Signing a contract with Salesforce as your nonprofit CRM is a lot like being handed a free puppy. You feel a rush of excitement, thinking of all the ways this little addition will improve your life – and you didn’t have to spend a dime! It’s not until you begin purchasing dog food, researching training, and paying vet bills that you realize the time and money you’ll be spending as a new dog owner.
In much the same way, nonprofit professionals are drawn to Salesforce’s attractive price of $0. But there are hidden costs that nonprofits won’t incur until after signup. Let’s have a look at what Salesforce really costs for nonprofits.
What is the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack?
Salesforce is a very popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that is used by many companies to manage their marketing and sales operations. The Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is a data template and preconfigured set of reports designed to make Salesforce more appropriate for a nonprofit organization. For example, most nonprofits don’t use terms like “Account,” “Order,” and “Lead.” NPSP leverages the vast configurability of SalesForce to adjust those terms, but there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to further set up SalesForce to manage an organization’s fundraising activities.
The customizability of Salesforce is absolutely one of it’s strengths, but it’s also its biggest weakness. There is an enormous industry of consultants charging an hourly rate to help organizations implement Salesforce, which can become quickly unaffordable to most small nonprofits. Unlike products that have been specifically designed for fundraising management, Salesforce NPSP needs to be “programmed” to do things like generate thank yous and receipts, process online donations, manage monthly giving, etc.
Is Salesforce really free for nonprofits?
Just as a “free” puppy requires dedication to its health and training to be a “good dog,” Salesforce necessitates configuration, regular maintenance, and education in order for nonprofits to use it successfully. Salesforce is a very powerful tool when set up correctly, but according to Idealware’s latest nonprofit technology report, the system is so advanced that it’s not user-friendly for most.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you purchase training and hire a consultant to further configure your system to function the way your nonprofit needs it to. It’s estimated that the migration to Salesforce alone costs at least $10,000 for a mid-size nonprofit. This does not include the apps you’ll have to subscribe to in order to make the software a complete online fundraising solution.
How do nonprofits use Salesforce?
Even if your nonprofit organization successfully implements Salesforce with a consultant you’ll need to invest in extra resources for everyday use of your system including:
- a Salesforce-savvy staff member, dedicated to maintaining your system and adapting it to the new fields, new reports, and new tools you’ll acquire as your nonprofit grows
- a series of paid apps for processing payments, creating online donation forms, event management, multichannel campaigns, etc.
Required: a Salesforce-savvy staff member
Unfortunately, the initial cost of implementation isn’t the only expense necessary for success with Salesforce. Your organization will need to hire or train a Salesforce administrator, who will need to assist your staff in creating reports, adding or changing fields and other ongoing tasks. According to Salary.com you can expect to pay a Salesforce administrator between $60-75K/year, with Senior Salesforce administrators earning $115-145K/year.
Software companies like DonorPerfect offer a variety of cost-effective ways to train new and existing staff including one-on-one virtual and in person classes. Training new hires and volunteers is critical, particularly with a system as complex as Salesforce. Salesforce doesn’t offer live training, which means you must rely on generic webinars and documentation or pay someone who knows your specific system to train new staff and volunteers. This may be your own dedicated Salesforce staff member or your consultant. Either way, the cost of time and money can really add up!
Required: a series of apps that cost extra
Salesforce’s approach to solving these and many other specialized needs is their MarketPlace, which includes hundreds of add-on products that integrate with Salesforce. This means your nonprofit will have to find, separately purchase, then set up these apps (or pay that consultant more to assist you). Salesforce doesn’t recommend or support these products, which can create a disjointed experience and add to your cost and confusion.
When you obtain a Salesforce system, you’re getting the CRM as your base, but you’ll have to purchase apps with monthly, sometimes yearly, subscriptions from various vendors for it to properly serve as an online fundraising and donor engagement tool.
What is the best CRM for nonprofits?
Now, we’d be biased if we said the answer is DonorPerfect. Instead, you should evaluate your nonprofit’s technology needs so you can choose a nonprofit software system that provides features and tools to help your team grow and engage your donor base.
You may have the resources necessary to implement and maintain Salesforce software. But for nonprofits with a lean team or budget, your fundraising software should be exactly that: fundraising software. In other words, you’ll want a CRM that’s designed specifically for nonprofit operations without modification, built by a company that understands nonprofits’ needs.
At the very least your nonprofit CRM should offer these features out of the box:
- Payment processing
- Donation and donor data management
- Online donation forms with instant gift acknowledgements
- Event registrations
- Pre-built, nonprofit-specific reports
- Access from anywhere, via a mobile app or desktop
- Letter and receipt personalization tools
- Unlimited user licenses
- Compatibility or integration with your nonprofit-specific accounting software
- An email marketing tool
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the nonprofit CRM you choose is easy to use and that your team is well supported from your initial implementation of the fundraising software and beyond. This includes:
- A personalized onboarding team that helps you understand how to use your system, migrate your data, create your first online donation form, and set up your payment processor
- A single support team who can assist you with your day-to-day use of your database
With the right resources Salesforce can be a gamechanger for your nonprofit, but understanding the real cost of their CRM is crucial in deciding whether it’s right for you.