For Nonprofits

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Facilitated by Akhilesh Gupta,

Session Description Foundation has been putting the platform in the hands of social change organizations to help them achieve their missions. This session will be driven by topics of interest of the audience and would cover details of the platform and programs. Additional possible topics include the Nonprofit Starter Pack and how it can be used in mission delivery. This session is for anyone who wants to learn about how can help an organization deliver on it's mission.

Session Notes

What our group wants to learn about Salesforce for Nonprofits:

  • How to get nonprofits to share data amongst each other?
  • How do people use SF and for what (best practices)?
  • How SF can help support connections between contacts (such as between trainers and agencies)?
  • Generally learn more about it.
  • Learn more about developing with
  • How do you integrate Salesforce better into your organizational workflow so that it serves a multitude of needs while still using it what it’s for?


Prefers to call Salesforce a “data manager” rather than just a CRM because Salesforce is setup is a single data layer on which a data manager (the CRM) is built to support multiple Applications (such as apps for donor management, Volunteer management, etc.

Why do we still use spreadsheets?

Because it’s easy to capture data, add columns, etc. But they fail us with more complex, relationship data. This is what led to the design of scalable databases like Salesforce.

Data layer → Data manager → Applications (Donor Mgr, Volunteer Mgr, etc)

About 60% of the group has used Salesforce in some capacity

Salesforce Foundation/Product Donation overview

The Salesforce Foundation donates 10 enterprise user licenses to nonprofits for free. Other licenses and products are heavily discounted. Money generated from product sales stays in the Foundation and is used for grants within the community, which are given out annually (learn more at

Currently, approximately 9000 organizations have currently received donation licenses with about 50 new applications/week (= lots of growth).

What are some challenges the Salesforce Foundation is facing?

Main problem is figuring out the best way to onboard nonprofits. Salesforce is flexible, but everyone has different requirements. Either can get someone to customize for you or use resources within Salesforce community such as the intro videos on the Salesforce Foundation’s YouTube Channel or the open email lists and user groups to learn more. Salesforce Foundation is encouraging partners to develop the same 1-1-1 donation model for pro-bono consulting/implementation. Nonprofits can apply for pro bono work online.

This is the bigger picture for why SF is here (at conference). Can apply for pro bono efforts/hours online.

What is the Non-Profit Starter Pack?

The Non-Profit Starter Pack is an open source application built on the Salesforce platform that is customized specifically for nonprofits. Data layer is still the same but view is different for nonprofits. It’s a good place to start for orgs who don’t have a lot of money (about 7000 orgs have it installed). Partners such as and many others have built a variety of tools that can be added on to Salesforce accounts for additional functionality.

What/when/where is Dreamforce?

Dreamforce is Salesforce’s big annual conference held every year at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. This year, it is Dec 6-10, 2010. There are heavy discounts for nonprofits to register ($199), but they may have recently maxed out. Sessions are recorded and posted online on YouTube.

What are nonprofits asking for?

Salesforce can be perceived as a big, complex application that can overwhelm nonprofits with limited technical resources. The biggest need/request is for more information on how to use the product. Lots of demand for more resources for onboarding and going through what Salesforce can/can’t do. Nonprofits are also eligible for discounted trainings.

Everyone needs an application to solve their problem, so there would likely be some kind of customization. Can be costly depending on complexity of system. Bigger challenge is more related to resources than technical capabilities.

Biggest challenge can be that it’s a blank slate – if nonprofit can’t hire consultant, find resources, can be difficult to implement and maintain. What is threshold?

Trying to create more and more applications on platform, but each organization’s needs are unique. One benefit to working with Salesforce is that it’s typically simpler to do customizations. Problems often happen when systems are built in silos, particularly for upgrades across various systems, leads to delays in fear of breaking application. Not a problem in Salesforce. New feature release every 4 months.

What kinds of problems have you heard from nonprofits that Salesforce has not been a good solution for?

Not great as a content management system, but can be integrated. For example, the Salesforce Foundation site is built on Drupal but pulls data from Salesforce through the API. Salesforce is particular useful for solutions that need to be scalable or for applications that need features like search capabilities.

When to not use SF?

Need to consider lifetime cost of ownership and be realistically prepared for what SF does/does not do, what you really need, what resources are required to build/maintain, etc. Perhaps not the best tool if goals are unrealistic or do not match resources in time/budget/knowledge.

Lots of extensibility/power in 3rd party applications for things like fundraising, payment processing (such as IATS from TicketMaster) or working with other systems like PayPal. This can help lower strain on nonprofit resources.

Are there tools for developers? Online community with forums, tutorials and resources for Salesforce admins and developers.

Is there a developer version of the Non-Profit Starter Pack?

The package is open source and available on Google Code for developers to download, install and customize. (Search on

How to find partners?

Local user groups, online list of partners.

Of the 9000 orgs using Salesforce, can you name a small and large one that use it well and are very active?

More success stories available on ACE (Alliance for Climate Education). Akhilesh customized Salesforce for the World Bicycle Relief so they could and track donations and sales in 2 1-hr sessions. Arlington Development Corporation is an example of a large public nonprofit using Salesforce across many departments and systems.

How is it customizing/building with Salesforce? How well does it integrate with other systems?

Current trend is to not develop custom code, but rather to find different tools that work well and then integrate. Service API is really good for this because there is only one data layer, never deprecated (won’t break if you are working with an older version (Salesforce supports approximately 20 versions). Some say it’s “5x faster to build applications on Salesforce” because you can build without needing code. Don’t have to worry about database layers, web servers.

What would you (Salesforce Foundation) like Salesforce to do better?

More training resources to improve knowledge and understanding.