Four Answers to “Why Salesforce?”
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
Friends (and, of course, potential clients) often ask me, “Why Salesforce? Why should my nonprofit organization switch to Salesforce?”
I’m the first to admit that Salesforce is not the only option. It might not even be right for your organization.
But I’m a Salesforce expert and I choose to be a consultant on the Salesforce platform. If you want to use another system, do so with my blessing. (I just won’t be able to help.)
And let’s not lose sight of the fact that a young (or tiny) organization might not even be ready to graduate from spreadsheets. As long as you’re able to get your work done, that’s the most important thing. Your nonprofit exists to make the world a better place, fulfilling your mission with your program. I would much rather the mission get moving than your systems be perfect.
As I see it, there are four main reasons that I recommend nonprofits and educational organizations use Salesforce.
1: You’ve determined that you need “A System”
If you have reached the point that you’re considering hiring a consultant like me, that usually means you’ve figured out that you need a little more organization, a little more data security and integrity. You’ve realized you need “A System.” That’s good! It’s a sign of organizational maturity to even have a moment to step back and think about how to do the work rather than always be consumed with just doing the work.
2: Salesforce's 1-1-1 Model
The next question, then, is why I work with Salesforce and why I recommend it to nonprofits that are ready for a system. It’s not just that Salesforce is “free.” (The whole point of this blog is that Salesforce is “free” like a puppy, not “free” like a beer.)
What makes Salesforce so interesting for nonprofits is their 1-1-1 model, or what they now refer to as Pledge 1%. From its founding, Salesforce dedicated 1% of the company’s equity, 1% of its product, and 1% of employees’ time to nonprofits. Of course, as Marc Beniof has joked, in 1999 they had no product, no employees, and a company worth nothing, so that was pretty easy to pledge! But more than 20 years on that promise has some real…well…promise.
Eventually, the “1% of product” portion of the pledge came to mean that any nonprofit can receive a permanent grant of 10 user licenses, or logins, to a Salesforce instance. The application process is about as simple as waiving your IRS 501c3 determination letter (or international equivalent). Then you’ll get your ten licenses approved. This is known in the ecosystem as “the P10 grant.” And that’s a pretty big benefit. It’s a 100% discount compared to what for-profit organizations pay for the exact same software platform. For licenses beyond the 10th, the discount is approximately 75% off list price, with no need to negotiate. Considering that most nonprofits have fewer than ten employees, most will never send a penny to Salesforce itself. I think that’s a pretty good deal.
3: “Dot Org” and NPSP
Salesforce.org (SFDO) is an arm of the company dedicated to working with nonprofits. “Dot Org,” as it’s known, developed the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), an app installed into your Salesforce instance that modifies the platform to work more like a nonprofit fundraising database instead of a sales tool. (SFDO also publishes the Education Data Architecture, which is a similar product built for educational institutions.)
SFDO also supports the nonprofit community with training materials, continues to develop additional products, and more. So nonprofits aren’t just using the product that’s developed for business, we get products developed for our special use cases.
4: Custom Software to Manage Your Mission
But fundamentally, I recommend Salesforce to nonprofits because you’re getting access to a state-of-the-art software platform that’s easy to customize to do exactly what you need. With a little bit of implementation know-how or help from a consulting partner, you get custom software to run your organization.
Not too long ago anything custom or personalized would have meant a minimum investment out of the reach of all but the largest nonprofits. And once that money was spent, you’d be stuck with that system unchanged for years, even decades. But now even the smallest organizations have access to Salesforce. And once you’re on the Salesforce platform, you benefit from new features and innovation that Salesforce is constantly developing, with much of that new goodness coming your way for free.
Plus you can get help and support from thousands of people in the nonprofit Salesforce community. And that is the not-so-secret Fifth Why!