• November 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM Yields New Efficiencies for City Harvest

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Roughly 2 million New York City residents will face hunger this year. In response, City Harvest expects to collect 46 million pounds of excess food from more than 4,000 restaurants, caterers, hotels, grocery stores, wholesalers, bakeries, cafeterias, processing plants, and farms to deliver to 500-plus community soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and related facilities for those in need.

As a natural extension of its antihunger work, City Harvest partners with local businesses, community groups, school programs, and city agencies to educate residents in needy communities about health and nutrition, address the underlying causes of hunger, and support affordable access to nutritious foods.

The 30-year-old nonprofit organization has ambitious goals: By 2016, City Harvest wants to deliver an additional 30 million pounds of food per year and raise $30 million more in financial donations annually. To achieve such growth, the organization's leadership identified the need for efficiency improvements, and in late 2011, began deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM across its operations.

Prior to that, City Harvest used a combination of spreadsheets and email "and not much else," recalls Matt Reich, its vice president of operations.

For an organization such as City Harvest, success hinges on building relationships with donors, supporters, volunteers, and partners. Its donor development team uses the marketing module in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to identify prospective food donors. A dashboard with a prospect pipeline helps the team track opportunities and project donations for the coming year.

"Our CRM system tracks and captures all the data we need to deliver food efficiently to the organizations we serve," Reich says.

Since installing Dynamics, City Harvest has doubled the amount of food it collects and distributes annually, from 26 million pounds a few years ago to more than 52 million pounds in 2013. It has also added 2,000 new food donors to its roster.

At the same time, it has kept the cost to rescue and deliver those goods to a minimum. Those numbers have held steady at 24 cents per pound, despite rising fuel, transportation, and labor expenses.

Key to keeping costs low was deploying Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud, which Reich says has allowed the agency to avoid a large upfront investment in software, hardware, and infrastructure. City Harvest pays a flat fee per user per month.

Reich likes the fact that users can access the software from anywhere.

City Harvest also uses Microsoft Dynamics GP to handle its supply chain, financial, and operational functions. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM-to-GP Adapter and extenders connect components to create a unified enterprise resource planning and CRM solution.

Dynamics CRM has also helped City Harvest onboard new agencies and document audits for regulatory compliance, and then export the data to Microsoft Dynamics GP.

"We combine information from both systems so we can best allocate food to the neighborhoods where it is needed," says Zachary Connolly, a business analyst at City Harvest. "It gives us a 360-degree view of all that is happening within City Harvest and the neighborhoods and agencies we serve."

Microsoft Dynamics also ensures that neighborhoods with specific health requirements and cultural preferences receive the foods they need most. "When we see that an agency needs more food, or more of a specific type of food, we can address it with Dynamics," Reich states.

City Harvest has upgraded its Dynamics applications several times and plans to keep up with enhancements as they become available. The agency is also looking to deploy Microsoft Yammer, the enterprise social networking and collaboration tool, to expand its marketing and outreach efforts.

"We've already become so much more efficient in how we capture and deliver food," Reich concludes.

The Payoff

Since installing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, City Harvest has done the following:

  • doubled the amount of food it distributes per year, from 26 million to 52 million pounds;
  • added 2,000 new food donors; and
  • kept costs at 24 cents per pound despite increased transportation, fuel, and labor expenses.

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