Meet Megan McDonald, Lead Salesforce Admin for DCS

Megan McDonald

This spotlight is the first in a series of profiles about constituent relationship management (CRM) users across campus, partners in the success of the OneBadger CRM initiative.

Megan McDonald
Megan McDonald, lead Salesforce administrator for the Division of Continuing Studies

Talk about a whirlwind. On Megan McDonald’s very first day on the job at UW–Madison, she immediately jumped into the kickoff of a major project—a collaboration between the Office of Admissions and Recruitment and the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS) to launch a trailblazing technology platform to support the recruitment of prospective students.

“In the first six months or so, it was hitting the ground running to scope out the requirements,” recalls McDonald, who joined DCS in 2018 as the division’s lead administrator of Salesforce, a constituent relationship management (CRM) tool.

As the original adopters of Salesforce on campus, McDonald and the DCS team joined Admissions and Recruitment in standing up the university’s first recruiting instance of Salesforce—a first step of the OneBadger initiative, aiming to provide a “360-degree circle of support” for learners.

At the time, McDonald was new to higher education, having previously worked for the K-12 nonprofit organization New Leaders, based in New York. McDonald gained exposure to Salesforce’s capabilities at New Leaders, which had used the powerful CRM to support its education reform mission since 2008.

With Salesforce launched at UW–Madison in July 2018, McDonald and her team at DCS have continued to add new functionality over the past two years, as the OneBadger initiative built its vision to become an enterprise CRM solution for schools, units and divisions across the university.

Starting from scratch

Megan McDonald presenting at the Dreamforce conference
Megan McDonald presenting at Dreamforce, the Salesforce annual conference that draws more than 150,000 people to San Francisco

As the original Salesforce adopter on campus, McDonald says she particularly enjoyed the challenge of “starting from scratch.”

“The nice part about jumping in was we didn’t have another CRM—so it wasn’t like we were trying to replace something,” McDonald said. “People were living in lots of spreadsheets, and they needed a better way to do their work.”

Prior to the Salesforce implementation, DCS staff members had been using a marketing automation software called Eloqua to send communications to prospective students. Lacking a CRM to comprehensively track interactions with prospective students, staff members were essentially trying to use Eloqua as a CRM—which isn’t what Eloqua was developed to do.

“That’s not the best way to use Eloqua, and that’s the space we were in—trying to use Eloqua to track various data points,” McDonald explains.

“It was a scattershot approach, and it wasn’t really a good way to track all of the recruitment activities our enrollment coaches and partners around campus were engaged in,” McDonald added. “So the business proposition with Salesforce was, here’s this one-stop shop for everything.”

While Salesforce would make it easier for staff members to track and personalize their interactions with prospective students, DCS similarly wanted to use the CRM to improve the student’s experience.

“From a student’s perspective, they may not know exactly what’s happened, but they’re hopefully experiencing a better communication flow,” McDonald explains. “They’re receiving less redundant messaging from us, and those messages are more targeted to what they’ve expressed interest in.”

As McDonald and her team have continued to build new functionality within Salesforce, they’ve developed “use cases” around different recruiting activities, like event management.

“One of my favorite aspects of Salesforce is that we can look at any given event we’re doing and see who attended. And then we can determine, did they apply? And did they enroll?” McDonald says. “Especially right now with budgets getting tighter and tighter, it really helps us figure out which event has the most bang for its buck.”

Collaboration through challenges

Reflecting on the biggest challenge of the Salesforce implementation, McDonald notes that it was difficult to make the platform work for two university units with very distinctive recruitment needs. While DCS does more one-to-one recruiting for smaller professional degree programs, the Office of Admissions and Recruitment is responsible for the much broader, higher volume recruitment of undergraduate students.

“We needed to come together to show that it’s possible to build this type of system in not such a parochial way… to show what was possible to do with a CRM on a campus that’s so broad and diverse,” McDonald says.

“It was challenging at times—we want it this way and they want it that way—but we met in the middle and came to agreement. I value the partnership so much,” McDonald added, noting an excellent working relationship with the Office of Admissions and Recruitment and its Salesforce lead, Nathan Trick.

A culture of whimsy & learning

screenshot of "Pets Pets Pets" Chatter group in Salesforce
Meet Snickers, one of the furry friends posted in the “Pets Pets Pets” Chatter group in Salesforce

Having worked in Salesforce across two jobs for 12 years, McDonald praises the CRM giant for its culture of continuous learning and fun.

“Their culture is not for everyone—they’re highly whimsical and really lean into their characters—but for me, it’s great,” McDonald says. “The community around Salesforce is a very positive, affirming place. I’d much rather have that kind of fun than have things be rigid or serious all the time.”

To that end, when McDonald implemented Salesforce’s “Chatter” collaboration tool within the DCS instance, she at first jokingly built it around a pet theme.

“Everyone says the most important thing you have to focus on is user adoption: If no one’s using your system, it’s all going to fall to pieces,” McDonald says.

screenshot of "Pets Pets Pets" Chatter group in Salesforce
More “Pets Pets Pets” chatter

And sure enough, McDonald’s “Pets, Pets, Pets” Chatter group quickly became a favorite among campus Salesforce users—a space to both share files and securely collaborate with colleagues, as well as a place to post adorable pictures of furry friends.

The cute-puppies-and-kitties approach even landed McDonald a speaker spot at Dreamforce, the Salesforce annual conference that draws more than 150,000 people to San Francisco to participate in the largest software conference in the world.

“When we train new people, the last thing we do is check out ‘Pets, Pets, Pets’ – so everyone leaves on a happy note,” McDonald says, adding that the Chatter training might surreptitiously train users about functionality, showing people how to do something like a “What’s Your Favorite Dog Breed?” poll.

“Through the back door, you can train people in a fun way, and help connect people who use Salesforce all across campus in a not always so ‘work-y’ way,” McDonald added.

Hoops & hiking

Megan McDonald and family
Megan McDonald (right) with son Dexter and wife Stephanie Budge, also a UW employee

When McDonald isn’t tinkering in Salesforce, you might find her watching the Milwaukee Bucks or shooting hoops herself—as a freshman and sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, McDonald played on two division three national championship women’s basketball teams.

McDonald and her wife Stephanie Budge have also spent much of the pandemic chasing a 16-month-old climber, their son Dexter. Budge also works for UW–Madison, in counseling psychology in the School of Education.

Pre-COVID, McDonald and Budge loved to travel, going on hiking trips to destinations like Patagonia at the southern end of South America and New Zealand’s South Island. On a whim, the two honeymooned in Namibia. Says McDonald with a laugh: “I’m obsessed with getting airline miles.”