Several years ago, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (Tualatin SWCD), a local unit of government focused on natural resource conservation, received new public funding to expand its conservation management footprint.
The challenge: living in a spreadsheet world
“At the time, we were five employees living in a spreadsheet world, and communicating through fairly rudimentary tools and organizational processes,” said Aaron Shaw, Director of Natural Resources.
As the organization grew, the team needed a more rigorous way to communicate information about conservation programs and elevate the benefit of their environmental work to key external stakeholders.
“We’ve since expanded to over 20 employees. As we grew, we were very intentional in the way we were thinking about our systems, infrastructure, and communication tools – both internally and also in the way that we planned to engage the community.”
Choosing the best CRM: Insightly
One of those tools was a CRM. As the team went through their evaluation process, there were a number of factors that came into play.
Shaw said, “We really wanted a solution that, off the shelf, came as close as possible to serving the needs of our organization; which, as a public entity, serves a very diverse community of stakeholders, including other organizations, municipalities, individuals, businesses, and more. And we got all of that with Insightly.”
Bethany Lund, the team’s administrator and Conservation Specialist, was also on the team that made the decision to move forward with Insightly. “We went with Insightly because of its customization capabilities. It was going to be simple to use Insightly’s API for our integrations. We also realized that solutions like Salesforce were just too much for our needs. Insightly is right-sized to our business, and has proven to be very flexible and customizable over the long-term.”
Improved stakeholder communications
There’s a significant level of complexity in what Tualatin SWCD does to support environmental efforts in Washington County. “We provide direct financial assistance for conservation efforts through programs that improve habitat, water quality, and soil health. We also partner with organizations like the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to provide assistance to individuals and groups in improving conditions in our watershed district,” said Shaw.
Shaw’s team shares contacts and has conversations with people in the community at any given time across a number of programs, so it was absolutely essential that they choose a CRM with the ability to link relationships across contacts and organizations. They also needed the ability to quickly and easily create custom objects and fields to better represent the unique nature of their work.
The importance of relationship linking: a key Insightly feature
“Before we used Insightly, we faced a challenge in that a landowner or contact might have conversations with different members of our staff, but staff weren’t aware of those conversations, and it wasn’t easy to share that information without using Insightly,” said Lund. “It was creating a situation in which we weren’t providing the right level of service, and it was also inefficient for our staff. Now we can link contacts to multiple programs, projects, and entities, and that gives us a full picture of what’s going on with that contact.”
Shaw agrees. “We wanted to be able to document the history and understand the state of each conversation, the goals and interests of our residents or contacts, the number of projects the contact was engaged in across our organization, and we wanted everyone in our organization to have access to that information.”
Improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness
Along with streamlining communication, it’s also important to have full visibility across the organization to where all programs stand at any given time.
In the past, the team had been using RACI spreadsheets that showed each phase of a project from enrollment to implementation, who was responsible, and which outside organizations were involved and contributing. But the issue was that “the spreadsheets were just dead tools and didn’t connect to a project. They were able to guide our work, but didn’t translate to tracking how projects developed along the task pipeline,” according to Shaw.
Insightly has enhanced Tualatin SWCD’s organizational efficiency and effectiveness through real-time updates from features like pipelines and dashboards. “We’re using pipelines to track project and program status, who is responsible for each phase, budget status, and program completion. We’ve been able to create different pipelines for programs depending on the program inputs and process. This has helped us really understand and align across teams, and has been great organizationally to help us connect and quickly identify where projects are in the flow from concept to implementation, and also identify any problems or issues faster than we could before,” said Shaw.
Advanced customization and integration
Insightly’s advanced customization features were “absolutely key” in Tualatin SWCD’s decision to move forward. Given the unique nature of their work, they needed to stand up a customized version of Insightly based on their business model and processes, according to Shaw.
Working with Insightly Professional Services on key integrations
Lund worked closely with Insightly’s Professional Services team to develop a custom integration between Insightly, Tualatin SWCD’s homegrown project management application, and PandaDoc. “We created a custom object called ‘work orders,’ which is essentially Insightly’s quote object. With this integration, we’re able to send out quotes and update program and project statuses automatically.
The updates go to the management team, contractors and external stakeholders. Once we approve the data, a template is populated in PandaDoc and the information is delivered automatically. That’s a huge improvement for us, because that was all done manually before. I’d estimate that this is saving us hours of work by eliminating repetitive, manual tasks. It’s also helped us avoid errors in data input, which can easily happen with manual work.”
Reporting great results back to the community
Tualatin SWCD has a responsibility to demonstrate the impact the organization drives in the community, and to that end, dashboards and reporting are a fundamental component in their ability to showcase results. “Fund codes are set up in Insightly that reflect our overall project budget for a given year. Our project management software looks at those fund codes to validate projects submitted for funding approval. Insightly is a critical piece of our budget management process. With Insightly, it’s very simple to share this information with our partner organizations and also pull it for the purposes of sharing with our constituencies in our annual reports. The process that we’ve designed supports our business perfectly.”
Adopting Insightly has been vital to organizing and sharing key data points about Tualatin’s conservation efforts in the community. “The team is highly motivated to get the message out about the benefits of their programs and feature the work they accomplish, so there’s a huge incentive for people to buy into Insightly.”