“Percolator knows us. They're really partners rather than vendors.”

About SHCS

Sacred Heart Community Service was founded by Santa Clara County member Louise Benson in 1964 to feed hungry families locally. Providing essential services to individuals and families in need remains one of Sacred Heart’s core strategies. Today, the organization provides access to resources such as food, clothing, and housing assistance, while also offering tools for self-sufficiency, including employment assistance, family mentoring, and adult and youth education programs. To support this work, they empower volunteers within their network, including among those they serve. The organization also organizes community participation and mobilization in justice initiatives, helping to transform systemic conditions like poverty and racism. Their vision is a united community free from poverty.

The Challenge

Sacred Heart Community Service works with about 50,000 constituents who are receiving access to critical resources and tools for self-sufficiency, providing access, or both. They also emphasize community building and mobilization. Percolator is so inspired by their work. They build the connective tissue for their members to have better lives, a stronger community, and more power over their futures.

In 2016, Sacred Heart was facing technology pains in their internal and external work. They had outgrown their donor management system. At the same time, the county tool they were using for their program work in essential services was changing platforms, making it financially untenable.

Their legacy, highly-customized volunteer management system was not easy to change and its developer had sadly passed away. The main information the old system collected was email addresses. It was challenging to get a full view on their volunteers, who do everything from summer teaching to administration. Their tools for engagement in their political organizing initiatives were in a similar state. And their intake process for those they served—for example, those coming to the agency to access food and clothing—was a lengthy paper application.

Jay Pecot, system administrator at Sacred Heart (who has worked with the organization for 15+ years and worn many cross-functional hats), recalls, “We had about seven silos. All separate systems, unconnected. It was very hard to pull metrics about who we serve and how many people we serve, because those were all different. Identity management was really hard to deal with. And when it was time to tell the story, we always had to say: ‘Let's go figure that out…’ We were not able to bring the data together to say what our impact really was.”

Overall, Sacred Heart needed a central tool to pull together their work processes and demographic information tracking, and to make storytelling and reporting easier for grants. They needed a new solution and they needed it fast.

The journey of Sacred Heart, their fruitful partnership with Percolator Consulting, and their multifaceted Salesforce solution is a story that spans over seven years. As time has gone on, we’ve added new functionality together to meet evolving demands. This story is a perfect example of how to eat an elephant: in stages.

Their new system touches nearly every part of Sacred Heart’s organizational operations, helping them to unify their processes, tell their story effectively, and amplify their work in challenging times.

The Solution

We first translated Sacred Heart’s core business processes into Salesforce. They got started with a few departments and together we’ve added more functionality over time. Pecot reflected, “Salesforce is complex. That's one of the reasons why Percolator is so important for us. We're in the nonprofit world and our focus is on people. Teaching our staff to think about business processes is a challenge. The critical role for Percolator is to look at things from the purely technical and then back towards the people, to decode what we say from an IT perspective.”

To date, we’ve built a constituent management and fundraising solution for Sacred Heart on a Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) foundation, which also uses Salesforce’s Digital Experience Platform for volunteer management. We’ve pulled in many third-party apps that integrate smoothly with Salesforce. A few highlights include Classy for online donations, Campaign Monitor for email marketing, Mogli for SMS campaigns, and FormAssembly for all kinds of forms.

Together with the team at Sacred Heart, Percolator trained staff to fully adopt the system. Now they have about 100 Salesforce users on staff, and thousands of volunteers with separate, automated accounts. Staff track and manage program work in their system—with some highlights like essential services of food and clothing, housing assistance, and political organizing—all told, about nine departments. They also manage volunteer operations, events, donor activities, marketing, and even finances on Salesforce.

The Results

To illustrate some big wins for Sacred Heart, let’s take a closer look at a few areas of their work that have been enhanced by our collaboration and their system.

One powerful highlight: together with Sacred Heart, we automated financial assistance to get critical aid to families faster. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sacred Heart served as operations for a countywide relief effort—led by Destination: Home—to distribute $11M in financial assistance, providing up to $4,000 of relief to each qualified family impacted by a loss of income. But they had to rapidly transition from high-touch assistance models. And their digital processes needed support: their online application was initially crashing from the volume.

