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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kolodner

The TL;DR on the “New Nonprofit Cloud”

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

⚠️ Warning: Cynicism ahead.

I’m going to cut through marketing and spin to call it as I see it. (I hope you already were expecting that from me.)


On Tuesday Salesforce.org announced the “New Nonprofit Cloud.” Lori Freeman also posted about the post in the Trailblazer Community.



Here’s the TL;DR, IMHO:

  • Over the next few years Salesforce.org is coming out with an entirely new technology suite of solutions for nonprofits. These collectively will be known as “Nonprofit Cloud.”

  • These will not be based on, nor compatible with, the current solutions, including NPSP.

  • You need not concern yourself with “Nonprofit Cloud” for the time being.

  • Nonprofit Pricing does not change. (Ten free licenses, etc…)

  • Except Nonprofit Cloud licenses cost more than standard licenses for your 11th and up.

There is quite a lot to unpack about this announcement, not all of it actually included in the announcement itself. I think it’s worth making this a relatively long post to go bring all the parts together.


Pricing

In my opinion, the two important things that make Salesforce valuable for nonprofits are the Power of Us program (donating the first ten licenses free to nonprofits) and the additional discounts that apply to all other Salesforce product SKUs. This is not changing.


Though I had been assured this would not change before TrailblazerDX, I still felt it was important to hold Salesforce’s feet to the fire. I asked a question during True To The Core, seeking commitment at the highest and most public level. (My question, followed by Parker Harris’ answer, starts at 21:20.) Parker’s answer, Lori’s post about today’s announcement, and other communications give me confidence that we can count on Salesforce’s ongoing support for nonprofits. (As much as we can count on anything a business may say or do.)


Pricing after your free licenses is also not necessarily going to be simple, which may partly have to do with Salesforce.org’s inclusion under Industries. I don’t even know if Salesforce.org’s people know all the ins-and-outs of how the licensing–and, therefore, the pricing–works yet.


What I understand is that Nonprofit Cloud will be its own SKU that, essentially, bundles a Sales Cloud license, a Service Cloud license, and something-that-gives-access-to-the-Industries-based-functionality. [I don’t know the right term for that thing. I don’t think the name matters right now.] All ten licenses granted to new orgs on the new Nonprofit Cloud will have that entire bundle. So in that sense, the P10 License Grant has expanded with this new announcement, as that bundle is more expensive than what we have been getting to date and comes with extra tech. (Yay!)


For the 11th license and above, organizations will be able to choose what they want to purchase:

  • Nonprofit Cloud licenses (the whole SKU bundle) will cost $720/year.

  • A Lightning Enterprise Edition license (a “Sales Cloud license,” like we usually purchase today) is $432/year.

(Neither of these represents any change to current pricing, by the way. What the Nonprofit Cloud SKU encompasses is changing, but the name and price stay the same.)


The uncertainty that I mentioned is that I don’t know what functionality users with “just” a Lightning Enterprise Edition will be unable to accomplish compared to those on a Nonprofit Cloud license. By extension, I know even less what users on Platform licenses would be able or unable to do. We don’t know what “Industries” functions such users will lose, much less what parts of the as-yet-unseen Nonprofit Cloud application.


The Technology

News flash: What has just been announced is not yet ready for Prime Time.

I know that you may be surprised to hear that an announcement of a new product from a tech company is not actually ready yet. 😜


You should not plan to migrate your current org to the new Nonprofit Cloud any time soon. There would be no immediate benefits and that migration is going to be a big undertaking. I fully expect most organizations to put it off as long as possible, upwards of five years, probably more. If your system ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


If you are about to embark on a net new implementation, you have a tough choice to make:

  • You can implement using NPSP, which Salesforce.org has committed to supporting, but is not being additionally developed and will eventually be “the old version.”

  • You can implement the new Nonprofit Cloud, which will be version 1.0 at best, and might feel more like beta 0.9 for some time. You’ll be on the leading edge. (Or possibly the bleeding edge.)

  • Or you can split the difference, implementing on Nonprofit Cloud but building much or all of your functionality custom. That might make it easier to adopt features as Nonprofit Cloud gets more mature. For now you’d be out of step with almost all other nonprofits using Salesforce, who are on NPSP.

That’s not an easy choice. I’d be torn between one and three.


To the extent that you can buy “it” yet, nobody’s really seen what “it” is. And when it actually comes out, it’s going to be a “minimum viable product.” This is going to be the first release of a new product from a software company. Some cynics might even refer to it as a “paid beta.” One can hope they’ll release a “minimum loveable product,” but I’m not going to hold my breath.


What initially rolls out will be program management, then impact measurement, with fundraising not even being released until the fall. I think it’s safe to assume none of those releases will have full feature parity with their equivalent current products. (Though they should have some new cool features of their own.) And Salesforce has said that they are not planning a new payment processing platform (like Elevate.)


I honestly just don’t know what to expect out of the actual Nonprofit Cloud product offering. It’s barely even available for anyone to get their hands on. There’s some way partners can get a learning org or… something… (I haven’t even tried.) Anway, as noted above, what comes out in the next few releases is going to be minimum viable, so I feel no urgency around it. (I’m sure I would feel urgency if I worked for an independent software vendor (ISV) that had an AppExchange product that I’d need to rebuild to be compatible with the new model.)


