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Uniting technology expertise with in-the-moment engagement to help Sydney’s homeless

Uniting technology expertise with in-the-moment engagement to help Sydney’s homeless

Ask the team at Sydney Homeless Connect their ultimate ambition, and they’ll tell you it’s to bring people together to tackle issues around homelessness the moment they’re inspired to or need help.

And thanks to a highly collaborative partnership with Salesforce around technology, strategic marketing and customer expertise, that’s exactly what the not-for-profit is gaining the ability to achieve.

Sydney Homeless Connect focuses on the well-being, survival and protection of people at risk or experiencing homelessness in Sydney by connecting them with appropriate services and support communities. It does this through an annual one-day event where guests interact with core social services such as government departments, charities, medical and personal services providers.

In its eighth year, the most recent June 2017 event saw 3500 care packs distributed, 5100 hot meals served, 70 dental checks delivered and 211 haircuts undertaken.

It’s very hard if you’re in that space to connect with the people you need to connect with to get out of that situation,” says founder and CEO, Andrew Everingham. “The average waiting time for a house is 10 years, and it’s very difficult to navigate these waters at the best of times. We create a space to bring everyone together in one place on one day, and get people connected.”

Since its inception, Sydney Homeless Connect has been supported through Salesforce’s 1/1/1 integrated philanthropy model. This powerful program sees the vendor donating 1 per cent of profits, 1 per cent of technology and 1 per cent of resources to help improve communities around the world. To date, it’s resulted in more than 20 million hours man hours and millions of dollars delivered to communities globally.

Under the partnership, Sydney Homeless Connect initially had access to Salesforce CRM platform, and uses this as an information repository for core services providers and volunteers. But communicating with its growing number of diverse stakeholders has been a challenge, hindered by a lack of sufficient email marketing and social media management tools.

“The emails we sent were ugly, text based, and not in line with the brand we were working to create, and the whole process was manual and clunky,” Everingham says.

On the social side, things were also highly manual, and monitoring and measuring both email and social engagement was difficult.

Salesforce sought to help address these issues by supplying Salesforce Marketing Cloud including Social Studio and Command Centre. In a matter of weeks, a 10-strong team of solution architectures and marketing employees had hooked the technology to Sydney Homeless Connect’s CRM and re-orchestrated communications for the 2017 event.

Three emails for supporters and volunteers were produced featuring segment-specific content via 19 landing pages. The content was responsive based on each stakeholder’s requirement on the day. Importantly, the vendor plotted a range of journeys to determine key pre- and post-event moments for volunteers and service providers. The result was a 79 per cent email open rate.

“The communications pieces now reflect the look and feel of our brand,” Everingham says. “The way you are perceived is especially critical as a not-for-profit. Being respected and seen to deliver quality services to all stakeholders and in a consistent way is very important.”

In addition, it’s important to know if we are sending emails to volunteers and service providers that they are being received and read, Everingham comments. “That feedback can have a huge bearing on who turns up on the day, and at the right time.”

Top-line benefits

Almost immediately, Sydney Homeless Connect saw a significant reduction in time spent producing pre- and post- event communications.

“If you don’t provide people with the very best tools you can, you’re making their volunteering harder,” Everingham says, noting the NFP is completely reliant on volunteers. “The more we can bring on tools that take away that pain, the easier it’s going to be for everyone to do more.”

The second benefit is automating and monitoring social communications to gauge reactions through social sentiment.

“Something that allows me to know if what I’m doing is effecting change or at the very least, is being well received by the majority of the community, is critical,” Everingham says.  

Given the large number of interest groups Sydney Homeless Connects interacts with, there are people who don’t always agree with the not-for-profit’s approach.

“We tend to get a highly polarised reaction to what we do: Some are big supporters, some see us as a bandaid solution. Both views are valid,” he says. “Unless you’re listening to all conversations, you quite often only hear the good stuff. Now we have tools that allow us to tune into those notes. That’s what is exciting for me.”

Beyond the physical

The next step for Sydney Homeless Connect is extending communications outside the physical and connecting with stakeholders digitally more days of the year.

An early example of this ambition is the ‘iPledge’ campaign, aimed at volunteers who want to assist people at risk on an ongoing basis. Everingham says the charity often receives requests from individuals wanting to donate clothing, furniture or support services that could benefit those getting out of homelessness.

First conceived as hashtag, #SHCiPledge, the new Salesforce platform has allowed Sydney Homeless Connect to set up registrations for iPledge via Facebook, with individuals put into a journey to receive information. Within two hours of launch, the charity had 250 requests to help from 346 volunteers.

The next step is using Salesforce Marketing Cloud to identify people via the iPledge hashtag, then action their intention to give.

“With issues like homelessness, you often get blooms of interest, but without the right nutrients, that interest can die on the vine. If we have a way to say here, you can do this, and within 15 minutes connect them to someone they can do something with, we capitalise on their enthusiasm,” Everingham says.

Everingham hopes to get to a point where volunteers, service providers and the community can intersect at any moment in time.

“There is cross-over in service providers who could be complementing each other. But they’re so busy fighting the good fight, sometimes they can’t see those things. I love the idea there is this interaction point that can live both in digital and physical spaces,” he adds.  

Sydney Homeless Connect could even use the digital capabilities to improve engagement with homeless and those sleeping rough. Everingham notes a large number have a phone or smartphone to stay connected, and many self-serve via social channels.

The nearer-term ambition is connecting with stakeholders earlier in the event cycle. Everingham also sees the technology as the way to share learnings with others striving to address homelessness across Australia.

“I love the idea of creating a kit someone else can take and populate with local service providers and just go with in another city,” he says. “This technology gives us the ability to pay it forward in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

Overall, it’s the partnership with Salesforce that makes this possible. 

“This is very much an example of how collaborating together fosters different ideas that then start making things happen,” Everingham says. “Salesforce took the time needed to understand what we are, how we work and what drives us as a group.”

Sydney Homeless Connect is one of a number of Australian organisations Salesforce is collaborating with in order to optimise customer and stakeholder engagement in digital-first, increasingly mobile world. 

 Sydney Homeless Connect is one of a number of Australian organisations Salesforce is collaborating with in order to optimise customer and stakeholder engagement in digital-first, increasingly mobile world. 

To find out more about how brands such as Tip Top, Australia Post and Pizza Hut are addressing customer management and importantly,  bringing mobile into the heart of their strategy, download this new eBook: Mobilise the Customer Journey. 

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