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Nicole Aebi-Moyo

An interesting article and well worth a read. However, whilst I would agree with the final sentiments in this article:

* DEFINE and articulate the organization's data management needs

* COMPARE needs against tools to find the closest fit

* DECIDE based on the org's comfort, skills, resources and capacity

* Choose a tool based on data - not your skill set

I would disagree about salesforce not being suitable for small non-profits. In fact, I see it as a great resource for small non-profits. I declare myself to be a salesforce developer, but come from a background of working in the non-profit sector for 15 years.

Here's why I think it's great for small non-profits:

1) Even though you don't pay for the licenses, you get the same level of support and upgrades as a commercial company, all for free. And the support is great.

2) Because it's online, if you don't have an office/server/infrastructure to support a more 'basic' database like something in access, everyone can access it.

3) Because it's easy and flexible to customise, you can get something quite special for not a lot of cash. I'm currently working on a system for an organisation that will handle their online enquiries, event bookings, membership renewals, donations, email marketing, publication orders, and so on for less than £2000.....with no on-going costs.

For example, I implemented a system for a community orchestra last year. They have an income of around £20,000 a year and no staff. Run totally by volunteers (of which I myself was one as a french horn player) they had never had a central database and found it hard to keep track of players, let alone deal with marketing to audience.

Now each member of the committee can access details for players and audience as they need, from their homes/work/internet cafe (where we held many a committee meeting). Potential players can sign up online and the relevant section leader in the orchestra gets an email with the details so they can get in touch and let them know about rehearsals. Those interested in coming along to the next concert can join an email list by filling in an online form. The data arrives in salesforce automatically and the marketing volunteer can see how many times someone has opened an email or clicked on a link.

They can track who's signed up to playing in which concerts. They can segment and target their audiences. And they can link it all in with their google adwords account (which is also free).

Could they have achieved this with any other system? Not one that I'm aware of. Why not? Because now that I'm no longer interested in the group, they can still turn to the Salesforce staff for support and help. So the tool doesn't become a dinosaur the moment the key person leaves.

I still don't think it's appropriate for everyone, and won't just recommend it because it's what I do for a living. If an organisation comes to me and says I want to do X and I don't think salesforce can do that, I'll say so.

But I do think it's a great resource for small non-profits.

p.s. and I tend to avoid the non-profit template, but that's mostly because I work in the UK and Australia and the model for non-profits is just a bit different to that in the US.

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