Microsoft Invests in Nonprofit CRM

 In Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)

It looks like Microsoft is ready to make a significant investment in Dynamics CRM (now Dynamics 365 for Sales) to make it nonprofit-friendly. Keep reading to learn about the recent developments and why this might be a good thing for the nonprofit sector.

I had the opportunity to attend #18NTC, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, in New Orleans from April 10-12. I find the conference useful for reconnecting with my peers in the nonprofit technology space, as well as for sessions on leadership, change management, and technology, and for dialog with nonprofit tech vendors about the latest and greatest with their products.

The big takeaway: Microsoft is ready to invest in nonprofit CRM

I got many takeaways from this year’s conference, but perhaps most noteworthy was a suggestion from Microsoft that they are investing more in Dynamics CRM to make it work better for nonprofit organizations. To Build Consulting, this is big news.

Out of the box, neither Salesforce Sales Cloud nor Dynamics 365 for Sales is configured in a way that make them useful for fundraising, because they’re built to support business-to-business (B2B) sales. They both require another layer of software or configuration to work for nonprofits, in most cases. So at Build we have advocated for nonprofit-specific solutions on Dynamics for some time, both in the years we’ve been together as Build Consulting and in our careers prior to Build.

Now more than just discounts for nonprofits

During the 25+ years I’ve been working in the space, Microsoft has had more of a charitable model to its involvement in the nonprofit sector, donating money, software, and time. But they have not made it part of their strategy to build nonprofit-specific applications, which stands in stark contrast to Salesforce.org’s approach. Salesforce’s model, including both in-house solution development for nonprofits  and support for the development of partner and user communities, has been transformative for the nonprofit sector over the past 15 years.

Microsoft’s approach seems to be changing. Last Fall, Microsoft formed a new initiative called “Tech for Social Impact” within Microsoft Philanthropies—and at the time, the significance was lost on me. But out of that initiative have come a number of changes. From a blog entry this week mentioning that they are “introducing a nonprofit data schema on Dynamics 365” and the aforementioned suggestion at NTC, it’s clear that we may soon have a powerful new competitor for nonprofit CRM dominance in what often feels like a two-horse race between Salesforce and Blackbaud.

A new desire to find Salesforce platform alternatives

Historically, the scenarios in which Dynamics CRM was the best fit for a nonprofit were relatively limited (in comparison to Salesforce).  Mostly, Dynamics CRM as “best fit” was in cases where the nonprofit required tight integration with Dynamics ERP solutions—such as Great Plains (Dynamics GP) and Solomon (Dynamics SL)—and had no requirement for fundraising functionality. This limitation was due to the relative lack of partners who built nonprofit-specific solutions on Dynamics, plus the lack of a nonprofit community organized around the Dynamics platform. In fact, in my years at NTC I had encountered only one vendor really focused on nonprofit solutions on Dynamics: Altus Dynamics (now Sparkrock).

I have heard rumblings in the sector that this may change soon, with some historically Salesforce-focused app development and consulting firms exploring the potential of the Dynamics platform.

An appeal to Microsoft

Build Consulting hopes this investment in a nonprofit data model and solutions on Dynamics CRM is genuine, sustained, and strategically positioned for success. Why? Competition in the nonprofit technology sector is a very good thing for nonprofits—especially from an entrant like Microsoft.

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