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  • [Hard or Soft] Credit Where Credit is Due, part 1

    I like giving people credit. Not extending them credit, like a loan. Not tracking their progress toward graduation, like course credit. I’m talking about giving people credit for donations. You want to know who your donors are and how much they’ve given, right? Well if you’re a nerd like me you also want to know how much they gave compared to how much they “got.” At the very most basic level there are two kinds of donations someone could get “credit” for: money they gave or money they influenced. In development lingo, those are “give or get” or “hard credit” and “soft credit.” Before I delve any deeper, let me start with a caveat: not all organizations think about hard and soft credit the same way. And there are lots of organizations that just don’t really get into soft credit at all. But for those that do, it’s pretty important to understand the nuances. If your organization decides you’re not going to put a lot of time or effort into the distinctions, that’s OK, but you should know they exist so you can communicate clearly with other organizations. Since this is a Salesforce-focused blog, we’re also going to delve into how to think about hard and soft credit in your system of record. But that’s going to be mostly saved for the next post. A Simple Rubric I have a simple rubric for you to use: “Whose check was it?” Hard Credit refers to funds that come directly from the individual or organization in question. If the answer is “It was Shoshanna’s check,” then that’s hard credit to Shoshanna. If we are going to be strict in our tracking, then hard credit is only given to the legal entity that gave away their own money. If we think in terms of the United States tax system, it’s the entity that will be able to claim the donation as a deduction if they itemize on their tax return. If your tax system is different, you might not need to worry about who will claim the deduction, but I think you probably still want to know when someone was giving you their own money versus someone else’s. An example of hard credit: Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks gives $500 to the Hudson Street Orphanage. Soft Credit, on the other hand, recognizes influence over the funds. What makes it “soft” is that it’s credit for a donation that a contact did not actually make, but somehow influenced. The other “soft” part of soft credit is that your organization could give soft credit to multiple people for the same gift. The classic soft credit example is a matching gift from a donor’s employer. Let’s say The War Profiteering Company (WPC) has a 2:1 match policy. So after a simple application process, Warbucks’ gift from above is matched with a $1000 contribution from WPC. That gift is soft credit to Oliver because he influenced it but didn’t give it. It’s clear that the money came from the company’s coffers. That example is fairly straightforward because the matching gift is only soft-credited to Oliver Warbucks. If he hadn’t given his own gift, there would be no match. Next, Warbucks calls up his close friend Mr. Munitions and asks him to please donate to Hudson Street Orphanage because of the wonderful singing lessons they provide in addition to food and shelter. Mr. Munitions is rather cheap and he doesn’t say yes at first. But when he is also asked to give to the Hudson Street Orphanage by Goody Twoshoes, Mr. Munitions sends a $150 gift. Now we give hard credit to Mr. Munitions and soft credit (as “influencer” or “solicitor”) to both Oliver Warbucks and Goody Twoshoes. Notice that a single $150 gift has just resulted in two solicitors getting credit. There is now a total of $300 in soft credit awarded. That’s where things get “soft.” For those keeping score, Oliver Warbucks now has $500 in hard credit and $1,150 in soft credit. If asked, you might say that Mr. Warbucks has “raised $1,650 this year.” “Raised,” in this context, would mean “give or get.” Meanwhile, Goody Twoshoes has also raised $150 even though she hasn’t actually given a donation. (And note that only $1,650 has been deposited in the bank account of Hudson Street Orphanage.) Confusing Case: Donor Advised Funds Donor Advised Funds (or DAFs) are increasingly common donors to nonprofit organizations in the United States. DAFs exist in the US primarily to manage tax implications. If you can donate an asset directly to a charity without selling that investment for cash first, then you won’t pay taxes on the amount that asset appreciated from when you first bought it. The most common investment to donate this way, of course, would be stocks, though the same would apply for any asset from a house to your grandmother’s diamond engagement ring. Unfortunately, donating assets to an organization is a pain in the neck, both for the donor and the organization. Most charities just don’t have systems in place to receive a donated stock, let alone a property! And if you wanted to split the value of an asset between more than one organization, how would that even work? DAFs ease the burden by allowing you to donate the appreciated asset to the DAF, which is set up to be able to accept such donations. The DAF sells the asset for cash and then you, as the advisor, can direct where the DAF will send the money it has on hand. My wife and I have a DAF called the Tree Brother Fund that is managed by the Philadelphia Foundation. We set it up because we made some lucky investments in our 20’s. (Thank you, Apple Computer!) If we were to sell those stocks we would have to pay capital gains taxes, leaving less money for us to give to charity. Instead, we donate the stock to the Tree Brother Fund directly. Since we never sold it, we have no capital gains. That’s a great tax bonus! The other bonus is that the Philadelphia Foundation is used to accepting stock donations, so it’s quite easy. Not all charities are set up to accept donations other than money. One of my prior employers was notified that a donor wanted to give us appreciated stock. We had to open a brokerage account to receive the stock, give all the account details to the broker for the donor to facilitate the transfer, then sell the stocks immediately upon receipt, and then properly account for the transactions. I’m not really sure that the value of the donation was worthwhile once you factored in the time and effort we had to spend receiving it. Getting back to the discussion of hard credit and soft credit: When I donate an asset to my donor advised fund, that is the moment I get a tax deduction. I have donated to the DAF. (From the perspective of the DAF, my donation would be hard credit.) But the donation to the DAF is not the perspective I’m usually working from, and I expect it’s not your perspective. Once the DAF has money in its account, it sends grants to nonprofits like the Hudson Street Orphanage. That’s the perspective we’re interested in. When the money arrives at Hudson Street, all we have to ask is “Whose check was it?” And the answer is clear: the DAF’s. Therefore, the DAF gets hard credit and whoever directed the DAF to make that grant gets soft credit. Back to the fictional world: Goody Twoshoes donates 10 shares of WarCo stock to her donor advised fund, the Shoe Fits Fund. She then directs the fund to grant $125 to Hudson Street Orphanage. HSO records a $125 donation from Shoe Fits and gives soft credit to Goody. Let’s update the talley sheet: Oliver Warbucks: $500 gift (hard credit), $1,150 in soft credit. War Profiteering Co: $1,000 match gift on behalf of Daddy Warbucks Shoe Fits Fund: $125 gift on behalf of Goody Twoshoes Goody Twoshoes: $275 in soft credit Mr. Munitions: $150 gift (hard credit) $1,775 has been deposited in the bank account of Hudson Street Orphanage. (4 gifts) I strongly argue that this is the “right” way to think about things. But as you're probably starting to realize, it takes a lot of data to describe all those nuances. Next week we’re going to talk about how you actually record things in Salesforce.

