Ask the Experts: State of the Nonprofit CRM Market (Video, Podcast, Transcription)

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The State of the Nonprofit CRM Market

The competition in the nonprofit CRM market has become increasingly fierce over the past couple of years. The number of viable competitors has increased, and their systems present a wide range of different features for you to consider. 

This situation has raised many questions from our clients, including: 

  • What are the types of CRMs on the market for nonprofits? 
  • What are the key differentiators between major CRM products? 
  • What are the vendors and CRM systems my organization should know about? 
  • Are there true competitors available that should be considered against industry stalwarts like Blackbaud and Salesforce? What about Microsoft? 
  • How do I know if my organization could benefit from a new CRM—or when we should pump the brakes on moving to a new one? 

Build Consulting nonprofit CRM experts David Deal and Kyle Haines answer these questions, as well as questions submitted by registrants, in this October 2019 webinar that is part of our popular “Ask the Experts” series.

Learn more about the nonprofit CRM market and how increased competition and new platforms will impact your organization!

Resources mentioned in the webinar:


  • David Deal Partner

    David co-founded Build Consulting in 2015, building on over 20 years of deep experience in the nonprofit technology sector. His work for Build’s clients has a broad focus spanning many operational areas including fundraising, program and case management, human resources, accounting, and many others.  More »

  • Kyle Haines Partner

    Kyle is a co-founding partner at Build Consulting with over 25 years of experience as a nonprofit technology leader and Chief Information Officer (CIO). His expertise lies in aligning technology to drive impact, foster strong relationships with constituents, and optimize organizational operations. More »


Peter Mirus:  Hello, everyone, and welcome to our webinar for October 2019, titled “The State of the Nonprofit CRM Market,” which is a part of our Ask the Expert series of webinars.  In this webinar two Build Consulting’s experts will be answering the questions you submitted regarding the CRM market for nonprofits.  You can read more information about this topic in our blog; a link will be provided near the end of the webinar (links provided above) and if your specific question wasn’t addressed during today’s session, please do contact us for an answer.  Links for contact methods will also appear at the end of the webinar.

Just a few housekeeping notes before we get started, you can ask questions via chat.  We have of course, some questions from registrants that we’re going to be answering during the course of this webinar that we’ve pre-scripted, but we also may have some time for Q&A at the end, so feel free to post in your questions and we will hope to get some of them.

Avoid multitasking; you may just miss the best part of the presentation.  And as always, links to the recordings and slides will be shared after the webinar.  If you’ve registered, you’ll receive an email with access to that information.  We’ve also started posting mp3’s and transcripts.  A lot of these episodes make good sort of podcast listening as well. So we try to make it available to consume in other ways.

Just a little bit about Build Consulting before we get started here.  We work exclusively with nonprofit organizations.  We help our clients make data and tech decisions that support our mission–their mission, and we have a collaborative approach.  We really work with you, integrated with your team, which helps you to make informed choices that you can really own on behalf of your organizations.

We lead in the social good sector by providing five primary services.

  • Assessments and roadmaps, whether you want to assess your entire Information Technology landscape, or just one particular area of need;
  • we facilitate software selections going beyond requirements definition to really understanding how new tech will change your organization.
  • And with the implementation support, we leverage our project leadership and change management to help align your stakeholders’ policy operations, processes and data so that you can really be successful with your new tech.
  • We serve as interim or part time Chief Information Officers for nonprofits working collaboratively with your leadership to create an environment that leverages data and tech to produce outcomes.
  • And with our outsourced CRM management we help take care of your data management, so you can focus on creating stronger constituent relationships.

All of our services are designed to help clients transform themselves to better serve constituents of all types including funders, donors, program beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, board committee members, and the general public.

Essentially what we want to communicate to all of our clients and to the nonprofit community in general is contained in this formula, which is OO + NT = EOO, or translated Old Organization + New Technology = Expensive Old Organization.  We really want to underscore that as much as new technology can help, if the organization stays in the past while the technology moves forward, it’s not going to be successful, and transformation is critical to your success.

And (3:36) this is what successful transformation includes for Build Consulting and this is the framework that we apply to every tech project that we engage in on behalf of our nonprofit clients.

Just some quick introductions, my name is Peter Mirus, and I’m serving as the moderator for today’s discussion.  I’m happy to welcome two of my colleagues from Build Consulting, who will be serving as our panel for today’s session.  These are Kyle Haines and David Deal, each of which has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit tech and CRM.  Kyle, will you please take a moment to introduce yourself?

Kyle Haines:  Sure, thanks.  So, this is Kyle, I don’t know who picked a picture of me where I forgot to either use too much hair gel or not enough hair gel that day, but we’ll fix that for the next webinar.

So I started in nonprofit tech, as Peter said about 25 years ago, and there are a couple of reasons that I’m excited to be on the webinar today.  The first is: I really like to talk, so this is an opportunity to get to do that.  And then the second one is that for me, when I get to talk about technology that directly impacts how your constituents experience your organization,  those are some of my favorite topics to talk about.  So, I really appreciate being asked to be a panelist today and I’m excited to hear what you have to say, David and hear also what you have to say, Peter.

Peter Mirus:  And David, will you please introduce yourself?

