We’ve spoken to dozens of nonprofit organizations during the past eighteen months, and a clear pattern of data management has emerged. It spans a breadth of nonprofits from tiny history societies to large, capacity building nonprofits.
Many nonprofits still have their data originate onto paper forms. At some point, they begin entering it into Excel. Spreadsheet dependence usually persists until someone realizes that nobody actually knows where all the data resides.
The next logical step is to move onto Filemaker or Access – usually with the assistance of a friendly volunteer. Sometimes, the organization will also procure a donor management system.
The problem with this evolution is that the data typically resides in silos – each requiring its owner to know the relevant system, each requiring backup and security, and no means to readily use the data across all constituencies.
With the evolution of Software as a Service (SaaS), nonprofits have a golden opportunity to integrate all of their data and make it ubiquitously available across all of their devices without worries about backup and security.
Salesforce, in particular, has been embraced by tens of thousands of nonprofits. Why? First, it’s free (for the first ten licenses), or practically free. Second, it’s a powerful Constituent Relationship Management system (CRM) that provides a single source for donor, volunteer, grantor, member, compliance and program data.
As the most popular SaaS platform in the world, Salesforce easily integrates with thousands of apps that allow nonprofits to become more efficient (managing events with EventBrite, for example).
Of course a platform as powerful as Salesforce requires a total commitment from any nonprofit that embraces it. For the organizations that make that commitment, data moves from being the place for reporting, to a strategic tool that helps drive their mission.