Joni and Friends: Building a world where every person with a disability finds hope and dignity

The Story At A Glance

Joni and Friends, a ministry dedicated to serving people with disabilities globally, has been delivering wheelchairs, organizing retreats, and distributing Bibles since 1979. In recent years, the organization faced challenges due to siloed systems and data integration issues, hindering their ability to provide a holistic experience to constituents, donors, and volunteers. To address these issues, they embarked on a transformation journey, seeking a technology partner that shared their vision and values. With the help of Plative, Joni and Friends streamlined their volunteer application process, saving hundreds of hours of operational work each week. They now use Salesforce to manage their operations and leverage Marketing Cloud for personalized outreach to engage a wider audience.

Technology Implemented

  • Salesforce Sales Cloud
  • Salesforce Non Profit Success Pack
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud Intelligence
  • Salesforce Experience Cloud 
  • Classy
  • FormAssembly 
  • Boomi (connected to Sage Intacct / WooCommerce)
  • Cloudingo 
  • Asana

I’m seeing every time there’s a process improvement it’s an opportunity for us to reach more people and that’s where I see the difference. My team is focusing on going back to our mission. We can’t communicate the Gospel if we’re sitting behind a computer doing data entry. We can’t mobilize the global church if we’re making follow-up emails for every action. We can’t serve people living with a disability if we’re stuck on administrative tasks all day long.”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

Bringing Help and Hope to People With Disability Around the World

Since 1979 Joni and Friends has been committed to reaching and serving people with disabilities by providing practical and much needed help through large-scale programs. The Joni and Friends International Disability Center in California serves as the administrative hub for ministry programs around the world. With every wheelchair and Bible delivered, every retreat and respite event held, and every church mobilized to integrate and honor people with disabilities, Joni and Friends provides life-changing mobility and the hope of the Gospel to people impacted by disability worldwide.

Re-evaluating After Exponential Growth

Jason Holden, SVP of Operations, joined Joni and Friends just over five years ago to manage one of their international programs. Since then, Jason has taken on running operations for the organization. After 40 years of growth and impact, Jason and his team decided that it was time to build a platform that would continue to help Joni and Friends scale for the next 40 years and beyond.

Jason noticed that many of the platforms they were using were becoming siloed due to the lack of data-flow between them—the amount of point-to-point integrations between systems created data issues across platforms. The different technologies were each effective in the initial capabilities of what they had been brought on board to do, but as Joni and Friends grew into a large organization they learned that the lack of data integration caused their team to operate without the full view of a constituent, donor, or volunteer.

As of this day, Joni and Friends has delivered over 213,000 wheelchairs, served over 64,000 families at Retreats and Getaways, and has delivered over 111,000 Bibles. All of their relationships and programs were stored in separate systems, some used by development and fundraising teams and some used by events and volunteer teams. This meant that each team only knew about certain aspects of each individual’s overall relationship with the ministry. To deliver positive outcomes and impact on the scale that Joni and Friends serves, it’s critical to be able to provide an excellent experience to every constituent, donor, and contact in their network.

“We needed to look at this in a new light. We stepped back and asked ourselves if we were using the right systems and if there was a better way. That’s how it all started.”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

The Right Partner For Joni’s Mission

Once Jason and the leadership team at Joni and Friends decided it was time for a change they began defining their vision. They focused on the main areas of their organization and developed process flow diagrams, putting them on paper and detailing them out. It pushed their team to look into the darkest corners of the organization and illuminate the things they may or may not have been doing well. They started seeing a lot of overlap, a lot of duplication of resources, and a lot of opportunities for improvement. The time commitment up front was significant, but it paid dividends in the end because it enabled them to take those process flows to the vendors they were evaluating and give them a great understanding of the Joni and Friends vision.

As they were researching technology partners, putting out their process flows, and getting input from various partners they started to realize that while many partners were capable of delivering a technical project, it was critical to find a firm that shared their vision and was a great cultural fit for their team to work alongside every day over the course of the project.