David Deal:  Thanks.  Yeah, I am one of the founding partners at Build Consulting.  I’m previously the founder of Community IT and chair of the board there.  My entire career has been in nonprofit technology.  I now work as an outsourced CIO for clients at Build Consulting.  My first CRM selection was over 20 years ago. At the time, we probably would have called it a donor management system.  CRM software has come a long way since then and we’re in the midst of maybe the most rapid innovation in CRM software, ever.  So, I’m really excited to share some of my perspective on that today, so thanks for having me.

Peter Mirus:  Thanks, Kyle, and David.  Now we’d like to share a little information about you registrants for the webinar.  We received 20 excellent questions in advance from registrants.  There were 90 registrants–just over 90 registrants and we have 30 attending live today.  Thank you for participating.

We gathered some information about you during the registration process.  One of the things that we wanted to share is just some of the CRM tools, the different organizations that registered for the webinar are using; you can see there’s quite a diverse set.  These are not all of the ones that were named in the registrations, but some of them that came up more than once.  And then these are some of the types of roles that are held by some of the registrants for today’s webinar and nonprofit organizations just so you can get a sense of who else is in the audience and what your peers are doing inside of their organizations to the extent that the title ever really conveys what we do.

And we want  to give you a sense of the number of registered–the size of the organizations that are registered and you can see that the largest group is 1 to 20 employees, but there’s also some pretty large organizations that have registered for this webinar and will be–are either attending or will be consuming the content after the fact, so it’s a pretty diverse group, but generally speaking, mostly 100 employees or less.

And we’re hoping to just to ask a couple of quick poll questions here that you can interact with.  So we can learn a little bit more about each other before we get into the meat of the presentation and help us to also tune our answers a little bit more to your needs.  So I’m going to be trying to go to webinar polling for the first time here, so bear with me if it doesn’t work out all that well.

So the first question is,- Are you attending as an employee or representative of the nonprofit, vendor or other, just to get an idea of where our audience is at? I see the answers are coming in now.  (7:39) So, looks like we’ve got about an even split between nonprofits and vendors coming in, and about 15% other, maybe a few more vendors, than nonprofit folks, so that’s good.

And next, we want to know:  If you are a nonprofit, this is a question just for the nonprofits,- Are you currently considering getting a new CRM? Yes or no?

See the answers coming in here.  Give it another few seconds, looks like a good percentage of the audience is interested in least speculatively considering a new CRM, and by that we mean you know, both new entirely to your organization or to replace an existing CRM system, so that’s good–it’s good to know.

And then finally, if you are a nonprofit, – Do you currently have Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM as part of your ecosystem? The reason we’re asking this question is because it’s helpful to know whether people are using sort of best of breed individual products for particular reasons and/or if they have some sort of broadly capable CRM platform and Salesforce and Dynamics CRM being two of the prominent ones in that space right now.  Looks like about 27% of the nonprofits attending have Salesforce, that’s no surprise if you have Dynamic CRM, and that the majority of the audience don’t have either, so that’s good to know.  Thank you for sharing that information.

(9:51) And now we’re going to get to your questions and as we do so, we’re going to be answering them in the form of an informal collaborative discussion.  We’re not going to be entirely comprehensive in our answers probably to any given question because of the format of this presentation.  But if you’d like, again, a comprehensive answer to a particular question or something that speaks more directly to your individual situation, please do contact us and we’ll be happy to dialogue with you.  We’re constantly engaging with nonprofits in the sector outside of the context of client relationships, so we’re happy to do that.

Just a quick framing question to get started and a lot of people touched on this.  What exactly do you mean by CRM? (10:29)  So I’m going to answer this one.  This is the one question that I’m going to answer and as we all know, CRM can have a broad range of definitions where the ‘C’ might stand for customer, contact, clients, or constituent and the term CRM might refer to a focus specific product or a broadly capable platform.  And so for the purposes of today’s webinar, we are referring to CRM as constituent relationship management broadly considered and constituent relationship management writ large.  And in constituents, what do we mean by constituents? Well, that could include any individuals in your nonprofit’s ecosystem: donors, funders, volunteers, service recipients, program beneficiaries, even staff, etc.  So, we’re taking a very broad definition of CRM as we talk about the state of the market.

So the first question from registering that we want to tackle is, What are the major CRM product categories? How should we sort of be viewing the landscape at a macro level? (11:34) And to answer this question, I’m going to turn first to you Kyle, and see how you would lead off and answering this question, and then we’ll bring David and then get his thoughts.

Kyle Haines:  Sure thing.  You alluded to it actually, in your definition of CRM, and I think that when I started it was a fairly narrow definition, but as you said, it’s really come to encompass a number of different types of products.  But I think to simplify for today, the way that I might think about it would be sort of applications that are best of breed, so in the fundraising world, those might be things like Classy or Donor Perfect or the Raiser’s Edge.  And I think, at the time that I entered the profession, that was sort of your only option other than a custom option.

