Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a Boston-based nonprofit organization tackling the intractable problem of food in the United States: while 40% of our food is wasted, 41 million people face food insecurity.  To bridge this gap, Lovin’ Spoonfuls rescues food from grocery stores, farms, restaurants, and other businesses and delivers it to senior centers, domestic violence shelters, after-school programs, food pantries, and other social services nonprofits, reaching 30,000 people each week.

“The work we do is important because of the dueling challenges of food waste and food insecurity,” explains Lauren Palumbo, Chief Operating Officer for Lovin’ Spoonfuls. “We often say that hunger is really a problem of distribution, not supply.”

Distribution is the key challenge Lovin’ Spoonfuls tackles. Each week, they work with 70 businesses and 140 social services nonprofits in 40 cities and towns in Massachusetts to ensure that instead of going to waste, 65,000 pounds of food get distributed to hungry people. But they don’t want to stop there: their goal is to eventually serve all of Massachusetts.

The Challenge: Wrangling Data for Smooth Logistics

By design, Lovin’ Spoonfuls doesn’t have a warehouse or other kind of storage, so the food they pick up must be delivered that same day. This creates a logistical challenge that requires a lot of data to manage properly, including information on vendors supplying food, partners receiving the food, timing of routes, driver schedules, and the particular food needs and storage capabilities of each partner organization. Lovin’ Spoonfuls staff was tracking this wide array of information using various spreadsheets, Word documents, and handwritten notes – a process that was unwieldy and led to missed opportunities, as not everyone had access to the same data.

In addition, Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ development department found their system to be lacking. Their previous setup didn’t have all of the features they needed, and they were finding it difficult to establish best practices for entering and using information. Plus, they no longer wanted to keep development separate from everything else and were looking for a way to roll development and operations into one system.

So, Palumbo went searching for a solution.

Success with Salesforce and 501Partners

Palumbo knew they wanted to use Salesforce but also knew Lovin’ Spoonfuls needed a consultant to help with the transition. During her search, she learned that 501Partners had successfully built out Salesforce for a number of their partners. With multiple recommendations in hand, she gave 501Partners a call. Paul Baxter, Salesforce Consultant and Director of Training, quickly got to work talking with staff, learning their needs, and examining their current operations.

“Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ tools were so diffuse that they weren’t able to pull all the information together,” explains Baxter. “We were able to solve that using the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack.”

The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) provides a cost-effective solution for getting started with Salesforce. Baxter was able to use components that are available for no cost instead of purchasing extra apps while also guiding them on what customizations and automations would enhance the “out-of-the-box” functionality. Baxter helped the development staff create engagement plans for donors and the program staff add fields to the existing Salesforce template that were unique for their needs.

“We were able to create a system that pulled all of their data together,” explains Baxter. “It allowed them to be more systematic in their outreach.”

The Results: Better Data and Stronger Outreach

Having all of their data in one place and accessible to everyone helped Lovin’ Spoonfuls streamline logistics and create better outreach strategies. One example of that outreach had to do with delivery or pickup cancellations. At times, Lovin’ Spoonfuls drivers would arrive at a partner location only to find the place closed, leaving them with a truck full of food and nowhere to go. With no mobile accessible systems  to track these incidents, Lovin’ Spoonfuls was unable to address the issue and therefore unable to cut down on what they call “agreement violations” – organizations not being open at previously agreed-upon times. When developing the new system, Baxter was able to help Lovin’ Spoonfuls staff create a process to track the violations as well as a communications plan that helps reduce cancellations. Plus, their drivers now have mobile access to track this data in real time.

“It has really increased interaction on the back end from us to our partners and has improved our relationships,” explains Palumbo. “We have definitely seen a significant impact in our operations because of it.”

Palumbo also found other benefits of their new system. In addition to on-the-go data for route and schedule changes, mobile access to the system also makes it easy for Lovin’ Spoonfuls staff members to make notes of conversations with partners, including documenting “partner quotes” – positive comments about how Lovin’ Spoonfuls is helping people. Every Monday, Palumbo runs a report to view these quotes and shares them with staff. “These quotes are useful for development and marketing,” explains Palumbo, “but they also help us feel good about the work we’re doing.”

In addition to feeling good about their work, Lovin’ Spoonfuls staff now have a positive daily experience with entering, tracking, and using the data so necessary for their food delivery logistics. Thanks to years of expertise implementing the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) and building out efficient and effective systems for nonprofits, 501Partners was able to help Lovin’ Spoonfuls increase efficiency and functionality without breaking the bank.

For Palumbo, working with the right consultants was key. “We’re not database experts,” she explains. “Relying on an established developer who also understands nonprofits and the space we work in, to provide guidance and tips along the way, was so key for us feeling confident in the outcomes.”