Do you remember the 80’s TV commercial where the heroine, harried and overwhelmed by the worries of the moment, calls out to Calgon bath products for deliverance? (A sentiment resurrected by Southwest’s “Wanna get away?”)
I hear this same cry for deliverance fielding calls from nonprofit organizations struggling to stay on top of their contact and donor lists. Many have a legacy local database (the original developer of which has long since disappeared), most have numerous spreadsheets scattered across a variety of desktop hard disks, and all are yearning to streamline their processes in order to do more with less.
For many nonprofits, the Calgon of this story is SalesForce, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company providing a full-featured Customer Relationship Management tool. Think of it as a Web-based program to keep track of all your contacts (it’s way more, but start there).
I’ll skip over the basics of the SalesForce CRM and get right to the leverage points:
- Nonprofits love the pricing: FREE for up to 10 users through grants from the SalesForce Foundation. A little paperwork and you’re rolling.
- Customizable: With a little practice, your internal staff can be adapting the software to match your organizational requirements.
- More Customizable: If you have more complex requirements, developers like us can build almost anything you want on the Force.com platform.
- Easy integration with other systems.
That last point, which is a result of the 3rd one, is the reason for this post. Imagine this scenario (it might not be too hard since it describes so many nonprofits):
- You collect business cards from people you meet at a meeting or conference
- You encourage and collect donations, both one-off and recurring gifts
- You field inquiries for information via phone, mail, email, website
- You put on occasional conferences yourself, taking registrations, processing payment and managing attendee communication as the even approaches
- Maybe you have a small selection of products for sale (promotional stuff like t-shirts, or organizational expertise in reports, DVDs etc)
- Maybe you have a membership (fees)
- You want every contact you gather by any of the above methods to start receiving your periodic newsletter
How many different systems do you have to handle all of that? How many different exports, imports, or just plain re-typing of contacts will you do? “SalesForce, take me away!”
The SalesForce solution allows you to maintain a single authoritative contact database from which to generate mail merges, email marketing newsletters and full custom reporting. Integration with third-party systems means you can use best-of-breed services for things like event registration, ecommerce and donation handling, with the contact info you collect from each easily getting into you central SalesForce db. You could build your own system to do it all, but why would you when so much is already available? It’s unlikely you’d ever recoup the difference in price between integration and custom built.