What we did
Creating “paws-itive” change
In Oakville, Ontario, a group of Canadians with disabilities are gathered in a training center to meet their new dog guides for the first time. They’ve completed a rigorous application process and have been waiting up to three years to be paired with a guide that fits their specific needs.
The dog guides enter, tails wagging. And lives are immediately changed.
The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides aims to empower Canadians with disabilities by providing them with a dog guide at no cost, helping them navigate the world with a greater sense of confidence and independence. In addition to pairing dog guides with people, the organization also manages the dog’s entire lifecycle—from breeding through retirement—and provides ongoing support to all its clients.
But when COVID-19 hit, the organization was faced with a major dilemma: all the information on clients, dogs, and donors resided in physical files at the organization’s main office in Oakville, requiring team members to travel and retrieve the paperwork in person.
“There was a huge risk factor. If anything happened to that building or those files, all our client records and donor info would be gone,“ said Bev Crandell, CEO of Dog Guides. “These are really critical pieces to the organization. We needed to get into this century.”
Relying on paper files also made it impossible to see the connections between dogs and stakeholders. A person could be a client, volunteer, and donor, Crandell said, but you wouldn’t know that because their information would be in three separate databases.
“Having all of this data in multiple places made it really hard to get a good picture on the overall operation,” she said. “Like, how many clients do we actually have? How many dogs do we have in our breeding program? How many foster families have we had over the years? Trying to see the synergy between the data ... it just wasn’t there.”
They knew what we did and understood our needs and our operation. We were astounded. So, to show up that ready, I feel like we hit the ground running.
Working together as one
Soon after deciding it was time for a digital transformation, the organization landed on Salesforce as a technology solution. Having previously worked in the tech industry, Gina Lijoi—the director of programs and client services at Dog Guides—knew it was important to find a partner that would take the time to understand the complexities of the organization.
“After going through discovery with multiple vendors, Slalom was the most robust,” she said. “They were the most organized. They asked the most questions. And they took the most time with discovery, which gave me the highest degree of confidence.”
And the discovery process was immense. The Slalom team needed to learn the ins and outs of the organization—such as the breeding and training program—while also gaining an understanding of the relationships between clients, foster families, donors, and other constituents.
“Very early on, it started to feel like we were a single team. There was no division,” Lijoi said. “When the implementation team showed up, they knew who we were. They knew the titles of people on our staff. They knew what we did and understood our needs and our operation. We were astounded. So, to show up that ready, I feel like we hit the ground running.”
Becoming a digital-first not-for-profit
Among the immediate priorities were getting the main processes into Salesforce, as well as a full website and data migration.
“It wasn’t just giving them a CRM—it was changing the way they approach how they support their community,” said Alysa McCarty, engagement lead and principal consultant at Slalom Canada. “We told them that we’re not just building a new piece of technology—the business processes will have to meet the technology partway. And they were fully on board.”
Beyond implementing Salesforce NPSP, Slalom worked with Dog Guides to develop tailored solutions for some of the organization’s more unique challenges. This included customizing a dog and client tracker app that captured all the vital data points, allowing the organization to see the end-to-end lifecycle for both dogs and clients in one place.
One of the most intricate aspects of the organization, however, is the breeding program. As part of this process, breeders use a “coefficient of inbreeding”—a complex formula that helps them measure the inbreeding levels and determine the ideal matches. Slalom embraced the challenge to break down the formula, verify it with the geneticist, and work with the developer to build it with Lightning Web Components in Salesforce.
“It was really cool to see everyone come together and rally to create something like that,” McCarty said. “Now it’s this beautiful chart in Salesforce that dictates all of the numbers in a digestible way.”
An investment in change management and ongoing training also played a major role in the overall excitement and adoption of the new CRM, she said.
“Almost 100% of users signed in on day one of go-live,” said McCarty. “They knew it was coming and were in all of the demos, so the user buy-in was there.”
It wasn’t just giving them a CRM—it was changing the way they approach how they support their community.
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Immediate and tangible impact
From trainers to the direct mail manager, Dog Guides’ employees are blown away by their ability to access information and document communication with clients, Lijoi said.
“Prior to Salesforce, you would go into this file room, try to locate a client file, and hope that all your previous emails had been printed out,” she said. “Flip to today and we have all that history and information in Salesforce. There’s this cohesiveness and fluidity that we didn’t have before.”
Now that they’re trained on a central, unified platform, employees and volunteers can spend less time on administration and more time supporting their dogs and clients.
One example of this support happened shortly after a Slalom consultant led an #IamRemarkable workshop with a group of volunteers. A mother traveled to accept a dog for her autistic child, but nearly left the facility after struggling with feelings of doubt and unworthiness.
Fortunately, a staff member used what she’d learned in the workshop and coached the mother to reflect on three things that make her a remarkable person. The mom stayed and trained with the dog, and now her child will get the support they need.
“Anything I can do with a direct impact on the community, I want to get involved,” said McCarty. “So this was a big no-brainer for me. I thought it was going to be high impact, and it turned out to be even more than I anticipated.”