  • Why I Love the 50/50 Split

    OK, I’m about to take a pretty big turn from the content and tone of this blog so far. I’ve had almost two months of weekly posts and they’ve all been focused on Salesforce in general and the nonprofit context. I’d say my imagined reader was just as likely to be a Salesforce admin as a nonprofit executive considering the platform and how to get value from it. But today is the first post where I start getting into the weeds. It was always my intent for this blog to be a hybrid resource, one that is useful for users and executives but also has tips and tricks for Salesforce admins. Today I’m talkin’ to the admins. (Of course, if you’re reading this and you’re not an admin, stick around. You might find some ideas you want to ask your admin to implement…) Don’t Settle for Default I want to talk about page layouts. I want to start talking about making your Salesforce instance fun, and functional, and helpful to your colleagues doing their jobs. I want to ask if you’ve still got the default page template for most of your Lightning record pages? Please tell me you don’t. [Quick aside for definitions: A “page layout” is the layout of fields for a Salesforce object. This is controlled in Setup>Object Manager>[object]>Page Layouts. It’s where you add or remove fields from the page and has a very “classic” look to it. A “Lightning Record Page” is the tool that allows you to add components like tabs, single or multiple related lists, even Rich Text components. The Details component on a Lightning Record Page shows the fields that you control with the Page Layout. As an admin, the easiest way to get to editing Lightning Record Pages is to click the gear and choose “Edit Page.” Besides the formal “Lightning Record Page,” I will also call these “LEX Page” or “Lightning Page.”] Here’s what I mean: The default Lightning record page in a new Salesforce org or on any new object uses a template that puts a tab component on the left with tabs including Details and Related. On the right is the Activity Feed and Chatter (if enabled for that object.) I refer to this as the two thirds/one third split because–that’s right!–the left-hand side is 2/3 of the page and…well I think you get it… Salesforce actually calls this template “Header, Subheader, and Right Sidebar.” But that’s an awful mouthful. The problem with this default page, in my humble opinion, is that it doesn’t use space efficiently. The Details component rarely needs to use two thirds of your screen width. (Most fields are going to show just a handful of characters.) For some simple objects that have just a handful of fields it’s actually harder to read with so much whitespace. And the real horror of the two thirds/one third is what happens when you start to get creative with your Lightning page. Let’s say you put a single related list component in that right-hand column. This is a pretty common way to highlight some information that is useful for your users. Here I’ve added the Opportunities related list and it’s got a couple of donations showing. If you ask me, it’s really hard to glean information about those donations when they show up as “tiles” like this. But when the component is only on one third of the screen, it only displays as tiles. And you only see a max of three. If you click on View All at the bottom, you’ll see you’ll see more fields, plus they’re laid out in columns so you can easily compare the items in the list. (Now I start to wonder if this donor is losing interest, because I can immediately see that their monthly donations are going down. Uh oh!) But that took an extra click. Look how much more functional that related list is if we change the LEX Page Template to the 50/50 split: Now you can see the progression month to month right here on the page. Plus on the left there’s still plenty of room for the Details fields. It takes about six clicks to change the page template: 1. Open the Lightning App Builder (Gear>Edit Page) 2. Click on the Change Template button on the right. 3. Select “Header and Two Equal Regions” (which is what Salesforce calls the 50/50 split.) 4. Click Next 5. Accept the screen that says which components will move to which section. 6. Save your changes. (If necessary, Activate the page.) I do this on literally every single object. I just wish there were a way to set it as my default instead of having to change each, one at a time. I think that one simple change makes for far more functional page layouts. Of course, I’ve got much more to say about making pages beautiful and functional. But this one simple step is a huge start. So what are you waiting for? Go change your page templates!

