This from the Third Sector a couple of weeks ago.
We’ve been looking to start using a CRM but haven’t had the chance to research it properly yet. Does anyone have any experience of this company? Is there really such a thing as a “free lunch” here or are there hidden charges etc?
We would be grateful for any experiences (good or bad) with this before we sign up.
Salesforce.com is free – but can only do so much. The ‘hidden’ costs will of course relate to training and consultancy that you’d need to get it up and running to fit your requirements
Systems like salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM provide core CRM functionality such as contact management and some communication tools, but in my opinion for many charities it’s unlikely to provide you with the full set of tools you need to fully manage your fundraising and supporter care – if you have money coming in from standing orders or direct debits, or wan the system to manage Gift Aid, then that might be a challenge!
Another company that has developed Salesforce.com for charities is Generate Enterprise
Good luck, and hope that helps.
It’s such a jungle out there that I keep having a look at things and then ODing on the info. I could really do with finding a couple of very small charities who, like us, have launched/run an appeal much bigger than anything else ever done before and used one or other system to facilitate their fundraising, so that I can see if there were benefits or if it was too unwieldy.
We only have one paid staff (Campaign Manager) but half a dozen volunteers who support her, and it’s just a case of finding somewhere to put all the information we’re amalgamating.
I’m wavering between not doing anything and signing up with someone like Blackbaud or similar, which may be quite expensive – a cost I’d have to justify to our Committee.
Thanks for your input. I’m tempted to sign up for the 30 days free trial, see how it looks and then cancel it if it is more than we need or will cost us too much.
Glad I could be of help. Give me a call if you want a further chat about it
Keith 07968 718966
As previous commentators have indicated there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.
I thought you might be interested in this article from Doug Schoenberg CEO of DonorPerfect.
First let me remind my readers that I’m the CEO of a software company whose business is providing fundraising software to non-profits, so I can’t claim full objectivity on this topic. That said, I’m pretty tired of reading blog postings and articles from non-profit consultants espousing the virtues of “free” software for various aspects of nonprofit administration — from constituent relationship management (CRM) and web content management systems (CMS), to online donations, etc. In some cases the products being recommended are open-source software like ebase, Civicrm, SugarCRM, etc. and others are from philanthropic entities set up by for-profit companies like salesforce.com.
Sure, its nice of salesforce.com to provide nonprofits with free licenses for their software, but they are able to do this because their real business is providing salesforce as a sales contact management system for businesses. Adapting salesforce to provide the processes and reporting necessary to meet the unique aspects of nonprofit fundraising is a daunting effort. Of course these consultants have a solution — just hire a consultant to adapt (customize) the system to meet the needs of your nonprofit. Unfortunately the cost involved often far exceeds what the nonprofit would have to spend to buy a product that is already designed and tailored for non-profit fundraising.
I have a similar criticism of open source products, where the products must be maintained and supported by a community of developers. Again, the motivation — providing nonprofits with inexpensive software — is laudable: however the results almost always require the nonprofit to spend far too much time and effort on figuring out how to make it work.
As I noted at the outset, you can reasonably question my objectivity, but take a look at these quotes in a recent article from idealware that presents case-studies of a few nonprofits’ experience with general-purpose CRM systems.
From NY-NJ Trail Conference (NNTC)
“While ebase was a low-cost solution for NNTC (ebase can be downloaded for free and used on top of Filemaker Pro), the real cost has come in the staff time it has taken to modify the database. Daniels’ deep technical knowledge allowed him to make major changes. The rest of the staff now knows enough to make routine changes as necessary and train each other as new staff members are hired.
Because of his comfort with technology, Daniels did a lot of the CRM implementation himself, though he knows this is not an option for many nonprofits. “Most organizations don’t have a high-powered techie to implement a CRM for them, and finding a sophisticated volunteer is not possible for most organizations,” he says. “Without sophisticated knowledge you may have to hire consultants.”
Words of Wisdom
Daniels cautions against getting locked into a product. In NNTC’s case, ebase has not progressed and there is no upgrade path without doing a significant rebuild of the existing data and reports. “Nearly the entire CRM would need to be rewritten to upgrade.”
From Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC)
Salesforce itself is free for WTC to use because of Salesforce’s donation program (which provides up to 10 licenses for 501(c)3 nonprofits). However, it cost $10,000 for their consulting firm, ONE/Northwest, to migrate WTC’s data and build custom features. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” says Dawson. The project took about four months to go live. For an organization with about a million dollar annual budget, the CRM modification “wasn’t chump change,” says Dawson.”
“Not everything is better in Salesforce. WTC likes to create very specific solicitations to donors based on their interactions with the organization, and it is difficult to print a spreadsheet with a full history of giving. Ebase did this better by storing all donation data in one place. WTC’s Consultant, ONE/Northwest, created a custom view of some interactions but not of others.”
Here is a link to the complete article which has a lot of other interesting insights and also includes many positive comments http://www.idealware.org/articles/crm_case_studies.php.
My point is simply that non-profits need to realize that the cost of software is just a small component of the total investment in successfully implementing technology. As a software vendor focused entirely on nonprofit technology we have a strong financial incentive to help our clients use our products successfully. We serve as their technology experts, so they can spend their time and energy on their missions and building stronger relationships with their donors and constituents — not on building software.
DMACS are UK authorised distributors of DonorPerfect fundraising software
We decided to go with salesforce.com and have signed up for the 30 days free trial. The additional costs would be to pay someone to set the database up to our requirements or to use our staff to do the same.
In our position, as most of our staff are volunteers, it is not going to cost us anything if we do it ourselves, so that is what we’re doing.
The company insist that you attend a live webinar, which I attended earlier this week and found it very informative and helpful, showing me how to set up the database to our requirements.
I think for a larger charity it would probably require a lot more input to set up, but for a charity of our size I think it will be absolutely fine – giving us the opportunity to expand our use as our campaign mounts as well as starting to use it for our current day to day activities.
I’ll see how we get on with the 30 day trial, and assuming we qualify at the end of that trial, I’ll post updates in case anyone is reading.
Thank you for your comments so far – sometimes as you know, when you’re so far in the mire, it’s useful to have other people’s tuppence ha’penny worth.
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