Caspio for Nonprofit

My name is Michael Leschke. I am the Senior Manager of Certification Programs at Center for Resource Solutions.

 

Like it was mentioned, we are based in San Francisco. We’re a small nonprofit of about 15-ish people and we were formed in 2007.

 

So, let me set the context about what CRS does first before I get into the way that we work with Caspio so you can understand why we work with Caspio in the way that we do.

The Green-e® Certification Program

CRS’s mission is to create market and policy solutions to advance renewable energy.

 

What that means is the 15 of us wear a lot of different hats and do a lot of different things.

 

We do expert assistance work to help grow renewable energy markets around the world. We host an annual conference called the Renewable Energy Markets Conference which gathers stakeholders of the renewable energy market both here in the U.S. and internationally all in one place, so we can discuss different issues and different trends that we’re experiencing in the market.

 

What we’re probably most well-known for is the Green-e® Certification Program, which you can think of as a consumer protection program.

 

When you think about the renewable energy market, you’re talking about buyers and sellers, right? Renewable buyers are usually homeowners who want to purchase a green option from their local utility to essentially offset their electricity consumption. Or you’re looking at a big tech company like Google who just announced that they were, for I think their 2017 operations, they were 100% powered by renewable energies.

 

The Green-e® Certification Program makes sure that these buyers are buying quality products and they’re actually buying what the seller says that they’re selling to them.

 

So, when a seller signs up to have a certified product with us, they’re obligated to do a couple of things. We have a standard which dictates what’s considered a quality renewable energy product and it’s up to the seller to meet that standard.

Using Excel as a Database

For us to be sure that that standard is being met, the seller has to go through an annual verification process with us, which is essentially an audit to be sure that their sales match what they said that they were selling, and that they actually procured enough supply to put into the grid to cover those certified sales.

 

That takes place annually for about 115 different entities that we certify. When we get that data into us, we go through it to be sure that all i’s are dotted, and all t’s are crossed. If there were any issues, we work with the participant to resolve those issues.

 

So, in the pre-Caspio world, it looked like a lot of spreadsheets.

 

We have, like I said, 115-ish participants. So we’re getting 115 Excel spreadsheets usually with multiple tabs, sometimes hundreds or thousands of rows of information that we would have to manually check. That’s part of the data collection and data validation process.

 

The other thing that we do with that data when we get it is that we analyze it to look at trends in the market, figure out what happened in any given year and come up with the reason why that happened.

 

That’s tough to do when you’re dealing with a lot of different Excel spreadsheets. It’s time-consuming and there had to be a more efficient way to be able to do that.

 

Hence our work with Caspio.

Building an Online Database with Caspio

Initially, we put out an RFP to build a custom reporting solution. Caspio won that RFP and I was brought into the project after I first got hired at CRS. I think people just figured that they’d dump this project on the new person. That was eight years ago.

 

Every year we work with Caspio to come up with improvements to the verification tool in terms of user interface, but also the renewable energy market changes from one year to the next.

 

Our national standard is an evolving document. It doesn’t stay the same from one year to the next, which means that there’s different things that we have to check in the verification process from one year to the next. We work with Caspio to create solutions in the verification tool to account for the changes in our standard.

 

What you see on the screen is actually the end result. We tried to create the verification tool sort of like TurboTax so our participants could go online, enter in their information, click next, go to the next page and enter in some more information.

 

What you see on the left is what the participant sees. What you see on the right is what goes on behind the scenes in Caspio Bridge. Honestly, it looks like an Excel spreadsheet but the big benefit to this is that it’s everybody’s data in one place.

 

When our participants enter their data, we’ve built in code on certain lines of data that helps us validate the information that’s being entered in. So, for example, the very last input field there. It says, “Date of First Operation.”

Low-Code for Data Validation and Aggregation

The Green-e® Energy standard says that renewable energy facilities that supply a certified sale need to be no more than 15 years old.

 

We worked with Caspio to build a validation in the software where if a facility greater than 15 years old was entered in, it would alert us to that fact and we would be able to account for it by taking additional steps.

 

That’s actually what this data validation looks like. If you see that Special Cases section in the middle of the screen there with the red letters next to it, those are cases where a validation was triggered, letting us know that we would have to request more information from our participants to be able to resolve certain issues.

 

Now, the other part of what we do is the data aggregation part. Whereas before we were dealing with multiple spreadsheets and trying to get all that data into certain categories for us to be able to tell a story about what happened from one year to the next, now we’ve just hardcoded certain equations into Caspio that does that for us.

 

Instead of me spending weeks aggregating all that data, now Caspio does it at the click of a button.

Powered By Professional Services

Some key takeaways from our work with Caspio: I can’t speak highly enough about the way that it has allowed us to streamline our data submission and collection processes. Having everything in one place is huge, both for us internally but also for our participants.

 

We built it with the idea that they would fill in some data, click next and be taken to the exact page where they need to go, rather than having to fill in certain cells in an Excel spreadsheet. And by and large, that’s been our customer experience.

 

I mentioned we continue to work with Professional Services annually. Our standard does get updated just about annually and so it accounts for changes that we need to make inside the verification tool. We work with Caspio to do that.

 

We also have 115 people using this software. They have ideas of how to improve that, so we take those ideas and work with Caspio to implement some of those solutions.

 

Finally, we could have a great idea in our heads at CRS and expect it to be implemented in a verification tool. But between our heads and the tool, it doesn’t always work out in the most efficient or effective way.

 

That’s something that we rely on Caspio to help us work through.

 

A lot of times the people that we work with in Professional Services will have ideas on how to implement a project that we have in our heads that we think will make things easier for our customers but we lack the nuance to be able to translate that to the verification tool. So the back and forth that we have with Professional Services is very helpful in that.

 

So, thank you. And I look forward to answering any questions.

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