Skookum Kids joined Virtuous in early 2016 as their Nonprofit CRM partner. They are a growing nonprofit focused on providing services and care for children in the foster-care program in Bellingham, WA. To date, they’ve helped nearly 150 children at their volunteer-staffed group home.
Ray Deck III is the Founder & Executive Director of Skookum Kids and I sat down with him recently to talk about his experience with Virtuous.
Jeff Jacobs: Tell us about your mission and what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization.
Ray Deck III: We want to fix the foster care system.
Our community, and many communities, are full of people whose heart and hands are ready to help. They just don’t know what to do. The problems are dauntingly complex.
My job is to identify specific gaps in service or points of dysfunction—areas in which the system is not working as well as intended—and repair them by engaging folks who are willing but untrained. We provide the opportunity, training, and support for these folks to roll up their sleeves and make a substantial impact.
JJ: Given the nature of your work, what are some of the unique challenges you face when trying to connect with your supporters?
RD: We love to tell stories of the kids we’ve cared for, but we have to be very careful to protect the children’s privacy. So our Instagram feed is full of lots of pictures of tiny hands and feet.
It can also be a challenge for us to demonstrate the long-term impact of our work because we rarely get to hear the end of the story. Children spend their first 5 days in the system with us, and then depart to (usually) a longer term placement. And that’s all we hear most of the time. So we wind up telling a lot of stories that we hope and pray end with happily ever after.
And we’re now in the process of building some new programming that will enable us to be with a child throughout their entire stay in foster care. So we don’t have to just hope and pray. We can work and serve too.
JJ: What CRM did you previously use? And what were the pain-points that made you want to switch?
RD: Just the one under my hat! 😀
We’re just 25 months old, and I am the founder. So I made it my mission to make a personal friend out of every donor. That was a noble goal that quickly became impossible as we grew. I still try to work like that’s my mission, but knowing that it’s not likely to happen.
JJ: I couldn’t agree more; trying to build personal relationships with dozens – or even hundreds – of supporters is difficult at best. How has Virtuous helped you close that gap there and build deeper relationships with your supporters?
RD: Maintaining a relationship means remembering—or caring enough to remember—lots of details: name, kids’ names, birthday, interests, etc. A person can only hold so many things in their head at once. Virtuous holds all that stuff so that my brain is free to hold other things until I need to retrieve that information. And even better, it acts as a shared-memory for the whole team. So if I learn that a particular donor has an interest, I can make a note and the next time someone else on the team interacts with them, they can have access to that information, and thus, a head start on a relationship.
JJ: What other CRM solutions were you considering when evaluating the options available to you?
RD: We considered modifying a CRM built for traditional B2B or B2C companies to meet our needs, but felt that we would spend too much energy trying to make the tool work for us. When you work in child welfare, you’re constantly at war against a huge, menacing bureaucracy. You don’t want to be fighting with your CRM too.
JJ: What was compelling about Virtuous that other CRMs didn’t offer?
RD: I live by the tasks feature. Auto-generated tasks mean that I don’t forget to call a donor when they cross an important threshold, or send a thank you when someone makes a new pledge.
Also, the social insights tool paid for itself in the first day we had it. I discovered that a very excited new donor (who I’d met in a different setting) was co-owner of one of our neighborhood’s most popular tap rooms. I emailed him immediately when I learned that, and he agreed to host a fundraiser for us.
JJ: What has Virtuous enabled you to do in recent months that you weren’t able to do in your previous nonprofit CRM?
RD: The reporting is huge for us. It gives everyone—staff, board, volunteers, me—access to the information they need. The dashboard metrics like giving in the last 30 days and giving by campaign are my report card these days.
JJ: Now that you’re up and running, what are the top 3 day-to-day benefits you’ve seen in your operations?
RD: We’ve benefited a lot from making Virtuous—not me—the central hub for information like contact details, communication preferences, and pledge status. When the team isn’t dependent on me to get the information they need, it means the work goes on smoothly when I go on vacation or have a day of back-to-back meetings.
JJ: What is, personally, your favorite thing about Virtuous?
RD: I love the wide array of data-points that we can use. In other CRMs information like birthday, anniversary, affiliations, and relationships all get lost in notes. But that stuff is GOLD for a NFP that relies so heavily on personal relationships. I can’t afford to lose that stuff!
V: What advice would you give other nonprofits looking for CRM solution?
RD: Moving to a new CRM is a big job, but it’s also an opportunity. When you move to a new tool like Virtuous, take the time to tune all of your processes. If you have painpoints in your accounting or donor development, this is the perfect opportunity to fix them because everybody will already be in the reconstruction mindset. Virtuous is going to fix a lot of things for you, but take full advantage of the upheaval caused by a CRM switch and build yourself a better flywheel while you’re at it.