  • Just Start Writing

    Last week in Documentation Done Cheap I suggested that you probably have access to a free way to house a Salesforce documentation wiki. Let’s talk a little about what to put there. 1: Just Start Writing I mean it! Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Don’t even let the good be the enemy of the somewhat-adequate.) Any documentation whatsoever, even full of sentence fragments, bulleted lists, and typos is better than nothing. Even before you can start building specifics, you want to have some kind of guide for your users to understand what Salesforce is, why you’re using it, what assumptions are baked into your implementation, etc. You can polish later. But if you don’t get the basic foundation constructed early you’ll always be playing catch-up. 2: Basics: A Welcoming, Fun Roadmap Make the front page welcoming and make things fun! I like to adopt a fairly informal tone. It puts users at ease and helps them understand that this is a living document that needs their help to keep it up to date. If you can, put in pretty pictures. I like LucidChart to easily build a diagram of the relationships between database objects. I’m no graphic designer, but I think this is pretty good looking: Perhaps throw in some links to Salesforce’s documentation of the features you’re using. You can see, in this screenshot, that I literally start with a link to the NPSP documentation. Not that I expect too many users to follow that link. (Who are we kidding?) But I want to set the expectation that whenever possible I’m going to let handle the documentation of their own features. (Pro Tip: Have you seen the amazing videos produced by the volunteer NPSP Videography Team? Whenever possible, include links to those videos to introduce your users to functionality from’s products.) 3: A Page for Every Object Next I create a page for every commonly-used object. At first some of them (particularly the Salesforce standard objects) might seem kinda’ stupid. That’s fine. That might even be all there is to say at first. But pretty soon, you’re going to find ways to expand on this with commentary that is specific to your organization and your Salesforce instance. Better to give yourself the placeholder page right now. Eventually you’ll have time to expand to specifics: But far more important than those standard objects is to start recording your org’s custom objects. Hopefully a lot of them are just as obvious as Contacts, based on the object name and understanding your organization’s programming. But this is the place to call out all the assumptions on which your instance has been architected. For example, let’s say you have an object named Program Enrollment that is a child object to Contact and also child to Program. Most of us reading this blog probably understand that Programs should have records for every program offering of your organization. And having a Program Enrollment is the only way to know which contacts are part of those programs. And it, therefore, follows that only contacts for whom there is one or more enrollment record are “participants” in our program. Now is the time to write that out explicitly! If you have an enrollment, you’re a participant. If you don’t have an enrollment, you’re not a participant. It’s that simple. When someone comes looking for a report of “how many participants have we had this year?” it’s going to be much easier to answer that question for them if they understand in advance that “participant” is defined as “a contact that has a program enrollment.” Now they probably already know what reporting they need! So give yourself a page for each of your custom objects and, even if it seems obvious, be explicit about why they represent and how they are used. 4: Make a Web of Links Strictly speaking, I’m going to say this step is optional. But one of the main reasons I suggested in last week’s article that you should build a wiki is that you’re going to have an easy way to link your pages together. One page per object, like I suggested above, is easy to maintain and keeps pages short (so lazy people will read them). Certain objects get used together. So make it your practice to give internal links. Whenever you mention an object, make that mention a link to that object’s page. And when you add a new page for a new object, try to remember and go back to previously-created pages and add links to this new page. If your site builder allows for a hierarchical menu, take advantage of it. But if not, at least one page for each object is pretty easy to browse through. It sounds obvious, but it’s very helpful to your readers. 5: Clear Descriptions of Automation Automation is fantastic! Users love how it makes their lives easier. Automation is part of why I say that Salesforce can be custom software to run your nonprofit. But automation can also be pretty opaque. You might see part of what happens when automation runs, but other things that happen could be hidden, or at least not obvious. So give your users a way to understand what happens when they do something and why. It might make sense to devote a page of your wiki to describing automation. Or it might be better to integrate the automation documentation into the page(s) of the objects in question. But just get something written down so your users (and other admins, and even Future You) have some bread crumbs they can follow. List it all out: When the Enrollment Status field is changed to Withdrawn there is automation that creates a Task assigned to Reggie. This task is Reggie’s reminder that the student’s email account should be closed and the status of any outstanding tuition balances evaluated. As simple and understandable as that paragraph is, let’s point out that it does quite a few things: For users, it lets them know that changing the enrollment status field is the action that actually un-enrolls a student. (This should probably also be explicit on any pages about students, or programs, or contacts.) For Reggie, it’s documentation of how these tasks keep getting assigned to him. For the organization, it documents the things that need to happen when a student withdraws. For Salesforce admins, it documents that Reggie is explicitly built into the automation. If Reggie leaves, you are going to need to change the automation to point to his successor. That’s a lot in just two sentences! One final word: On pages focused more on the user than the system admin you might not use all the jargon about how the automation works. I wrote “there is automation” above. But if you're working on pages for sysadmins, you might want to say “there is a flow...” 6: A Page About Installed Packages Most orgs have several AppExchange packages installed in their system. Sysadmins will know how to go into Setup and see the complete list. But any apps that users will interact with may be worth explaining a little bit on the wiki (and linking to their creator's own documentation.) This is also a good place to give future sysadmins a little leg up in figuring out when and why you have installed one package or another. I could go on and on, but that’s really plenty to get you going, I think. There’s just one last thing: getting your colleagues to read your wiki. I’m not gonna’ lie: people are lazy. Most of the time they’re either going to ask you directly for help or their going to just not do the thing they can’t remember how to do. I can’t beat human nature. But I can make it easier for you to answer their questions! Be Relentless: Every single time you answer a Salesforce question, do so by giving a link to the page on the wiki that they can reference in the future. (If you have to, write that page quickly and then link to it as though it was always there! I won't tell.) Relentlessly mention and link to “the wiki. The wiki. The wiki.” It takes time, but people will start to realize that when they ask you a question they’re likely to get a link to the wiki. Eventually, they'll even look at it for themselves. Make It Easy to Find: It’s one thing to link to the wiki in emails and Chatter posts. But if you really want your users to start going there on their own, you have to make it easy for them to find. Put a link front and center on the homepage so they see it every time they log in. In Lightning you can even customize the help menu (question mark) so a link to the wiki is available no matter where people are in Salesforce: And every time you do any sort of training, point out to people that a link to the wiki is there in the help menu. Once your users catch on, you might even find that your “Salesforce wiki” morphs into your “Organization Handbook.” How great is that?

