Selecting a CRM system – for small non profits

We wrote a blog for Salesforce Foundation* this week, sharing some advice for selecting a CRM system for small non profits.

 Here’s the blog: Selecting a CRM system for small non profits

Salesforce Foundation are the ‘charity bit’ of Salesforce – they are guardians of the ‘1% profit 1% time’ that is at the heart of Saleforce’s values.  They manage the allocation of the 10 free software licences that every non profit is entitled to claim, and help charities and non profits see the value and benefit of connected tech to reduce the admin burden and help charities focus on development goals and strategy stuff more clearly.  They’re a lovely bunch of people as well as being full of superb tech advice.

Have you got your Raiser’s Edge coding right?

Have you got your Raiser’s Edge coding right?

Blackbaud announced RE NXT at their 2014 convention – the long awaited upgrade/update to RE7. The upgrades will be ready from 2015. So what does that mean for existing RE users? What will the updates offer? How can you maximise your investment in the tool? Over the next few months we will be looking at Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge in the build up to finding out more about its replacement.

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision’s Operations Director and long-time RE user/manager asks whether we’ve got our coding right?

We work with some great organisations trying to do some great fundraising using their supporter database, but so often we find our clients struggling with an inherited coding structure.  Sound familiar?  Or perhaps not, so let’s start with some definitions…

What on earth is a Coding Structure anyway? 

Do you classify your supporters in some way?  Do you make use of Constituent Codes and Constituent Attributes to categorise and segment your supporter records?

Raisers Edge coding structure


Well, that’s one element of your data structure.  Another element relates to the coding you apply to your gifts.  We are of course talking about the Campaign, Appeal, Packages and Fund codes.

Now that we are clear about coding structure, let’s ask: is there really such thing as the ‘right’ coding structure’?  

Yes is the most definitely the answer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every organisation has to conform to the same structure.  The right coding structure is the one that meets your organisation’s data needs.  If you can identify and segment supporters easily and accurately, and you can report and analyse successfully on your fundraising activity, then you have landed on the data structure that is right for you!

Unfortunately you seem to be in the minority!

 Why does it matter?

There are some fundamental things all databases need to get right.  Think…

  • Communication preferences and adhering to the Data Protection Act
  • Flagging your ‘special’ supporters, e.g. celebrities, Major Donors, etc

…it all relies on clear, consistent coding.

Less risky in terms of affecting how you communicate with your supporters, but no less important in the long-term, is your ability to understand how your fundraising appeals are doing.  It goes without saying that in order to make decisions about where to spend your fundraising budget, who to target with what , when, and how, all goes back to reporting and analysis.  Trying to report on, and analyse your data without the right coding structure in place, well, where do you start!

Ok, so it’s not right according to that definition, so can it be fixed it?

Fortunately Blackbaud have put a lot of thought in to the way the Raiser’s Edge Campaigns, Funds, Appeals and Packages work together.  Whilst we say that not all RE users need to structure their gift coding in the same way, there are some advantages to working within the broad approach Blackbaud have designed into RE. (link to Blackbaud resource)

We have worked on a number of projects recently where we have helped organisations switch to a structure that fits in with the RE coding model, for example by ensuring the Campaigns reflect core strategic fundraising areas, Appeals reflect specific fundraising activities, and that Funds reflect the financial goal/project.


preferred Raiser's Edge campaign structure

Likewise on the Constituent record side, we have helped organisations organise their supporter base into logical multi-level audiences, with clear coding structures using Constituent Codes and Attributes.

Sounds like a lot of work!

It can be hard going, working through all the various changes, but there’s a lot that can be done to make it less arduous.  Inactivating codes and tables, using Table Cleanups, Global Changes, renaming, and using well structured and consistent code IDs and Descriptions, all go a long way to make the change process possible.

You may also decide in certain cases, that you don’t need to change everything historically, and just start from a clean slate (beware of reducing your ability to report successfully over time on that one).

 The number one tip however, is to start with a plan. 

Give your coding structure some serious thought; work with all the relevant stakeholders to agree it in the first place, and set out a plan of change to get you there!

The benefits are sure to outweigh the effort in the long run!


Other offers and info

  • Next blog:  in about 3-4 weeks!
  • Event: We’re hosting a breakfast briefing about Raiser’s Edge on March 27 2015 – at the end of this series of blogs and features. Registration is already open via our events page – (note our polite request – this is for charity employees, trustees or volunteers, thanks).

The Secret to Connected Communications (Salesforce Foundation webinars)

If there’s one thing all organisations have in common, its communication challenges.

But multiply that x 146 (the number of hubs UBS work in),  add language challenges, skill barriers, a mixed availability of technology and you have a potential minefield. The solution?  Salesforce!

Hamish Bruce (Digital Development Manager, UBS) explained why and how this solved UBS’s challenges in a webinar held as part of the Salesforce Foundation webinars series, along with  Triona Byrne (Product Programme Manager, Salesforce Foundation) and Keith Collins (Customer Solutions Director, Purple Vision).