The only thing we really know is that Nonprofit Cloud will use Person Accounts. That’s a pretty big data model shift, but it doesn’t bother me. I used person accounts for one project and thought they were fine. There’s a bit we'll all have to learn about how they work (always act like an account, sometimes like a contact) and they use a bit more storage (because every contact is also an account). But since storage was increased several years ago I don’t think this is likely an issue for most organizations. Also, person accounts are apparently the state of the art for things like Financial Services Cloud and have gotten quite a bit more love since Industries became a thing.


I’m firmly planning to ignore Nonprofit Cloud for at least a year, probably two or three. Eventually I hope to look back and find that it’s grown up a bit and then I’ll start–only start!–thinking about adopting it.


Timing of Announcements (what we knew and when)

Full disclosure here: Lots of people–including I–did not just learn of this when it was announced on 3/14. Salesforce.org held embargoed meetings with Salesforce MVPs, partners, and presumably some larger nonprofit customers starting in late fall, 2022. (I assume there were people with better access than I have who learned things farther back than that.)


Salesforce.org made missteps in the communication that caused a great deal of panic. First there were questions about whether the Power of Us donation would go away, or if some things would be no-longer free, or become more expensive, etc. Then there was the technical question of what would be compatible and worries over the cost that organizations will have to bear when/if they migrate to the new thing, not to mention uncertainty over whether or when they would be forced do so. The layoffs at Salesforce (that at least seem to have impacted Salesforce.org disproportionately, though no hard data is available on this) added significantly to the uncertainty and the anxiety. And, as you may have noted if you listened to my question from True To The Core, the absorption of Salesforce.org two years ago, the folding of the Power of Us Hub into the wider Trailblazer Community, switching technologically to using the Industries core architecture, a complete changeover to a new product, and then the layoffs, definitely opened the question of whether nonprofits are being viewed as “just another industry vertical” by Salesforce.


I hope that all of my discussion, above, makes clear that I think those fears/questions have been laid to rest.


I did not come to this level of detachment right away, so I think it’s OK for you not to as well. This was one of the most difficult NDA’d pieces of information I’ve ever held, mainly because it wasn’t so much “information” as the opening of a discussion that we were unable to actually discuss. I’m very glad to finally be able to talk about this openly!


What Does this Announcement Signal About Salesforce.org?

I have never thought that Salesforce–or even Salesforce.org–was some kind of altruistic actor. Read Marc Benioff’s books or listen to any one of his keynotes: That man is A Capitalist. I think he actually believes himself when he says, “business is the greatest force for good.” Salesforce is a capitalist enterprise, a multi-billion dollar corporation that exists only to make money. Do not kid yourself that it is anything else. (Capitalism would not allow it to be anything else. That's what the ism part means.)


I applaud the 1-1-1 model and appreciate all that Salesforce does to support nonprofits. But I am under no illusion that this is anything more than noblesse oblige.


I know that Salesforce.org used to be a “social enterprise,” but maybe I just came along too late in the evolution to be all that impressed by the term. At least by the time I was learning about it, Salesforce.org seemed to be a strange kind of hybrid creature that granted some licenses but sold others, had a sales operation that acted exactly like car dealers, and supported interesting events like Open Source Sprints but was completely opaque when it came to organizational structure and goals. So when .org was reabsorbed into .com two years ago, I mostly just shrugged. And it’s actually been quite interesting to see how being “internal” has clearly given better access to technology, decisionmakers, and even resources. (Sprints, for example, now take place in Salesforce’s offices, usually known as "Towers." That ensures a much better wi-fi environment than hotel conference rooms could be counted on for, makes single day events do-able, and gives us access to great free snacks and beautiful city views.)












Salesforce.org built and supported some interesting technical products that have been good for nonprofits. They’ve also built some things my clients haven’t bothered to pay for. I’ve heard criticism that .org builds for the market of larger and better-resourced nonprofits that can pay for things. Well, “Duh!” (It’s amusing to me that some of the people leveling that particular criticism are consultants at medium or large consultancies that survive financially by working with those size organizations. Consultancies can’t make a profit working with the tiny orgs that are most of my clients, for example.)


Nobody expects Ford to donate a Fiesta to any nonprofit anywhere in the world just for asking. Salesforce does the equivalent of exactly that every single day!


Apple donates some hardware to schools, but that’s through a formal grant program, it’s not available to every school every year. Schools can buy through the Apple Store for Education at about a 10% discount. Salesforce gives ten licenses in perpetuity to any organization that can waive a 501c3 (or national equivalent) and then discounts 50-80% beyond that for everything else.


Neither the automobiles that nonprofits drive nor the computer hardware they use are customized for how those nonprofits do business, at least not unless they pay for such custom work. But Salesforce.org gives nonprofits the NPSP/EDA/Nonprofit Cloud/Education Cloud to customize the platform for our needs.


If only the Power of Us Grant and the discounts remained, I would still consider that a pretty great support of nonprofits. So long as Salesforce.org in some form is alive and kicking, creating software, supporting Open Source Sprints, bringing nonprofits and educational organizations together, etc, that’s a bonus that I am thrilled to benefit from.

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