How CVA Mobilizes Volunteers with Salesforce Communities

Aptaria built 2 Salesforce communities to motivate a network of volunteers and help them manage a crucial campaign.

Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is a nonprofit organization that coordinates grassroots political advocacy for veterans. The heart of CVA is its volunteers: veterans across America, their families, and interested patriots who devote their time to canvassing and phone banking.

CVA uses a Salesforce database to track information about volunteers. However, “we were just scratching the surface of Salesforce’s capabilities,” says Justin Caporale, CVA’s director of operations.

The organization’s Salesforce system did not allow its volunteers to take an active role online. Volunteers lacked a forum to connect with each other and collaborate on campaigns. They couldn’t even sign up for events through CVA’s website.

Similarly, part-time local team leaders had to borrow full-time CVA employees’ passwords to perform even the most basic tasks, like looking up a volunteer’s phone number.

The upcoming launch of a major campaign intensified the urgency of CVA’s challenges. The 2016 Tour of Duty initiative aims to get 300,000 non-voting citizens registered to vote, so that they can represent veterans’ rights at the polls. To achieve that goal, CVA needs as many motivated volunteers as possible.

During a presidential election year many advocacy groups compete for volunteers’ loyalty and time. CVA’s leadership worried that the organization would fail to win over and retain volunteers without a web platform to encourage participation.

As Cody McGregor, CVA’s national outreach director, explains, “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we make sure that we’re giving volunteers a dynamic experience where they feel supported? How can we keep them involved and show them that they’re actually making an impact?’”

Determined to seize the opportunities they were missing, CVA’s administrators reached out to Aptaria.

Aptaria’s team met with CVA to discuss the nonprofit’s obstacles and ideas. As McGregor recalls, “We started brainstorming what we wanted the community to look like. Aptaria didn’t just build it. They helped us figure out what Salesforce could provide for us.

Login page for CVA’s Customer Community


To realize CVA’s vision, Aptaria built 2 Salesforce communities for CVA:

  1. community for volunteers to update their own information and interact with camarades.
  2. community for local team leaders to coordinate events and volunteers in their areas from within Salesforce (without full access).


Aptaria’s solution combined 2 different types of Salesforce communities: customer and partner communities. Although many online vending websites take advantage of both types, few nonprofits do.

The parallel communities allowed CVA to save thousands of dollars while giving volunteers and employees different levels of access.

Local team leaders need to view and update information about volunteers in Salesforce. However, to buy Salesforce licenses for all 40 part-time employees, CVA would have to pay around $14,000 per year. By contrast, a partner community costs only $1,600 per year.

The Salesforce customer community enables volunteers to:

    • Chat on message boards to go over campaign strategies and share advice.
    • Invite others to join CVA’s volunteer network.
  • Register for events, like phone banking sessions and neighborhood canvassing days.

Main events page in CVA’s Customer Community


Aptaria also designed the volunteer community to mimic the reward structure of a game. CVA now offers medals as incentives for advocacy activities. Through these gamification features, volunteers can earn points and move up to a higher rank on CVA’s leaderboard.

National leaderboard in CVA’s Customer Community


For Vanderbilt and the marketing department, “The real impact—and the power of the integration—is the time it will save our team. It’s a lot faster to get the emails templated, the lists built, the campaigns sent out, and review the metrics, all on one platform.”

The real impact—and the power of the integration—is the time it will save our team. It’s a lot faster to get the emails templated, the lists built, the campaigns sent out, and review the metrics, all on one platform.

By connecting Marketing Cloud and MemberNation, APA’s marketing team has more control over their email center. Preferences can be turned on and off within Salesforce with ease.

The new system provides a better user experience for APA employees and members alike.

“The preference center puts the power in the hands of the member to decide the frequency and types of emails they receive,” says Vanderbilt. “It’s one of the best solutions for this problem that I’ve seen in our industry.

Project #2: Aptaria Enables APA’s Service Team to Capture More Data and Better Understand Members’ Needs

Meanwhile, APA’s call center needed an integrated system for tracking calls and email requests. Beyond a log of the phone lines and shared email inboxes, the staff lacked a record of individual cases.

How many calls and emails did APA receive about specific problems? How many cases were escalated to another department? How were those cases resolved? The call center required a solution to help answer those vital questions, since their everyday activities were not yet connected to the MemberNation database.

Our team at Aptaria began by mapping out staff’s everyday tasks and protocols. Next, we translated those actions into a Service Cloud system on Salesforce.

As Monique Stevens, the Call Center Manager for APA, recalls, “We explained to Aptaria how we handle the majority of our calls and what we need from a number of different departments. Then we gathered a list of people that we transfer calls to. From there, Aptaria put the system together.”

Our team organized the system so that APA staff can conveniently open Salesforce, find the member making a request, and open a case for each call. Call center reps can escalate cases through Salesforce, and the corresponding department will get an alert.

To handle service emails, we linked APA’s general inboxes with Salesforce and established a queue system.

As each email comes in, the system forwards it into Salesforce, creates a case in the database, then puts that case into the queue. Representatives can easily check for new cases and look up the status of open requests in their assigned queues.

“We have the emails in the Salesforce system, so we can connect the email to the record for the member that sent it. If that request has to go to someone else, there’s a case number that goes with the email,” explains Stevens.

Each individual handling an email or call request can now instantly access the history of the case and the member attached to it.

CVA’s volunteers quickly embraced the new Salesforce community. Within the first week of the Tour of Duty community’s launch in October 2015, more than 1,000 volunteers signed up.

Local team leaders report that the volunteer community has motivated more dedicated campaigning. The game-like features have inspired friendly competition among groups across America. Teams from Reno to Raleigh, from Dallas to Dayton, from Minneapolis to Miami are striving to out-do each other with canvassing and phone banking efforts.

As McGregor notes, “Tour of Duty has created great relationships between volunteers who don’t even know each other, but who see each other’s progress on the leaderboard. They want to compete.”

The Salesforce community not only rewards volunteers with points and medals, but also adds to their sense of commitment and personal accomplishment. “The community has helped volunteers realize how important they are to our organization. They can log in and see their hard work,” McGregor explains.

A volunteer’s Strike Team Profile, showing medals earned


In a competitive year for advocacy groups, according to McGregor, “Tour of Duty enabled us to retain a lot of volunteers that I think we would’ve lost to some other organization.

The custom community has made basic processes easier for volunteers, as well. Instead of signing up 5 different times for 5 events, Caporale says, CVA community members now “come to one place and sign up one time.”

Aptaria’s CRM improvements also pulled together multiple applications and databases to simplify operations for CVA’s staff. Local team leaders can now track engagement metrics, organize events, and coach volunteers in their region—all through Salesforce.

“I can’t really say enough positive things about Aptaria,” Caporale says. “When they came to our organization, they made a point of learning about our goals and our mission. If something doesn’t work for my team, it doesn’t work. But they figured out what we needed right away, putting us on the same page before we started.”

McGregor agrees: “They were always available to help. We’ve hit deadlines. When we put objectives out there, we’ve accomplished them with Aptaria.”

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