Listen back to the recorded webinar

The UBS journey to Salesforce started a few years ago when some rationalisation and restructuring took place – staff reduced by about a third, regional offices closed and the support team moved towards being a virtual team.  But the requirement to deliver services remained firmly in place. So they needed the tools to help them work efficiently, virtually and collaboratively.

That everyone was using a slightly different way to store data, files and information will, I am sure, sound somewhat familiar to many of us, so this was a real opportunity to rationalise, simplify and become unified – online!

Hamish and the team at UBS identified a set of ‘high fives’ that they wanted to reach

  1. Single place for client info – the familiar refrain of data being stored on multiple spreadsheets and out-of-date CRM tools. UBS wanted to end this.
  2. Link up communications strategy – real metrics from communications campaigns to be able to measure the results of communications strategy and tactics in real terms
  3. Link existing legacy systems – integrate existing outward channels like the website, and inward facing channels like communities as well as all the other tools and channels in use.
  4. Flexible – grow with the needs of the organisation rather than what has happened in the past with implementing systems – the UBS experience here will probably also be familiar: the software vendors development plans don’t meet the timescales of the organisations and bespoke development costs a pretty penny so you end up unable to move forward at the pace that suits you.
  5. Easy to use and to train people to use – as Hamish so rightly points out, regardless of how good the system is, if people don’t use it or find it easy to use, it’s not really going to work.

With some help from Purple Vision as a third party around technology signposting UBS found Salesforce offered the best solution for them. And has helped hit all the ‘sweet spots’ of the high fives , too.

Webinar – find out how Salesforce has helped UBS to solve these issues 

  • One stop data shop – the team found it easy to important and set up data from multiple systems (though they sensibly did some pre-load work to rationalise the data first!). They’ve been able to custom create fields which is helpful for the multiple dimensions each contact can have, and find the contact side of the system clean and easy to use.
  • Communication deliverables – UBS is still very email centric. It’s been easy to integrate a mailing tool into Salesforce and unlike some systems, there was actually choice (they chose campaign monitor but vertical response, Mailchimp as well as others all have integrations with Salesforce). And all this means that there is a deep and well integrated way to not only sent to multiple audiences, groups, language setting and so on, but also to get good engagement statistics too – informing the strategy and allowing the team to develop even better email communications that resonate with their audiences.  With such an email centric strategy, ways to innovate and automate elements of this work are high on the agenda for the team. They’re considering the Marketing Cloud for some of the benefits it could offer and will decide in due course. Watch the Exact Target Marketing Cloud Video to find out more 
  • Leaving the legacy behind – with 146 different pages of contact data on the website, manual updates would make even the most committed web editor weep quietly into their coffee. So it’s helpful that a bit of technical wizardry has integrated elements of Salesforce with content management system, WordPress.
  • Grow with us – Hamish directed us to visit the App Exchange where multiple add-on integrations, allow the system to grow and develop as you want it too. And not just for fundraising and comms, either – HR, finance, project management feature too. Hamish showed us how Cirrus insights have helped integrate their google email system (the team use a lot of google features and apps) with Salesforce. It really is a case that ‘there’s an app for that’.
  • Path to adoption – one of the more effective ways UBS found to roll out the system was to train advocates from each team via webinars, calls and 1:1 sessions where possible. That meant that local help was always available for users as well as remote assistance from the implementation team for any questions that a user might have. Around 25% of the global team are regular users of the system. It’s fairly common that some will adopt the system quickly and some will need a bit more support once the initial excitement has died down.  An ongoing goal is increasing adoption by making the system the ‘go-to’ hub for key information and processes. One of the tools to help with this that UBS are considering is Chatter –  a community/chat feature which makes it easy to share casual and more formal comms (like documents links and videos) with everyone, or specific groups. As it is in Salesforce, it drives people to the site for information and the latest documentation. Watch the Chatter demo to find out more.

The webinar (an hour almost exactly) then carried on with our very own Keith talking about the factors which made Salesforce the right choice for UBS and the details of implementation – some helpful insights from Purple Vision’s extensive experience of matching technology and non profits which anyone considering a change in tech or getting deeper with digital will find helpful.

The session ended with some insightful questions from the audience – clearly the situation resonated with many. You can hear the questions as well as the full set of slides when you watch the webinar back again for yourself.

Find out more: 

  • Find out what you need to consider when looking at CRM, integrations and setting your strategy – watch the webinar now.  
  • Salesforce Foundation webinars cover topics of interest to a wide audience – from customer stories like today’s, partner stories (Purple Vision are a Salesforce Foundation partner) and talks on new ideas, services, products and opportunities – future events are listed on the website. 
  • Find out more about United Bible Societies (UBS), the Purple Vision client whose journey is shared in this webinar via – they’re the biggest translator and publisher of bibles in the world, as well as offering disaster relief, education and healthcare support in the extensive network of locations that they work in.
  • The Purple Vision team extend our thanks to Hamish and his team for sharing their journey .