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Building to global scale: Room to Read's 15+ year partnership with Salesforce

June 22, 2022


Since our beginning in 2000, Room to Read has operated with a single vision — to create a world in which all children can pursue quality education and make positive change. We began our work 22 years ago in Nepal and have since expanded to benefit more than 32 million children who face educational inequities in more than 21 countries around the world, from Tanzania to Pakistan to the United States. 

As we reflect on Room to Read’s growth and plans for the future, one thing is clear — our work would not be possible without the technology that allows us to implement customized solutions on a global scale to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education. Through our 15+ year partnership with Salesforce, Room to Read has utilized data-driven tools that make global program analysis and decision-making easier, while also broadening and diversifying our supporter base and revenue streams.

Tracking our progress and monitoring program success has been an essential part of our DNA since the very beginning. Thanks to Salesforce, our community-based program staff are able to input programmatic data and key performance metrics in one centralized location, and Room to Read’s Research, Monitoring & Evaluation team can then utilize this information seamlessly — allowing us to evaluate trends over the long-term, more efficiently and accurately measure our success and make strategic decisions about programmatic changes that will ultimately help to benefit more children.

Data-Driven Decision Making

One of the key ways we use Salesforce is to measure the influence of our programs. By using the organization’s Global Solutions Database, we are able to quantify the success and growth of a Room to Read program and make informed decisions about program strategy, donor relations and long-term program forecasting. For example, Room to Read libraries use checkout systems built within Salesforce to track the popularity of children’s book titles. Seeing which titles are most frequently checked out of school libraries allows us to continue publishing books that we know children enjoy reading, which has been critical to our mission in helping children develop a life-long habit and love of reading.

As the Associate Director of Room to Read’s Research, Monitoring & Evaluation team, Ryan Hebert uses the Global Solutions Database as a central repository for program data. He says, “Having access to detailed information about each library we’ve established, each book title we’ve published, and each girl who’s participated in the Girls’ Education Program since our organization was founded enables us to ask and answer questions that would otherwise be impossible.”

Ryan recounts a time when, a few years ago, a team had questions about varying book checkout rates across countries. Salesforce helped Room to Read quickly explore relationships between student enrollment and the availability of local-language book titles in each of the several thousand libraries we support, with the associated book checkout trends. This kind of insight can help us make sure we’re developing and distributing the right kinds of books in the right quantities to best support students’ development of a love of reading.

Global Data Solutions Associate Rochelle Foster agrees. “Life without Salesforce’s Global Solutions Database would be chaos, to say the least. When we have high-quality data in an accessible location, Room to Read can create long-term strategies and goals for our programs. System-level implementation and change would not have happened if we did not have the data to show the success of our models.”

Donor Management

With expanding programs comes the need for robust donor management. Salesforce has provided the platform for Room to Read to manage our contacts and track donations, and given the ability to project and report on revenue. Such streamlined operations also gives Room to Read the ability to keep track of real-time details, helping us strengthen our relationship with our supporters who are committed to education equality.

Recently, Salesforce has assisted our team as we transition customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to better enable our technical assistance work with schools throughout our partner communities and our internal donor management processes. Salesforce provided Room to Read with a six-week workshop with resources and recommendations to ensure we are prepared for this transition — which will be critical to the success of our operations in the coming years. 

Of the training, Room to Read Global Business Development Director Hannah Richards said, “We left the sessions with a clear definition of what success looks like for Room to Read, and how to achieve it. I look forward to building a more agile and open CRM and nurturing our supporters while empowering our users. We are committed to designing systems and processes that foster adaptability, nimbleness and collaboration for our ever-changing landscape.”

As Room to Read is scaling our programs and benefiting children in more historically low-income communities, including those in Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Italy and the United States — our ability to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs will continue to be of the utmost importance. Working in partnership with schools, teachers, governments and local partners, we plan to further bring our accessible learning solutions to children around the world.

Employee Engagement 

While Salesforce has been a strong tech partner, their support extends well beyond software. 

In 2015, Room to Read was one of three charity partners selected to be recognized at Dreamforce, an annual event that brings together the global Salesforce community for learning, fun, community building and philanthropy. We have also welcomed many Salesforce employees to our program communities over the years, where staff members have taken part in life skills sessions through our Girls’ Education Program and worked collectively to paint Room to Read school libraries. 

In the words of a Salesforce team member who traveled to Cambodia to support Room to Read, “Giving beyond your local community is equally rewarding, and I feel truly blessed and inspired by the people I met on this trip . . . most of all, the incredible young women who are so dedicated to their education and their community. To be able to contribute a small piece towards a brighter future for them was a gift.”

This June, Salesforce employees from around the world have come together to fundraise for Room to Read and share read-alouds of children's storybooks, helping to increase the visibility of Room to Read’s mission and work around the globe. Vikram Rao, Chief Trust Officer at Salesforce, is leading the way by reading one of Room to Read’s titles from our Peace & Equality Book Collection.

Looking Forward 

Room to Read has set definitive goals for the coming years. At the highest level, by 2025, our programs will have benefited 40 million children. We seek to exercise system-level influence and enhance our operational infrastructure — our goals will require informed decision making and greater commitment from our supporters. We’re grateful for Salesforce, whose platforms allow Room to Read to focus on building a path toward greater scale and support an ever-increasing number of children with a quality education.