Category Archives: CRM & Database

5 things we have learned from our ‘more to fundraising CRM’ breakfasts.

Since September, we’ve been running a provocatively titled breakfast series:

There’s more to fundraising CRM than Raiser’s Edge. Honest. 

Let’s be clear about one thing.  We’re not RE haters.  Far from it – many of the team here have used Raisers Edge for years, in fact, we started life consulting about it when Purple Vision was founded in 2003.  It is a stalwart of the fundraising world.

For every RE lover, we also know that there several more who are frustrated with where things are with the database – years of little investment and development. They’re stuck trying to adapt a dinosaur to the 21st century, and we hear the frustration of users feeling like they are stuck with this as there’s nothing else on the market that even compares for heavy duty, heavy lifting fundraising work.

Organisation and tech are intertwined

There are two parts to that issue obviously – just one is technology related, and the other is the organisational impetus, but both issues inform each other.

Often, one of the challenges that charities are facing in looking at Raisers Edge and whether to consider RE NXT or other tools is that other tech has been adopted to plug a gap.  The result is a  disconnected proliferation of tools that has only served to feed the frustration as data is not where it needs to be to run successful campaigns.

Hopes were high a few years ago when Raiser’s Edge announced NXT.

Hopes were dashed as charities realised it wasn’t all they’d dreamed of, and the price was as aspirational as they’d feared it might be.

Of course, options exist to upgrade to other Blackbaud products – let us not forget their full range (overview here) and the fact that there are many for whom these tools are just what they need.

Here’s what we learned from the breakfast series

Having delivered several More to… breakfasts where we outline the shared frustration (that’s news to some – they think they are alone in thinking RE is a beast!) and look at where technology is today, we’ve learned a few key insights about how fundraisers feel about their tech.

1          Everyone is REconsidering whether to move to NXT

2          Very few organisations are automatically upgrading

When RE NEXT was announced, it felt like a foregone conclusion that RE users would upgrade.  As time passes since its release, fewer charities are inclined to tick the box to update. Still more are waiting for insight into what the leading charities are going to do with their tech.

Aside from a few early adopters, there seems to be little talk about who is making the move to NXT and a lot of talk about who is looking at alternatives or looking at CRM projects.   Meanwhile, information about pricing and the like for NXT is still quite esoteric for those looking to eye up the marketplace – real costs are only really available if you speak directly to Blackbaud (which to be fair is the case with many tech providers, but we appreciate it does make it hard to get a full picture and there seems to be more “out there” on the net about other tools than RE).

3          We’re meeting Generation Y – and they don’t like it.

For a generation born with the steep uptake in tech and who are used to adopting tech and digital trends as they emerge, Raiser’s Edge is probably best described with some of the more colourful hashtags and emoji’s that form part of our modern parlance, with multiple exclamation points after each one.

It is a real dinosaur for this generation – our fundraising directors in the making – to get their heads around.  Where’s the flexibility? Integration? Why can’t I manipulate my data like I want to? On my phone?

Generation Z is about to enter the workforce – this is the generation born with a phone nearly surgically attached to them – just imagine what they are going to make of it.  How are you even going to get them to use it?! What will that mean for fundraising records?

4      Mid-sized charities are now looking to moving away from Raiser’s Edge

5      There are still question marks over whether Salesforce is a proven fundraising platform.

Of course, the alternative to RE is a platform based fundraising solution – recognising that there are multiple other fundraising database products around, there are two key players in the CRM market at this level – Microsoft and Salesforce.

Back in 2010, Purple Vision nailed its colours to the Salesforce mask and we’re a registered Salesforce partner.  We’re also still independent – we don’t work exclusively with Salesforce and so are perhaps more receptive to any criticism that is levelled at the platform than some others.

Right now, a host of charities aren’t convinced that Salesforce has fundraising crm all sewn up.  Much has changed in the past year about this, though, and we recognise that a lot of information isn’t yet fully appreciated by fundraisers.

How many know that the NPSP – the Non-Profit Success Pack – was fully relaunched last year (it was first known as the starter pack) and the content significantly ‘beefed up’?

More content for grants management and programme management was added and a comprehensive product roadmap outlined – it’s just an all-around better product for charities.  Meanwhile, non-profit discounts now extend to all the array of cloud services (from Marketing Cloud to Pardot, service cloud to communities).

Despite all this, we’re not seeing a lot of new non-profit adoption case studies that resonate with the mid-size charity audience.

None of these tools for Salesforce look like Raiser’s Edge though which is also part of the adoption problem.  The tech is current and so is quite a leap for some users to take to move to a completely new and unfamiliar interface with such a mix of users within their teams.

5 Causeview looks good – but can it ‘cut the mustard’?

The one tool for Salesforce that does ‘look’ like Raiser’s Edge (and by the look we mean that fundraisers review and see how they can immediately replicate essential fundraising processes with ease) is Causeview.

