Nonprofit Integration: How Chicago Scholars Uses Workato to Help Students Graduate from College

Nonprofits face seemingly insurmountable challenges. They are often underfunded, understaffed, and under-recognized. Internally, they struggle to run a lean operation and still accomplish big, socially valuable goals. Simplifying their internal operations not only saves resources, but it also makes the organization more sustainable. Nonprofits are increasingly using automation to streamline their workflow and cut costs. In Chicago, nonprofit integration means a better college experience for hundreds of students.

Chicago Scholars is a nonprofit that helps students from underprivileged communities apply to college and supports them during their time in school. The nonprofit has achieved stunning success: 86% of their students graduate in 6 years, compared to a national average of only 56%.

The organization attributes much of its success to its methodology; Chicago Scholars employs data-driven methods to build and evaluate its programs, ensuring that students not only attend but stay engaged afterwards. Efficiency is key, especially to winning over stakeholders. “I analyze information, program evaluation, and predictive analytics and present them to stakeholders. We need to stay pretty nimble and make our processes more efficient,” says Tony Calero, Director of Data Management and Analytics at Chicago Scholars.

The secret to their success is automation. With automation, the organization can:

  • Seamlessly track event engagement to gauge which programs are most effective
  • Create a 360° view of every single student
  • Maintain a ob board for students with no manual effort
  • Save thousands of hours by automatically moving key data into Salesforce

To do this, Chicago Scholars uses apps ranging from Eventbrite and Slack to Mowgli SMS and Salesforce with Workato as the integration tool. “I spent a lot of time researching apps,” he says, “and was looking at ways to get everything into Salesforce. Without Workato to do our integrations, there would be hundreds of thousands of staff hours added to our load. Only two years ago we might have done these processes by hand, like reconciling disparate spreadsheets. It takes time, it’s frustrating, and we lose data – it just doesn’t work.”

Using Salesforce to Track Event Engagement

As part of its programs, Chicago Scholars runs events for college students and alumni. The organization uses Eventbrite for registration, but they need attendance information to go into Salesforce so they can keep track of and follow up with attendees. “We run a lot of events, like our career exploration series, which helps match employers with students. When people register on Eventbrite, we want to put that into Salesforce, and we track who attends as a form of understanding program engagement,” explains Tony. “Being data driven is a core value of ours and without integration, there’s a whole bunch of manual labor that would need to be done.”

To streamline the attendance-tracking process, Tony uses Workato to integrate Eventbrite and Salesforce. Workato integrations are called recipes because they are a set of steps that do work between apps. First, Tiny created a recipe that creates a campaign within Salesforce for every new event in Eventbrite. Then Tony used a second recipe to move Eventbrite data into Salesforce automatically, in real-time. When someone registers for a Chicago Scholars event on Eventbrite, they must give an email address. Tony’s recipe triggers when someone RSVPs on Eventbrite and checks to see if the attendee’s email exists in Salesforce. If it does, Workato creates a campaign member and links it to the Salesforce campaign for that particular event. If the attendee does not have a contact record, Workato creates one and assigns a placeholder account, which is eventually replaced.

The main goal is to log the overall number of attendees in Salesforce. “Workato brings our event RSVPs and attendance from Eventbrite into Salesforce where are both data sets are rolled up into a composite ‘engagement rating’ which is used to understand how Scholars are engaging with us,” explains Tony. “It is critical to have our event data connected to each Scholar’s contact record in order to generate this rating. Eventually, we hope to correlate this with college outcomes in order to understand what is actually moving the needle.”

Connecting Students and Staff via SMS

The organization uses MogliSMS as a gateway between Salesforce and Twilio. Initially, Tony set up a recipe to send the SMS to the chat console Slack. Whenever a student texted the staff, a Workato recipe posted the message in a Slack channel. This allowed the staff to triage the SMS messages and make sure the correct person received the message. Once the right person was notified of the message, they could view the sender’s Salesforce contact record. Integrating text messaging is key to keeping students engaged, according to Tony: “It helps us engage with students in the form that they are used to.”

However, after a few months, Tony found that the Chicago Scholars staff were not naturally inclined to spend time in Slack. He was able to quickly and easily change his Workato recipe to utilize email instead. “We modified this recipe due to low Slack adoption. Now we use Workato to look up whether the incoming text is related to an applicant, and if so, it sends an email message to our program team’s inbox,” says Tony. “By promoting the visibility of these incoming messages, adoption of our SMS tool by students is growing.”

Tony also created a workflow in Workato to engage with and encourage students via SMS who haven’t been actively working on their application. The recipe uses the Workato Timer app to trigger a query in Salesforce of selected program applications once every day and, if the Scholar hasn’t worked on their application for 14 days or more, send a text message to the students via MogliSMS. The text asks if the student needs help with anything and reminds them to log into their Chicago Scholars application. This helps keep students engaged and allows the staff to give students a friendly reminder without wasting time manually identifying who has not logged in and sending texts.

Auto-Logging Video Hangouts with Students in Salesforce

The Chicago Scholars team also uses Acuity, a self-scheduling tool, to run college success hangouts. Students attend these hangouts to connect with staff virtually. Staff members list their availability in Acuity, where students can select an appointment slot. When a student schedules a hangout using the app, Workato creates a new Salesforce task for that staff member and integrates the appointment into the staff member’s Outlook calendar. During the hangout, the staff member can log their notes on the appointment inside of Salesforce. This makes it easy for the staff to log their notes in Salesforce, and if they forget to do so, there is still record of the meeting on the student’s profile since Workato automatically created a task in Salesforce when the appointment was made.


Connecting Students to Jobs with Google Sheets and Salesforce

Chicago Scholars helps to place students in jobs and internships and maintains a job board for listings. They use Workato to automatically update the board by integrating Salesforce with Google Sheets. “Our job board is hosted using Awesome Tables, which displays the contents of a Google Sheet. Because this was really complex to maintain, we created a custom object in Salesforce to track all job board postings,” says Tony. Now, when there are any new or updated records in Salesforce, this Workato recipe updates the Google Sheet, which in turn updates the Awesome Table widget displaying the job board. This ensures the job board is always up to date for the students without wasting precious staff time to manually maintain the board.

Nonprofit Integration: Making Students Feel Important and Helping them Succeed

For an organization like Chicago Scholars, integration is the first step in making strategic programming choices. “Having current, real time data is really important for our decision making–it enables us to reach out to the right students and give them the support they need,” says Tony. He also appreciates the reduction in errors resulting from integration. Manually reconciling data is frequently more faulty; the human brain is only so accurate. Integration simplifies running a lean nonprofit, minimizing the need for a large staff to spend long hours at computer checking data. “At this point, I’m comfortable saying that thousands of hours have been saved,” says Tony.

But integration is more than just a way to save money and frustration; it’s also a way to better connect with students. In the past, Chicago Scholars surveys included redundant questions, such as, “What’s your name?” and “What’s your class?”. The organization already knew the answers, but they didn’t have a way to match and store that information for every student. After integrating, they don’t need to ask the same questions over and over because the information is readily available in Salesforce. “When students register for a new event and experience the workflow we’ve made with Workato,” says Tony, “students feel known and really connected to the program because of the more intimate knowledge we have of them.”

Interested in making Salesforce a hub for your nonprofit? Take a closer look at Chicago Scholar’s recipes below.