• Nonprofits can have specific organizational challenges centered around outdated systems, security concerns, and data collection. But a lack of time and resources shouldn’t be a barrier to modernization.
  • These challenges were familiar for the Boston Athletic Association — the nonprofit that runs the Boston Marathon. BAA switched from an in-house solution to an improved process driven by Salesforce and Chargent — keeping them lean and focused on the runners.
  • Between Salesforce’s core functionality and Chargent’s accessible registration and international bulk-based payment system, BAA was able to facilitate a smooth and satisfying user and operational experience.

Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) aren’t always seen as leaders in system modernization — and some face barriers when it comes to updating systems. But NPOs are exactly the kinds of organizations requiring smart solutions to elevate the customer experience.

Organizations often use outdated systems to manage payments (and sometimes donations), but this opens them up to a host of security concerns. What’s more, they’re unable to harness the potential of proper data collection which could help them deliver better services.

Consulting firm Attain partnered with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) in implementing a payment solution combining the power of Salesforce and the accessibility of Chargent. This ensured a seamless user experience for tens of thousands of participants in the internationally recognized Boston Marathon coming from all over the world.

Broaching BAA’s Modernization Challenges

As the sixth largest marathon in the world, it’s crucial that the Boston Marathon runs smoothly.

Each year, 30,000 participants from 100 different countries participate in the race, and the marathon’s charity program raises $36 million annually. Approximately 10,000 volunteers take part during race weekends.

As the organizer, BAA depends on a strong fundraising program and exceptional relationship management, which requires the infrastructure to support a good donation experience, as well as strong record-keeping. This is the bedrock of fundraising and program efficiency, operational reliance, and social ROI — as well as preventing donor attrition rates.

But outdated systems created a difficult user experience which led to the NPO losing money. BAA literally couldn’t afford to ignore the negative impact its systems were having on the organization as a whole and in the long run.

To solve these challenges, BAA wanted to explore Salesforce solutions.

The highest priority was the participants’ experience during online race registration. Once this opened, there would be thousands of people rushing to register — with each looking to be the first to submit their registration (a race before the race!). A good user experience was therefore paramount.

But just as importantly, BAA is a small nonprofit organization run by a team of just 30 people. Any solution needed to check all the boxes: accessibility, functionality, and ease of use and management. It also had to be cost-effective.

Overcoming Organizational Limits and Outdated Tools

Most organizations — no matter how big or well resourced — use legacy systems for at least one or more processes. It’s tempting to procrastinate on modernization, because of a lack of time or money. And this is even easier to justify: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For the Boston Marathon, BAA was using database systems designed over two decades ago. Consultants from small independent firms were handling all the BAA’s technology, which worked well enough originally,  but BAA’s needs had outgrown their capacity.

Salesforce has a “360° view” of its customers — by comparison, the BAA had a “six-degree view” of their constituents.

The limits of the tools they were using became the limits of the organization.

Chris Pifer, Salesforce MVP and Senior Solutions Architect, Attain

BAA would clone the database annually with a quick fix approach, resulting in multiple duplications of Access databases. And they were not alone – solutions involving comparatively low tech email or Excel workarounds are not uncommon among NPOs.

BAA ran into several issues with their legacy system, including:

  • Data collection: It was impossible to effectively collect — let alone analyze — useful data for financial reporting.
  • Targeting: The databases didn’t provide details on whether someone registering was a volunteer, athlete, VIP, member of the media, or otherwise.
  • Security: Finding a way to reliably collect payment information was also a concern.

The system simply didn’t do what BAA needed it to do. But making a change was unappealing. There can be worries around complicated implementation with limited staff power.

When Attain arrived to consult, the solution was Salesforce’s core CRM platform functionality with Salesforce AppExchange solutions plugging any gaps. Chargent was the key piece of the puzzle the BAA needed to accept payments, also providing declarative tools. All they needed was Salesforce user interface expansion.

Charging Forward with Chargent’s Online Payments

Chargent, powered by Salesforce, offered two clear advantages for the BAA when modernizing its payment system, while avoiding fraud and providing security reassurances:

Registration and Bulk Payment Utility

Participants fill out the online payment form when registering for the Boston Marathon. But to charge a participant’s card, the marathon needs to verify that they’ve run a qualifying race with a qualifying time within two years of the date of registering.

Chargent automatically authorized the card. Following the verification process, the team captured the charges on 2,000 to 4,000 cards in bulk, leveraging the Chargent API to create a process for charging all the registrations in the Salesforce reporting API.

Teams can write a Salesforce report and pick from a dropdown list in a folder using the Salesforce platform. This report seamlessly charges and approves the registrations in the report.

Accepting Payments from Countries Outside the AVS

Not all countries from which participants come use the credit card payments address verification system (AVS).

Attain and Chargent created a process to complete address verification for US billing addresses. For non-US billing addresses, payments were quickly and easily processed following the returned results.

While fraud can be a concern for non-AVS participants, this was negated by the requirement for a previous qualifying marathon in order to register for the Boston Marathon — information taken earlier in the process.

Creating Chargent’s Salesforce-Powered Payments Solutions

Chargent is passionate about making nonprofit payment processing as simple as possible, utilizing Salesforce’s unbeatable functionality. This enables NPOs to collect donations and implement online fundraising anywhere within the Salesforce platform.

A huge variety of organizations use the customizable Chargent app across multiple configurations tailored for individual business needs. With Chargent, organizations can connect to payment gateways as quickly as possible.

Don’t let the pain of old and outdated legacy systems cause a struggle. Chargent’s team has the right payment solution for any organizational process.

Get payments right with Chargent and learn how to improve your payments efficiency (and volume!) in Salesforce.