Nova Ukraine & responding to war
In March, I finished an 8-year journey on the Instacart rocketship. Good memories, lessons learned, and wins are worth more than one separate post that I hope soon will follow.
Having time on my hands coincided with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the best way to cope with the daily influx of horror was to help people make a real impact on the ground. I joined Nova Ukraine, a Bay Area-based non-profit. In the past four months, Nova Ukraine helped over 2M people, established a network of 3500 volunteers on the ground, and delivered over 500 tons of aid.
On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine, killing thousands and forcing 8 million people to flee. It was a war very close to home and even closer to my heart and kin. My aunt and multiple friends were directly affected. People that I long admired from all over the world (incl. Lithuania, Netherlands, the US, Belarus, and Estonia, among many other counties) jumped to help refugees, sending humanitarian relief, weapons, fighting, and helping basic civic services to sustain the shock of the war. It took just a nudge from a friend (thank you, Oleg) to join Nova Ukraine. Every day would start with terrible news from the ground — shortly, I started spending most of my time on Nova Ukraine.
We took on consolidating all donor information into a single system. Nova Ukraine faced a typical startup dilemma: on Feb 24th, the number of volunteers, donation methods, and donors grew 10–1000x, so individual donations were sometimes hard to find, and reports about funds attributed to specific programs might take hours to build. The team primarily relied on social media to re-engage with donors.
The team brought in Salesforce as a primary CRM. I built 8 data pipelines, integrating PayPal and Stripe APIs and more donation sources through CSV exports. Naively, I expected that building fast pipelines for hundreds of thousands of records would be easier. In the end, this effort allowed us to grow the Newsletter audience 20x, include more donors in direct mail blasts, build reports and find information faster. Now, we can answer questions about fundraising or marketing efforts in minutes, which will serve as a foundation for marketing automation in the future. Kudos to our Salesforce volunteers-consultants (Ben, Derek, Andrii) and colleagues working on other use cases (Iryna, Oleg) for helping to learn Salesforce.
Nova Ukraine exploded in size in response to war efforts. The urgency of the war got me involved in day-to-day operations as well, helping the group organize and respond to donor questions. Together with the team (kudos Maria, Natalia, Oleg, and Miles), we fought for access to all donation systems, aggregated them for internal sharing, and onboarded more friends to help with daily operations and coding (thank you, Morta, Laimonas, and Slava).
Early on, I brought Workato to build automation and data pipelines. CRM/Salesforce stream lacked an integration layer, and I was lucky to learn about Workato randomly a few months ago. Workato was of incredible help: with CEO getting involved hands-on, they provided a free license and Solutions Success team time to train us and help with the most challenging scenarios. Thank you to Yulia for making this happen, and kudos to Vijay, Narmadha, and Kokil. For me, Workato demonstrated how effective no-code tools are for a company w/o existing cloud infrastructure and dedicated backend engineers.
We are looking for a Growth Engineer to re-engage donors. Existing needs are around email and direct mail drip campaigns and email analytics. Please share the post and DM if you are interested.