And then the second one, which you alluded to, or at least asked folks about in some of the intro/polling questions, are platforms, and those things would be things like Salesforce, which I think there are about 20% of folks on today’s call, who are nonprofits, who are using Salesforce or increasingly, Microsoft Dynamics.  And I think I also would include in that some of the applications that have been built specifically to work in Salesforce or specifically built to work in Dynamics, that would work for specific parts of your organization.  And for me, a platform, what that means is that something has already apps that are built on it or can integrate with it. And it also means that you can build your own applications on it, your own functionality on it.  But what it doesn’t mean is that it’s just an all-in-one application that does everything.  I think that’s something we try to remind our prospective clients and folks that we interact with that just by going to Salesforce or just by going to Dynamics, it doesn’t mean that it natively has everything that you need.  And that’s how I think about the major CRM product categories.

David Deal:  I’ll go ahead and add a couple to these, Kyle.  You started to allude to what I call all-in-one applications and I think of these as being distinct from the platform (Salesforce and Dynamics).  We see this historically with CRMs that smaller organizations may use something like Zoho, for example.  And we’re starting to see it more commonly with solutions that target other nonprofits.  I’m thinking applications like Neon or Salsa or Every Action is a really interesting company that’s making a notable play here to be an all-in-one CRM, fundraising, advocacy and marketing automation solution.  And of course, it’s been a common approach in the Association sector for a long time with AMS software.  And then, you know, the last category Kyle, you briefly mentioned that custom built software, we’re really not talking about this too much in today’s discussion, it’s really reserved for only the largest nonprofits, the most unique situations, and I’m really differentiating this from what I’d call semi-custom applications that might be built on a platform like Salesforce or Dynamics.  Yes, they’re somewhat custom, but yes, they’re also accomplished through kind of configuration as opposed to really intense coding.

Kyle Haines:  Something you mentioned, David, I think that resonated with me that I think it is interesting is when you talk about custom built software, the increasingly infrequent times that I hear people talking about that and people really moving in the direction of either a platform or something like a best of breed application.

David Deal:  Yeah, good point.  In fact, I can’t say I’ve seen a use case for it anytime in recent years.

Peter Mirus:  Great, thank you, and the next question from the registrants were, “What’s better and all in one product or a variety of solutions that feed into one database of record?” (15:38) David, why don’t we go to you first with this one?

David Deal:  Sure, and I also wanted to mention that this was asked in some other ways by other registrants, someone asked, “Do you recommend using the same CRM for program data collection, analytics, and also sales and fundraising?”  And someone else asked, “When are all in-one solutions relevant?” So first, I would just say, it’s really not an either or between all-in-one or a variety of solutions.  There’s also I put the platform approach as something distinct from both of those, so we have best of breed, we have platform, and we have the all in one approach.

So, I really think about those three categories and I would say, you know, it depends on the organization, What do they have now for software? How attached are specific departments to their existing software? I will for purposes of answering this question, assume that, you know, a nonprofit that’s thinking about making a switch, you know, historically, many of those have taken a best of breed approach.  That’s historically been more common.  So how attached are specific departments to their best to breed software? How sophisticated is their use of that software?  If departments’ use of the software is less sophisticated, or they’re less attached to it, then I think a platform may be a good choice.

I will say I think in my experience, it’s generally a little easier to centralize consolidate your data on a platform rather than building integrations between best of breed applications.  I think another instance in which a platform can be a good choice if your business requirements are highly unique, and inflexible, because a platform provides the flexibility to handle these unique needs.  So most often this would be a solution like Salesforce or Dynamics CRM.  Occasionally, though, you may find a best of breed solution, that is sufficiently flexible to handle those requirements.

On the other hand, if departments are attached to their best of breed software or if they use it in really sophisticated ways, I would say: look at options to integrate these best of breed solutions.  It really takes a lot of effort and time and cost to switch from solutions that are working really well, for departments and there needs to be a compelling business reason to do that.  So instead of moving them off of that software, look for options to integrate it.  So there are multiple ways to get a 360 degree view of your constituents, not only the platform approach, but integrating best of breed solutions is a way to do that.

There really are a couple of ways you might go about that.  One is a direct integration between best of breed solutions, you can use middleware products, such as Workato, MuleSoft, Azure logic apps.  There’s one called Frakture, which is an interesting middleware plus data warehouse option specifically designed for nonprofits.  You’ve got Omatic, which is middleware for Blackbaud solutions.  Zapier is a consumer grade option, that’s really been gaining lots of traction and it’s growing into a business class solution, so middleware is one way to go about integrating best of breed solutions and really, the other option is the data warehouse approach.  So a data warehouse is something that pulls together data from multiple systems into a single location that’s often used for analytics and reporting.  I mentioned Frakture as an example before nonprofit focus software that does this.  And there’s something else really interesting is Microsoft’s Common Data Service, which is a very interesting play in that area, where data from solutions hosted on Microsoft Azure, are integrated with Dynamics CRM, especially if it’s written to one of their common data models like the nonprofit CDM, (the nonprofit common data model) solutions that are hosted there that integrate with that, their data is made accessible to tools like Power BI and I find that fascinating as an approach for consolidating data, so I’ll stop there.

Kyle Haines:  The way I mean, I think that’s all some of those things I hadn’t really considered in quite that light, and I just–if I can learn on this call, whether it’s Zapier or Xavier, I know I will have come away learning something new.

