Second Harvest Silicon Valley


How Second Harvest Food Bank feeds over 500,000 during COVID

From 270,000 to 500,000.

From 180 to 1000.

How do you deal with an exponential increase in demand placed on your infrastructure virtually overnight? Since shelter in place in California and the ensuing unemployment, Second Harvest, a Silicon Valley food bank, went from feeding 270,000 people per month to 500,000 in April. The number of calls to their careline went from 180 per day to over 1000. And demand continues to grow. They’ve had to change business processes and supporting Salesforce NPSP Campaigns quickly. How have they done this, and met demand, without breaking existing functionality?

We wanted to go from good to great, and now, most of our business processes are fully documented in Elements.


Kelly Smith, Senior Manager, Business Analysis and Process Improvement at Second Harvest, shares the challenges and solutions.

Can you describe your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge is having to change business processes and the supporting Salesforce NPSP configuration very quickly. In addition, many employees switched to working from home, which makes keeping everyone in the loop a challenge. Further challenges include:

  • Prioritizing staff and client safety; fewer hands on the food is important. Second Harvest shifted from a client choice, farmer’s market-style delivery to pre-boxed food.
  • Second Harvest was working on a Salesforce implementation project for its Programs & Services department when the COVID-19 crisis began, which meant making changes to support emergency operations put additional strain on the team.

And what are the solutions?

As an organization, Second Harvest made significant changes, including:

  • Working with Silicon Valley execs to create a new philanthropic fund, virtually overnight, to buy more food.
  • Purchasing, preparing, and distributing as many as 30,000 boxes of food a day with help from the California National Guard.
  • Securing a new warehouse to help support a 73% increase in food being distributed, which totaled almost 11.5M pounds in May.
  • Upgrading the phone system, switching to Zoom, and adding enough capacity for more remote staff members to connect via VPN.

Implementing configuration changes with confidence

The Salesforce team at Second Harvest started using Elements to quickly and reliably implement configuration changes to match the evolving situation, such as:

  • Setup for 14 new emergency food distribution drive-thru sites, as part of almost 130 drive-thrus in the network.
  • Process for online volunteer recruitment for 25 ongoing opportunities at partner sites.
  • Reduced registration time from 8 minutes to 2 minutes per client.

What’s the IT team’s perspective?

The IT team has had to adapt at Lightning speed [pun intended]. We are making a large number of changes quickly and we need to be sure these changes support the new business processes without breaking existing functionality. All of this is on top of the fact that the organization was in the middle of a large new implementation already! We are trying to maintain the timeline on that, too.

Tell us more about the app that helps.

We discovered Elements and decided to use the app to help manage the changes. Although we’ve just started using it, the biggest benefit is the ability to do an impact analysis by using the Org model [Data Dictionary]. We have lots of customizations, lots of functionality originally built out for us by vendors, so we need to see how and where things are used before making changes.

How else has Elements integrated with Salesforce?

The team has already begun to use the process mapping to clarify new processes and train new staff. This has been a big step up for them in the way they map processes, with the ability to invite users to view for training purposes. The activity box attachments are amazing, and they enable easy self-guidance through the processes. Plus, Second Harvest has also started using the requirements management tool to gather new requirements. And we envisage how the in-app help will improve user adoption and enable collection of better data.

How do you see Second Harvest going forward with Salesforce?

As for the future, there are plenty of projects Second Harvest wants to tackle, such as tracking attendance, improving customer service for clients and volunteers with text reminders, and giving clients more of their favorite foods. But for now, if we can fulfill our mission given the current community need, that’s a roaring success.

Second Harvest is working with Salesforce implementation partner, Heller Consulting.

What were the benefits?

The ease of use has made adoption across the business easier, which has meant a more efficient and consistent sharing of our “company knowledge.”

The ability to visualize processes has encouraged feedback and through that ideas for process improvement and efficiency gains. This has also been a crucial step for us in automating processes within the business.

A year ago, our business systems were sound, but too many processes were stored in people’s heads. We wanted to go from good to great, and now, most of our business processes are fully documented in Elements. This has:

  • Greatly facilitated staff onboarding and training, process testing and improvement, and systems automation.
  • Resulted in regular and detailed feedback on our processes from within our team. This feedback is reviewed by leadership, then implemented per approval.
  • In the last two weeks alone led to the review and improvement of eight fundamental business processes, which were later revised in Elements and rebuilt in our Salesforce process automation app, Process Composer.
  • Delivered greater efficiency and improved client satisfaction.