April 11, 2022

International Sponsorship Model: Powered by Salesforce and TaroWorks

Elaine Chang

International Sponsorship Model: Powered by Salesforce and TaroWorks

In 2016, the World Bank estimated at least 9 million children were being reached through the international sponsorship model and up to 100 million families are directly affected by child sponsorship.  The World Bank’s research concluded that “sponsorship translates to higher education levels and future earnings for formerly sponsored children.” (Read More)

Today, Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has operated through an international sponsorship model program since 1986, supports over 80,000 sponsored orphans in 27 countries. The faith-inspired humanitarian aid and development agency identifies orphans – who may be living with surviving relatives, and uses the poverty graduation model to train those families on skills that benefit the orphans by encouraging family self-reliance.

Photo by Islamic Relief Worldwide: Omar* and friends from Iraq
Photo by Islamic Relief Worldwide: Jignuman (Clean Water) Project funded by Islamic Relief Canada

Each child is supported through contributions donated by a sponsor, which provides the orphaned child with education and healthcare.

Islamic Relief saw its international sponsorship model program, which includes orphans and their immediate family, grow quickly:

“Over time our business needs evolved and expanded quite rapidly,” said Anwar Ahmed, Islamic Relief’s Orphans and Child Welfare Manager, during a webinar at the recent NetHope Global Summit. “It became obvious that [our sponsorship team] wanted more from the system,” which had been paper and spreadsheet-based and fell short on donor reporting, data analysis and program management evaluation.  

Islamic Relief looked to cloud and mobile technology to help manage program growth, beginning with the installation of Salesforce’s CRM in 2011, followed by tools from Conga to help automatically create formatted reports for distribution to their diverse donors.

TaroWorks’ offline mobile field service app – integrated with Salesforce – was deployed in 2021 to allow Islamic Relief’s nearly 350 data collectors to register orphans and their family members into the program. It is also used to collect other field data that is analysed by Salesforce and presented to stakeholders in donor reports. The data analytics support field operations and business decision-making in the last mile, even when internet or mobile device connectivity isn’t available. 

Inconsistent or no data connectivity is just one of the challenges organizations like Islamic Relief face when trying to scale field operations in remote locations. Legacy data collection systems of paper and spreadsheets, a one-way – rather than two-way – information flow from the field to headquarters, and data silos within the business can be overcome by digitizing operations to centralize data. This approach also provides more transparency, increases data collection accuracy, and generates reports in real-time.  

Islamic Relief’s International Sponsorship Model at Work

When trying to help an organization use cloud and mobile technology to streamline field and other business operations, we’ve learned at TaroWorks that it’s important to understand the organization’s process flow so you can identify which program or business functions will benefit most from being digitized.

international sponsorship model
Photo by Islamic Relief Worldwide

The process Islamic Relief uses to manage its orphan sponsorship program is as follows:

  • Frontline field staff identify orphans through contacts with community leaders and organizations
  • Islamic Relief staff assess the status and needs of the orphan and remaining family members
  • Staff registers the orphan for the sponsorship program
  • Staff uploads the orphan’s details to a global sponsorship system
  • Donor staff match orphan with donor to receive quarterly payments
  • Field staff make follow-up visits to ensure child’s well-being and that sponsorship funds are being utilized
  • Donors receive regular reports on each orphan’s progress.

Streamlining Processes with Mobile and the Salesforce Ecosystem

During the NetHope webinar, Anwar explained that frontline field staff who gather data used to manage the international sponsorship model program “work in a lot of rural areas where there’s probably little or no connectivity so many of our staff rely on offline forms to capture that reporting data.” Using TaroWorks in mobile tablets rather than paper, “ allows us to capture that data offline and then sync that data (which includes photos and signatures) once we are in the office and have an online connection.”

international sponsorship model
Photo by TaroWorks mobile app. Source: Islamic Relief Worldwide

All questions from paper data sheets were created as fields in TaroWorks, and enhanced with validation rules to ensure data was entered correctly before mapping results into Islamic Relief’s Salesforce database. 

One of the biggest challenges to overcome in streamlining the international sponsorship model program was strengthening the reporting process, which they improved using Conga in the Salesforce ecosystem.

“Our field staff used to have a narrative report to write and because English is not their first language there were a lot of mistakes, there were delays and this just created a lot of frustration from all sides,” Anwar said. “With Salesforce, we simplified that process and one of the first ways we did that was by structuring our data and including validation rules to reduce human error.”

International sponsorship model program funding partners are now able to click a button in Salesforce, which takes them to Conga Composer and then the report is saved to the orphan’s record in Salesforce. Conga also helps translate donor reports into different languages so they can report back to their diverse donors.

This process has saved a significant amount of time from when the report is collected by the field officers to when donor officers download and generate the translated report. “You’re talking about hundreds and thousands of hours,” said Anwar.

international sponsorship model
Image: International sponsorship model donor report. Source: Islamic Relief Worldwide

Benefits of Digitizing International Sponsorship Model

international sponsorship model
Image: Salesforce dashboard for sponsorship program metrics. Source: Islamic Relief Worldwide

Anwar explained during the webinar that digitizing the international sponsorship model program has had many benefits including:

  • Enhanced Data Quality and Real-time Analysis: Data gathered using TaroWorks is uploaded to Salesforce and visualized in real-time using dashboards customized for different audiences. The dashboards show a range of metrics (including the number of orphans currently waiting to be sponsored) that can help improve program operations. Alerts are also created to let the appropriate staff, partners, or donors know when a sponsorship is coming to an end. Aggregating data through improved reports has also helped Islamic Relief teams spot trends or keep an eye on key indicators that might prompt quick intervention – like the rate of HIV cases, instances of malnutrition or even early or forced marriage, said Anwar. Identifying orphans with health or other issues allows the program to prioritize sponsorship recipients with the greatest needs.
  • Improved Communication: About 300 people associated with the international sponsorship model program use the message board communication feature in Salesforce known as “Chatter.” The resulting frequent communication has removed bottlenecks and built strong relationships between users, said Anwar.
  • Bolstered Data Security: Given that sensitive data on children is collected but the children and families’ identity needs to be safeguarded, people accessing information in TaroWorks and Salesforce can only see information related to cases on which they are working. 
  • Cost Efficiency:  Anwar stated that using mobile and cloud tools to help manage the program has “been quite cost-efficient. Our investment in Salesforce, Conga, TaroWorks and the whole package is less than 1% of our annual income for the program.


About the author...

Elaine Chang


Elaine’s background in marketing research and data analytics has shaped her goal of helping organizations use insights from better data to create positive change in communities. She has a BS in Marketing and Finance from New York University, and an MBA from the University of Michigan. Elaine is based in Washington, DC.


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