But I mean, one thing that I think about is, if I think about for a specific organization, and I think about the constituents that they interact with, and I was thinking about a Venn diagram, how many different departments share responsibility for engaging and managing constituent relationships.  And if there’s a high degree of overlap, for me as a general rule, and as a generalization, for sure, I think that’s a play for potentially an all-in-one product or a platform. Because, it’s critical that we all act in a coordinated way around a specific relationship.  If the overlap is a little bit less, there’s only a small set of relationships, that we have a shared responsibility for managing and engaging with and the impetus for having that information synchronized in real time is relatively low, then it might be a play for a variety of solutions that really meet the needs of each individual department.  And then David, you talked about a number of ways in which you can focus on sharing information and data between those systems.  I would, you know, in looking through the questions beforehand, somebody asked a specific question about “What’s involved in the management of Salesforce?” and, you know, for those of you who are not familiar with Salesforce that would be more of a platform approach.  And what we talked about before we joined the call was that if you are considering a move to something like Salesforce or Dynamics, you need to think about who is going to serve as the administrator and consider outsourcing that either in a part time way, or with multiple folks, depending on how big your organization is, or how large your implementation is.  And then another question was specifically for someone who is new to Salesforce, and what training might look like and I think that really depends, we talked about this beforehand, but it depends on what your flavor of Salesforce is and one thing that we can say for certain is you’ll want custom training that is built around how people work rather than a generic training that simply orients them to what Salesforce can do or what Salesforce does.

Peter Mirus:  Kyle, since we’re talking about Salesforce here, I’m going to sneak in a question from the audience and that is,”What is the future for the NGO Connect product within Salesforce?” (22:54)

Kyle Haines:  That is a really good question and I don’t know the answer.  But that’s a question, so David and I are actually going to be at Dreamforce in November and that’s a question that I’d like to ask of Salesforce themselves.  For those of you who are not familiar with NGO Connect, it is a product that was developed initially by a company called roundCorner and it has since been acquired by Salesforce and so I can provide some context, but I don’t have a really current update on what the future of that product is.  I don’t know David if you do?

David Deal:  Yeah, you know, I think I’ll just mention here that there are several fundraising applications on Salesforce.  So whenever someone says they have Salesforce, the next question is usually, you know, what are you running on Salesforce to do your fundraising, it could be Luminate CRM, it could be Causeview, could be Affinaquest, could be NGO Connect, and more and more recently, it could be the Nonprofit Success Pack.  So Salesforce has invested a lot in recent years on building that up to be a more robust fundraising solution.  I think it marked a real change in strategy for them a couple of years ago when they really staffed up to build out NPSP and my impression right now is that all roads in Salesforce kind of lead to NPSP, and maybe some vendors who aren’t too happy to hear that, but I feel like just the buzz in the community, I feel like what Salesforce companies are leading with is really NPSP at this point.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean, I think I have a question about I think that’s totally accurate and I think that I have a question about whether that ultimately serves the needs of nonprofits, because there are other products out there.  But I think you’re absolutely right, that Salesforce increasingly has picked a direction and that direction is NPSP.

Peter Mirus:  I will also add that whenever NGO Connect has come across my screen–or my radar screen over the last couple of years, it’s primarily been through orgs that implemented it and want to get off of it because it was such a bad experience, or are looking to do some sort of fresh look reimplementation of it to try to get their problems sorted out, so that’s a limited sample.

David Deal:  I will just add one more thing here that Salesforce has only–I’ve only seen it as a fundraising solution in really large nonprofits on a few occasions, it’s a bit newer to that space and the ones I have seen have predominantly been NGO Connect.  So that was their enterprise fundraising solution that they put forward for, you know, for some time now, and I think they’re really positioning NPSP to fill more of that role.

Peter Mirus:  Cool.  Next question, “What are the key differentiators between the major CRMs these days? Why would I want one over another?” (26:01) Kyle, let’s go to you on this one.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean, another way to think about this, I think, earlier, I talked about this idea of a Venn diagram.  I think another way that I might think about how to differentiate various competitors would be first, What is the orientation of the organization? Is it primarily a fundraising organization?  There is an organization that I serve as the CIO of that is primarily a fundraising organization, more than half the staff works in fundraising, and so that’s a compelling reason to go in a certain direction in terms of the strength of a specific CRM solution. In this case, it’s the Raiser’s Edge.  In another organization, fundraising might be only a small piece, I can think of clients that we’ve had that have hundreds of employees and there’s three or four people that live in fundraising, because their revenue sources come from government or from other sources and so for them, I might move in a direction where the emphasis was managing relationships across departments and managing relationships in a holistic integrated way.  And so the other thing I might add would be, if you’re talking about fundraising, specifically: What’s the product that’s going to support the emphasis of your organization?  So if you’re a major gifts organization, it’s going to be really important that functionality is emphasized. If you rely on events or peer to peer events, those are going to be important considerations.  And if you’re an advocacy organization that ultimately leads to fundraising, that might move–that might push you in a different direction.

David Deal:  Yeah, so I think I’ll add here, just kind of extend what you said, Kyle, the products are really built to support specific functions, and so is it built to do advocacy and organizing? Or do they integrate with something else that provides that?

