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Salesforce review: Is it a suitable CRM for charities?

Salesforce is undoubtedly a popular piece of CRM software that is applied across a number of sectors.  However, you may be asking the question ‘is Salesforce a CRM for charities?’. And while it can technically be implemented by charity and not for profit organisations, it would be wise to ensure that it is accustomed to your sectors’ niche before you invest in this platform.

In our Salesforce review, we share an insight into this product’s suitability as a CRM software for charities by providing an overview of the key areas of this product, how it performs in relation to these, and a final verdict of whether Salesforce would be a valuable investment for a charity organisation.

10 mins
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Written by James Vjestica

Why choose a CRM software for charities?

There are a number of benefits to implementing a CRM software for charities. Firstly, it is able to both align and enhance the key processes that enable your organisation to successfully gain the interest of supporters, donors, and service users.

Implementing CRM software for charities, rather than a standard CRM platform, can also be highly beneficial for charity organisations as they can experience sector specific benefits such as:

  • Focused donor, event, and volunteer management
  • Access to key donor journey insights
  • Automation capability (e.g. donor engagement email campaigns)
  • Ability to integrate with other relevant charity platforms
  • Prioritise security obligations surrounding your supporters, volunteers, and service users
  • Provide a cost-effective CRM approach determined by the functionality needs of charities

Prior to implementing a CRM for your charity, it’s crucial that you choose a platform that meets your specific requirements. Failing to do so can lead to your organisation not operating to its full potential.

Find out more about the steps you should take prior to implementing a CRM for your charity

How does Salesforce perform as a CRM for charities?

Before deciding to either invest in your first charity CRM or switch to a new platform, there are key areas you should focus on to ensure it meets your requirements. In this segment of our Salesforce review, we outline potential cornerstones you should take into consideration and whether Salesforce successfully meets the criteria of a functioning CRM for charities.

The charity CRM benefits to actively look out for could consist of the following:

A user-friendly platform

An imperative consideration is the simplicity of the CRM’s user-experience. Many charities aren’t as far ahead on their digital maturity journey as corporate organisations, making a less technical piece of software more suitable for their level of experience.

A CRM for charities should therefore ideally be an out-the-box system that includes the desired features to successfully manage your processes from the outset. This should consist of ‘drag and drop’ functionality, whereby you can easily action this yourself and meet your goals, while maintaining your ethos as a charity organisation.

A drag-and-drop approach that a CRM for charities offers would theoretically mean that the level of training you receive shouldn’t be too intensive. Ideally, after covering the necessities, you should then be given the freedom to manage your CRM as you see fit.

Salesforce review: a powerful CRM reflected by its complexity

Salesforce’s popularity is aided by its ability to be implemented across a number of sectors. While it can be customised to meet the niche requirements of a respective sector, it is initially implemented as a standard, out-the-box system that consists of neutral CRM functionality.

Despite out-the-box CRM software commonly depicted as being user-friendly, Salesforce is a large platform that covers a broad range of functionality. Ordinarily, this may not be an issue, but many charity organisations don’t have prior experience with Salesforce. For this reason, the number and complexity of these features can feel overwhelming to organisations within the charity sector.

The features that Salesforce offers covers several areas, including:

  • Sales management
  • Marketing automation
  • Customer service and support
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Real-time analytics

These features can be challenging to understand and may require extensive training and support before you can effectively apply them to your day-to-day processes. Also, customising the CRM to make it charity focused will require additional training to learn these new features. Due to this complexity, it can also be more difficult to implement, with many charities choosing to work with specialist consultants to run their Salesforce project and ongoing support which can be costly.

Provides niche fundraising

An integral part of running a charity is to effectively operate the day-to-day activities that make up the key areas of your organisation such as event management, volunteer management, and fundraising campaigns. With a CRM for charities, you are provided with a range of unique fundraising tools that can help you meet your campaign targets and engage with your supporters more personally.

These tools can include those relating to:

  • Online donation forms - Customisable online donation forms that enable charities to accept donations securely and easily via their website
  • Automated communication - Automate communication with supporters, such as ‘thank you’ emails and personalised email marketing campaigns
  • Event management – Plan, promote, and manage fundraising events to engage with your supporters and increase donations
  • Volunteer management – Manage your volunteer processes such as your database and volunteer adverts

These tools can expand your reach with supporters, helping to achieve your fundraising goals and make a greater impact for your cause.

Salesforce review: A highly customisable platform

One of the main advantages to Salesforce is its impressive range of customisable features. Despite being implemented as a standard out-the-box system, this initial blank canvas that Salesforce provides can be customised to meet the unique requirements of your organisation – including charities.

