A Successful First Workshop

A week ago, dsmHack hosted its very first tech workshop exclusively for nonprofits! As this was our very first foray into a non-hackathon event, we had high hopes but were cautiously optimistic. We’ll talk more about how “Everything You Wanted to Know About Salesforce for Nonprofits” went in a minute. But first, what are dsmHack workshops?

Nonprofit Workshops, you say?

In a nutshell, dsmHack workshops are designed to address common questions that we hear from nonprofits on a regular basis. The goal is to help answer questions, work through issues, and connect nonprofits with people that can help–all in a pressure-free, neutral environment.

We’ve all been in a situation where you’re in a meeting that you hoped you’d learn from and it ends up being a high pressure sales call. As a result, your real questions don’t get answered and there’s a nagging feeling that you’re not getting the whole story.


As an organization, dsmHack always has been, and always will be, tool and provider neutral. When we decided to start hosting workshops, we knew that this could be challenging. Ensuring that the workshops are not “sales-y” is incredibly important to dsmHack and is critical to the success of the workshops. We carefully select presenters for our workshops that respect the goals of dsmHack and that can provide high quality information to attendees. We want attendees to know that the workshops are a pressure-free zone and all questions are welcome. Not like our friend Dilbert in the comic above!

Our First Workshop: Everything You Wanted to Know About Salesforce for Nonprofits

Over the years we’ve been doing our annual hackathon, we’ve seen many different types of nonprofit project submissions. Some of the ones we always struggle with are the projects that have something to do with Salesforce. Salesforce requires some pretty specialized skills and we can’t always guarantee that our hackathon volunteers will come with those skills. That makes it very difficult to accept the project since we can’t promise we’ll have the resources to do the work. This need was one of the driving forces behind creating the workshops. How could we address these very specific needs in a different way? That’s why we picked Salesforce as our first nonprofit workshop topic.

Jacki Askelson and Joseph Piearson head up the Des Moines Nonprofit Salesforce User Group and agreed to facilitate an honest discussion about both the highlights and challenges of Salesforce. Our hope was that we’d have attendees that were both current users and evaluators of Salesforce so that the conversation could not only include learning from experts, but learning from each other as well.

Just as we had hoped, our attendees were split right down the middle! Some had heard of Salesforce and wanted to learn more while others needed some deeper dive information as they were current users. The small group size (about 10 attendees) made it possible to answer a variety of questions, share knowledge between nonprofits, and make connections with people that can help.

Salesforce Workshop 2016

Most attendees hadn’t heard of the Des Moines Nonprofit Salesforce User Group which is an excellent (FREE) source of support in the community. Simply making that connection can be a win in and of itself. That, in addition to the increased comfort level of the attendees and the knowledge they were able to glean, will help the nonprofits make the best decisions for their organization–even if it means not going with Salesforce as a CRM tool. And that, really, is what we’re hoping for with the workshops. No tool or service sales. No expectations of adoption. Just an open and welcoming environment with helpful people that want the best for the nonprofits.

The feedback that we’ve received thus far has been very positive and we’ve been able to connect a couple of the nonprofits with volunteers to help them sort through some Salesforce questions outside of the workshop. The attendees also received some useful resources from Joseph and Jacki that will help them in the future as they make decisions about adopting Salesforce or as they expand their skills on the platform. Curious about some of the specific content they covered? Click through the presentation slides below.

Future dsmHack Workshops

What do we have up our sleeves for future workshops? Well, nothing is set in stone yet, but we have some ideas. To help us narrow them down, we’d be interested in hearing what you would find valuable. Whether it’s WordPress, social media, Excel, Google or beyond, we want to try and satisfy the needs of the nonprofit community by making these helpful connections with tech experts. Please drop us a note at info@dsmhack.org and let us know your thoughts, feedback, or to share speaker ideas.

We look forward to seeing you at our next workshop. Keep an eye on our Events page for future opportunities, and make sure you join our mailing list if you need a little reminder.