If you’re looking at fundraising at that scale, do you have a solution that supports complex multi-channel segmentation of your donors and prospects? Is it built to work with mail houses, caging companies? If I’m a school, you know, the CRM I might look for as a school is a student information system and there are lots of options out there for that.

Other differentiators: Is digital fundraising built in? For donation pages, event registration, peer to peer fundraising: Is marketing automation built in? Or does it integrate with the marketing automation solution that you may already be attached to? I’m also seeing SMS and tighter integration with that by different tools.  I’m seeing more social integration: What does it offer for integration with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.? and AI has been a hot thing in the past couple of years. How does a CRM leverage artificial intelligence to help with tasks like identifying prospects or tailoring your outreach to those prospects?

And then finally, you know, What does it look like to extend the CRMs capabilities to integrate with other solutions for things like program management or service management? Usually, that either requires a custom build on a platform. I see a lot of that – people building out on Salesforce, also Microsoft Dynamics 365, custom–semi-custom solutions to manage their programs or manage the services that they’re providing or you can integrate with a purpose built solution for human services, case management, for example, ETO Apricot, City-Core, now part of Neon One, Client Track, Exponent Case Management, and things like this.

And then, final thing I’ll say here is, how does it integrate with your ERP or finance solution? Raiser’s Edge, for example, has tight integration with Financial Edge.  Sometimes that uses something called Omatic, but we often see Salesforce integrating with Intact or sometimes NetSuite, and then Dynamics CRM has several integration options with Dynamics ERP Solutions.  In general, though, we’ll see this CRM to ERP finance integration utilizing middleware.

So, I think a lot of vendors are really currently exploring how to more seamlessly integrate finance plus CRM plus rogram data, to really better relate things like revenue to costs to outcomes.  But really for now, I think that takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, whatever approach you take to those things, it’s kind of the holy grail that I feel like a lot of companies are after right now – tying those three things together.

Kyle Haines:  Peter, if I could just add something based on what you just said, David, I mean, something that I think is interesting is, when organizations in general are pursuing something like: we need this CRM to integrate with our finance system.  In general, organizations tend to do a significant amount of due diligence around that, like, we want to make sure that is going to work.  What does that look like? Who are other organizations that have done that, but you mentioned something earlier around marketing automation, which that holds some interest–I should say, it holds a great deal of interest for me, because it’s critical that those–that system is well integrated with CRM, because that really is the engine by which constituents are going to experience your organization, it’s how you are going to communicate with them and increasingly, when you talk about things like social media, it’s how you listen to them, and you have a conversation.  So the point that I probably am taking too long to get to is that many organizations take it on blind faith, when vendors tell them that they have Marketing Automation Solutions, that they just integrate with their CRM, and they make assumptions, that those integrations are robust or well defined, and that hasn’t been my experience and so I would encourage people who are listening today, to spend equal amounts of time on those areas marketing and marketing automation as they would with any other system they’d want to integrate with CRM.  So I just want to hit on that point because I had a light bulb go off as you were talking.

Peter Mirus:  I think those are great answers and yeah, a lot of my clients where I’ve worked with CRM over the past, I would say even five years are primarily focused not on the core sort of constituent record management functionality, but how that relates to marketing automation, including as pertains to outcomes measurement, sort of being able to measure different checkpoints along the marketing funnel and see what’s being successful and what’s not.  As well as just the idea of increasing the fidelity of the data connection between the CRM and the ERP. Those are areas on which I spend a lot of time, so I think those are really good points.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I think it’s actually–it’s interesting the number of times that the marketing department is the driver to get a new CRM They’re the ones who are agitating for it, which sometimes that’s very well founded and it’s not a reason not to do it.  But again, just make sure that the promises that a vendor makes around the extent of integration are actually borne out in reality.

Peter Mirus:  That’s a good segue into the next question, which is: “How do I know if my organization could benefit from a new CRM?” (34:24) Kyle?

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean, that’s a really good question and that’s something I think what I would underpin in my answer is that – for most organizations, the answer to that question should be answered by the organization, rather than by an individual department.  And so, I would encourage that as anyone was considering that, that they engage as many folks as possible in answering that question, but I might add to that, that things that might drive me to recommend moving would be things like, does it just by making a move can I actually tie that to better outcomes? Can I tie that to raising more revenue? I in my experience, making the argument that technology is simply out of date or something is new and shinier, those aren’t compelling reasons to make the move, because there will always be something new and shiny.  I think that because these switches take so much blood, sweat, and tears, it’s not always a straightforward question to answer.

And maybe I might say there are three signs your organization could benefit.

One is you’re losing revenue or there’s an opportunity to generate more revenue.

The second would be the organization is flailing or failing your constituents and it’s not able to meet constituents where they are.

And the last one would be that you’re a growing organization and the new CRM, in order for you to grow, it’s incumbent upon you to make a switch.  But if the CRM is supposed to drive any of those things in of its own, or on its own, then that’s probably not a reason to make a switch.

