Ready or Not: Dreamforce for the Nonprofit Drupaller

By Sean

Next week, Lev and I will be attending our third Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference in San Francisco. I’m not gonna lie, each year the two of us feel about as much dread regarding Dreamforce as we do anticipation. If you’ve never been to Dreamforce, all I can say is that it’s BIG. Like overwhelmingly big. It’s the largest software conference in the world. Dreamforce 2014 had over 135,000 attendees. (That’s an influx of 16% of the total population of San Francisco.) Last year’s conference generated over $100 million in revenue for the city. There are conference badges everywhere, parties everywhere… Open hotel rooms and cabs are nowhere to be found….

That said, from an innovation and collaboration perspective, Dreamforce is one of the more important convenings we attend each year. Once you strip away all the pomp and circumstance and assuming you know how to navigate through the fray, there is a lot to be gained by the nonprofit technologist and the Drupal developer interested in integrating our beloved CMS with this robust CRM platform.

For those of you who are either braving your first Dreamforce or interested in following along online (at a safe distance from the Bay Area), below is a list of a few things we are most excited to explore at this year’s conference:

The Foo Fighters Concert

Dave Grohl fans, rejoice: The Foo Fighters will be playing Dreamforce! Every year, Dreamforce brings in a globally-recognized entertainment act. This year, it’s the Foo Fighters. But why the bands? Why the celebrities? Well, you have to think about just how integral Salesforce is to a ton of people. Some of the largest names in the country utilize Salesforce, and that means there’s a heck of a lot of clout backing the product. That also means people like Alec Baldwin, Jessica Alba, and Goldie Hawn (all of whom use Salesforce to support their organizations) might just show up to tell you exactly why Salesforce is their CRM of choice. So it’s no surprise that a band as big as the Foo Fighters would make an appearance at Dreamforce.

The Unveiling of the “Lightning Experience”

Not a Justin Bieber reference (though you never know with Dreamforce…), the Lightning Experience is one of the slickest and most useful product announcements we’ve seen from Salesforce in a long time.

As part of Salesforce’s “Winter 2016 release”, Salesforce is rolling out huge user interface enhancements under the marketing banner of The Lightning Experience. From the few screenshots that have been released of the new UI, it looks like Salesforce is borrowing from Google’s embrace of “material design.” Even more significant, the Lightning Experience includes drag-and-drop templating tools that will allow non-developers to construct robust Salesforce applications, dashboards, and mobile interfaces from within their web browser.

The New Salesforce Wave App – Free for Nonprofits

Also included in the Winter 2016 release of Salesforce is a new data visualization and analytics tool called the Wave App. (Wave is Salesforce’s new underlying analytics engine.) Coupled with the Lightning Experience, Salesforce administrators will be able to build powerful visual reports of their constituent data.

What’s also neat about the Wave App is that the Salesforce Foundation is expected to announce that it will be free for nonprofits.

The Salesforce Foundation’s Increased Commitment to Open Source

Just this summer, the Salesforce Foundation hired its first Open Source Manager, our good friend and long-time nonprofit tech advocate, Judi Sohn. One of Judi’s first tasks in this new role has been to put together an open source advisory board for the Foundation, focused on promoting open source contributions and collaboration around its Nonprofit Starter Pack.

As a result, the nonprofit track at Dreamforce is where you will see the majority of conference sessions around open source integrations and development workflows. We are particularly excited about the following sessions:

  • Open Source Development of Managed Packages – For open source developers, this might be one of the most useful sessions at the entire conference, as it will talk about how you can leverage GitHub and Jenkins workflows in the development of Salesforce products.

  • Integrating Salesforce with an Open Source Content Management System (Drupal) – As the maintainers of the Salesforce Suite for Drupal, we are excited to see how our colleagues at Confluence are integrating Drupal and WordPress with their nonprofit Salesforce customers.

  • Salesforce Open Source for Fun and Everyone’s Profit – This session will focus on contributing to open source projects that leverage Salesforce1, Salesforce’s mobile application platform.

  • Write/Speak/Code: Open Source Workshop for Developers – This will be a hands-on workshop for developers interested in contributing to open source Salesforce applications.

  • Getting Started with the Nonprofit Starter Pack 3.0 – The 3.0 release of the Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) this year was a huge step forward for this free tool for nonprofits. We are excited to participate in this session to see the NPSP through the lense of the nonprofits we serve who are just getting acquainted with the platform’s features.

See You There!

If you’re headed to Dreamforce, we will be primarily hanging out in the Salesforce Foundation Zone, talking with nonprofits and other vendors who share our interest in how Salesforce can be leveraged for fundraising and constituent engagement. Connect with us on Twitter to schedule a meetup in person if you’ll be there.