  • Documentation Done Cheap

    There are a million different ways to make documentation for your Salesforce instance. I’ve seen demos of Spekit and and I really do think they’re super cool. As I recall, both give very nice discounts for nonprofits, too. But I’m just too cheap to want to pay for more things if I can get by without them. And given my client base (small nonprofits), the fewer paid apps I can recommend, the better. And let’s face it, for most organizations any barrier to writing up good documentation, no matter how small, is just going to mean no documentation at all. And I consider that unacceptable. So if you aren’t going to pay for a really good documentation solution (or aren’t going to pay for it right away) what is the responsible Salesforce admin to do? (Note: I don’t really consider it “responsible,” to make a pile of Word documents, PDFs, or even Google docs. I’ll grant that getting something written is better than not writing any documentation at all. And the Google docs folder at least can be somewhere owned by the organization and they can have links between them. But really, a pile of Google docs is not super convenient.) 📑 What you need is a wiki. 📑 Don’t let that name intimidate you. A wiki is simply a collaboratively managed and edited website. That's what you want to document a tool (Salesforce) that you’re all going to use together. You want it collaborative because you want input from users, executives, your Salesforce admin, consultants, etc. Sure, most of them might rarely add to the wiki, but the very idea that they can and should contribute is empowering. And other than the fact of it being online and being collaboratively edited, there’s nothing special about “a wiki.” It doesn’t have to be created using special software. (Even that aforementioned pile of Google docs could probably be considered a wiki.) Don't think Wikipedia, think whiteboard. And guess what? If you’ve got Google docs then you have Google Sites. Both are a standard part of Google Suite (now called Google Workspace), which is free for nonprofits. (That’s my kind of pricing!) Know what you can do with a Google Site? That’s right: You can create a wiki! In under a minute you can create a new Site with a simple template and just start adding pages to it. Sites is easy and fast to use, and it even does a pretty good job making a menu as you add new pages. I see no need for anything more “wiki-ish” than that. If your organization doesn’t have Google Suite…I’m sorry. It’s not that I have a particular love for Google. (I don’t.) But in my experience if you don’t have Google, you probably have Microsoft 365, and that makes me sad. Again, nothing against Microsoft per se, it’s just that apparently starting any kind of site/intranet/wiki seems to be much too difficult on Sharepoint. Once the Sharepoint site exists, it’s fine. I suppose there are some of you reading this that have access to neither Sites nor Sharepoint. But ask around a bit and you might find that there is some kind of website building tool already available within your IT services. Don’t be picky. Just two criteria matter: 1. Is it free? 2. Can I easily create multiple pages (with simple text and images)? This week we’re stopping here: You’ve identified that your organization has some kind of tool that will allow you to create a basic website with multiple pages. Your homework is pretty simple: Create your site. (Name it something like “[my organization]’s Salesforce wiki.”) Create your first page. Give it a title and some placeholder text. Set the sharing/visibility settings to at least allow anyone from your organization to see the site with a link. Open to anyone with the link is OK, in my opinion. Extra Credit: Create one additional page of your wiki so you can see how the tool creates a menu. Next week: My simple tips for building out your documentation wiki and driving users to it.

  • Crowdsourced Price Guide

    One of the biggest benefits for nonprofits using Salesforce is the amazing discount we get on state-of-the-art software. The same software used by Fortune 500 companies, at levels of discount usually reserved for their biggest/best customers, without having to actually negotiate for that discount. I think that’s a pretty good deal. But if you’re a nonprofit leader considering Salesforce for the first time (or considering changes to your implementation), it can sometimes be frustrating trying to figure out the specifics of what you’re budgeting for. If you know you’re going to need logins for 37 employees, you want to know how much you’ll be paying for the 27 logins you’ll need after the 10 donated licenses. [Spoiler alert: $432 * 27 = $11,664/year] (But don’t forget that licenses are not your only cost!) For several years I’ve been loudly advocating for increased price transparency from There have been some horrendous cases of nonprofits overcharged because they didn’t know what they actually needed. And even in the case of organizations that knew what they needed and what the right price was, sometimes it’s been hard just to get things properly provisioned. 📣 I've been loudly advocating for increased price transparency from Credit where credit is due: (SFDO) has made strides to get better. I haven’t heard recent horror stories of overcharges by Account Executives. SFDO reorganized part of their website and published this pricing guide, for one thing. But in my humble opinion, a PDF pricing guide is not the most convenient format. And there are plenty of products left out of the guide, particularly the newest and shiniest things Salesforce has released in the last few years. So that’s why even after the pricing has gotten more transparent, I’ve continued maintaining the Crowdsourced Pricing spreadsheet. Even if most of the information is available on Salesforce’s website, this way we can see everything in convenient tabular black and white without fishing around various parts of and Go ahead and bookmark that sheet, you'll probably want to refer to it. And if you have any information to add to it, or questions about what’s there, feel free to tag me in a comment–I really do want to keep it up to date. ✅: Bookmark the Crowdsourced Pricing Guide 🔖 What I would really like to see someday is a statement from Salesforce along the lines of “any organization qualified for the P10 grant will also be able to purchase any other Salesforce product at a minimum discount of X% off list price.” I know that won’t be able to apply to all products, or that some may take time after release to be added to SFDO’s pricing. But if we knew that was the baseline it would make it so much easier for nonprofit admins to think about all the new toys Salesforce announces. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have made any progress toward getting a guideline like that. If you have ideas for how I could make that wish come true, please get in touch!