David Deal:  I’ll just add, I feel like we do encounter a fair number of organizations that start with the specifics of what they want a new CRM to do and they want to immediately go look for vendors who promised that they can do it better, they want to do demos, get that new software, and our experience has really been that when the organization can take a step back and answer not only why, but most importantly, What’s the plan to benefit from this new technology? Those are the nonprofits that are the most successful at making an effective switch.  So that’s where Build starts, when we engage with clients around a potential CRM replacement.  Why do you want this? What business value is it going to provide? And what’s the plan to really benefit from a new CRM?

Peter Mirus:  Well, next question is, oh, this is doozy. “How do I handle internal pressure from my organization to change our CRM system?” (37:37) Kyle?

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I think that this–I think, as a CIO, you’re getting pressure to change everything from the computers that are deployed to people to changing systems and it’s tough because that pressure comes from above you in terms of the board potentially pressuring you to make a switch – they saw something, they read something, they heard from someone about a new software solution, and it also comes from your colleagues and peers, and from the people who are actually using the CRM solution.

And David mentioned and asked the question, Why? And I think it’s important to get to the why and once you answer the why, I try to answer “How are we going to make this switch?” and getting the organization to understand that it is a sizable switch.  It’s a sizable investment of time and energy, and that we need to spend time planning for it and for resourcing it.  These are not switches that people do in their free time.

At nonprofits, I have not encountered anyone who’s craving more work, because they have a ton of free time and certainly as a CIO, you’re not in that position either.  And so, I think that really answering the question about how you’re going to make this switch and defining it and resourcing it is critical and that’s one question that I would ask of any organization, and that can help alleviate some of the pressure that you’re getting.

And I think the other thing that I’ve mentioned, is that oftentimes, people view these solutions, “We need to move to Microsoft,” or “We need to move to Salesforce,” it’s going, “We’re going to collaborate more on relationships and it’s the software that has been the barrier to this!” and I haven’t encountered many organizations where that’s the only thing going on.  Oftentimes, there are other parts of the organizational DNA that are not supporting effective relationship management.

My colleagues at Build know that I love making analogies.  So here’s one: if my wife and I aren’t communicating effectively, I hope she’s not coming home with a new iPhone with the idea that that’s going to help us communicate more effectively.  It’s some other problem.  And getting to the root of why we’re not communicating effectively is the first step before we make any technology purchases, or any organization makes one, so back to the question around handling internal pressure.  Many of the organizations that we work with, we introduce an information strategy framework that we use and I’m wondering if that wouldn’t be helpful for the person who asked the question: using our information strategy white paper. Because it actually prompts you to think about the things that need to be in place for technology to be successful.  And as you read it, what you’ll see is that we put technology last intentionally and I’m wondering, Peter, if perhaps in the follow up after the webinar, we can send folks a link, so they can download it if they find it helpful.  But I use that all the time when I’m presenting my findings and results of our assessments, because it introduces all of the things that need to be in place for a technology change or a CRM system change.

Peter Mirus:  Yeah, thanks, and we just got a comment from somebody on the audience that said, “This is a fantastic webinar!”  Thanks for that feedback, very much appreciated.

Kyle: Was it David?

Peter: So I think we need to start moving a little bit more quickly, if we’re going to make it to the end, especially if you want to have a little bit more time for questions.  But the next question is: “What vendors and CRM systems should my org know about? What are the most popular CRMs?” (41:48)

You’ve mentioned a number of different types of products within different category so far, David, what would you add in answering this question?

David Deal:  So I just want to say as a caveat before providing this answer, that the market is changing so rapidly, that I think it’s really important not only to develop good requirements, having a really good sense of what you need before you start looking.  But then when you do start looking for potential vendors, do it through multiple channels.  Talk to colleagues, talk to peer communities, do internet searches, go to conferences. The CRM solution you looked at two years ago, may now be much better or much worse relative to the current capabilities of other solutions on the market. So that being said, I’ll talk about some common solutions we see by category.

So, first fundraising at large scale, we will often see Blackbaud CRM (BB CRM), we will see ROI.  We’re beginning to see some Salesforce in large nonprofits as well for fundraising scale.  For mid-sized nonprofits Raiser’s Edge has long been a go to solution. Salesforce, the Salesforce community seems to be converging on NPSP, in my opinion, but there are certainly other Salesforce fundraising applications.  There are a lot of options here and I’ll just say, please see our blog for more of the mid-market fundraising options.

When it comes to digital and online fundraising by which I mean donation pages, peer to peer fundraising, event registration and management.  Some solutions are going to have that built in, and some CRMs are going to integrate with tools like Classy, Team Raiser, Rally Bound, now a product of Neon One, Click and Pledge, Donor Drive, Qgiv, Kindful, or others I’ll point you to another blog post and there’s a long list of those.  I feel like a lot of investment has been going in that space recently and there are a lot of vendors competing for your attention there, but tons of options, which I love. It’s a very competitive market right now.

Every Action, I’ll say, I mentioned them earlier.  They’re making some very interesting moves as both an all-in-one CRM plus advocacy and organizing plus digital engagement and digital fundraising, and as not only kind of that all-in-one solution, but also as a digital engagement front end for Salesforce and Raiser’s Edge.  So the reason I mentioned them, is they received a large investment, I think it was about a year ago, sometime pretty recently in the big scheme of things.  They’ve made several acquisitions, BSD tools, action kit, some really strong software that they’ve acquired, they now have hundreds of employees, and they’re building out their solution quickly.  So I’m definitely following every action very closely.

