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6 Tips for Deploying Salesforce Across Your Nonprofit


Industry insiders overwhelmingly cite technology as a crucial element of running a successful nonprofit organization and are prioritizing solutions that allow for flexibility and scalability when it comes to building internal and external relationships.

A deeper dive into the philanthropic landscape shows that organizations with multiple chapters are increasingly adopting customer relationship management systems (CRMs) like Salesforce to build “connected nonprofits.” Consolidating to one platform is helping these organizations eliminate the data silos and operational inefficiencies that have long challenged multi-chapter nonprofits. Having a single source of truth also helps improve impact reporting, maximize fundraising efforts, and increase productivity.

If — after carefully considering your goals and requirements — you’ve decided to embrace Salesforce across your entire organization, congratulations! As you enter the implementation phase, here are six key considerations that will help you achieve a streamlined, sanity-checked, and ultimately rewarding deployment.

1) Craft an implementation strategy

One thing is for sure — the platform is not going to manage itself. It’s an absolute must to carefully review the internal and external resources you’ll need to mobilize Salesforce from start to finish. Your implementation plan should break down what needs to be outsourced versus what is best handled in-house. Beyond building and implementing the solution, the right partner can support with assessing needs and prioritizing what to implement and when, as well as change management. However, managing staff adoption, and critical leadership and communications responsibilities are best left in-house. A phased rollout approach often proves beneficial, especially for nonprofits lacking internal staff with significant fundraising software experience. Launching two to three chapters at a time will help you manage the workload, while still leaving time to thoughtfully digest learnings and support any team concerns. One last word of advice when it comes to your plan: Don’t forget to designate who will manage the platform after implementation. In a perfect world, before you launch, you’ll have already established critical leadership and communications responsibilities for post-rollout operations. You’ll also want to have at least one internal team member in place as your skilled, dedicated database administrator.

2) Find the right partner

Technical consulting partnerships are a two-way street. Most nonprofits can’t implement Salesforce without contracting a partner who specializes in setting up and tailoring the CRM to meet current and future needs. On the other side of the coin, it’s tough for partners to do their jobs without an internal leader guiding them through any organizational bureaucracy. During your search, prioritize partners who show a propensity to really get to know and understand the unique needs of your organization, align with your values, have documented experience, and supply references from other projects.

3) Nurture internal evangelists

If you’re rolling out Salesforce to multiple chapters, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Especially during a phased launch, you want to keep the positive momentum going as staff and volunteers learn and adapt to new processes and tools. This is where cultivating internal “Salesforce ambassadors” can come in handy. Encourage early adopters to talk to their peers about their positive experiences, explaining how the solution increased productivity, revenue, or peace of mind. You’ll realize greater buy-in and increased adoption as a result.

4) Train early and often

On average, Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud customers realize a 48% increase in constituent conversions, a 31% boost in donor retention, and a 31% decrease in service costs. Unfortunately, the 2020 NonProfit Trends Report also showed that less than one quarter of the nonprofits surveyed actually had a long-term strategy and vision for how technology would actually be used in their organization. One of the biggest risks to successful nonprofit technology adoption stems from a failure to provide team members with timely, personalized, and robust training. When introducing a new solution, it’s essential to provide meaningful instruction, followed by regular updates as new tools are leveraged. When you first launch Salesforce, it’s paramount to invest in your team’s ability to use the platform before a knowledge crisis occurs. Invest in full-day training seminars, video sessions, manuals, and peer-to-peer sessions. What’s more, understand that technology lives and breathes as you adapt it to new use cases, so your training protocol should never be a one-and-done process. Plan for regular adoption checks and refresher courses personalized to various user teams.

5) Have patience and offer support

Remember, patience is key when introducing change and working towards long-term goals –– especially when those goals will have a significant impact. You may be working with technology, but you’re relying upon humans to accept and smoothly operate your new platform. While resistance and fear is a natural byproduct of change management, your implementation team and ambassadors can help instill excitement by staying focused on the outcome and by being patient with both the people and the process. It will take time to get your new system up and running. Expect it to be an iterative process rather than a singular event. And make sure to give team members ready access to centralized support where they can go with questions or concerns. Creating an intake process for new requests and a triage workflow for bugs and breaks will win your new CRM a lot of goodwill.

6) Establish parameters

In addition to offering users plentiful support, it’s also important to manage internal expectations for customization requests from the get-go. Requests for unique setups are particularly bountiful in multi-chapter nonprofits, where stakeholders are anxious to personalize the platform to their specific use cases. The reality is that excessive modifications to your Salesforce could in the best-case scenario result in a host of functions that must be managed yet are very rarely used. The worst-case scenario? Decreased functionality and performance due to clogs in your workflow, user confusion, and support team frustration.

Having a tool like Salesforce serving as a central source of truth will help build a truly connected nonprofit, and help drive performance across your most critical impact areas. Just keep in mind, when it’s not implemented correctly, it can have the opposite effect. Take the time to create a plan and find the right partner.