary Tapp: Yes, so they both use the, at the time the nonprofit starter pack, now the nonprofit success pack.

Marc Baizman: Yeah, sure. NPSP.

Zachary Tapp: NPSP.

Marc Baizman: Right.

Zachary Tapp: A lot of my time there was spent bringing, particularly at Generations, Incorporated, bringing their development, so bringing their development module online. We had come from another local solution and we wanted to move at the time to the cloud. This was awhile ago, and so a lot of my time was spent scoping out solutions. We ultimately landed on the NPSP, and we made the migration. At Peace First, it was more, we still using NPSP but we were using it more for inquiry management. We, at the time, Peace First was running a bunch of programs that just had this inflow of inquiries about anything and everything. We used it for development and fundraising, but we also use it as more of a traditional lead case management solution.

Marc Baizman: Got it, got it. I want to hear a little bit more about how Cradles to Crayons is actually using Salesforce. That’s great to hear about these other organizations, but it sounds like, I mean, between the order fulfillment, the volunteer management, like I feel like there’s a lot under the hood and I know you have your hands in a lot of those pies. I’d love to hear maybe in a little bit more tactical detail for the nerds who are like me who are listening and want to know, what are you actually doing? Can you share more about that?

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, so Cradles, we leverage a customer community. That portal that I spoke about is a custom built community that really connects, you know, our programs portion to our inventory data.

Marc Baizman: Does that also live in Salesforce?

Zachary Tapp: Also lives in Salesforce.

Marc Baizman: Okay.

Zachary Tapp: We have an inventory system that we built in Salesforce, which was my first project at Cradles. One thing that I learned in looking at, you know, I came in and just learned a ton about how inventory systems work, which coming from a literacy based organization was not something that I knew a ton about, and one thing that I learned at Cradles is that we, unlike a lot of traditional inventory systems and solutions and operations, we just get stuff. Right? We place some orders, but most of the stuff we get is donated. We don’t even know what it is until it’s almost all the way out the door. Right? The whole point of that process for us is to figure out what it is we have, make sure it’s good and then send it along.

Zachary Tapp: We leverage that in conjunction with this ordering system to really get an understanding of what our demand looks like, as well as the fulfillment. We use a bunch of really great apps. For instance, we use Nintex, their doc gen solution to generate-

Marc Baizman: Document generation, yep.

Zachary Tapp: Yep, to generate the payment form or, not the payment forms, the order forms for each of those items, so when we hand what is effectively a shopping list to a volunteer, they know exactly what it is they’re looking for in our warehouse.

Marc Baizman: I have used one of those as a volunteer, of like, here’s the backpack items that go in a particular pack and you have to find all the things and stack a pack, basically.

Zachary Tapp: The way that I describe it, and we call the station shopping because it is very much akin to a shopping experience.

Marc Baizman: Yep, yep. You get the feel of what it must be like to be an Amazon worker.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, yes. I feel like-

Marc Baizman: Although, I feel like the demand is probably lower on us volunteers.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah. Yep, yep. Although, you know, because it’s the end of the last time that we see an order right before it goes out the door, there’s the desire to make sure everything is right. Right?

Marc Baizman: Right.

Zachary Tapp: I think the nice, one of the great things that Salesforce has been able to do for us is to ensure that that volunteer has a tool while they’re shopping.

Marc Baizman: Right.

Zachary Tapp: That allows them to understand what they’re looking for, what the size is. You know, in some cases, if it’s in stock or out of stock.

Marc Baizman: This is a piece of paper that the volunteer is walking around, literally walking around a giant warehouse to pull the right things from the shop.

Zachary Tapp: Exactly.

Marc Baizman: All right, so you got document generation apps. You have this custom community. You have a custom inventory management system. What else?

Zachary Tapp: We leverage a lot of their traditional nonprofit success pack pieces as well. We have a fundraising component that was actually, I believe, the first thing that we built was the fundraising [inaudible 00:15:39] long before I came to Cradles.

Marc Baizman: Yep.

Zachary Tapp: We worked with some really great consultants to bring on a volunteer component that integrated with our website, and now we still have that integration, it looks a little bit different than when I came on, but we leveraged form assembly to integrate our website with Salesforce and make sure that data’s coming in correctly.

Marc Baizman: Those are things like volunteer signups, those sorts of things?