Percolator worked with them to automate qualification steps in Salesforce, including form receipt, signature of release, communication follow-ups and auto-assignment to the relevant agency and staff member. A bonus was creating an auditable digital trail for each award. The new processes enabled Sacred Heart to approve each application in minutes rather than hours, getting aid quickly into the hands of families at risk of losing their housing. During the pandemic, we also automated a registration process for emergency grocery boxes that doubled their daily distribution, to 800 food boxes a day, and has settled at a permanent 50% increase.

A second highlight is that Sacred Heart is now able to see a unified picture of who they serve and engage with at a glance, and how they are making an impact. Percolator tailored their constituent records to pull in multiple roles and demographic information. This information can also be quickly pulled into Lightning report dashboards we designed. This matters on many levels. When telling stories to donors, the organization can speak specifically about success metrics. When organizing around an initiative, they can target their efforts better.

Recently they spoke at City Hall in San Jose on how the city budget could be crafted to continue to support affordable housing. They were able to look at the demographics of their community members, like gender, age, ethnicity, education level, disability, and health insurance, and help engage their constituents to support relevant policies that account for their needs.

With oversight into their constituents, Sacred Heart is also able to report on how many service recipients are volunteers, a powerful indicator of people in the community being empowered to give back when they are able. Pre-Salesforce, these numbers were hard to discover with siloed systems. Now, they can confidently say the percentage of service recipients also volunteering is 2.5% and rising every year.

A third highlight is that Sacred Heart has been able to scale the intake flow of both constituents and volunteers (10,000+ annually). We’ve integrated their intake process into their website, which feeds into Salesforce. Instead of filling out paper forms and then meeting with a staff member or volunteer, constituents can now go online and apply in one of four languages. This ties directly into a Salesforce Community designed for support cases, which allows an individual to share their financial and family situation and needs. We also designed the application process to support forms, resources, and scheduling in four key languages of the community: English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.

We tied volunteer intake into a FormAssembly online application that connects to an approval workflow for staff. Once approved, volunteers (many of whom are doing service hours for school) can access a Salesforce Community that allows them to schedule their own time slots.

Before Percolator’s new intake automation, Sacred Heart could sometimes be months behind on data entry. Now it’s only days. Because records are up to date, Sacred Heart staff also quickly know much more about the new people they are serving. And constituents get faster assistance. Scheduling follow-up meetings can also be automated based on certain criteria. Since many of the tools are self-serve, Salesforce also helps empower the community that Sacred Heart serves.

Because of the resource savings and automation, the same number of staff are also able to keep up with spikes of need. They are also able to identify spikes far more accurately. Pecot recalled, “Last year, Salesforce allowed us—without increasing staff—to still provide the personalized service to handle what was potentially a 50% increase in the number of people coming into the agency for about two months. We don't have to staff according to that. The automated tools allow us to get through those times.” People are served faster and their grant data are also more complete.

Pecot was moved by this win, as one of many dedicated staff members for whom the work is never just a job. “Part of my old volunteer side is telling the story of the agency,” he explained. “Now we could look at these huge numbers of people coming in and know the same amount of staff are handling that. We could say, here’s something we read about in the New York Times that affects us locally, that our staff experiences every day.

“It’s hard. Why? Because there are so many people to serve. But we thank our staff and volunteers because they got it done. Those are stunning people. You talk about the heroes of COVID. They’re the ones that keep showing up every single day and smiling and helping someone into the agency. They would not have been able to do that without the tools that we had.”

Here at Percolator, we’re so grateful to partner with Sacred Heart Community Service, designing tools that scale the work of their everyday heroes.


We partnered with Sacred Heart over years to create an organization-wide solution that unified and automated program, donor, and volunteer management.


$11M in financial aid in 3 days;
50% rise in food box distribution post-pandemic

“We had data silos in all our programs and we needed a partner to not only unify that data, but also give us a platform that enabled our members to engage others in the vision to build a community free from poverty. Percolator had the expertise to help us build a single data system that centered on empowering users to build grassroots leadership with a focus on organizing for change.”

Sacred Heart Community Service now has a one-stop shop to unify and automate their business processes and report on success stories. With fewer manual tasks, hardworking staff allocate the same resources to serve more families faster, engage more volunteers, and empower more individuals in their community.

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