Community Member Spotlight: Meet Nicole Holt with Preble Street!
Long-time Blackbaud Community member Nicole Holt used her background in software development to fully utilize the Microsoft Power Platform to create game-changing automations that help her organization, Preble Street, fight homelessness, hunger, and poverty in Maine. You can read their customer story here.
Read more about Nicole’s latest passion, roller skating, and the automation project she is most proud of!
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I joined a women's roller-skating group this year. It is my favorite thing ever. I love Marvel movies and Stephen King books. I love the beach (Maine has some fantastic beaches!) and while snowshoeing isn't my favorite, it is growing on me.
Q: What is an achievement (personal or professional) of which you are particularly proud?
A: I recently learned to do a not-so-graceful moonwalk on roller-skates. I look ridiculous, but I am proud that I dared to try and mostly accomplished it 😄. I'm really proud of my son and the person he is growing into. And, professionally, I am proud that I took the risk to expand my skills to include Microsoft Power Platform—it's a great reminder that learning new things can have a big impact on your outlook!
Q: What is one memory that always makes you smile?
A: All those mom firsts—first trick-or-treating is a particular favorite. Remembering summers at the lake as a kid myself.
Q: Tell us about your organization:
A: Preble Street is a Maine-based social service organization that provides accessible, barrier-free services to empower people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty, and to advocate for solutions to those problems.
From a nutritious meal to crisis interventions, from clean clothes to healthcare, from shelters to a permanent home, Preble Street programs not only meet urgent needs but also create solutions to homelessness and hunger.
(Picture from Preblestreet.org)
Q: Tell us about your role as data systems project manager at Preble Street. What does your typical day look like, and what is your favorite part of your job?
A: I spend about half of my time with our Development Team, and half of my time working to integrate data systems across our agency. On the Development side, this includes building workflows and reporting systems that help staff and leadership have access to accurate, current information on our fundraising programs; supervising our gift processing/database team; and coordinating with our finance department. Agency-wide, I am working to build systems to ensure that leadership staff have access to environmental and service delivery trends and facilitating ways to share best-practice resources with staff, and other data projects. Right now, I am working with our HR team to launch a new learning management system that integrates with SharePoint.
Blackbaud has an array of resources and training to support customers using low-code tools found in Microsoft Power Platform to enhance their Raiser’s Edge NXT® experience.
Q: Tell us how you got started with Power Platform?
A: I got started with Power Platform during the inaugural Accelerator course in 2021. At the time, we were struggling to adapt to being a hybrid team and all that entailed while our work volume was increasing due to both workflow changes needed for a team that is not all sitting together, and because the number of gifts increased as our community responded to the very visible challenges to the social safety net that came with the pandemic.
Automating administrative tasks helped free our team to do work that needed a human being—stewarding our donors.
Q: Automation helps streamline processes in a way that’s unique to your organization, taking the burden of repetitive work off staff and freeing them up to complete other important, often more strategic, tasks. What are some automation projects you are most proud of – and what kind of impact are they having on your organization?
A: Our biggest automation is for grant project management. This workflow brings Raiser’s Edge NXT actions to Microsoft Planner, so staff without Raiser’s Edge NXT access (finance and program staff) can be cued for their tasks and interact with the action record. This freed our grants team from constant coordination of tasks, reminders, etc., and allowed them to focus on research, writing, and stewardship. The number of grants we can apply for and awards we can manage increased significantly thanks to this automation.
Q: Your participation in the Blackbaud Community goes all the way back to before it became what it is today – you originally started in stand-alone Raiser’s Edge forums. That’s a long time and we thank you for being a member! What do you enjoy most about Blackbaud Community, and how has being able to connect with peers helped you?
A: I love that if I have a question, I can ask, and community members will share their experience and expertise. It feels like a second group of colleagues—there are my Preble Street colleagues, and my Blackbaud Community colleagues!
Q: What’s your advice to other Blackbaud Community members reading this who are interested in exploring how they can extend their solutions with low-code and no-code tools? How would you recommend they get started? What kind of expectations would you set?
A: I would recommend joining the SKY Developer community to see how others are using these tools—you'll get some great ideas that can be adapted to your organization! And, of course, the user groups like the Microsoft Power Automate User Group and the Microsoft Power BI User Group.
That's an inspiring story - thank you so much for sharing your journey! (And I love Maine!)