Zachary Tapp: Yep, so a big piece of what we, you know, our volunteers, they come in and they’re in a warehouse. Right? There is waivers and all kinds of forms that need to be signed prior to those visits. I think another great thing about our volunteer experience is that we invite kids as young as five to come in and not volunteer, but really just learn about what we do and kind of understand how our mission works, and really invite families more or less to come in and volunteer. Obviously, there’s a lot of signup and data challenges with ensuring that a five year old who doesn’t have an email is properly accounted for in our system.

Marc Baizman: It’s interesting, because there’s, you know, this interesting combination of corporate groups that come in, right, so, you know, the Salesforce group or the, name another large company here in Boston that might come in like a Liberty Mutual or something. A corporate group might come in, alongside perhaps a bunch of families who have come in and all there to do the same thing, right, which is to sort through the stuff [crosstalk 00:17:20].

Zachary Tapp: Or an elementary school or a church.

Marc Baizman: Or an elementary school, yeah, it’s amazing. It’s pretty cool.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah. That volunteer system, we group our volunteers together in volunteer visits. We leverage a junction object to basically relate contacts to that volunteer visit. For folks who have used campaigns, very similar to campaigns. This architecture has worked for us for years at this point, and yeah, so we leverage that. We also have just the custom kiosk that we use as well to make the regis- While we would love every volunteer to preregister before they came into the building, a lot of times that doesn’t happen.

Marc Baizman: Let’s say in a corporate group, someone didn’t preregister even though they were supposed to click that link that came in their email, hypothetically speaking.

Zachary Tapp: Yep, we have a way, and a really convenient way for staff to register volunteers as they come into our house-

Marc Baizman: On site.

Zachary Tapp: On the fly, and I think that that has, you know, again, ensure that the waivers are signed and the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed before we let them come into the warehouse. That’s been a huge, just a huge part of the work I think that we’ve done around Salesforce. Then the last piece is around our community engagement team. Like I said in the beginning, we take donations of everyday essentials. Figuring out both how, and this also ties into the inventory system, but figuring out both, how do we not only account for that stuff once it comes in the warehouse, but how do we ensure that the person who gives us, you know, who cleans their closet out and drops it off at our warehouse, gets properly thanked and acknowledged for that piece and how do we track effort.

Zachary Tapp: How do we allow our, right now we’re leveraging mostly campaigns to do this, but how do we provide a way for our community volunteers to have a block drive wherever, you know, every family on their block cleans out their closet, and somebody takes their minivan and drives it to the warehouse and drops off, you know, in some cases, five or 10 garbage bags full of of quality clothes. We leverage Salesforce to track those efforts as well.

Marc Baizman: Amazing. This is pretty impressive. We’re definitely going to make sure that you all have Zach’s contact information so you can hunt him down and find out exactly, get all the screenshots under there. That’s great. Thank you for sharing that level of detail, appreciate it. I’d love to talk maybe about your journey into the community. Maybe how, working with other people or just finding your way into the larger Salesforce world. You mentioned that you started as a solo admin and you were working with two different organizations. How did you find your way into this larger Salesforce/Salesforce plus nonprofit world?

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, so like I said in the beginning, I think it was, it fell more sole. Right? Like, the term solo admin was very real. Right? In that, you felt like you were on a bit of an island unless you had established contacts. You know, initially, I didn’t have a wide swath of contacts. I still feel like I probably don’t. But, I think as the platform has progressed, and I think one huge benefit, I think something that I’ve taken advantage of and whenever somebody is like, “We’re thinking about Salesforce, what should we know,” one of the things that I outline is just the strength of the community. I think the success hub has been, or the, the power of us hub for nonprofits has been huge. It’s just an amazing way to connect with other organizations to problem solve.

Zachary Tapp: I think the other real big piece and the thing that has helped me immensely is really the, just the answers that are provided by the community and how Salesforce has done a really great job of lifting up individuals who just embody the, like, you have a problem, I’m going to help you figure out this very discrete, specific problem, and Salesforce does a great job of recognizing those people and lifting them up. think that that’s initially how I got started. I have also had the benefit of working with some really great consultants who have opened their networks up to me.

Marc Baizman: That’s great. Do you want to give anybody some shout outs here?

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, so Beth Saunders has been incredible, and Pierre Kaluzny at Sputnik Moment has also been great. You, Marc have also been great.

Marc Baizman: Stop, I’m not fishing for this.

