Salesforce for Nonprofits: Unique Challenges and Solutions

July 14, 2016 Nicole Klemp

salesforce for nonprofits

Between employees, donors, volunteers, vendors, and members, nonprofits have many complex relationships to manage. And nonprofit professionals understand the value of every constituent interaction; under constant pressure to lower operating costs while building constituent loyalty, nonprofits can’t afford to miss an opportunity to deepen relationships. Salesforce for nonprofits helps organizations connect all of those relationships so they can better deliver their programs and services, engage their community, and raise more funds. But there are some unique challenges that nonprofits face when implementing or managing their Salesforce solutions.

Tracking fundraising data

It can be much more difficult for nonprofits to track and predict fundraising data than it is for for-profit businesses to track sales. Sometimes nonprofits are collecting straight cash donations, sometimes they’re providing a good or service for the funds they receive (e.g., selling t-shirts or doing a carwash), sometimes people are donating tangible items instead of cash, and sometimes the organizations receive grants. Tracking incoming funds and managing donor data can be complex, and many nonprofit employees may struggle to enter data accurately or completely.

Data hygiene

Because of the sheer volume of data nonprofits collect — and the inconsistencies in the way it’s collected and entered — nonprofits often have problems with incorrect, old, or duplicate data in Salesforce. There can also be multiple chapters of an organization entering data in different places or collecting it in different ways. And most organizations either don’t have enough staff to deal with data clean-up, or they simply don’t have anyone with the expertise to do so. Salesforce is only as powerful as the data it holds, so doing some regular house cleaning is crucial. If nonprofits don’t have the resources in place to handle data hygiene, it may be a good idea to look outside for help.

Segmenting marketing messages

Nonprofits have many different groups to which they market. They have to promote their organization to the communities they serve in order to attract new volunteers and donors (both individuals and businesses), they have to market to current and past donors and constituents, and they have to advertise their services to those in need. These are all very different messages to very different groups. And a major challenge is that some individuals in the nonprofit database can fall into multiple categories; a past donor could now also be a volunteer, or a past volunteer could now be a recipient of the organization’s services. Keeping these relationships straight is important to ensure individuals receive the appropriate messaging.

Migrating data from legacy systems

When nonprofits make the switch to Salesforce, they often have a large amount of data to migrate over — often from multiple systems. This can be taxing on an IT team (if the organization even has one) whose resources are likely already stretched thin. Having a trusted Salesforce implementation partner can make the transition much smoother, and can ensure that data is moved over correctly.

Cloud Management for nonprofits

The value nonprofits get from Salesforce is based mostly on how they maintain and enhance their org over time. And most nonprofit organizations don’t have teams or individuals who are specialized enough to focus on production systems, let alone to handle the 2-3 new releases Salesforce pushes out each year. Many of the technical challenges that nonprofits face when using or moving to Salesforce can be relieved by a managed services provider (MSP). An MSP — like Appirio’s Cloud Management — can run the production environment for nonprofit organizations, and provide a steady stream of enhancements and new features. You can find more information about Cloud Management in Appirio’s Guide to Managed Services in the Cloud.


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