“We want to work with partners that share our team’s vision and values, rather than selecting a firm that sees us as just another contract.”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

In addition to technical capability and cultural fit, it was also important to Jason to select a partner that could come to the table with new ideas, platform recommendations, and unique perspectives on what they should do next, rather than just taking orders and delivering to spec. In order to deliver on this, it was crucial to select a partner that understands how a ministry works.

“Plative consistently put our needs first. Throughout the project, we always could trust the Plative team to put a few extra hours in to make something work well. That’s huge, especially as a ministry that’s working with donor funds and limited resources.”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

Delivering an Optimized Volunteer Experience

It’s important for Joni and Friends to confirm that volunteer candidates who serve alongside the organization are set up to succeed from day one and that they align with the values of the ministry. This leads to a thorough and detailed application process.

The first step is to engage a potential volunteer with a short, well-designed, and user-friendly questionnaire requesting basic data about the individual. Next is scheduling an interview with the potential volunteer. 

Lastly, the volunteer is assigned a list of onboarding tasks to get started. These tasks range in complexity from e-signing consent agreements and completing background checks to medical screenings and international travel approvals. Each one of these requirements is unique across twenty different programs.

Before engaging Plative, Joni and Friends completed most of these application process steps manually, which created a lot of operational inefficiency and tied up valuable time for their internal resources.

Saving Over Hundreds of Hours of Operations Work per Week 

Jason and the Joni and Friends team are already seeing administrative tasks such as data entry being streamlined and completed with far fewer errors because of no longer having to enter data in multiple areas manually. Now the data is flowing through and filling in fields, scheduling appointments, sending follow-up reminders, and more all on its own. The management staff now spends less time providing oversight because they can just jump into Salesforce and see what happened, when it happened, and the detailed notes about it. 

In Jason’s Event Management Operations department they are saving at least 40 hours per week just in data management that would have otherwise required a full-time staff member conducting data entry and following up on administrative tasks and emails. Now this role can be repurposed to higher value ministry work because Salesforce gives them the capability to do those tasks automatically.

Jason already believes there is a cost benefit to this work through reduced administrative costs, reduced overhead, management of their tools, and reduced systems costs. Joni and Friends had multiple disparate systems and they were paying for not only the overhead cost of the yearly subscription for each platform, but also a user cost for every user that was logging in, some to three different systems. These costs have now been reduced dramatically.

“We did a cost benefit analysis and came to the conclusion that not only was the juice worth the squeeze, but the juice is going to taste really good because, over the long term, we’re going to be able to apply our ministry resources elsewhere where it’s needed and these benefits will compound over time.”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

Fostering a Culture of Ongoing Innovation Across the Organization

The team is now on a unified platform, Salesforce, where their accounting and development staff are actively utilizing their new processes to manage their gift entry and online donations. But this is just the beginning of their innovation journey. Joni and Friends is currently using the Plative Innovate Program to continue discovering areas for improvement, building a long-term product roadmap, and delivering in sprints to continuously deliver small improvements and impactful outcomes across the business.

What’s next? The key is continuing to engage and mobilize constituents in a scalable way by using Marketing Cloud to build preferences and profiles of each person. Then the organization can reach out to large groups of volunteers and participants through personalized, multi-channel communications that maximize engagement.

“I think we’re seeing a slow dip in the amount of people that commit to volunteerism and long-term sustainment with a single organization. People are supporting multiple organizations now with their time, talent, and treasures, so it’s important that we have brand awareness just like the big companies out there —the Amazons and the Walmarts of the world. We in the ministry world are doing the same thing. How do we create brand awareness? How do we communicate all the great things we’re doing so that the people who want to be involved with an organization like us know about it and know how to involve themselves?”

– Jason Holden, SVP of Operations

To learn more about Joni and Friends visit

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