By Emily Hinck

Deciding to change your database is not a simple or quick decision. It is a decision that can – and likely will – impact not only where your staff go to reference donation or volunteer information but also some of the processes and best practices for your organization.

With the ongoing development of the Salesforce Foundation’s tools for nonprofits, more and more nonprofits are considering a switch from their legacy system to Salesforce. You might be one of them! If you are currently using Raiser’s Edge (RE), we’ve put together a list of the top ten reasons to make the switch to Salesforce.

1. Let Someone Else Store Your Data
Raisers Edge is hosted on your IT infrastructure (or it forces you to use Citrix for a limited remote login), therefore, requiring you to maintain a large server system to provide the services and support associated with that hosting. Salesforce is hosted in the cloud, on Salesforce’s distributed and secure servers. You will see a decrease in time and money spent on maintaining local servers and less stress on your IT staff.

2. Do You BYOD?
Is your organization thinking about adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for your employees – an increasing trend with many companies? If your team members want to work on a Mac based operating system, then you will run into challenges with Raiser’s Edge. Mac users will have to log into a virtual Windows based machine in order to access RE. I know from personal experience that when the virtual machine connection parallels, runs slow or goes down, users will not enter information. Additionally, they may be deterred from even trying to log in if they consistently run into a slow connection. This means that your database is not working for you, as you are missing critical pieces of relevant and valuable information. Salesforce is cloud-based, so your team members can access it anywhere they have an internet connection, on any device they prefer to use.

3. Your Staff is Mobile and Remote – Your Database Should Be Too
Salesforce1, Salesforce’s mobile tool, is a highly sophisticated mobile application. Your users will find it intuitive and easy to use and your admins will find it easy to customize. The same functionality that is accessed online via a computer, is also accessible in a handy mobile package for various mobile devices. Unfortunately, Raiser’s Edge NXT does not compare. Users are very limited in what they can edit and add in the mobile and/or web interface and it still requires you maintain Raiser’s Edge 7. To put it bluntly, Raiser’s Edge NXT is like putting lipstick on a pig.

4. You Want More Money to Go to Your Programs
You are a nonprofit organization. Your main goal is for as much money as possible to go directly toward your programs and fulfilling your mission. The Salesforce Foundation donates up to 10 licenses for nonprofits and offers additional licenses at a deeply discounted rate. This equals big savings for your organization! Third party applications that integrate with Salesforce also have great pricing models for nonprofits.

Rasier’s Edge pricing varies on a client by client basis depending on the number of licenses (concurrent users), amount of data stored, the amount of revenue generated by the organization, and several other factors. Maintenance is also based on a sliding scale, encompassing all of the aforementioned factors, and is charged on an annual basis. These fees can quickly add up over time.

5. Salesforce is Like Yoga

Salesforce isn’t exactly like yoga, but it is a flexible system that allows your users to choose a path. It also allows your org the ability to easily customize certain parts of the system without knowing code or entering the deep-dark “back-end” of the system. The user pathways in Raiser’s Edge are more prescriptive and less flexible. Changes to the RE system will often require outsourced or highly technical staff support.

6. Apps, Apps and More Apps!
At Cloud for Good, we love apps that add functionality and connect multiple systems together. Salesforce is unique in that it allows developers to access the API and develop apps (applications) and integrations to work with Salesforce. You can find apps for budgeting, volunteer management, mail merges, event management, and much more. On the AppExchange, you can find a number of free apps and most companies provide discounts for nonprofit organizations (reference #4 above). There is nothing comparable to the Salesforce AppExchange. You will need to find a developer in order to do any system integrations with RE.

7. Share Knowledge Across Your Organization
Constituent relationship management is not only important for your fundraising team. With a tool like Salesforce, you can customize a user’s experience based on their role within your organization. Certain objects and fields can be visible to the program team, while others can be visible to the fundraising team. At the same time, different teams can collaborate on building stronger relationships with constituents. This collaborative approach to relationships is becoming more and more relevant for organizations, as donors and grantors desire to be involved and informed about programs, outcomes, and decisions.

8. Your Data Might Need a Makeover
In most instances where Raiser’s Edge is used, it has been the system of record for many, many years (a legacy system). Over time, new staff come on board, data requirements change, and policies and best practices may also change. All of these factors impact how your data is entered, stored, and used.

A major system overhaul is a great opportunity to give your data a makeover. We find that a lot of organizations hold on to data like a security blanket. Storing all of that data costs money. A data makeover will help you to identify what information is valuable and worth keeping and what data is just taking up space (while costing your organization money).

9. You Want to Work with a Company That Shares Your Values
The Salesforce.com 1:1:1 model shows the company’s dedication to integrated philanthropy. They promote a culture of helping employees give back by giving employees six days of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) per year to volunteer for a cause that is near and dear to the employee’s heart. Through the Power of Us Program, the Salesforce Foundation donates products to eligible nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions. Since its inception in 2000, the Salesforce Foundation has given over $85 million in grants. When you work in the nonprofit sector, there is something refreshing about working with companies that are also invested in the community and giving back. Cloud for Good adopted the 1:1:1 model. You can read about our corporate social responsibility program here.

10. Awesome Support and a Variety of Support Providers
Raiser’s Edge is a big company. Sometimes calling big companies feels like making your way through a labyrinth before you actually get the support you need. Organizations using Salesforce have a wide variety of support options. The Salesforce Help & Training section is REALLY helpful. Even with a basic support plan, you can be confident that a Salesforce support staff member will get back to you. There is also the Power of Us Hub and the Success Community. With these two communities, you have access to hundreds of thousands of Salesforce gurus who will help you solve your problem or direct you to the documentation that can help. These support communities are free! In addition to these great support options, a simple Google or YouTube search will turn up videos and presentations that can further your learning and turn YOU into a Salesforce guru, too!

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Emily Hinck

Emily Hinck

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