Salesforce for Non-profits

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Looking over my posts, I was surprised at the dearth of Salesforce related articles. Especially given how often I champion it offline.

About two years ago, my first task as the first IT director at my small non-profit org was to identify, evaluate and recommend a contact management system. After reviewing the standard players in the not-for-profit sector (Kintera, GetActive, Convio, Raiser’s Edge), I expanded my search to commercial products. Honestly, I think too many non-profits overestimate the differences between them and their for-profit counterparts. Products and vendors targeting this sector often play to that conceit. Ultimately, non-profits end up with boutique products that are not nearly as robust or battle-tested as those used in the for-profit sectors. With that mindset, I was more than open to the suggestion Rem Hoffman from Exponent Partners made about checking out Salesforce.com (SFDC).

At the time, SFDC was not nearly as well know in the social sector. That has since changed due in no small part to the great work by the Salesforce Foundation. The first thing that struck me about SFDC and its foundation was the parity of the relationship between the two. CEO Mark Benioff is very involved in the foundation and makes it very obvious that this is not just some half-hearted effort towards corporate responsibility. 

Through the foundation, registered non-profits can receive donated licenses for Salesforce Enterprise Edition. More to their credit, SFDC has prompted its extensive ecosystem of partners to do the same. We’ve received generous donations and discounts from;

Because Salesforce has an open API, it integrates well with third-party products and is highly extensible  through custom porgramming.  This has allowed us to build a best-of-breed integrated system that connects information from all of our systems including our website. Donations have allowed us to achieve this at a reduced expense. What started as a quest for a CRM system has quickly grown into a comprehensive ERP system. Nearly everything we do is based off the SFDC platform.

I recommend that non-profits consider Salesforce.com. Don’t let the name put you off.

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2 Responses to Salesforce for Non-profits

  1. Adam says:

    Great post. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been looking at Salesforce for my nonprofit. Do you think it would be too complicated? I’m also looking for content management tools so I can easily update the website as well.

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  2. Using Salesforce is very simple and intuitive. It’s very rare that I’m impressed by a user interface and the team at Salesforce continuously pushes the Ajax envelope. As for setting it up, I would recommend using a consultant or at the least someone with a background in business process analysis and relational databases. That’s not just me trying to justify my own paycheck. I don’t fix my own plumbing because I understand where my expertise ends and the value of using experienced professional begins.

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