ecoSpark.ca works with communities and with schools, providing them with the knowledge and tools to monitor their environment and take action for positive environmental change. They believe that through encouraging and empowering those who they work with to take action themselves, they can create and sustain a healthy environment. The organization runs four programs and had been facing challenges managing their contacts, volunteers, and communications efforts.
ecoSpark (formerly operating as Citizens Environment Watch) engaged JMA Consulting to help them plan and deliver a custom CiviCRM project to consolidate constituent information across the organization, as well as train staff to use CiviCRM. On a separate parallel track with other providers, a branding exercise was undertaken that resulted in a new name and eventually a new website.
A initial short, inexpensive engagement was used to scope the work and provide an estimated cost for the rest of CiviCRM project. In the initial engagement JMA Consulting interviewed key staff about existing programs, their challenges, and hopes for the new system, and did a technical review that involved identifying and reviewing existing data stores (e.g. Excel files in many forms used by various staff). The deliverable was a costed statement of work that formed the basis of the main engagement.
One unusual element of this project was that for contractual reasons, ecoSpark needed to be able to keep a complete separation between the CRM work and contact information being done in the Live Green Toronto program it was administering on behalf of the City of Toronto and their own internal ecoSpark programs. Two separate CiviCRM databases were used in the final design to assist in keeping information separate in backups and avoiding potential issues passing off the system at the end of administration contract.
ecoSpark confirmed during the initial engagement that they were not interested in changing their existing and successful engagement model to include an online element, partly due to cost factors but also to avoid scheduling linkages between the CiviCRM project and the branding/CMS projects. Unlike most CiviCRM implementation that aim to engage with constituents online using the software, ecoSpark wanted to use CiviCRM in a back-office capacity only to manage its contacts and produce summary reporting information for its funders.
Now that their public website is in soft launch, ecoSpark is looking at integrating their staff oriented CiviCRM backend system with what has turned out to be a Drupal front end site. The intent is to remove an administrative burden in getting teacher registrations into the CiviCRM system. Although they have not had an active fundraising program, they expect to use CiviContribute for that in the future.
The CiviCRM project identified a several dozen sorts of information about different types of contacts and their participation in different programs. As budgets were limited and ecoSpark staff knew their data best, data cleanup and standardization was done by ecoSpark using advice from JMA Consulting staff. Several joint working sessions allowed a data model to be developed to handle all of the kinds of information and contacts and activities that were needed by ecoSpark. A dozen sets of fields used in different contexts and several dozen fields overall consolidate information from their various programs. One interesting approach used by ecoSpark is to estimate the number of people who are at outreach meetings where their programs are presented, and to use that as well as the number of various sorts of such meetings as metrics of activity and success. Participant records were used to track the participation of organizers putting on local events, rather than the number of participants in their events.
Google spreadsheets were used to share data back and forth bewteen JMA Consulting and ecoSpark. Comments at the top of columns provided general instructions (e.g. standard formats for dates and phone numbers, which columns to use when various sorts of data appeared in a notes column, etc.). Different sheets were used for allowable vaiues in select and multi-select option lists. At later stages, problematic cells were highlighted and/or commented. In some cases the project team decided to have JMA Consulting use database queries and advanced spreadsheet functionality for certain cleanup tasks rather than manual edits by ecoSpark staff. Data cleanup was very time consuming on the initial set of 5000 contacts, 1500 activities, and about 1000 records of contact participation were brought in.
A series of four two hour training sessions was delivered to each set of staff. General CiviCRM functionality, customized fields, and specific organizational processes and standards were reviewed during these sessions. As the organization has no IT staff, a few of the more technically minded users were given administration responsibilities and specific training as necessary for that functionality.