Neon, I feel like has made some interesting moves after some VC funding led to the formation of Neon One, which then acquired CiviCore, which I’m familiar with for their human services case management, their mentoring, and their grant tracking, and Neon One also acquired Rallybound, which provides some of the online fundraising capabilities.

Solutions for email marketing, you know, some of the solutions have this built in at this point.  If they don’t, and Salesforce and Raiser’s Edge do not have email marketing built in, what do they integrate with? Do they integrate with MailChimp, Constant Contact, Marketing Cloud?  I’m going to point out even though Marketing Cloud is a Salesforce product, it is not built into Salesforce, it was an acquisition.  It’s a separate product that is integrated with Salesforce, but it is separate.  Luminate Online, those are solutions that you might integrate with your CRM.  And then other solutions, like EveryAction they’re building in.  Email marketing and marketing automation, it’s also built into solutions like Salsa, Neon, and some others.

Finally, I’ll just say for advocacy and organizing, one person asked about options that work for organizations that do in-person community organizing and don’t assume that all relationships are donation driven.  It’s a great point, I look to solutions, like EveryAction, Salsa, NationBuilder, or other digital engagement tools that really serve as the online front end and integrate with the backend CRMs.  I’m thinking solutions like Engaging Networks, Springboard, Soapbox, and then also previously BSD tools, and Action Kit, now both of which are part of EveryAction.

So that’s a lot of solutions by category, I will–we talked about Salesforce and fundraising solutions for organizations of various sizes and I think Salesforce has some great advantages, including lots of companies that are building on or integrating with it, lots of companies, systems integrators, who can help you to tailor it to your needs, as well as lots of end users, people who are familiar with it, who connect online and offline to find ways to leverage it better.  I think those are all huge advantages for Salesforce.

I think Blackbaud, I’ll just call out that they have an ecosystem of products for nonprofits of all sizes for fundraising and most people think of fundraising, I feel like when they think of Blackbaud, but also higher Ed, arts, and theater, grant making, religious organizations, data enhancement, payment processing, it’s really an all-in-one type approach.  So yeah, that’s just a quick scan of what vendors I feel like you should know about.

Peter Mirus:  One of our audience members asked if we encounter HubSpot, what we think of HubSpot in the nonprofit space, do you have a perspective on that? (47:36)

David Deal:  Yeah, I have not worked with HubSpot firsthand.  I have seen proposals for it.  At my previous company before Build, we considered HubSpot for a bit.  I think it’s a highly capable tool.  I think it’s also a significant investment.  But if you have really, you know, fairly sophisticated needs and want to tie some of your sophisticated marketing efforts into a CRM approach, and then I think HubSpot can be really helpful.

Peter Mirus:  Kyle?

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, I mean, I don’t have experience with it and I think I’ve seen it once or twice as well.  I would, you know, just as a bit of advice, I don’t know if that was embedded in the question per se, but one of the things I think we often consider when we’re doing selections is: what is the ecosystem of support around a specific product? So if an organization was considering HubSpot, I would want to say: Who else is going to stand with me? Who else has experience with this? Who can I rely on for support? Who can I go to for custom development? Is there an active community around folks using it well? Those would be things that I would consider in evaluating something like HubSpot and that’s not a comment on its functionality, but more of a comment on how many of your peers are going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

Peter Mirus:  One of our peers, from our audience has indicated that “HubSpot is really great for sales and marketing, lots of online engagement tools, but not really geared towards nonprofits,” and I think I would agree with that assessment offered by one of our peer experts from Community IT Innovators and another attendee, as well.  So we’ve got very limited amount of time to tackle the remaining two questions.  So we’re going to have to limit our answers to a couple of minutes a piece, even Kyle.

David Deal:  No way.

Peter Mirus:  “Are there true competitors, but in Salesforce in the market? And is Dynamics CRM now a viable option for a nonprofit with fundraising needs?” (49:58) Let’s see if we can get this one out of the way quickly.

Kyle Haines:  So yes, there are definitely competitors to Blackbaud and Salesforce and this is a great thing.  One of the competitors, David mentioned earlier, is ROI solutions.  They are oriented to organizations that do a lot of direct mail and David talked about a blog that lists lots of mid-market competitors.  So I won’t go into those.

We’ve recently looked at the demo with EveryAction; we were shocked at how quickly they’ve grown both in size and in functionality.  And there’s just a ton of options and I think that David talked earlier about ways to scan the market.

So just keeping my answer brief, I think – Don’t go into any selection thinking it’s a choice between Blackbaud and Salesforce and I would definitely encourage organizations to learn more about what’s going on at Microsoft.  We’re intrigued by it.  We’re trying to immerse ourselves in all of the fast paced changes that are going on there that seem really to be geared towards powering the social good sector.

David Deal:  Yeah, now, I’ll just speak to Microsoft a little bit more, even if you know that you want a platform approach to your CRM and really, Salesforce has been the only real option for about 90% of nonprofit use cases, in my opinion, for at least the past decade.