  • Backup and Restore

    Let’s just acknowledge right now: Backup and Restore is like life insurance. You should pay for it and hope you never get more from it than peace of mind. Here’s the good news: Salesforce is extremely robust. I don’t know of any instances of data being lost because of a problem at the server or data center level. Plus there is a free weekly export service that you should enable to download a backup of all your data to store somewhere within your control. You can set this up right away while you think about what to do longer term. No–really! Stop reading this blog, follow the steps in that link to set it up, then come back to read the rest of this post. I’ll wait… The bad news: If you actually needed to restore your data from that weekly backup it would be an incredibly painful process. I. Mean. Miserable. There’s no convenient way to compare what records changed between your current state and the backup. Re-importing records with their relationships intact is also no mean feat. Plus the export service backups are only weekly and they require someone (probably you, if you're reading this blog) to actually download and archive them in the first place. Can you fully count on someone always doing that? So, this is a last resort kind of option. Better to have a copy of the state of the data last week than nothing at all, sure, but not much better… And now let me give you the really bad news: The main cause of data loss (or corruption) is people. People make mistakes. People sometimes even do nefarious things. And I’m guessing that your organization is full of people. You, dear reader, are probably also a person. I–Let me be clear!–am a person. I make mistakes. People make mistakes. 🙁 I’m guessing that your organization is full of people. Backup and restore services continually monitor your system and automate recovery from problems. That allows you to recover from mistakes, problems, and bad behavior. You know you need this for your personal computer. If you've ever had a problem with your phone (or just transferred to a new one), you know you need backup for your phone. There are a couple of options in the backup and restore space for Salesforce and none of them are cheap. Also: Nobody has entirely transparent pricing. I recall quotes starting at least $3,000/year and it’s been a little while since I last priced things out. The main services that I’ve priced in the past are: Spanning – This one I’ve actually gotten to use because my former employer went with Spanning and one of my current clients also has it. It works well to run a comparison of what's changed recently and then tag records to be restored. I haven’t used more than relatively simple restore functionality. (And thank goodness for that!) The last time I actually went through the (not so fun) process of getting quotes, Spanning came up significantly cheaper than OwnBackup. I believe it to be around $40/user/year at nonprofit pricing. OwnBackup – If you only looked at marketing and who attends and sponsors Salesforce events, you could be forgiven for thinking OwnBackup was the only vendor in the backup space. They’re the vendor everyone has heard of and from what I can tell have a very solid product. In recent years I’ve seen them place marketing emphasis on the data monitoring that’s part of their product. So they not only can restore, but they can alert you when a lot of records have changed in a way that might indicate you need a restore. I’ve never actually been a true user of OwnBackup because they’ve been a lot more expensive than Spanning. [Also, they’re rather “salesy,” which always annoys me, personally.] But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider them. Like I said, OwnBackup seems to be the main product to beat. But the last time I priced it, I believe the minimum contract was $6,000 for a nonprofit. Gearset – I recently learned that Gearset offers a backup solution, though I haven’t had a chance to try it. It’s an add-on to their Continuous Integration platform, so technically you’re paying for more than just backup and restore, though I think it's still competitive, pricewise. Gearset has a relatively transparent pricing structure, so you can see what their (list) price would be. It looks like even if you were just in it for the backup it’s cheaper than OwnBackup and may be competitive with Spanning. According to the first FAQ question on this page, data backup is $3,000/year for up to 100 users (in addition to a Gearset license.) A backup service is paying for peace of mind. 😌 One other thing that backup and restore services can do is insert data into a sandbox to use for testing and training. (This is referred to as “sandbox seeding.”) That’s potentially very useful. But when I’ve looked into it in the past, from Spanning and OwnBackup, it was an add-on cost that I wasn’t going to be convincing an employer/client to pay. (Sandbox seeding might actually be free with Gearset–I can’t quite tell from the website.) This definitely falls into the “nice to have” category. But when you find yourself spinning up a fresh sandbox to do training or testing, it could be a huge time saver. I use some developer-focused tools to do sandbox data seeding at times, but they’re not very convenient, to say the least. I highly recommend that you go get yourself some quotes. And I know that for most organizations, this could be your single largest Salesforce-related line item cost by a wide margin. I'm sorry to be the bearer of that news. Fundamentally a backup service is paying for peace of mind. You plan to never use the actual tool. But it’s still worth every penny. #Backup #Data #Sandbox