It is a managed package of fundraising functionality that sits on top of Salesforce and makes the most of the power of the behemoth CRM.  It brings together essential functionality for fundraisers, volunteer management and a bit of event management.

It’s already in use in more than 150 charities in North America, Australia and Europe – but only a handful in the UK.

The market response to Causeview is good when it’s demoed and the price is fair for the functionality – but a few more case studies will help those who are wavering between NXT upgrades and a platform shift to make their move.

The good news – a whole new crop of users will be going live shortly which will help build even more confidence.  Just watch this space.

Sign up for our next breakfast and join the debate: 

10 May 2017 – 09.30 (Purple Vision) 

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3 steps to tech success for small charities

Why we’ve launched Salesforce NPSP QuickStart for small charities

We’ve got a campaign running right now for small charities.  Called three steps to tech success, it’s aimed at helping the smaller nfps to take the first step with tech.

3 steps to tech success for small charities - click for the guide. bit.ly/3stepstech

But what’s it all about?

There comes a tipping point for most small charities where they need to do something more than using a list in Excel and calling that a ‘database’.

It’s at that point that the questions start…  Should you dare to ask about CRM or any questions around CRM on a public forum lots of folks will respond with well-meaning advice and other folks trying to sell you their favoured solution.

We’re in both camps, but hear us out.

What are the favoured solutions?

The responses that come back include a list of some typical solutions, the option to build your own solution (usually with comments about how much cheaper it is to do this), Salesforce (who will give you it all for free – more on this later)  and Donorfy.  There may be a few other random suggestions in there like Zoho or other favoured small solutions.   So, now we have a  list of CRM options, which is kind of what we asked. But for one thing.

We asked the wrong question. 

The question that would get a better list of real options to look at is one which narrows down what you want to do with your CRM.  How can I better manage my fundraising? What kind of fundraising do I do and how does that map to tech options? Do I need to use a ‘database’ to manage programmes and keep track of grant applications?

Ask the question again and the list that comes back may be different, or it may not.  But your approach to evaluating the responses certainly will be as you have a considered set of criteria.

So, what of the names on our list?  Nothing wrong with some of the tools on the list.  But what say time and time again in response to questions like this – and articles like the top 10 best CRMs for non-profits (UK Fundraising)  is a simple truth – what’s right for one, may not be right for another.

With one exception.  And I’ll come onto that.

Ignore the advice to build your own CRM – you’ll be tying yourself to an expensive tool that you need to replace in a few years and one person who knows how it is structured and built, making it hard to shop around for talent to help you develop.  Zoho and some of the other tools aren’t really designed for charities, so making the user experience much harder. Stick to things designed for charities at least if you want user adoption to succeed.

Think about whether you need a database or CRM (links to a Purple Vision blog on just that subject).  Look at the age of the tech for some of the other options. Are they really fit for purpose?  What are the up front, hidden and ongoing costs?

What’s the exception?

Salesforce is the exception to the rule that one size doesn’t fit all.  The world’s biggest CRM may not seem an obvious choice for a small charity with hardly any staff, but it has a compelling narrative for non-profits.

We don’t just mean ten free enterprise licenses (worth £££) although that itself is fairly compelling.  We mean the Non-Profit Success Pack (NPSP).  In its latest iteration, NPSP offers the vast complexity of a huge tech platform for business, packed up for non-profit functionality and rooted in charity language and processes.

What NPSP brings to the party is that you have an extendable platform that will grow with you.  In 3-5 years’ time when your strategy has changed, you’ve upped to the next level and need additional functionality, it’s all there waiting for you.  No need to change systems again, go through the procurement process again, get everyone in the team on the same page and teach everyone a new way to do things.  Or even start the process of looking for systems you can ‘glue together’. Nope.  Choose a platform solution like Salesforce, do all that once – and then just keep growing it as you need to.

Getting started with Salesforce

If you ask questions on public boards – like you did with the wrong question –  you’ll probably hear that Salesforce is hard to use out of the box and therefore not suitable for small charities.  That’s a bit like saying electricity isn’t suitable for a small charity because you need an electrician to add a new plug socket.

You might even hear that it’s free because Salesforce staffers donate time to get charities set up.  This is honestly a huge triumph of hope for budget stretched small charities.  What *is* true is that some staff time is donated by Salesforce to some charities – read about the 1:1:1 model to learn more and some folks who are learning Salesforce coding and set-up offer pro bono time while they’re learning so they can practice on you.  Just like everywhere in life, it’s hard to find genuine and real meaningful help for free.  Hope over experience that it’s free, I am afraid.

But we can understand why both these things are said, it’s a shame that they’re wrong and are oft repeated.

