Thanks go out to Steve Andersen at ONE/Northwest, a consulting firm that does a lot of work with nonprofits, for his 1-page summary for non-profits researching Salesforce for their organization.
Is Salesforce.com right for your Nonprofit?
This document is meant to be a starting point for nonprofits in making their decision whether Salesforce.com is a good choice for their organization. It will give some introduction to what Salesforce.com does, and the benefits and risks involved in using it.
What is Salesforce.com?
Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) is a 10 year old company in San Francisco delivering web-based constituent relationship management (CRM) to businesses. As evidenced by the company’s name, they target their CRM to sales organizations. However, Salesforce.com has built a very flexible platform that can easily be customized to meet the unique needs of a businesses. This flexibility makes Salesforce.com a suitable platform for CRM activities in diverse business models, including those used by most nonprofits.
Salesforce.com has been a leader in corporate philanthropy based on the vision of Marc Benioff, their co-founder and current Board chairman. Very early on, Benioff created the Salesforce.com Foundation which has overseen the donation of Salesforce.com cash, staff time, and products. In his book Compassionate Capitalism, he lays out his strategy for embedding philanthropy in the corporation, so that it is not reliant on the personality of the CEO. The Foundation currently donates 10 user licenses of Salesforce.com to any qualifying charitable organization. This product donation puts the power of the Salesforce.com platform within reach for nonprofits of all sizes.
What can Salesforce.com do?
Salesforce.com can help nonprofits keep track of their constituents and all the work they do with them. Salesforce.com can be:
- A centralized contact list of all the people and organizations you work with
- The place for prospecting and tracking donations, grants, memberships, and volunteering
- The system for tracking just about any of your other program-related processes: canvassing, phone banking, events, tabling, etc.
Salesforce.com allows you to easily record important communications you’ve had with your constituents:
- It can be a shared contact list for your organization, accessible via the web or directly within Outlook
- It becomes painless to record communications and meetings, again directly from Outlook or via the web
- You can relate communications to constituents and also to donations, grants, or other activities
Salesforce.com has powerful analytic tools:
- The data you enter in your daily work can easily be rolled up to help you make organizational decisions
- A powerful built-in report creation tool that requires no special technical skills, and can be mastered by power users
- Dashboards that display report information in charts and graphs for compelling summaries of your data–great for EDs and Boards
Salesforce.com likes to share:
- Your constiutent data can be made available to your other technology systems through relatively simple programming
- Data from your other systems can, just as easily, be brought into Salesforce.com
- Lots of third-party software tools, like email marketing systems, currently integrate with Salesforce.com
What can’t Salesforce.com do?
Salesforce.com, like all software, has limits:
- Salesforce.com is not an accounting system. You can purchase third-party integration products to Quickbooks, but accounting functions are not handled by Salesforce.com.
- If you are doing very complex donor management, Salesforce.com may not have all the functionality your organization requires.
What are the benefits of using Salesforce.com?
- Low TCO: Salesforce.com is very inexpensive to use
- No additional IT costs (servers, VPNs, DBAs, etc.)
- No monthly cost for using the system–Salesforce.com donates 10 user licenses to every nonprofit. That’s a $15,000 per year donation.
- Centralized Data: You can do all your constituent-related work in one system
- Handle constituents who play many roles in your organization
- Support your unique processes that off the shelf systems don’t support
- Accessible and available: All you need to use Salesforce.com is a web browser and Internet access.
- It’s accessible from anywhere
- It’s secure
- Your data is easily available to other web-aware applications
- Adaptable and Changable: Salesforce.com can easily grow and change as you and your organization do
- Create new fields with no programming in a matter of minutes
- Add support for new work processes at very low cost
- Modern: Salesforce.com is cutting-edge, Internet-aware software
- Connect your CRM to your website, email-blasting, and other systems
- Connect your CRM to published data sources: address enhancement, legislative district lookup, etc.
What are risks I should consider about using Salesforce.com?
Access to the system is donated:
- Donation is only given for a 12 month period and is up for renewal every year
- The company/foundation could go away, and end your donation
- They have your data, it’s not on your computers (although you can easily set up a weekly export of your entire database for backup locally)
- The USA PATRIOT Act forces them to comply with any government request to see your data, just like your ISP
What are the costs associated with using Salesforce.com?
Since Salesforce.com is highly customizable, there can be a setup cost to get it to match your organization’s processes. This initial consulting work usually costs a few thousand dollars for simple setups, and more as complexity increases.
Your ongoing monthly cost for use of the Salesforce.com service is $0.
It is wise to have someone to handle ongoing administration, customization, and user training. This could be a power user on your staff, or a dedicated IT resource, or an outside consultant, depending on your needs.
Is Salesforce.com right for my organization?
Salesforce.com is an excellent solution for CRM that nonprofit organizations of all sizes should consider.