Building healthy relationships from the database up

We here at Local First believe that relationships matter. We talk a lot about a human-scale, people first economy, which is based on relationships between a business, its employees, and its community. It takes a long time to build relationships with the many people who make this community function. And when it comes to maintaining relationships that are company and organization-wide, keeping track of how they evolve over time can be a tall order.

This is why the people at The Right Place, Inc. and Hello West Michigan decided to start using Salesforce, a software that helps companies and nonprofits capture the interactions that make up these important relationships. Like Local First, they work with businesses in West Michigan to create a resilient economy. Maintaining relationships with these businesses is essential to the efficacy of the organization and, while they’ve used Salesforce for a number of years, it wasn’t until 2016 when they connected with Database Sherpa that they really learned what the program could do.

Dave Riley, Director of Business Intelligence & Research at The Right Place, met Ashima Saigal at a nonprofit Salesforce group. He went in the hopes that he could learn more about the software and use it to its full potential. After the initial meeting, he and Ashima worked intensely for about six months until every piece was set in place for the employees at The Right Place to be self-sufficient.

“Before, I would have to go to five different people to get all the details of a relationship,” says Dave. “Now, it’s all housed in one place.”

He says that this not only creates effective ways to document and maintain relationships, it also helps the organization track their impact and get a better understanding of what their stakeholders need. He appreciates Database Sherpa’s focus on independence and self-sufficiency.

“You’re empowered,” he says. “You know what to do.”

To learn more about how your business or organization could benefit from Salesforce, visit

WMCAT sets the record straight

Businesses and nonprofits need to keep a lot of records: Sales, donations, addresses, historical data, and engagement benchmarks. When these records are off or unorganized, it can create a lot of extra work and soak up hours of time. In some cases, it can even put institutions in jeopardy.

Fortunately, there are systems available to keep you organized and not only streamline, but also automate your record-keeping processes.

Local First was pleased to learn that Salesforce, the customer relationship management system we use is not only being used by our friends over at the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT), but they also consulted with Database Sherpa, another Local First member who specializes in helping organizations get the most out of the software.

Database Sherpa’s strategy emphasizes independence. They empower their clients and teach them the skills to use and manage Salesforce on their own, relying less on third party consultants. We sat down with Leanne Rhoads, Director of Program Development, to see what her experience has been.

How it started

WMCAT works to provide equitable pathways to opportunity. They have workforce development programs for adults, visual arts and technology programs for teens and two social enterprises and a need to benchmark the success of these programs. After having a number of frustrations running incomplete reports, Leanne was introduced to Database Sherpa by The Right Place, an economic development agency in West Michigan.

How it finished

Over the next 8-10 months, Leanne met with Ashima Saigal from Database Sherpa to build out the software for WMCAT’s specific needs. She was amazed at Ashima’s capacity for support.

“The woman has patience for miles!” remembers Leanne.

At the end of the project, Leanne feels confident in the software and the reports she pulls. She’s able to make changes as needed and knows the information she’s getting is complete.

If you’re looking to clean up your data, visit