Let’s think of your organization as a tree, you grow different branches and extend far beyond your base. Those branches are the individuals that support your organization and keep you growing. You want to make sure they don’t get lost, no matter how tall your tree grows. You want everything to stay connected and for your organization to run seamlessly. This is where Salesforce software comes in.


What is Salesforce?


Salesforce is a cloud-based system that connects multiple aspects of your nonprofit. This is also referred to as customer relationship management or CRM. Salesforce was founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Frank Dominguez, and Dave Moellenhoff. They started in a one-bedroom apartment and quickly grew to a staff of 40 employees and a much larger office within the first year.

They are now ranked the No. 1 CRM by Gartner, a global research and advisory firm. They continue to see growth and serve many areas of the nonprofit world. They boast a 31 percent increase in donor retention rates, 31 percent decrease in service costs, and 49 percent increase in constituent conversion for the nonprofits they serve.

Impressive stats, right? But what exactly can this software do to help your organization? There are many aspects to what Salesforce for Nonprofits offers, but these are some of the major benefits.


  • The Cloud


The cloud system is the defining aspect of the software. Much like iCloud on your iPhone or Macbook, the Salesforce Cloud connects everything digitally. This ensures your entire team is connected on one platform. Salesforce says they can connect your fundraising, programs, marketing, and grantmaking efforts through this cloud. This makes it easy to team up on projects and share vital resources.

One of the most exciting aspects of the cloud is it protects all of your data and information if a computer were to crash or get damaged. Losing all of your records or client information could be detrimental to your organization so it’s nice to rest assured. It also makes installation much easier and allows data to transfer at a very fast rate.


  • Donor Retention


Salesforce includes a fundraising platform that helps your organization stay connected with donors. It also allows you to link different areas of giving. Maybe you use different sites to gather donations—this will bring them all together.

It also helps you plan for giving campaigns and track the success of each campaign. A huge part of this success is connecting with your donors. They offer a place to craft direct mail strategies and keep up with recurring donors. They want to make sure a donor is recognized every step of the way and that you gather all information possible to make their experience pleasant.


  • Program Management


Programs often change frequently and new ones are constantly added in the nonprofit world. It can get very confusing for new staff, or even long-term team members, to keep up with all of these changes. Salesforce offers a way to manage and track the success of these programs.

They also have a case management tool to keep track of clients and individual cases. You can take case notes, search for clients, and make plans. This is helpful when things get hectic and you need to find information on one of your clients quickly. It also helps when you need to present to board members or share the success of a particular program.


  • Grant Management


Through a portal, Salesforce helps nonprofits track grants during every step of the process. It gives your entire grant writing team access to information that might be needed for grant applications. Grant writing is a very complicated a time-consuming process, so this can speed things up and allow you to apply for more grants in the future.

The system also tracks which grants you’ve applied for and received, and helps you keep up with your end of the bargain. Many grants have requirements for the organization to complete with the use of the grant, and Salesforce makes sure you stay on track.


  • Marketing Efforts


Salesforce has a tool called Customer 360 Audience that looks at your connections in a much larger scope. It allows you to learn about your network of donors and supporters and see what interests them. It also helps you target specific contacts based on the message of your outreach. Maybe you learn there are certain donors who go to every auction event, you’ll know to contact them about any future events of the same nature.

You can also track the success of any marketing campaigns with Datorama. This tool tracks your efforts across multiple marketing channels and shows your insights all in one place. This is helpful if you advertise for events across everything from Instagram to YouTube.

Speaking of events, this software can be a lifesaver for the planning and execution of large fundraisers. Oftentimes, event planning is an all-hands-on-deck scenario for a nonprofit. Keeping all event plans, materials, guest lists, marketing efforts, and results in one place makes planning in the future so much easier.


  • Accounting


Accounting is often an intimidating aspect of an organization. Many nonprofits either hire out or entrust one lucky bookkeeper to track all of these important statistics. Salesforce implemented an Accounting Subledger to make this a bit less intimidating. You can create templates, track financing, and automate processes that formerly took up way too much time. This also ensures the accuracy of your numbers. It’s nice to have a computer-backed budget that you can look back on over the years and share with board members.


  • Nonprofit Success Pack


One of the biggest deciding factors for purchasing new software is the cost for nonprofits. These systems can get pricy and there are many factors to consider before investing in new technology. Salesforce does offer a Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Through what they call the Power of Us Program, the first 10 subscriptions are free for nonprofits. Eligible organizations can also receive discounts on further services. The packages range from $36 to $96 per month. This pack essentially helps get you started before you start adding on all of the different tools available.


Do You Need Salesforce?


There are several aspects to consider before taking the plunge into the CRM world. You need to make sure your organization is ready to make the switch.

  • The size of your organization– Is your organization large enough that you will need a system to share data? If you are still operating at a pretty small level, an entire CRM system may not be necessary. However, if you start to see rapid growth it can definitely help keep you on track.
  • The technological capabilities of your team– Can your team keep up with all of these technological advancements? If you have an older team, this could be a challenge. Although, training programs are always helpful.
  • The systems you are currently using– If your systems seem to get the job done and you don’t find yourself lacking in any area, making the switch may not be worth the investment. However, getting everything on one system definitely makes things easier in the future.
  • How much of your records/data is currently digital– If you are still working out of notebooks and logs, it might be smart to start slow. Digitalize all of your information first, then look into CRM software. Digitalising your records protects your organization in many ways, so make sure this is a priority.
  • Budget– This is the most obvious but one of the most important aspects of a decision. Look at the pros and cons and make sure your organization can afford the software in the long run. Once you switch everything over, you won’t want to move everything back because it’s no longer in the budget.


Other CRM Software


There are other options on the market when it comes to CRM software. Take a look around to see which one fits your needs before committing financially. Many focus mostly on fundraising, whereas Salesforces is all-encompassing, so make sure you get all the aspects you need. Here are a few popular options with varying services offered:

  1. Bloomerang
  2. DonorPerfect
  3. SalsaCRM
  4. Classy
  5. NeonCRM


Every Organization is Different


One of the biggest things to remember is what works for one organization may not work for yours. Maybe you only need help with donor retention and software that tracks donor information will do the trick. Or maybe your struggle is more internal and you need a system to provide task management services—monday.com is a great option for that.  Sometimes a CRM system can actually be too much for what you need, other times it makes life a lot simpler.

No matter which route your organization takes, be sure to do your research to find the best fit. Stay true to your mission and focus on expanding your programs every day. Allow these systems to aid you in growth and success in the future, rather than be a stressor in the present. Your tree will remain connected and growing for years to come.

By Kaitlin O’Dougherty