Convio is building CRM for the rest of us

Allan Benamer has a great post which gives an overview of all the fun stuff that’s happening in the nonprofit technology space these days.

I was going to leave a comment on his post, but then decided it’s time to throw my own $0.02 into the conversation.

I will never forget the chat I had 2 years ago with the senior GetActive employee who oversaw data integration projects. I asked about plans for integration between GetActive and Salesforce. To say that he blew me off was kind. And look at ’em now!

I am very happy for my friends at Convio and the Salesforce Foundation that this is happening. I’ve had a chance to see an early demo of Aikido, and it’s incredible for such a young project.

Alas, to answer some questions I’ve been getting, despite what may appear to be an obvious fit for C3 (Convio? Salesforce? Hello!) I have decided not to participate in the Charter program. I wanted to, I really did. There are features in Aikido that had me cleaning up my chin after I saw them (think: relationship management). But we’re too far gone in Salesforce. Even though Convio’s CRM is built on and is Salesforce, there’s currently no easy way I can add it on to my existing Salesforce instance without losing some of the customization I’ve built on over the years.

For example, let’s say someone buys pins on our website through our Convio eCommerce store. Overnight, the buyer is added as a contact in Salesforce, the transaction is added as an opportunity (along with appropriate workflow rules so the office knows to send the pins and we can track that they did and when). At the same time, the inventory custom object we have is updated to reflect that pins will soon be leaving the shelf. The Convio CRM wouldn’t be able to do anything with this, and I couldn’t have Aikido and the opportunity-based customizations I already had at the same time.

That was a deal breaker for us. Aikido is a great fit for an organization that will either be touching Salesforce for the first time, or has been using the nonprofit template with minimal changes.

Anyway, why is Convio for “the rest of us?” Back to Allan’s post:

Despite the self-imposed quiet period due to the acquisition of Kintera by Blackbaud, Kintera issued a press release on June 6th touting the ability to add custom entities (database tables) to Kintera and have them automatically exposed through the Kintera API. Yes, you can now develop unique third party apps in Kintera that have nothing to do with fundraising (even though everything has to do with fundraising).

Huh? Guess what, not every nonprofit has a developer down the hall. Even organizations twice our size (which are still pretty small) glaze over in fear when you start talking about custom development. They just want to save the world, they don’t want to program it.

I am not a developer or programmer. A lot of what I’ve been able to do for C3 in Salesforce has been possible just by reading some simple documentation where I didn’t need a programmer translate for me. It’s that easy. And that’s why I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for the platform. Since Aikido is built on the Salesforce platform, you’ll be able to tap in the AppExchange and all the functionality that already comes with the Enterprise edition. Plus, Aikido is fully supported by Convio. Organizations will have all the Salesforce support resources plus Convio support resources. Honestly, if you can’t get your question answered with all that you aren’t asking it right. Cool stuff.

Convio hasn’t released any information yet about Aikido pricing, but some of the preliminary strategy has been privately shared with me. I can tell you right now that what is most exciting about this project is how approachable it will be for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Trust me, they’re thinking of us little guys as well as the organization with the $10 million budget. It’s not just a new toy, it’s a strategy shift. This isn’t your grandmother’s Convio.


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