Dynamics CRM or Dynamics 365 for Microsoft is increasingly worth exploring.  Even if you have fundraising needs, we’ve seen a couple of products Mission CRM, Stratuslive, that are built on Dynamics and because they’re built on it, it makes other tools integrated with Dynamics available, things like Classy, things like Power BI.  Also, I’ll mention that I’ve heard of at least a couple of nonprofits who have integrated Raiser’s Edge with Dynamics and I think that’s fascinating – the idea of using best of breed fundraising software, Raiser’s Edge alongside of platform, Dynamics, that dramatically expands the list of what’s possible there.

Peter Mirus:  Great, thanks, guys.  And finally, this is a very Blackbaud specific question, but it’s an opportunity to comment on how Blackbaud Ecosystem is evolved or not evolved? “Do we know of any third party vendors that have made good use of Blackbaud SKY API?” (52:00) and I think this is one that really speaks to is Blackbaud fulfilling its promise of having a more open and integrateable system for its products.

David Deal:  I’ll just start by I really want to credit Salesforce for kind of setting a high bar here for the sector, just in terms of the API and openness, and I think Blackbaud has had to respond to that, and I think they are responding to it.  And the SKY API is one of the ways they’re responding to it and an API is just a way for two pieces of software to exchange data between each other.  So one of them pushes data to, or pulls data from the other one.  So for example, integrating Constant Contact with Raiser’s Edge or Marketing Cloud with Salesforce or things like that, that’s all done via API’s.

Kyle Haines:  Yeah, and you alluded to this, Peter, and I think how you responded to it, at least initially, or at least frame the question, the development of SKY API has been deliberate, its probably the best way, but most politic way of saying it, they announced it nearly three years ago and that might as well be a millennium in technology time.  So I don’t know or have any inside information on how they’re making the API’s sausage, but it’s clear, they don’t make sausage quickly or it’s really, really complex sausage.

And I mean, this is really just my personal view here, the slowness of development of the SKY API, has really stymied the broader sector.  I know that vendors are waiting on SKY API to build things, their customers and our clients would really, really, really like to connect to Blackbaud products.  And my experience is vendors have not been able to move quickly as they like and it’s largely because of the really complex sausage that Blackbaud seems to be making.

You know, another one, in addition to Constant Contact, I recently saw that PaperSave integrates with the SKY API, so you can view scanned documents on through, for example, Raiser’s Edge NXT.  I haven’t heard personally, my clients clamoring for that functionality.  So that’s an instance of where some of the functionality has been built out. I’m not really sure that it’s been built out to take advantage of the most compelling use cases out there.

David Deal:  Here’s for me something interesting to watch here.  Because of the pace at which SKY API has been developed, and because of the increasing integration with the Microsoft Dynamics Ecosystem, and Microsoft Ecosystem in general, will vendors integrate directly to SKY API?  Or are they going to start integrating with Microsoft Dynamics? You know, which Blackbaud would also be integrated with? And how will those things maybe be a little bit in competition? Are they competing options? Are they, you know, how does that play out? So that’s something I’m interested in following over the coming months and years.

Peter Mirus:  Great, thanks.  I want to honor some of the remaining questions that came in, even if we don’t have a chance to answer them and comments as well.

One person notes “We’re leaving Blackbaud exactly for this reason that we just mentioned,” alluding to, I think, the seemingly slow pace and unnecessary complexity sometime and Blackbaud develops its products particularly, and how they integrate with each other.

One person comments that “Complex Sausage would be a great band name.”

Somebody asked about CiviCRM and its place within the Ecosystem? That’s a good question.  One, we don’t have time to get to all just saying my experience is that CiviCRM has been to a large degree surpassed by other options available in the market.

And somebody asked a question about since many orgs are first drawn to Salesforce because they are free up to 10 users, how do you explain to staff and leadership why there’s a need to pay for setup and an administration—that’s a great question.

David Deal: Free like a puppy.  Free like a beer.

Peter Mirus:  Yeah.  So those are all the questions that we’ve time for today.  But we really thank everybody for participating and asking the questions and registrations, and again, if you have any questions for us that we didn’t answer, shoot us an email or contact us through LinkedIn.

Our next webinar coming up is “How Data Quality Defines Your Organization,” and it’s really an opportunity to learn how to talk about data quality inside of your organization, as well as just to define what makes “good” data, good, and sort of demystify the idea of what is data quality? How does good data quality or create measurable, positive impacts for your organization? And how does the absence of it detract from your mission?

So, invitations to register for this webinar will be sent out to all newsletter registrants, so if you haven’t yet signed up for our newsletter, please do so.

And finally, if you want more information, you can go visit our blog.  The learning resources on the site are where the white paper–the information strategy, white paper can be found, although we will post the direct link to that in the follow up newsletter, making the recording available and also again, sign up for newsletter  And you can connect and continue the conversation through the contact form on our website, through Twitter or through LinkedIn.  So that we’re at time, thank you so much, everyone for participating and thank you, Kyle.

Kyle Haines:  Thank you, Peter, thanks, David.

Peter Mirus:  Thanks, David.

David Deal:  Thank you guys.

Peter Mirus:  Take care everyone, bye.

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