emPower Central Coast

Using CiviCRM to better understand emPower's impact in the community

EmPower Central Coast is an organization that was created to help homeowners in the County of Santa Barbara make energy saving improvements to their homes. The emPower program facilitates home upgrade projects by making them more affordable through incentives, financing, qualified contractors and expert energy advice through visits from an “energy coach”. These visits provide tangible ways for the homeowner to save energy and lower their monthly utility bills. The organization recently partnered with the counties of Ventura and San Luis Obispo in Northern California to expand and serve homeowners in the tri-county region.

Cividesk recently spoke with their Business Specialist, Sherman Hansen, about emPower’s experiences using CiviCRM and how it has benefited their organization.

Before using CiviCRM, the staff was tracking all of their data on Excel spreadsheets, but realized early on that they needed a contact management system, since it was “cumbersome to track information” using Excel. They were also using Constant Contact for their emailing and wanted to integrate the emailing program with a CRM. The marketing and outreach manager at emPower was investigating several CRM options when a former colleague recommended CiviCRM. They liked the concept behind the CiviCRM community; it “struck a chord with us, since emPower is also a grass roots, community based program”, noted Sherman. They also liked the fact that CiviCRM is open-source and highly customizable.

Since they were only a three person organization at that time, they didn’t have in-house capabilities to implement the software and configure it to fit their specific needs. EmPower chose to work with Cividesk to help with these tasks and provide training and continued technical support. Cividesk also came highly recommended by the same colleague who had suggested CiviCRM and they found it to be the “most economical decision”.

Cividesk worked closely with Sherman and his colleagues during the implementation process to understand the emPower program, provide a database configured to meet their needs and ensure that all the existing data was imported correctly. There was a lot of data to import, not in terms of the number of contacts, but more in terms of the homeowner’s energy related data that emPower collects as part of their program. It took longer to configure CiviCRM than Sherman had anticipated, but he was pleased with the end result. He felt the staff at Cividesk persevered until everything functioned the way the emPower team had envisioned. The challenge was to configure the CRM so it could manage the different types of contacts that emPower deals with on a daily basis, such as Residents, Building Professionals and Community partners. Cividesk had to configure several webforms and pages and integrate them in emPower existing Drupal website including an Upcoming Events page, an Enews Sign Up page and several event registration pages. The user training was provided initially and a second time after the expansion to include Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, when new administrators from these county partners were also trained in the database.

The emPower program offers many opportunities to homeowners including community workshops and educational events, usually hosting three to four per month between the three counties. The events are managed in CiviCRM and the database integrates well with Constant Contact for the promotion of these activities. “The synchronization of our Constant Contact mailing lists with the CRM helps us save a lot of administrative time, there’s no more double data entry and we are sure that recent contacts will always
be included in our communications. Before CiviCRM we had to promote and track our events using several different tools. Now we can do it all in one place and as a result we are more efficient”.

As Business Specialist for emPower, Sherman is in charge of the maintenance of the data and the fiscal side of the organization. He accesses project and customer data on a daily basis in CiviCRM, conducts searches and updates contacts and project data information. He enjoys figuring out how to create a specific report based on colleagues’ needs using the report templates in CiviCRM and finds it gratifying to produce the finished product. He now quickly creates reports that used to take him much longer when he was comparing several Excel spreadsheets. Another function he utilizes often is data export and he shared how that has benefited Empower. “We are able to focus on our data and better implement our program. It also helps us with analyzing the data we collect, and knowing what we need to gather. These data provide us with a better picture of our program which facilitates the promotion of the program to the community”.

Using CiviCRM has helped emPower to be more efficient, better understand the impact they are making on their community, adjust their programs to fit the needs of the community and ultimately, to measure their success as an organization.