At the Salesforce1 + Innovation Force event last week in Washington, D.C., Salesforce announced a major enhancement to its nonprofit offering. The enhancement is called Salesforce1 for Nonprofits, and brings program management, community engagement, marketing communications, and “fundraising” capabilities into its core offering for nonprofits. To understand the significance of this, we need to look back at the recent history of the Salesforce platform.
Initial Foray into Nonprofits
Salesforce has gained increasing market share among nonprofits in the last half dozen years, primarily starting with donor development functionality, with adoption accelerated by the 10 free licenses for nonprofits offered by the Salesforce Foundation. The Nonprofit Starter Pack represented somewhat of a foot in the water as the Foundation adapted a solution built for sales pipeline development into one that better supported nonprofit donor development. The Starter Pack was a good starting point for nonprofits without an existing donor development system, or for those with a legacy system with any number of limitations imposed.
But the Nonprofit Starter Pack was no substitute for Raiser’s Edge, Donor Perfect Online, or the like. Solutions like Convio Common Ground (R.I.P.), roundCause, Affinaquest, and Causeview grew to fill the gap and marry some of the benefits of the Salesforce platform with more sophisticated donor, volunteer, and event management functionality. Meanwhile, other products like Exponent Case Management, School Force, Luminate Online, and others emerged and developed to extend the Salesforce platform’s functionality around online engagement, program management, and more.
Release of Salesforce1
Fast forward to the release of Salesforce1 for Nonprofits last week. Salesforce1 itself is about Salesforce coming of age on the mobile platform, both in terms of the breadth of mobile functionality for end users, as a comprehensive mobile development environment, and for administrators and companies. It’s a clear recognition of the current and future centrality of mobile (i.e., phone, tablet) access to data and apps, as predicted by Cisco (5 billion mobile users by 2018?) and many others.
With Salesforce1 for Nonprofits, the platform has grown from the rudimentary functionality of the Nonprofit Starter Pack into a comprehensive suite with program management, community engagement, marketing communications, and “fundraising” capabilities. It is much more than the heir apparent to the Nonprofit Starter Pack, and as such moves into the space formerly occupied by the aforementioned solutions built on the platform.
Where does this leave the ecosystem of solutions already built on the platform? At the Salesforce1+Innovation Force event, the Salesforce Foundation went to some length to highlight some functionality that roundCause provides above and beyond the functionality in Salesforce1. So the Foundation seems to see these solutions as vital in continuing to meet niches that the core Salesforce1 solution does not. That being said, I expect the specific functionality they provide and their respective niches in the market to evolve in response to changes in the core platform, among other factors.
I wonder about other solutions built on the platform, though. Some solutions extended the core Salesforce data model in a way that may be different than Salesforce1 has gone with similar functionality. To what extent will those platforms now be at odds with the expanded “core” data model now in Salesforce1? I’ll be following that question closely, as will Community IT partners like build Consulting.
In a similar vein, implementation partners like Heller Consulting and Exponent Partners were very visible at presenters at the event. Though the 10 free licenses for nonprofits lead some to view Salesforce as a “free” solution, no one who works with Salesforce expects it to be free for any organization to implement. Let’s not forget implementation costs (data import, system setup and configuration), staff time, and more! Implementation partners will continue to provide an important role for nonprofits in adopting or expanding Salesforce1, though I expect that Salesforce1 will meet more needs in its native form and thus require less customization and configuration than before.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention what seems like a major announcement that came out the same day – Microsoft and Salesforce working together more closely, perhaps most importantly for closer integration with Office 365, which has made dramatic strides in recent years and has become a very important solution for nonprofits. What does this mean for Dynamics CRM? And dare I mention Windows Phone? More ecosystem disruption.
So to answer the title of the blog…yes, I do think this is a game changer. To me it appears to be the biggest technology announcement for nonprofits at least in the past several years.
If you’re a nonprofit and need help exploring this or other ways that technology can better support your work and mission, please contact Community IT today!