Great Ormond Street Hospital treats ailing CRM system with Salesforce upgrade

Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett By Madeline Bennett January 7, 2018
The world-famous hospital for children is creating a more tailored experience for donors and keeping the cost of charity down with Salesforce.

great ormond street
On Valentine’s Day 165 years ago, a tiny hospital opened its doors to the ailing children of London. The Hospital for Sick Children at 49 Great Ormond Street had just 10 beds and two doctors; and was founded by Dr Charles West in response to the extremely high level of infant mortality in the capital at the time.

Reborn as Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), the organisation has grown in size and stature, and now sees more than 600 children every day from across the UK. Over the years, it has attracted a plethora of high-profile supporters, everyone from Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Diana Princess of Wales to its most famed, JM Barrie, who donated the rights of Peter Pan to the hospital in 1929.

GOSH has always depended on donations to offer the best care for its patients, and so attracting new donors and retaining current supporters to raise the millions of pounds its needs each year to operate genuinely is a case of life and death.

The problem for the organisation’s fundraising arm was that its IT systems weren’t able to support the requirements of a large charity with 350,000 active donors. As Tim Johnson, CEO, Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, explained:

The system that we had was an ageing system, it was failing, it was unreliable. People therefore didn’t trust the data that was in it so they didn’t use it and so the data wasn’t up to date. You get that vicious cycle.

We also had a lot of work around standalone systems and spreadsheets that different teams were putting together so you could never get to one view of the truth. The CRM system never said the same thing as the finance system - which one did you believe? That was a driving reason for having to change.

Added to GOSH Charity’s failing internal systems was external pressure due to the recent changes in charity sector regulations, with a tightening up of fundraising rules due to concerns of how supporters were being contacted and sometimes hounded. GDPR is also on the horizon, with the requirement to better manage and protect supporter data. Johnson explained:

The UK fundraising market is a very competitive one. We need to make sure we’re delivering the best stewardship for our donors, and make sure we use our resources as carefully as possible because ultimately of course we want as much money raised as possible, and to go through to the hospital as possible.

The ageing system wouldn’t have been able to cope with all the things we need to do to ensure we are complying with best practice. With all those reasons coming together, we realised we had to do something, and fairly swiftly.

A change

Around three years ago, the charity began looking for a replacement system to its legacy Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge platform, which was not developing quickly enough or offering the experience it wanted for its donors. GOSH Charity carried out a rigorous selection procurement process, whittling a mammoth 50 possible products down to just two that were able to offer a suitable CRM platform – Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce.

The charity held a six-week proof of concept competition with two systems integrators and 40 staff involved. Overwhelmingly, Salesforce came out as the best solution.

In June 2016, the organisation partnered with Deloitte and got a Salesforce platform architect, and there followed a period of intensive development, moving 100 million-plus historic records into the new CRM system and training up 250 users. Ian Chivers, GOSH Charity Director of Finance and Operations, Legal and Compliance, Information Governance, said:

On 2 May 2017, the platform went live with a big bang and we never switched the legacy system on again. It’s not like it’s a CRM and it’s a useful tool out there somewhere on the sidelines of our business; it’s our core operating process. What we do is raise money and every one of our donations goes through Salesforce.

The platform offers GOSH Charity better oversight of grants made to the hospital, allowing it to match donations coming in to specific projects, along with insights into how much money is being raised for each of projects. Chivers explained:

We needed a system to really help us interact digitally with our clients. That’s really what we saw in Salesforce. We’re at the beginning of that, what we want to go to now is a supporter portal. But we didn’t see that with any other solutions really apart from Salesforce and Dynamics. And then when we started looking at things like the app store, we just saw it was far richer for interacting with our supporters. That was the key thing.

Better care

The ultimate advantage of the Salesforce platform is in helping GOSH Charity give more money to the hospital. This is enabled in two ways: the first is raising more funds through a personalised donor experience, allowing them to choose whether they want to fund specific medical research or the care of the children, for example. Johnson said:

We can tailor the experience, which we hope will mean people will want to stay with us as a donor for longer and hopefully that they will say to others giving to GOSH is a great experience and if you want to help young people you should be giving to Great Ormond Street.

The other side is, can we not spend as much money in raising the money. We are looking for efficiencies to keep the costs of the charity as low as possible because that means more money is available to go through to the hospital. That’s what the business case has been built around.

Compliance and AI

The move to Salesforce also puts GOSH Charity in good stead for complying with tighter fundraising rules. The organisation is already underway with its GDPR compliance plans. It has a bi-weekly meeting about regulations and consent, and began a communications programme earlier this year to its entire donor database, which is, incidentally, completely separate from the information the hospital stores on its patients. Johnson said:

Regarding the lack of trust in charities, to give people the opportunity to be able to manage their own information, go in and change that and their preferences, and tailor the experience that they want to have with us a charity, that was a big attraction for us.

They can’t yet but they will be able to go in and check their details, change their communication preferences. The whole consent process of what they are or aren’t happy with – we think that by giving them some control of that, hopefully that helps to build trust in us as an organisation. It’s all very transparent.

Next up for GOSH Charity is how it can use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to offer a more personalised donor experience. Chivers said:

One of the big areas we’ve been focusing on is Einstein AI, as we do see that’s something that can help us. Particularly with how we can engage better with our donors, but also internally as well, how can we do things more efficiently and more effectively.

We went live in May, we’re completing that implementation. But next year, we’ve been collecting the ideas [at Dreamforce 2017], we’ll certainly be looking at Einstein and AI.