Fundraising Nerd

Turn your data into donors.

AASP: Fundraising in the Cloud (Salesforce)

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At lunch today, some colleagues and I were talking about big enterprise tech solutions for advancement, and we decided we wanted to see a cage match — Blackbaud v. Ellucian, sponsored by Salesforce. In all seriousness though, I am following Salesforce’s progress pretty closely, and think that they have a real chance to shake up the fundraising data marketplace.

This session is co-presented by Sandra Sanvido from Salesforce.com Foundation, Reed Sheard from Westmont College and Cheryl Cerny from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The Salesforce Foundation has adopted a 1-1-1 model — they donate 1% of their product, equity and time to nonprofit organizations. They offer the first 10 Salesforce licenses to nonprofits for free, with the remainder at a deep discount. They give grants to nonprofits, and each employee has 6 days off per year for volunteering.

Salesforce entered the cloud 15 years ago. Some benefits of cloud computing: no hardware, no software; and automatic upgrades. Salesforce in particular plays nicely with others, with around 2 billion transactions per day driven via API. They also have 2400 apps that plug into Salesforce.

One of the biggest concerns around storing data in the cloud: security. But realistically, what’s safer? A company that stakes its reputation on high levels of security, or a server in a closet at your nonprofit organization?

Reed is talking about changes in higher ed — student graduation rates are declining, student debt is in the spotlight, and new educational models (read MOOCs) are emerging. This is a big contrast from prior years where it was unquestioned that a degree was the key to professional success.

Reed contends that forcing higher ed institutions to respond to change and competition will make these organizations healthier. Well, organizations that have an “aspiring edge”, that is. Those that remain complacent are likely to lose out as the higher ed industry changes as a whole.

Reed proposes that thriving in the new landscape requires a few factors. For today’s talk, he’ll focus on “getting in the game that is being played”: affordability. Advancement has an important role to play in this.

Some issues facing advancement teams in the new economy: we have to solicit more people to achieve the same results; all donors want more service, but operations budgets are staying flat or declining; we have to move folks from “affinity” to “engagement”.

Westmont decided that a move to a CRM would be key to addressing these issues. Using the CRM has helped Westmont to track, measure and report on metrics, e.g. number of visits. The ability to quickly access data has motivated performance and makes it easier to develop strategies. For example, they’ve grown planned giving from less than a million per year to $16M! Same team, new tools.

Reed points out that CRMs only matter if they are actually used. It’s important to find a software interface that fundraisers want to use. This is so true! I recently did a demo with one of my clients who I was helping to select a system. The development officer said, “I feel bad about this, but I think this is too ugly for me to want to use every day.” I told her not to feel bad — design/interface matters!

Next up: Cheryl Cerny. Cheryl hit her “breaking point” two years ago. She was sick of tech being the limiter to their business processes. It was also frustrating to “report around a bad solution”.

Why do people stick with their old systems? Fear of risk. Implementing Salesforce felt risky because it’s new in the advancement space. However, what’s the risk of sticking with the same old, same old?

The opportunity for a new CRM arose when WPI was looking for a system that could be used to accurately track corporate relationships, a huge challenge for complex institutions.

What was Cheryl looking for? One-click contact reporting that is mobile-friendly and can use native audio recording. Workflows with no requirement to know object-oriented programing or an FTE to manage them. Customizations that don’t make you “dread and loathe” upgrades. Fundraisers away from desks. Innovative development.

Cheryl’s high-level needs were for a mobile, scalable, highly agile, social/collaborative, and easy CRM. She pointed out (in the same point that Donald Farmer made at the DRIVE conference) that we have 21st century tech at home, and we work off of 1990s tech in the office. We deserve better!

Implementing a collaborative, shared environment also required Cheryl to customize the system so that certain data, e.g. contact notes, could be kept confidential from other units. She also set up a workflow that makes it easy for the President to record contact reports using audio. Once he submits the report, it is automatically sent (with a link) to his assistant, who can correct the text (damn, you autocorrect!) in the system.

I’ve been trying to keep this post a bit neutral, to be useful for folks who are not on Salesforce, and because I am not in the business of endorsing particular products. However, Salesforce does have one unique feature that bears mention: Chatter, which acts as an internal Facebook-like feed. Cheryl was surprised at how quickly the team embraced this feature, and how much it’s improved internal communications.

Lessons learned: change management is hard; you can never over-train; requirements gathering can be comprehensive but will never be 100%; never under-estimate the importance of good implementation consultants; don’t tell anyone your go-live date until the day after; and take the risk!

2 thoughts on “AASP: Fundraising in the Cloud (Salesforce)

  1. don’t forget MSFT Dynamics. up and coming…

    • Good call, Susan! How could I forget our Seattle friends at Microsoft? I went to an interesting dinner discussion last night hosted by Chris Cannon from Zuri Group and Karl Otto from University of Oregon. It was a group of very smart folks discussing the future of fundraising data systems. My takeaway was that bigger shops may be trending away from massive enterprise systems and looking more at a core transactional database around which they can build an ecosystem of CRM functions using a variety of tools. We’ll see though: it could all be talking tough!

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