A solution to track complex member relationships and networks for a growing organization.

Executive Summary

As a result of rapid organizational growth, the College Diabetes Network (CDN) quickly outgrew its data management system. CDN needed a solution that would give the nonprofit a 360-degree view of its constituents, including the ability to see all its members, their relationships, and the multiple ways that they engage within and outside of the CDN network.  After carefully identifying the business processes and relationships that needed to be tracked, 501Partners created an enterprise-wide implementation for this small nonprofit managing over 100 chapters across the country.

A Salesforce solution addressed three pressing concerns for this growing membership organization:

  • The need to successfully track complex relationships and connections;
  • The need to customize Salesforce to gain a complete (360-degree) view of its constituents and the various ways that they may connect during a lifetime engagement; and
  • How to use data to track and measure impact and work in real time.


College Diabetes Network CEO and founder Christina Roth didn’t originally intend to create such a widespread and quickly growing nonprofit organization. In 2011, after struggling to find the support she needed to cope with her Type 1 Diabetes within a college environment, Christina founded the nonprofit College Diabetes Network (CDN) both as a national organization and as a local chapter at her university. Christina created a unique organization that is both a dialogue and network for her fellow students laboring to cope with the disease. Today, in 2016, CDN operates over 100 chapters in 34 states, and continues to grow rapidly.

Recognizing that data was an invaluable asset, Christina invested in an open-source Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). Unfortunately, the system wasn’t diverse enough in its functions to meet the organization’s needs. CDN needed a robust and flexible CRM system that would enable staff to see both the big data picture and dig deep into the small details. Christina herself says they were unable to view their data holistically, so that “we didn’t know what we didn’t know.” Their knowledge gap began to hinder the growth of the organization.

Eventually deciding CDN would be equally in danger if it couldn’t get its data organized, the nonprofit made a commitment to using Salesforce, with 501Partners’ assistance customizing the solution.

Presenting Data Needs

College Diabetes Network came to 501Partners with several pressing data collection needs, including the need to:

  • Track the multiple constituent relationships within and outside of the organization’s network (such as with partner organizations);
  • Have a complete, 360-degree view of their constituents’ relationships;
  • Track the lifetime engagement of the constituent beyond college student status;
  • View and track connections across the network (mentorships, jobs, speakers, etc.);
  • View programmatic and fundraising data together; and
  • Measure the reach and impact of its work.

One of the pieces hampering complete data intake was the disconnect between the data fields and business processes in the open-source CRM. Over a series of meetings and observations, 501Partners consultants cultivated a deep understanding of how CDN operates, its business processes and pain points. With attention to needs, and iterative design process, 501Partners was able to design a Salesforce solution to effectively resolve CDN’s many data needs.

It was critical that CDN be able to track the lifetime engagement of each constituent and their relationships to others. CDN is a complex network of relationships: high school students can attend a CDN event, college students can join or start chapters, college parents are connected to the organization through their children (and may become donors), students interested in diabetes-related careers can be connected with partner organizations, and CDN alumni may be recruited as mentors or speakers. It was important that CDN be able to view the activity of any member, along with interactions with other members and staff, and track those relationships as they grow and change. Understanding these relationships would also assist both the development and communications departments.

Facilitating connections is a major part of what CDN does as an organization. CDN also wanted to track those connections and measure the results of those interactions over the lifetime of the constituent. In order to do so, CDN needed to be able to look at the data and use it to measure the impact of its efforts, and its network connections. “Facilitating peer to peer interactions is a major part of what we do, and now we can measure the impact and results of them,” asserts Christina.

Finally, as an data-driven organization, CDN wanted to understand how data would enable staff to assess the network in real-time, as well as plan for long-term growth.

CDN’s Salesforce is able to effectively track all the information needed to understand and manage complex membership relationships and member networks.

Their nonprofit Salesforce solution now enables the College Diabetes Network to:

  • Track extensive complex and multiple connections, participant networks, and the reach of these efforts;
  • Track all program, communications, and fundraising data in one place;
  • Access planning data in real time to make smart decisions about growth;
  • Customize its Salesforce instance to enable efficient communication, process, program setup, and new chapter implementations; and
  • Raise more funds now that it has the ability to view participants alongside their parents.

501Partners developed a Salesforce solution to reflect CDN’s business processes, and capture a 360-degree view of its constituent relationships. As a result, CDN understands and is able to effectively manage overlapping and multiple relationships within its network, efficiently set up and implement new programs, and track and manage different types of data for fundraising, communications, and program management.

CDN can also map data and visualize the connections and activities of each of their chapters and constituents, as well as track specific constituents (such as parents, students, alumni, other organizations). A key benefit is the ability to take this information to better target communications, along with more efficient fundraising.

Moving to Salesforce, and committing to a customized implementation has greatly furthered the College Diabetes Network’s prospects for long-term growth, helping to ensure lasting support for college students with Type 1 Diabetes throughout U.S. universities.

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