For nonprofits, Salesforce is the new black

It was just about a year ago that I made the decision to go with as our main database instead of some of the pricier ::cough:: Raiser’s Edge ::cough:: solutions, or even other open source/cheaper solutions targeted to nonprofits. Sure, Salesforce wasn’t built for nonprofits but I knew what I wanted to get out of it, and I saw the potential that Salesforce had to offer for what was a very economical startup cost (we paid for the consulting help, not the software itself).

So one year later, I just love reading posts like this one:

One of my take-aways from the conference is that SalesForce is a viable option for nonprofits. From a developer’s perspective, I can see that it’s a viable option for me to both deliver results within my clients’ means, and that I can also build applications that can work with clients’ data that’s already in SalesForce. When I say viable, I mean that I can see the details working out — and I still have a ways to go before I know how low the barrier to entry really is, and how successful salesforce can prove to be to nonprofits. I still have strong concerns that the focus of SalesForce centers too much on internal CRM processes, while most of my projects focus on integrating internal processes with external ones, centering more on large numbers of outside or peripheral customers who have stong needs for inputting, managing and processing their data.

Have you seen what Salesforce has been doing lately? Nonprofits didn’t invent the concept of working with data from multiple sources. Businesses have to do it all the time, and if business are doing it, then Salesforce is getting it done. I have absolutely no programming experience whatsoever and we haven’t spent a dime on a consultant since last summer. We use Salesforce for expense and time management, donor data, volunteer recruitment and communication, direct mail database generation, task management and shared calendars. A lot of this is possible due to enhancements I’ve installed through the AppExchange.

I’d love to see a category in the new AppExchange for nonprofits. We have to hunt and peck and dig through what’s there to uncover the tools that will work for us (and will offer pricing we can swallow). But look, here’s a political campaign application that’s free for the taking. AppExchange packages couldn’t be easier to install and usually they’re pretty easy to configure (don’t ask me to do too much with SControls, but I can follow a step-by-step recipe if someone lays it out).

I manually process donation data (coming from GetActive/Convio) through .csv files but that’s only because I haven’t found the right solution for automating the process yet. Even so, I don’t have to do it through the GUI, I use a pretty nifty backend that makes it take about 10-15 minutes a day. It really depends on what the external app is whether it’s easy or challenging to integrate.

In the year that we’ve been with Salesforce, the software has been updated three times and has had no unplanned outtages. None.

Oh, and our database of good, viable contacts has grown 320% in one year, and no, we didn’t purchase any lists.


One response to “For nonprofits, Salesforce is the new black”

  1. I love reading posts like this since it confirms what I and many others have committed ourselves to, which is making not only a viable solution but an optimal one for nonprofits. Thank you!! I wanted to point out that there is a section within the AppExchange devoted to nonprofits that is listed under “Industry Solutions”; it’s a little buried in there. This is a broad category but we will hopefully see more specialization as the number of applications grows over time. Also, based on feedback from nonprofit users and partners of at the NTEN conference in Washington DC last week, we have added a Nonprofit category to the IdeaExchange (, the place where the community can share their ideas and suggest new product concepts about how to improve the service. We are eager to hear from our nonprofit users directly as to what areas need improvement or what new product concepts/enhancements would further benefit the nonprofit use of so please submit your ideas and make sure to flag the Nonprofit category.