This blog was originally published on the America SCORES website.
America SCORES is a high-touch non-profit organization with high-tech ambitions. Focused on afterschool services for low-income youth, its high-touch approach depends upon skilled coach-mentors working face-to-face with students, combining sports, creative expression, and service-learning. SCORES’ bold tech ambitions stem from a recognition that to scale up services and impact requires the evolution into a data-driven, 21st-century nonprofit organization.
Question: How to get there?
The question has been a driving force for SCORES as the organization faces the challenges of the time and embraces the opportunities of the moment. One massive recent challenge wrought by COVID 19: transforming SCORES’ school-site physical programming to an all-virtual one to meet the radically changing needs and realities of Bay Area schools and students — without losing connection, quality, or oversight capabilities.
SCORES’ emphasis on tech started with a board-led three-year strategic plan, followed by the hiring of Pete Swearengen as CTO. The organization scored a quantum leap forward through a new partnership with the API and integration software company MuleSoft, which was acquired by Salesforce in a $6.5 billion deal in 2018.
MuleSoft works with some of the most recognized global brands and Fortune 500 companies by providing a single, unified platform that seamlessly integrates data from any system to create connected experiences. For SCORES, the opportunity to leverage MuleSoft’s sophisticated technology offers enormous potential to unlock and use data to expand its impact in low-income communities and public schools.
“We want to be a model for other programs around the country with the capacity to scale and continuously improve. To do that, we need to establish a clear sense of our measures of success by putting in place the best technology infrastructure to collect, track, and analyze data, all while prioritizing privacy and security,” says Jon Denholtz, SCORES board chair. “Whether it’s related to programming, finances, or fundraising, data shines a direct light on organizational health and informs our priorities moving forward.”
In partnering with MuleSoft, SCORES gains not only technological brainpower but access to a broad set of skill sets and pro bono expertise. MuleSoft employees have organized into tech and creative teams to help SCORES realize its bold new vision. “The MuleSoft partnership has tremendous potential to help scale SCORES operations beyond improved data governance and technological capacity. The pro bono hours and expertise across departments — engineering, marketing, graphic design, branding, operations—provide significant leverage for a small but very ambitious non-profit,” says Colin Schmidt, Executive Director of SCORES.
The roots of the MuleSoft partnership start with Emily Fisher, Senior Executive Assistant for CEO Simon Parmett. Fisher, now a SCORES board member, began coordinating SCORES volunteer efforts at her former employer, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) back in 2011. Looking for ways to engage and connect employees through meaningful and fun volunteer opportunities, Emily enticed a team of RBC employees to play in that year’s SCORES Corporate Cup, the Bay Area’s largest corporate charity soccer tournament.
The SCORES Cup experience was a hit for the RBC team. “People loved it,” Fisher remembers. “Soccer broke down barriers in ages and backgrounds and brought people together.” Her relationship continued with SCORES through her move to MuleSoft. Fisher pitched the idea of playing in the Corporate Cup to her MuleSoft colleagues, and they were game to go.
At MuleSoft, Fisher recognized an opportunity to think bigger, particularly following the company’s move into Salesforce’s orbit. The company could look beyond the scope of the Cup to engage in a partnership. “In joining Salesforce, we become part of the greater ambition to make volunteer contribution a robust component of our roles,” she says. Salesforce prioritizes integrated philanthropy through a 1-1-1 policy: giving away 1% of the company’s product, 1% of its equity, and 1% of its employees’ time to charitable causes and the nonprofit sector.
Supporting public education has consistently been a top priority for San Francisco’s largest employer. At the start of the 2020/2021 school year, Salesforce announced it would boost its annual grants to schools to $20 million, including $9 million each to San Francisco Unified School District and Oakland Unified School District.
In SCORES, Fisher saw an organization working in collaboration with public schools to further support students and their educational experiences. “Here was a unique opportunity to forge our path into the volunteer world to create real impact,” Fisher continues. “And with SCORES, here’s a chance to give not only hours but the full power of MuleSoft’s product and people.”