Zachary Tapp: I think the community is very much, the Salesforce community is always kind of has a very open door policy. I think the, you know, and I know I’ve sat on plenty of calls where I’ve shared my experiences, good, bad, ugly, otherwise with other organizations, and I know I’ve made that ask to others as well. I think most, very rarely have I ever got, if ever, have I gotten a, “Oh, I don’t have time for that.” I think everybody is very willing to talk shop, and that’s been great.

Marc Baizman: That’s great. Do you have some advice for other admin? Maybe if you’re talking to yourself way back then when you were just a solo admin, is there any advice that you might give admins today?

Zachary Tapp: Yes. Structured learning is great. I will say, that was something that, I feel like I initially learned a lot by just Googling every single problem that I got. But, creating a plan to learn the platform, and particularly, and this is where I’ve talked to a couple admins who are thinking about certification or just thinking about their career in general, I think learning the parts of the platform that you don’t use every day I think is huge. Right? I think the certification exams and that kind of stuff really at some level forces you to do that.

Zachary Tapp: But, actually going out and finding time to say, you know, we may never use, I don’t know, so for instance, at Cradles, like, we don’t use knowledge. But, knowing that knowledge exists and how it works and how you may use it in the future, I think, makes you much more well rounded as an admin. I think in the event that the use case comes up, you can have that information kind of in the back of your pocket or in the back of your head and really know, “Oh, we’re going to use knowledge or we’re going to use products or we’re going to use,” you know, we don’t, for instance, don’t use leads at Cradles, but you know, if the time came we obviously, knowing leads and knowing how leads work I think would be really important.

Marc Baizman: That’s great. Then, final question is just about doing stuff outside of work. Is there any fun stuff or fun facts that you’d like us to know about you or your non-work life?

Zachary Tapp: There’s part of me that is, you know, I’m a huge, I’m a big Star Trek and a Marvel fan, but what I will say, and I think that’s very, I would say that’s more common these days, Marvel is.

Marc Baizman: Standard nerd.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah, Disney Marvel is, you know, ubiquitous at this point. The thing that I will say is that I am a big hardcore punk and metal fan.

Marc Baizman: How about that? Go on.

Zachary Tapp: Most people don’t know this about me and Boston is a great city for that, by the way. Most of my friend base, actually, most of my friends from home and some friends from here I think I have connected with and kept that friend base for, you know, over a decade basically around our love of this genre of music. I think it’s a really fun and engaging genre of music. I will say that the older I have gotten, the further back at shows I tend to have moved.

Marc Baizman: Sure, sure. You’re not up there in the mosh pit.

Zachary Tapp: No.

Marc Baizman: Can you give us a couple of band names that we should check out? If this is a thing that we want to find out more about?

Zachary Tapp: Have Heart is a great band that act-

Marc Baizman: Have Heart, okay.

Zachary Tapp: Yep, who just had a show, a reunion show here, and actually in Worcester just outside of Boston. That’s a great hardcore band. A great metal band, I don’t know, I feel like I would get, any of these would get me judged, but I’m a big fan of a great, great band called Thy Art Is Murder.

Marc Baizman: Thy Art Is Murder.

Zachary Tapp: Yeah.

Marc Baizman: Great. You heard it here first, everyone. Cool. Well, Zach, thank you so much for joining us today, and yeah, really appreciate your time, and everybody hope you enjoyed my conversation with Zach and his life as a Salesforce admin at Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit.

Zachary Tapp: Great, thank you.

Marc Baizman: Thank you. Thank you so much Zack, for being on the pod. We learned that nonprofits can be just as complex in their business processes is for profit companies. Don’t let the word nonprofit fool you. Cradles to Crayons has a huge focus on the way they receive, track, and organize their unconventional donations and materials for children, and they’re using Salesforce to run their entire program.

Marc Baizman: The strong presence of the community we all know and love so much has not always been there. There were tons of solo admins who didn’t have anyone to lean on. Using the trailblazer community and the power of us hub is a great way to connect with admins at other organizations, help problem solve and give advice, and ultimately help you do your job better. Maybe, even make real life friendships too. Zach’s advice about creating a structured learning program for yourself to learn the platform is huge. Don’t be afraid to spend time on parts of the platform that you don’t use on a daily basis. It will definitely pay off. Thanks again, Zach, and stay tuned for the next episode of the Salesforce For Good miniseries on the Salesforce Admins podcast.

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