  • Nonprofit Salesforce – the True Cost of Ownership

    OK, repeat after me: Salesforce is free like a puppy, not free like a beer. You get it, right? I mean, I named the blog after this concept, so clearly I think it’s important. Let’s look at what your nonprofit should actually budget to support your adoption and continued use of Salesforce. Now would be a good time to start up a spreadsheet to estimate your particular organization’s needs. 1. User Licenses The first thing to consider is probably the easiest to calculate: You’re going to need a license for every person that’s going to use the system. In most cases, that’s the number of employees at your organization or on the team(s) that are adopting the system. I very strongly recommend that you also use a separate license for each integration that you might connect to your system. Want new subscribers from Mailchimp to come into Salesforce as Contacts? Then give Mailchimp its own login. If you’re linking a fundraising platform like GiveLively or Classy to Salesforce, give that system its own dedicated user. That way you can distinguish between the integration doing things to your data and a particular user doing things. You’ll thank yourself later when strange data cleanliness issues are popping up. [Update 3/14/2023: Every org now gets 5 free integration users, with additional at just $30/year!] And don’t forget that if you get help from an outside consultant (like me), you’re going to need a license for that person as well. As a charitable organization (a 501c3 in the US tax code, or your country’s equivalent) you’re going to get ten licenses for free. The 11th license (and beyond) costs $432/user/year. So even if you have a good number of people that need to log into Salesforce, it’s a modest cost. 💰TL;DR in licenses: 10 full licenses for free 5 API-only licenses (integration users) for free (# of employees/contractors) – 10 = # of paid licenses # of paid licenses x $432 = cost per year 2. Implementation: Staff Expertise and Consulting This is the section where, unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to give you any hard numbers because it’s going to depend entirely on what you’re trying to do. First, I want to point out that implementing and then supporting Salesforce requires a commitment of money, time, and focus. You’re going to want to have someone on your staff that will be in charge of Salesforce, who spends at least a little bit of time thinking about the system as a system. Even if that mainly means that they liaise with someone outside contracted for support, it’s going to require some of their time and attention. Implementation in the first place is usually something to contract with a consultant for. Do you have to? No. There are fantastic resources available on Trailhead and help available when you have questions on the Trailblazer Community. I truly think it’s viable to self-implement if you have someone interested and competent who can spend some time on it. (But let’s not forget: that person’s time is a resource you’re devoting.) If you decide to use a consultant for your implementation, I still can’t give a solid number for what that is going to cost–it’s still 100% dependent on what you need. A simple implementation of the Nonprofit Success Pack for fundraising only and some light customization of picklist values, donation stages, etc, plus a little staff training can probably be had for under $8,000 and accomplished in under three months. Maybe. If you can find a consultant with relatively low rates that’s willing to take on a small project. A custom program management implementation is going to start around $15,000 and go up from there depending on the complexity of your program. And both of those numbers are assuming just implementation. Other than making sure you’re up and running with the new system, I’m not assuming there was any ongoing support within those numbers above. To bring it down to brass tacks, most consultants charge by the hour. Even those that try to do project-based billing are often working out what they think is the price based on some notion of how many hours they think a project will take and their hourly rates for the people involved. So what’s an hourly rate within the Salesforce ecosystem? I know this is going to surprise you to hear, but it depends. Below $100/hour is pretty rare at this point. There are probably plenty of people out there with not much experience willing to take a low rate. And there are people that do a little bit of consulting as a side-hustle and, therefore, are also willing to charge less. But experienced people charging under $100/hour for work with a US-based nonprofit are a rare breed. Consulting firms charge over $220-$250+/hour, last time I got any solid information. Some people give a discount for nonprofits compared to their full rates, but that may be what brings them down to the low $200s. Some independents are cheaper than consulting firms, but not all. There can be other factors that go into a final proposal price too, such as whether this will be the start of a long term relationship, or if a project fills a gap in work for a consultant. And also keep in mind that most consultants don’t straight up tell you their hourly rate. (Though it may not be very hard to figure it out when they give you a proposal.) At any price your mileage may vary. I think you should assume you’ll have to pay around $200/hour. If you’re based in an expensive city or think you want to work with a larger firm, I recommend you assume more like $250/hr. (Better to start high and be pleasantly surprised!) But in all but the simplest cases, I can’t even begin to give you a number of hours to assume. It’s a personal and business risk to do so, but I think price and salary transparency are good for society, so I’m going to put my own rates right here in black and white: In 2022’s full rate is $200/hour. I give a 20% discount to nonprofits ($160/hour). 💰TL;DR in consulting: It’s possible to self-implement if you have someone in place with the aptitude and able to put in the time. A simple NPSP “quick start” is probably $8,000. For more custom work, assume $200-$250/hour. Number of hours is entirely dependent on the kind of implementation. 3. Must-have Apps This can be confusing for organizations considering Salesforce, but the platform was designed from the beginning to support an ecosystem of related apps. As a result, there are some things you might expect “Salesforce out-of-the-box” to be able to do that you actually need to install an additional app to accomplish. The most important example here is mail merging. If you want to generate beautiful printed acknowledgement letters for each of your donors, you’re going to need to install a merge solution. You might think that’s annoying. Or you might come to appreciate the wide range of partners that have built solutions to extend Salesforce because they’re able to easily offer their products to you through the AppExchange. Not my place to judge. I’m just here to tell you what you should plan for. A Fundraising Platform I’ve got good news for you here: the price could be free! Of course you may choose to pay more for platforms with more or different features. I’m a big fan of GiveLively, which has no up-front costs, charges just the credit card processing fee, can let your donors cover fees, and has a free integration to Salesforce that’s easy to set up and works quite well. released Elevate relatively recently which also only charges a fee based on transactions and, obviously, integrates with the Nonprofit Success Pack. Full-featured systems like Classy have a contract cost on top of credit card processing fees but offer more powerful features for peer-to-peer fundraising and the like. I know these contracts can