I used Salesforce several years ago when I was employed at Groundspring.org. I appreciate the power and flexibility of the product. I also applaud the donation of this tool to nonprofits (though no one knows for how long it will remain free, especially if salesforce.com is bought by another company).
For organizations who have the internal technology capacity, comfort and certain needs, salesforce can be a great fit.
What I am talking about here is not the tool itself, but that too frequently I am seeing it being recommended to small and medium sized nonprofits (for me those are orgs under $2 million budget) for whom it is completely inappropriate. I feel this is a disservice to the nonprofit community and specifically the nonprofit technology community.
For most small nonprofits, there is a huge learning curve to get up to speed with the product in any meaningful way. If an organization has never used an integrated data system, it can be overwhelming for staff. Configuration of the software beyond the basics can be incredibly complex - it is not something most small organizations have the capacity to handle well without spending considerable amounts on consulting.
If you have experience with a tool or your organization decides to focus on one tool as a primary solution, that does not mean it is right for all of your clients. It hurts the nonprofit technology community when nonprofits put their trust in organizations and individuals who recommend a tool that isn't appropriate for their client.
More than once I have heard about a nonprofit support organization that seems particularly prone to this behavior. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue - knock on wood.
Do the work that we know is necessary:
* 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