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5 Key Things You Need to Know About Salesforce

Databases & Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)


Nonprofits, charities and libraries are often forced to do more with less, especially when it comes to Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) and other database tools. Many organizations in the nonprofit sector do not have the funds to afford robust and expensive databases, such as Raiser’s Edge, let alone hire IT staff to manage the ongoing maintenance. This is why Salesforce is becoming a popular option for nonprofits due to its ability to adapt and scale to an organization’s evolving needs.

Idealware recently published “The Landscape of Salesforce for Nonprofits: A Report on the Current Marketplace for Apps” to help nonprofits understand Salesforce, break down misconceptions and collect disparate information into one place.

Whether your nonprofit is about to adopt Salesforce, is already using it, or would like to learn more, here are 5 key factors for you to know:

1. Understand the Tool Before You Implement

Salesforce is a contact management database that you access through a browser using a secure login and password or via a mobile app. As Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM, nonprofits need to understand the fundamentals of cloud computing and CRMs in order to fully ultilize and manage Salesforce.

Your nonprofit should also become familiar with Salesforce’s offerings, such as Salesforce Foundation that has signifcant cost savings for nonprofits, as well as the platform’s ability to integrate with other third-party programs (Eventbrite, social media channels, etc.).

2. You May Need to Hire a Consultant

Unless you have internal IT staff, are very comfortable with technology and able to get Salesforce training, your nonprofit will most likely need a consultant to set up, transfer historical data, implement and maintain Salesforce. This could become quite a financial commitment, but thankfully there are many qualified Salesforce consultants in the industry you can contact.

3. There are Different Versions of Salesforce - Choose Wisely

Nonprofits looking to customize Salesforce without doing the entire configuration on their own, or with a consultant, have two options: use Salesforce Enterprise Edition or use Salesforce Enterprise with the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack.

Salesforce Enterprise Edition (free for up to 10 user licenses) is a fairly feature-rich version of Salesforce designed for businesses and sales operations. After the 10 free licenses, nonprofits can purchase additional licenses at a discount of up to 80% ($360/user per year). Since Enterprise is originally developed as a business-to-business relationship management tool, the core model requires some adjustment to work for nonprofits that are focused on individual and household relationships. This is where the Nonprofit Starter Pack comes in handy.

Salesforce’s Nonprofit Starter Pack (free for up to 10 user licenses) is a group of 6 packages that are installed on the Enterprise Edition. The Nonprofit Starter Pack contains a set of custom fields and objects, reports etc., that will accommodate common nonprofit functions, such as fundraising and volunteer management. If your nonprofit’s needs are pretty standard and focused on donor management, this can be a great way to get up and running more quickly. Note however that if you are planning to significantly customize Salesforce for your organization, it may be better to not install the Nonprofit Starter Pack.

Salesforce vendors and consultant have also developed packages that may be a better fit for your nonprofit:

4. You Can Download Apps and Add-ons to Customize Salesforce

Salesforce has an online marketplace called Salesforce AppExchange that offers over 2,000 free and paid applications and add-ons that you can download and install to further customize Salesforce. For example, if your nonprofit is would like to manage auctions in Salesforce but the out of the box model of Salesforce does not have this feature, you can simply download and install Auctions for Salesforce.

Keep in mind, however, that most public applications are configured to work with the native, out of the box model of Salesforce so if your nonprofit decided to implement a customized product - like the Nonprofit Starter Pack - some apps and add-ons may not work.

5. Salesforce Is Third-Party Friendly

Salesforce can integrate with a lot of popular third-party tools so your nonprofit doesn’t have to choose between Salesforce or another service provider. Below are a list of apps and add-ons that have been developed by Salesforce or a third-party vendor that works well with the Nonprofit Starter Pack.



Program Communications Operations Check out the original Idealware report for in-depth analysis and details!

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