be north of $10,000/year. And of course there are plenty of entrants between those two ends. It’s not my purpose here to tell you which fundraising platform to choose, just to remind you that you should consider whether you will have to pay for the platform, pay to integrate it to Salesforce (either a fee to the platform or the time for someone to set up the integration), or devote time to otherwise bringing the information into Salesorce. I suppose you should factor in $0-$10,000+ depending on the platform you’re going to choose. Apsona for Salesforce Describing all the things Apsona for Salesforce can do is way beyond the scope of this blog post. Suffice it to say that Apsona is a tool for easy import/export and manipulation of data within Salesforce. I consider Apsona such a useful tool that I actually require my clients to install it as part of a contract with I pretty much guarantee that having Apsona available will save enough consultant time to more than cover the cost of the app. Even if you’re not paying a consultant, the staff time you save with Apsona is going to be a bargain. Nonprofits pay just $435/year for three users. The smallest nonprofits (annual gross revenue not exceeding US $250,000) can actually get their Apsona license donated. Mail Merge Solution As noted above, if you are going to want to create documents based on your Salesforce data, this is something you’ll need an app for. (Note: Sending templated emails directly out of Salesforce is free. I’m only talking here about the need to generate Word docs or PDFs.) There are three main options in this space: Apsona Email and Document Merge, Nintex’s Drawloop, and Conga Composer. Nintex and Conga are generally more expensive than Apsona, not to mention having less-transparent pricing, so it’s hard for me to give a firm number here. Apsona would cost $300 for three users (on top of the base Apsona package that I just told you, above, I consider essential.) Drawloop and Conga cost more, particularly for volume document generation, but both have fans, so I’m not saying that cost should be the only factor in your consideration. Factor in at least $300-$500/year for mail merge, if you need it, plus some time for setup, training, and updating templates. Webform Integration Many organizations need a webform integration for collecting surveys and automatically putting that data into Salesforce. Sure, you could use Google Forms for free. But there’s no integration to Salesforce from a Google Form. (And Google Forms are ugly, IMHO.) There are quite a few webform providers that have integrations to Salesforce. Again, this post is not about comparing their relative merits. The point of mentioning this here is to remind you to budget for a form tool integration if you’re going to use one. I tend to recommend FormAssembly to my clients. At the Professional level, with nonprofit discount it’s about $700/year. Most of my clients get Premier ($1,600/year) to take advantage of the Salesforce Prefill Connector and do some really cool things with forms. If you think you’ll want a webform integration, start by budgeting about $1,000-$2,000 for the tool. And don’t forget to consider some consultant and/or staff time for learning the tool, building out forms (and their Salesforce connection), and ongoing upkeep! Some forms are relatively static (like a newsletter signup), but some are constantly changing (like an application form.) 💰TL;DR in apps: Fundraising Platform – $0 to $10,000 per year, plus credit card processing fees. Apsona for Salesforce – $375/year for three users, free to the smallest orgs. Mail Merge – $300-$500/year. Webforms – $1,000-$2,000/year plus setup and maintenance time. 4. Backup Solution I’ve got good news and bad news in this section. The good news is that Salesforce is extremely robust. You’re very unlikely to lose data because of a problem at the server or data center level. Plus there is a free weekly export service that you can enable to download a backup of all your data to store somewhere within your control. The bad news is that if you actually needed to restore your data from that weekly backup it could be an incredibly painful process. Plus the backups are only weekly and require someone to actually download and archive them each week. The other bad news is that the main cause of data loss (or corruption) is people. Backups don’t only protect you from data loss due to server malfunction, they also protect against people doing stuff. And it’s the rare nonprofit that doesn’t have people. Whether somebody accidentally changes data in small chunks or bulk updates, things can happen. Backup and restore systems are one way to recover from those things. There are a couple of options in the backup and restore space for Salesforce and none of them are cheap. To be fair, I think most organizations just live with the weekly export service and hope for the best. Sigh. Just because everyone’s doing it, that doesn’t make it a good idea. The two main services that I’ve priced for clients are Spanning and OwnBackup. Neither of them has transparent pricing. But for a nonprofit, I recall quotes starting at about $6,000/year from OwnBackup. Spanning is more reasonable: it seems to be around $40/user/year. Gearset also offers a backup solution which I haven’t had a chance to try. It’s an add-on to their Continuous Integration platform, so technically you’re paying for more than just backup and restore, but it might still be competitive pricewise. [UPDATED 3/8/2022 with more up-to-date Spanning pricing.] So, yeah. A backup and restore service that you hope you’ll never use might be your largest expense after the initial implementation. And it’s still a good idea. 💰TL;DR in backup: The free option really isn’t sufficient protection. Options start at least $40/user/year for nonprofits. You’re going to pay all that for something you hope to never use. Still probably worth paying for, like life insurance. 5. Ongoing Support Last, but certainly not least, you should be planning for the upkeep of your Salesforce instance, staff training and coaching, and updates and upgrades. The Salesforce platform is constantly growing and adding new features; likewise, your needs and circumstances are going to change over time. I strongly encourage you to think about growing someone internal who will devote a portion of their job to care-and-feeding of the system. I absolutely believe that any organization can grow this talent from within, as long as you have someone that is interested in the work and you give them sufficient time within their responsibilities. How much time to devote (what percentage of their job) is, of course, related to the complexity of your Salesforce setup and the parts of the organization it touches. If you can’t hire or grow a Salesforce administrator, you can contract with a consulting firm for ongoing support (often called “managed services”). Some consultants may sell a number of contracted hours for you to draw down over time. Others might let you simply pay for the time as you use it. I have set up contracts with several of my clients for a retainer where they get a certain number of hours per month at a discount compared to regular rates. Assume you’ll either have a staff member devoting between 25%-100% of their time or else contracted managed services from 10 hours/month or more. 💰TL;DR in ongoing support: At least one staff person devoting 25% or more of their time or else contracted managed services with a consultant. Bottom of the Bottom Line I literally started a blog to talk about how Salesforce is free like a puppy not free like a beer. You’re going to need to devote some resources to building, using, and maintaining a Salesforce instance, even if you never actually write a check to Salesforce directly.

