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Blog Posts (26)

  • One Form To Rule Them All

    One of my favorite ways to bring the programmer’s mantra of Don’t Repeat Yourself! (DRY) into my Salesforce work is to build the One Form To Rule Them All. By playing with URL parameters you can take a simple form and use it more than once. A single Field Trip Form that can be used for any and all field trips throughout the year. A single Pre/Post Survey A multi-purpose Waiver form And so much more. The trick here—the little mental shift that can really open up possibilities—is that “questions” on the form can be used as the text or content. Let me say that again: Questions on the form can be text, instructions, or content of the form, rather than something you are asking the user to fill out. Then you put the values you want in those questions into the URL that you send out and—BAM!—the form is customized. Saves time (and time is money) building and managing webforms. Works with Any Form Tool You should be able to do this with just about any form tool because all you’re using is URL parameters. My tool of choice is usually FormAssembly. But URL prefill is pretty standard functionality and should be available with most form tools. (I’ve written here about FormAssembly’s prefill connector and the amazing powers it can bring to bear. But that’s not what we’re doing here.) The Master Field Trip Form Let me use The Academy Group to show an example. They take their students on lots of field journeys and they want to get consent each time, notifying parents/guardians about where the kids will be and what they’ll be doing. It was such a pain to create a whole new form for each trip. But now they have the Master Field Trip form. All they have to do is customize the URL they’re sending out and the form works for every trip. I have a simplified example form for us to look at in my FormAssembly account. If you go to the form without anything added to the URL it’s not very useful. But if you use this format to customize the URL you can do all sorts of things: https://www.tfaforms.com/5037437?tfa_1=[reason for trip]&tfa_23=[location] Replace the bracketed sections with your desired text and it goes into the fields. (The tfa_# references tell the form which questions to put the text into. You’ll have a similar syntax for other form tools.) You can fill more than just two fields if you need to. (URLs do have a maximum length of 2,048 characters, so don’t write a novel in your prefill. But if you’re being reasonable you can do quite a lot.) Here’s an awesome field trip that I would highly recommend based on my own recent travels. The URL is: https://www.tfaforms.com/5037437?tfa_1=To see the ice cave, learn about the unique geology of Iceland, and get an introduction to the Northern Lights. We will eat lunch in the rotating cafe with a view overlooking the city.&tfa_23=Perlán Science Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland But you can use the same form for a more realistic trip. This URL is: https://www.tfaforms.com/5037437?tfa_1=To visit a local business.&tfa_23=Mike’s Sandwich Shop, 123 Main St. ) You can create all sorts of waivers, permission slips, and notifications this way. Pre/Post Survey In One Now let’s look at one more example that can really save time: Use the same form for both a pre- and a post-program survey. To measure program effectiveness you usually want to ask program participants the same questions before and after, in order to measure the effect of our intervention. You might think you would want to build two different forms for this. But Don’t Repeat Yourself! If you have two forms and then you decide to add a question, you have to modify two forms. Instead, if at all possible, I want to use the same form for both pre and post. All that’s going to take is: A dropdown menu question for Pre or Post. (You can probably hide this question.) Setting the value of that question via the URL. (Optional) Conditionally hide or display different instructions or even questions that are used only in the pre or post context, questions based on the value of Pre/Post. See what I mean here. Don’t Repeat Yourself in the Connector Either I don’t want to go too deeply into the step of sending your form data to Salesforce. In fact, this trick doesn’t necessarily assume you’re doing anything more with your form data than having the responses sit on your form provider’s server. But if you are building a connector to send the data into Salesforce, keep the same DRY principles in mind. You can map the question that you prefilled into the created record, for example, as the name of the field trip this permission was for. Or if you need a more succinct name, you could use an hidden prefilled field (“Perlán Trip, Iceland.")

  • Sprinty's Community Resources

    I'm excited to share with you that a new resource launched today, created and maintained by Open Source Commons volunteers. Sprinty's Community Resources is an online library of crowdsourced community content for nonprofits and educational organizations using Salesforce. It's a fast way to find articles and How Tos that others have found useful in the past. Resources submitted by the community are searchable and sortable so you never have to wonder "Is there are good article about the true cost of Salesforce for nonprofits? Where could I find that link?" Of course, you can also just browse through the listings to learn all sorts of things. And best of all, you can contribute more resources to the list! Simply click on the submission tool and fill out a quick form with a link to whatever podcast, blog post, article, or video you've found helpful. Each resource is reviewed by a volunteer "curator" to ensure quality content is featured on the site. Sprinty's Community Resources has a Trailblazer Community Group if you want to stay in the loop on updates and ask questions. This project wouldn't have been possible without the vision of Jodi Nemser-Abrahams and Rebecca Tasetano and the input of a team of dedicated volunteers I'm proud to call my colleagues and friends: I hope you, too, will add to the resource collection and even consider getting involved with the team!

