Thoughts on Salesforce Summer '07 from a nonprofit perspective

The next major release of Salesforce is due to hit in early August (August 3rd for our instance, to be exact). This is the best part of using a hosted CRM system. I can barely keep my blog software up-to-date, much less have to worry about upgrading the software that is running our most important asset…our database.

So each quarter I read the documentation trying to figure out what’s new and how it will help us. And each quarter I ended up skipping 80% of it since it’s not practical for a nonprofit organization. Still, as always, there are nuggets of good stuff for those of us who aren’t Apex programmers or consultants, don’t have a fortune to spend in the AppExchange, and use Salesforce to track donations and communications, not close deals.

Here’s what will be helpful to us:

Custom Report Types: Finally!! Salesforce reporting is powerful, but within the parameters it had set. Let’s say you want a report listing all the tasks generated from Donations (Opportunities) listing the Contact Roles assigned to each. Can’t do it, because you can’t pull tasks (Activities) together with Opportunity and Contact data. With Salesforce ’07, in theory, administrators (that would be me) can define new custom report types linking together the different objects, then users will have that report type as an option when they build their own reports.

Rich Content Solutions: We’re starting a project where we’re going to be using a lot more of Salesforce Service & Support. As a nonprofit, it’s more “Questions & Answers” than Service & Support. The fun part about Salesforce is taking what’s there for the typical for-profit business and thinking about how it can be used in a nonprofit world. Part of the appeal of Salesforce is that when we add projects, I always think “Can I do this in Salesforce?” first. A lot of the time, the answer is yes. Not only does that save us money, since often it’s just a matter of turning a dial or two, but it’s also easier to get the tool used by our folks since they’re already familiar with Salesforce.

Date field enhancements: Can I say that this is the Summer ’07 feature I’m most excited about? We use the Salesforce calendar a lot, and it’s a pain to have to type out the full date in m/d/yyyy format all the time. Now you can type 7/10 and it will auto-complete the year, or type “Tomorrow” and it will know you mean 7/11/2007.