This is the first of a series on evaluating the various nonprofit Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
Salesforce is a major player in both the corporate and nonprofit CRM space. For over a decade, the Salesforce foundation donated their product to nonprofits and many organizations took them up on their offer to some degree. There are poorly implemented nonprofit Salesforce instances and absolutely game changing Saleforce implementations and everything in between. My evaluation is based on having implemented salesforce over a dozen times over the last decade.
The Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) turns the sales language of Salesforce into nonprofit fundraising language, creates donation record types like grants and major gifts, provides a number of pre-built reports, and enables households to make Salesforce into a fundraising database. There are other tools that will do the same, but the NPSP is the official nonprofit version that the Salesforce Foundation supports.
Salesforce is a welcome change for your fundraising/development team. The product does an excellent job in contact management and building workflows and automation around your development processes. Salesforce NPSP is an excellent donor database, but it is not a complete CRM solution out of the box. NPSP does not include online fundraising and advocacy. The e-communication tools can be purchased as a separate integrated product called Marketing Cloud (covered below). You will need to purchase another set of tools that integrate into Salesforce for this additional functionality. The good news that Salesforce was made for integration and most online fundraising and advocacy toolsets offer an integration with Salesforce.
The Salesforce platform is built with extensibility and openness in mind. There are almost three thousand apps on the appexchange marketplace built by hundreds of vendors and Salesforce itself to extend the capabilities of the core CRM. If your organization has an operational need, there's likely an app for that.
E-Communications: A (with Marketing Cloud)
Salesforce CRM with the Nonprofit Starter Pack offers little in the way of E-communications with constituents. There are a number of Apps in the AppExchange marketplace that provide some degree of front end (e-mail and social media marketing and other communication, fundraising and advocacy tools) to the core CRM database. Salesforce bought a number of industry leading e-mail and social media tools in the last 5 years and has combined those tools into a best of breed e-communications platform called the Marketing Cloud. The Marketing Cloud integrates with your CRM and enables your communications team to set up customized campaigns based on triggers you establish or that your constituent takes.
NPSP comes with a number of canned reports and dasshboards. Triggers can be developed to email reports to relevant staff. If you need to develop a customized report, the do it yourself reporting and dashboarding is excellent. The point and click report builder allows non-technical users to get the reports they need for their work.
User Interface: A-
The user interface is under transition in Salesforce. The traditional experience definitely feels dated using tabs for navigation between different sections. Salesforce is gradually rolling out a new interface that is responsive to any device called "Lightning". You may turn this on by default, but not all apps are yet ready for the lightning experience. The Saleforce1 App for iOS and Android is an excellent tool for fundraisers on the go enabling access to all content in the database in a well done mobile app.
Cost : B+
The Salesforce foundation provides 10 donated seat licenses to nonprofits. Additional seat licenses are $30/user/month, representing a significant discount off of what for-profit corporations pay. However, as noted above, your organization will likely need to purchase some front end tools to engage your constituents online and make sure those tools integrate into Salesforce. Marketing Cloud would also be an additional cost. Furthermore, storage can get expensive if you have lots of data in the system.
Training and Support: B
Salesforce maintains a great number of online learning tools and a great user support community called the Power of Us Hub. However, if you want hands on training and support, you will need to find a local support contractor. The good news is there is a vibrant eco-system of consultants. You can also join a local salesforce user group for local assistance.
Overall Grade: A-
In summary, Salesforce with the Nonprofit Starter Pack is not a complete CRM solution, but the open platform allows for a vibrant community of developers to meet the additional constituent engagement needs that nonprofit organization may have. The core donor database is a best of breed solution that thousands and thousands of nonprofits use to run their fundraising operations.