  • i++ (or For Loops) in Flow

    If you’ve learned any programming (in just about any language) you’ve learned about For Loops: For as long as (i is less than (the point I want you to stop at) ) do something. It’s how you do something X times. (Really, i times, but you get me. 😉) Like print out your name 1,000 times so it fills the screen. Really common in programming and pretty easy. And perhaps not that useful, but it definitely has its moments. But guess what’s not straightforward in Flow? Flow loves to do loops over collection variables, where you already have the records you’re going to work through and do something about or to each of them. Most of the time that’s what you’d want to do in a flow, sure. But what if you want to do something a particular number of times? Super easy in programming, not straightforward in Flow. There’s no simple Flow equivalent of “i++”, the syntax for incrementing a counter to control your For Loop. If you make a flow collection variable that holds numbers, which you could technically loop over, you would have to add each number to that collection. The work of doing that would be more effort than it's worth. Maybe when you get a new volunteer you want to automatically set up ten check-ins with them to see how their volunteer journey is progressing? Or a table sponsorship entitles the purchasor to 11 additional guests at the gala, for a whole 12 seat round table. There are all sorts of reasons you might need to either do something X times or create X of something. Let’s look at how you can actually accomplish this in flow. We’re going to look at an example that does something ten times. You could easily replace ten with any other number. 1. The first thing we need is our counter. That’s going to be a number variable that we’re going to use to increment. I’ve called mine “i” for the purposes of this blog. But I will note that my normal naming convention for variables in flow is to start them with “var.” So in real life I would call this something like “varCounter” or “varIterationCounter.” But in programming a For Loop we would use just i, so that’s how I’m showing it here. 2. The first actual step in the flow (or this loop portion of the flow) is a Decision. You have to check if your counter has reached the stopping point. We want to see if i < 10 or if it has reached 10 or more. Note: I started my counter, above, at zero, so I have to stop one lower than my desired number of iterations. Computers like to count "0, 1, 2, 3, …" If you reach 10, you’ve done something eleven times. If this confuses you, you could start your counter at 1 instead of zero (set the default above to 1, rather than 0.) You also could start a counter at the top and work your way down. That would be i-- rather than i++, which is totally acceptable though less commonly used. (Also, by the way, word processors really want to autocorrect “i minus minus” into “i em-dash.”) 3. If we are still in the loop (our counter has not reached 10), then we “do something” and iterate our counter. (This would be the code block within the For Loop.) The “do something” part of your flow, of course, depends on what you need to do. For our example we are making a flow that will create 10 accounts, so we have to assign a record variable for one of those accounts. To iterate the counter you are going to use an Assignment element to add 1 to the variable i. (I know I said that Flow doesn't do i++, but that's exactly what this step is doing. It just doesn't read that way.) 4. Then we have to add the account record variable we just assigned to a collection variable (for insertion later.) You can actually use a single Assignment step to both add the record variable to the collection and to increment the counter. But I wanted to show the entire idea diagrammed out. Also: You can not assign your record variable's fields and assign that record variable to the record collection variable in the same step. That will not work. 5. We loop back to the decision element to see if we need to do this again. 6. If we have reached the limit, then we break out of our loop and use the Create Records element to actually put 10 new accounts into the database. Et voila! Here are all the accounts that were in our collection variable now available in the database. Summing it all up, here’s the most simple representation of what we’re doing, though for it to work in Flow you need at least one additional assignment element, as I noted above. Once you know how to do it, this is really not such a big deal! But if you're new to Flow or haven't needed to solve this particular challenge before it takes a moment to puzzle it out.

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Other Pages (6)

  • About | Free Like a Puppy

    SALESFORCE IS FREE FOR NONPROFITS, RIGHT? ​Yes, but it's free like a puppy, not free like a beer. You might never pay for your user licenses if you are a small organization. But you’re going to need to hire someone with expertise to develop and run your system and you’d do well to explore some related tools that integrate with Salesforce. That’s still a pretty good deal! The purpose of this blog is to help nonprofits and educational organizations (and other organizations using Salesforce) get the most out of their investment. Lots of what I write will apply to for-profit Salesforce instances as well, but getting the most of Salesforce for nonprofits is my focus. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Kolodner I'm a declarative Salesforce engineer and always excited to learn more about the platform. I love to help nonprofits use technology and data to work efficiently, solve problems, and make the world a better place. ​ In 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, and again in 2022 I was recognized by Salesforce as a Salesforce MVP for sharing my knowledge, leadership, and creativity. ​ I also hold eight Salesforce certifications.

  • Articles | Free Like a Puppy

    Latest Articles Michael Kolodner Apr 6 3 min Why I Love the 50/50 Split The first of many articles about making your Salesforce pages functional and beautiful. 131 views 3 likes. Post not marked as liked 3 Michael Kolodner Mar 30 6 min Just Start Writing Last week in Documentation Done Cheap I suggested that you probably have access to a free way to house a Salesforce documentation wiki.... 163 views 3 likes. Post not marked as liked 3 Michael Kolodner Mar 23 3 min Documentation Done Cheap The best documentation is ANY documentation. Start with a simple Salesforce wiki. 249 views 3 likes. Post not marked as liked 3 Michael Kolodner Mar 16 2 min Crowdsourced Salesforce.org Price Guide One of the biggest benefits for nonprofits using Salesforce is the amazing discount. But it can be hard to find exact prices. 350 views 3 likes. Post not marked as liked 3 Michael Kolodner Mar 9 4 min Backup and Restore Let’s just acknowledge right now: Backup and Restore is like life insurance. You should pay for it and hope you never get more from it... 130 views 1 like. Post not marked as liked 1 Michael Kolodner Feb 23 10 min Nonprofit Salesforce – the True Cost of Ownership Breakdown of the real costs of implementing and maintaining Salesforce for nonprofits. 381 views 6 likes. Post not marked as liked 6 Michael Kolodner Feb 17 3 min Four Answers to “Why Salesforce?” Friends (and, of course, potential clients) often ask me, “Why Salesforce? Why should my nonprofit organization switch to Salesforce?”... 184 views 5 likes. Post not marked as liked 5 Michael Kolodner Jan 16 4 min My Salesforce Journey This wasn’t what I was going to be when I grew up. Not at all. I was going to be a diplomat. I was going to single-handedly negotiate an... 320 views 12 likes. Post not marked as liked 12

  • Privacy Policy | Free Like a Puppy

    Privacy Policy I care about your safety, privacy, and security. I will never sell your data If you subscribe (using the signup form), I will only use the list to send notifications about this blog, such as new articles or announcements. If you ask to be removed, I won't retain any information.

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