The idea for the MuleSoft/SCORES partnership crystallized last Fall on a playground at Bret Harte Elementary School in the Bayview district of San Francisco. Thanking the MuleSoft executive team for coming out to play soccer and write poetry with SCORES students, Schmidt explained his vision of the organization becoming a data-driven, best-in-class nonprofit, adding that he was becoming a big fan of MuleSoft’s data loading technology.
Uri Sarid, MuleSoft Chief Technology Officer stepped forward, telling Schmidt the two needed to talk. “I left the program that day with a completely new perspective on how SCORES can elevate children beyond their often challenging circumstances,” Sarid explains. “Through SCORES, students learn new skills, invest in themselves, and gain a heightened sense of what they can offer to their own communities.”
Sarid recognized a chance to use technology for good. “When I saw the opportunity to eliminate some of the hassles and hurdles to allow kids to spend more time writing and playing, I said without hesitation, ‘this is where we can help.’ Our contribution—magnified by SCORES ambition to reach kids throughout the Bay Area and across the country—can have an outsized impact on our most important investment: the next generation.”
At this point, SCORES was already a Salesforce customer, benefiting from the company’s free nonprofit licenses. The possibility for SCORES to integrate MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform™ into the mix was thrilling. “This is our technical dream because it has the adaptability and flexibility that SCORES needs to scale and to reach coaches and students wherever they are, be that on the field, in the classroom, in the community, and in virtual programming,”saysSwearengen. “There’s such a lost opportunity if nonprofits rely on antiquated technology or can’t access the best technology to maximize impact. There’s so much innovation going on in the nonprofit sector. We see this collaboration as an example of technology leadership in service to humanity.”
Simon Olenick, MuleSoft Senior Manager Mobilize Consulting, led the analysis of the value of an API-led integration platform for SCORES, designed to optimize communication and to streamline robust reporting of student outcomes. “The platform will enable fluid communication between and across its myriad stakeholder groups—students, parents, coaches, schools, districts, sponsors, donors, and program managers,” he explains. “Now more than ever, creating and maintaining these digital links is critical during COVID-19 and beyond.”
The prescient timing was a boon for SCORES. “One thing this pandemic has forced SCORES to do is to take their vision off the wish list and move it into reality. They need to pivot to stay relevant to the needs of today,” says Fisher. That pivot started early and positioned SCORES to tackle the needs amplified by the onset of COVID 19 in early 2020.
Mark Munsell, Director, Business Operations has been working with Fisher to engage employees in volunteer opportunities with SCORES. “With COVID 19 changing our world overnight, MuleSoft employees were eager to provide meaningful support to our community while sheltering at home. Partnering with SCORES, we identified opportunities to leverage our employees’ skills and expertise to help with their digital transformation journey. The response has been overwhelming. This experience has energized our employees, and we’re looking for new ways to help SCORES and other nonprofits.”
In addition to leveraging the technical and creative MuleSoft talent, the partnership encourages fundraising from employees. While some contribute through time and talent, others are contributing dollars to bolster SCORES’ capacity and program impact. Members of the Executive Staff have pledged to match employee donations dollar for dollar.
Sarid’s wife, Karen, explains why their family chose to make a gift. “SCORES has put together a truly magical mix of soccer, poetry, and public service learning for kids across diverse communities in the Bay Area. We were deeply moved to support them after seeing in person the confidence the kids gain through the program; their ability to work together as a team to make a visible impact on their communities; and above all, their expanded sense of the possibilities of their futures and who they can become.”
MuleSoft CEO Simon Parmett provided the crucial leadership and vision for the company-wide effort. He says the company’s decision to support SCORES was a straightforward one. “SCORES brings critically needed resources, support, and opportunity to children who need it most. Our success as a community demands that we put children first, and SCORES does what it takes and more to make this a reality. We feel so fortunate to have the chance to work with such an impactful and effective organization.”