It’s true you can’t plug n play Salesforce unless you have a great tech resource on your staff team.  The reality is though that you can’t really plug n play any system that’s worth you using.  There are degrees of set-up required.  We’re the first in line to say that while Salesforce is a super-system, it does need a bit of know-how to sort out.  And in the same way you call an electrician for your plug socket, you’d call a partner to help.

Salesforce partners (hint: Purple Vision are a Salesforce partner)  have very clever tech experts on their teams who can make Salesforce do just about anything.  To achieve this, they ask multiple questions, review business process, talk strategy and future plans, and then create awesome things that meet your specification.  What’s helpful is the common language they use to create Salesforce, which means anyone who ‘speaks’ the language will be able to look at your system in the future and pick up where someone else has left off.

Which brings us onto QuickStart

We’ll be honest, it’s not always cheap to work with a partner – the skills behind Salesforce are complex and technical, and in the manner of other professional services like a lawyer or accountant, time is billed by days or hours.  Time is money.

Which is why we have come up with our NPSP QuickStart offer.

In reality, while many charities have quite a unique approach to their work, many have very similar functionality requirements from a system when they’re getting started.  We know this because we’ve worked with lots of them across a range of systems – and across Salesforce.  Plus, many of our NFP team have also worked charity-side, in the hot seats that our clients sit in – so understand the requirements and what needs to get done.

Our QuickStart offer, therefore, is set up to save the time involved in the detailed discovery sessions and get straight on with delivering Salesforce NPSP in a way your charity can use it.

By doing this and offering this service, what could be a complex and costly process becomes quite simple.   Our focus with QuickStart is in both the quick element – we can deliver this quickly for you, and in our start bit – and the focus on providing you with the start you need to get using a tool.

Choosing QuickStart

NPSP is suitable for all charities to use – but QuickStart has been designed with quite specific functionality in mind and the needs of smaller charities for fundraising.  We’re not offering complex processes here – if you really need that our QuickStart service might not be for you (but NPSP is still suitable – it just needs more of those hours to get it how you want it).

QuickStart brings to life a manageable set of the full-technical and functional force of the Salesforce behemoth. It is suitable for small charities looking for their first fundraising CRM, looking to upgrade from a spreadsheet and MailChimp. It’s suitable for charities with plans to grow.

When said charity is ready to grow – in fundraising, programmes, comms, finance, HR and all the key functional areas, it’s just a case of identifying what you need and working with a partner you trust to build out the system for you to take you to the next steps.  SThere is so much rich functionality in Salesforce Non-Profit Success Pack – and more is being added all the time – that it’s a shame to overlook it all in favour of a short -stop solution.

Find out more: 

Sign up to the paper – 3 steps to tech success for small charities






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Preparing your team for a CRM project

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the final entry in a 4 part series  from Dan explaining project delivery issues. 

Ready, set?  Let’s go

A CRM project isn’t something that will just magically happen, sadly.  It’s something that we, as your strategic partners, will work with you on.   We need your internal knowledge to deliver the end goal, and you need our knowledge and expertise to make it happen.

It’s a win-win situation and to make the most of it, a little preparation goes a long way.

How can you prepare and plan for your CRM project?

A key element is to identify and recruit to the project team Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) at the earliest point of the project.

SMEs would be expected not only to be experts in their current systems and processes but also to be experts in the new system going forward.  They’ll work with the Purple Vision project team (which will include your project manager and any resources we bring with us such as specialist developers, data experts etc.  The exact team will depend on your project.

The whole team will deliver the project together, and reports to the Project Board.  A key part of our initial discussions with you will outline overall project responsibility and who should be on the project board.

Let’s consider how your SME’s can help.

Some key tips on how to integrate SMEs into the development process are as follows:

  • Capture ‘user-stories’ from the SMEs early on in the project lifecycle. SME’s are the folks who use the systems we’re looking at day in, day out. They know what they need to do – and what they may not be able to do now that they will need to do.  User stories help us outline what success will look like for these day to day users.  We’ll explain more about all this at the relevant point.
  • The next phase of development is managed through the running of Sprints, ensuring each user story is built into the system. SMEs would work with the Development team at this stage to ensure the user stories are fully understood and interpreted correctly.
  • When we’re working with MVP (see It’s just a phase), we make sure that as soon as the base system is available, load it with sample data and share with SME. These guys – our users – will be rigorous in showing us what might be missing to make our concept turn into reality as early in the project as possible.
  • They’re gatekeepers to others using and adopting the system. Training is key to help SME’s not only work with the development team in configuring the system but in being ready to be an advocate for the system as others in the organisations start to ask questions and get involved.  A key part of this is User Acceptance Testing – the rigorous bit where teams are let loose with real case data to make it work.

Ahead of your project starting, consider who your subject matter experts may be and consider how to free up some of their time to engage in the project when it kicks off.  It need not been an arduous commitment but our experience is that it is easier to release staff to add these tasks to their to-do list if they’ve been considered ahead of time.

Read the full blog series: