I was first exposed to Salesforce a decade ago, while working for a nonprofit organization that helped at-risk youth. We provided a variety of programs to eradicate school drop-outs, excessive alcohol consumption, and criminal behavior.
When I joined the organization as the director of resource development, my executive director shared with me the largest Excel spreadsheet I have seen to date. We had all donor asks, grants, and donations from the last 10 years in one worksheet. I quickly realized that Excel is not a tool to manage relationships and migrated our fundraising efforts to Salesforce, a robust Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
As we learned about Salesforce, we understood that that it could do more than just help us increase our effectiveness and efficiencies. The technology would also help us create additional value by managing our social return on investment, in addition to our financial return on investment. In a very short time, we used Salesforce to transform our entire operations from tracking donors and volunteers to tracking programs and cases.
I attribute the transformative power of Salesforce to the following:
The flexibility, openness and expansive ecosystem allow customers to use the technology the way they want to use it. It ensures that the technology is “working for their mission” instead of the organization “working for the technology.” This is the true advantage of Salesforce and it is very different from the other CRMs out there.
Microsoft does not have a vibrant ecosystem of consulting firms and applications. Their version of the AppExchange is still in the very early stages and it is lacking the collaborative culture Salesforce has developed and maintained. It doesn’t matter how many applications Microsoft plans to buy to extend Microsoft Dynamics, they will need to completely change their mindset to actually compete with Salesforce. Blackbaud (a nonprofit technology provider that competes with Salesforce.Org) and Oracle sell a complete package of products. In most cases, what you see is what you get and your ability to extend these applications with point and click solutions or third-party applications is very limited.
As the CEO of a Salesforce.org consulting firm, I often hear our non-Salesforce competitors pointing out that the wealth of options and flexibility of Salesforce is a disadvantage. In fact, we tell our nonprofit clients that Salesforce is like “free puppies.