  • Four Answers to “Why Salesforce?”

    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 (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! #Donation #System #CustomSoftware #Customize #Nonprofit #WhySalesforce

  • My Salesforce Journey

    This wasn’t what I was going to be when I grew up. Not at all. I was going to be a diplomat. I was going to single-handedly negotiate an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Now I design software systems for nonprofit organizations. How did I get here? Like so many others in this ecosystem, I’m an “accidental admin.” (And yes, I understand why a lot of people don’t like to use that term.) Databases followed me for decades. I just kept running away from them until I stumbled on Salesforce. In my early career I always seemed to be the person in the office that took a look at the way we were doing our work and decided that we needed systems to make us more efficient or more organized. At a small magazine publisher outside Boston I implemented an editing and production software package that had literally been sitting on a shelf unused. At the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I battled Microsoft Access to make our office a shared database for case management in the Office of Congressional Affairs. And at the Department of State, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I worked to build a system for tracking hundreds of countries’ offers of aid and assistance for a daily update to senior policymakers. Even during the decade I was a stay-at-home dad I found myself deeply involved in the VoteBuilder database as I volunteered with political campaigns and in charge of the membership database for Beachcomber, our co-op swim club. Every system I worked with just felt like a slog. They were fighting my attempts to make them understandable or easy to use. “Pretty” wasn’t even on the menu. In 2012, I returned to the work world in a newly-created community organizing capacity at Reconstructing Judaism. It was clear from the first day that we needed a database to track the congregations that were our members. Someone had thrown together an Access database before I arrived, but we needed something better. We needed a “CRM,” or constituent relationship management system. I hadn’t heard the term, but it encapsulated what I had been working with in all those previous positions. And since I was the youngest and the most tech savvy, the search for the CRM ended up on my plate. That’s when I learned about “this Salesforce thing” and that, thanks to the 1-1-1 model, it was “free.” That seemed like a good deal! Plus it was super simple for me to spin up a fully functional trial instance to see how things worked. Unlike all the systems I’d tried before, Salesforce somehow made sense. With just a few clicks I was able to customize it to work more like what we needed. And the user interface (both front- and back-end) was intuitive. Hooray! We compared a few other options and then chose Salesforce. Using an implementation partner, we got up and running in just a few weeks. Then I started seeing what more I could learn about how to make Salesforce even more custom for us. The next major step in my journey was discovering the Power of Us Hub, the online community for nonprofit Salesforce users. When I was first starting to administer our instance, I wasn’t confident I was doing things right. I started asking questions on the Hub and immediately found a community of nonprofit Salesforce practitioners that were incredibly generous with their time and their wisdom. They validated when I was on the right path, guided me back if I wasn’t, gave me tips, tricks, and best practices, and were genuinely warm and welcoming. That’s what really drew me in. I also started joining the wider Salesforce community. (This was all before the creation of Trailhead. That’s one more amazing resource if you’re new now.) As my knowledge grew, of course, I started answering questions on the Hub instead of mainly asking them. But I still ask a lot of questions even today. It’s how I learn! I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I think it’s terrific when someone has the courage to ask for help. And I’ve found that the Salesforce community is incredibly welcoming and happy to answer questions, even ones that have been asked before. Fast forward a couple of years and I decided I was interested in making Salesforce the main focus of my next job. I found a full-time solo admin position at Spark, a mid sized nonprofit that was supportive of my continued growth as a Salesforce professional. My position at Spark allowed me opportunities to participate in Open Source Sprints, present at community events, and even to travel to Dreamforce. All that meant meeting more people within the community. I made friends that I know I’ll keep for life. In 2017 I was honored to be named a Salesforce MVP. That’s been a further chance to meet friends and gain insight into Salesforce, the platform as well as the organization. The most recent step in my journey is that in 2020 I made the leap to self-employment as an independent Salesforce consultant. Now I get to work with many nonprofits to build and support their Salesforce instances. My favorite work is creating custom program management solutions that let organizations run their unique programs exactly how they need. #AccidentalAdmin #CareerJourney #PowerofUs #SalesforceAdmin

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