For example, in addition to the specialist functionality outlined above, other niche features can be customised to include the following:

  • Customised fields
  • Automated workflows
  • Customised reports
  • Customised donation forms

Alongside customisation capability, Salesforce also offers options to integrate with other relevant platforms of all sizes. This is most commonly achieved via their app store, which provides the opportunity to integrate with other third party platforms that can cover additional functionality surrounding:

  • Email marketing
  • Charity CMS systems
  • Social media platforms
  • Project management software
  • Code building customisation

By integrating with third party platforms such as these, it allows you to further customise your CRM beyond the out-the-box parameters that Salesforce initially offers. Taking this approach can provide you with a clearer vision of your charity’s processes by gaining access to additional insights that encourage informed decisions.

The level of flexibility that Salesforce provides is arguably a key reason why it is implemented across a number of sectors, which has undoubtedly led to its impressive level of popularity.

Find out more about charity CRM and website integration

Prioritise donor management

One of the main benefits to implementing a CRM for charities is that it is designed to help you build and maintain long-term relationships with your donors. As it is tailored to the specific requirements of charities by focusing on providing a donor-centric approach, it allows you to plan your day-to-day activities around the interests of your supporters.

This can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Donor profiles – Create detailed donor profiles that include contact information, giving history, and communication preferences to build stronger relationships
  • Donation tracking – Track donations and monitor fundraising progress to identify potential areas for improvement
  • Donor segmentation – Tailor your messaging and fundraising campaigns to specific donor segments based on giving history, demographics, and interests to improve donor engagement and drive donations
  • Donor engagement tracking – Track donor engagement, such as event attendance, volunteer hours, and social media interactions to identify your most engaged donors and build stronger relationships

Overall, a CRM for charities can use donor management to help you build and maintain long-term relationships with donors, while increasing donations and improving donor retention rates. By effectively managing your interactions with donors, you can achieve your mission more effectively.

Salesforce review: A neutral CRM capable of donor management

As outlined in the previous point, although Salesforce is initially implemented as an out-the-box CRM, it can be customised to be more aligned with the charity sector.

Where charities are concerned, donor management plays a key role in your processes and can be a particular focus for your CRM when customising the system. As part of the many customisations you can apply to Salesforce, functionality surrounding tracking your donors and their behaviours can easily be applied via the platform’s app store.

While these customisations are easily achievable, you should be aware that they can be rather expensive (more on this shortly!).

Can offer better value for money

CRM software for charities has been developed specifically for the sector. With this in mind, this niche CRM is generally an out-the-box system made up of user-friendly features that can be directly applied to your charity’s processes.

The alternative to this is to implement a more general CRM that has standard functionality that can be applied across a number of sectors. While this can be beneficial in several areas, it can become very costly when you wish to customise the CRM to your niche requirements.

With a charity CRM, these additional fees can be avoided as the software is built by charity professionals who understand the unique requirements of your sector. In short, a specialist CRM can meet your niche requirements from the outset and serve as a long-term, affordable solution.

Salesforce Review: Customisation can be costly!

While Salesforce’s ability to customise it’s functionality to your requirements has its benefits, this isn’t without expense.

Although Salesforce does offer 10 free licences through its ‘Power of Us’ programme, these offer minimal functionality and will likely require customisable features to meet your requirements. The number of customised features and their level of complexity play a crucial role regarding the factors contributing towards the cost of a CRM for charities, along with:

  • The size of your database
  • The number of users who require a license
  • The number and complexity of integrations
  • The time invested in training

If this expense wasn’t enough of a headache in isolation, these additional costs can be difficult to factor into your budget when implementing a neutral CRM such as Salesforce. Some potential customers will choose Salesforce under the impression that its initial functionality will provide all the desired features they require. The reality of this is that it can often lead to customisation being applied, which will be additional to the initial price they agreed to pay.

The key lesson here is to fully understand your pricing plan from the outset, including any additional costs that may be incurred in the future.

See our clear Access Charity CRM pricing packages

Find out what features our charity CRM can offer your charity or Not For Profit

Our verdict: Is Salesforce a CRM for charities?

The short answer to this is that Salesforce can operate as a CRM for charities.

However, just because something can operate in this fashion, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a suitable piece of CRM software for charities. In the case of Salesforce, you will likely need to invest heavily into this platform when customising it to your liking. As a charity organisation, this may not be a practical use of your budget.

The technicality of Salesforce also cannot be ignored. While there is no doubting Salesforce’s popularity due to its size and adaptability, it can require advanced knowledge to apply it successfully to your processes. As a result, additional time and expense will be required to undergo intensive training in order to learn the system and any additional customised features.

Due to these key factors, while Salesforce is a viable option, you may be better served to opt for a more user-friendly, affordable platform that is built specifically for charities.

Read our Access Charity CRM vs Salesforce guide for more information

Learn more about Access Charity CRM

Prior to implementing a CRM for charities, it’s crucial that you acknowledge the pros and cons of several platforms to avoid choosing an unsuitable piece of software. We strongly recommend that you research a number of potential software alternatives to Salesforce in order to make an informed decision.

However, why not put Access Charity CRM on your list? At Access, our experts are available to answer any questions you may have and assist you with implementing a platform that suits your niche requirements.

Contact our charity CRM team for more guidance and information