Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships

Breaking down the data silos with the help of CiviCRM

The Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships (DOSP) was founded to serve as a bridge between the City of Denver and the non-profit sector. The agency focuses on building individual skills and tools for non-profit and City agency staff in order to encourage the creation of cross-sector partnerships. 

Cividesk recently spoke with Miriam Pena, director of the DOSP and Jason Salas, who handles marketing, media and communications within the organization about their experiences implementing and using CiviCRM. 

Similar to many organizations who have transitioned to CiviCRM, the DOSP was initially using Excel spreadsheets to store their data. However, they quickly determined they needed a better system to keep pace with their rapid growth and expansion of programs. “We didn’t have a good system in place and data was organized in silos within the office” explained Jay. They work with about 3,000 non-profits and government agencies, so there was a need to manage those list of contacts and coordinate the efforts of the staff so that everyone in the organization had access to the same information.

After doing some research, CiviCRM seemed like a solution that would work for them since it was user-friendly, and integrated with Constant Contact. DOSP chose to work with Cividesk as a service provider, since they felt they needed the technical expertise that Cividesk provided to implement the database and maintain it. They also wanted a local presence for tech support (Cividesk is headquartered in Denver) and the monthly service fee was reasonable and affordable.

The staff was pleased with the data migration, but there was a lot of combining data, cleaning and deduping that had to take place to get ready for the import. “The data migration can be a headache, but the benefit will definitely outweigh the burden”, commented Miriam. Her advice to an organization thinking about implementing CiviCRM would be to give some thought to the full potential of their data when they are first setting up CiviCRM, and what they eventually want to do with the data in order to organize it in a way that allows for maximum search capabilities. As part of the set up process, Cividesk works with clients to consult in this area to help organizations make these decisions regarding their data segmentation. Cividesk also provides initial training to clients and the staff at DOSP participated in several on-site training sessions to ensure that everyone was comfortable with using the database and understood its capabilities. 

The integration of Constant Contact with CiviCRM has been a huge benefit for their newsletter and e-alerts. “It’s a great tool for communications”, states Jay, and “the ability to sync up the data between the two programs has been really helpful”, added Miriam. The organization saves time and money when conducting studies, sending emails, or surveying contacts, since all of the lists used for these tasks are now consolidated and easily accessible.

The DOSP also uses online pages for event registration for their non-profit training sessions and to send out reminders for upcoming events. Using CiviCRM has helped facilitate event logistics, another major benefit for the organization.

One struggle they have encountered has been taking the time to enter new data into the CRM, specifically notes from meetings with the non-profits who they assist. They strive to do a better job with recording this information in the CRM. They would also like to utilize more functions in the CRM and will be receiving additional training from Cividesk to assist them in this endeavor.

When asked about the benefits of CiviCRM, Miriam and Jay both feel that the main benefit for DOSP is the centralized storage of their data – gone are the various Excel spreadsheets saved on different computers!  They are saving time and energy, as well as avoiding the frustration that would occur searching for different lists on various computers. “CiviCRM has helped to break down the silos of information and consolidate the data in one accessible location.” Now the staff at DOSP can focus more on the broader picture and how each staff member’s work affects the whole organization. CiviCRM is helping answer the question of how to utilize all of their contacts and connections to work together as a team. Ultimately, many non-profits share these same goals: function more efficiently to fulfill their mission and better serve the community. CiviCRM is the tool that can help non-profits realize this objective.