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Fact or Fiction: Advancement on Salesforce

Fact or fiction? Find out the truth about advancement on Salesforce.

Did you know, according to a recent Forrester study, 81% of higher education organizations surveyed are seeing their constituent population dwindle while, on a positive note, gift volume was increasing? The message is clear – advancement teams require tools to help them find the diamonds in the rough, nurture new relationships, unify their users and data, align their technology – data – people – processes (more on that in a future blog), and rethink the technologies that enable their visions.

In the dynamic realm of advancement, navigating through evolving technologies can be a daunting task.  Prior to joining Cloud for Good, I dedicated a decade to Indiana University Advancement, supporting both the IU Foundation and the IU Alumni Association.  In that time, I was fortunate to play a pivotal role in guiding teams through various implementations, such as CRMs, revolutionizing commerce experiences, enhancing constituent engagement, and numerous other projects.

Entering the consulting realm (it really should be called ‘solutioning’, but I don’t make the rules), I brought with me certain preconceptions about Consulting Partners, Salesforce, and technology.  However, over the past six months, my perspective has undergone a substantial transformation, dispelling several prevailing myths:

Fiction: All CRMs are the same

In the advancement world, legacy platforms are like your grandparents – users love the familiarity they have with the solution, yet they aren’t innovating with the technology anytime soon. In just six months, I can’t possibly count the number of conversations I’ve had with advancement leaders where they say the same thing about these platforms, “We’re paying a small fortune and not seeing any innovation,” “We’ve customized it to a Frankenstein level,” “Our donors expect more from the constituent experience.”  Legacy platforms all share some commonalities: very little innovation, sketchy track records with security, and a habit of always falling short of donor expectations. Salesforce has not just doubled or tripled but has also significantly invested in advancing its Education Cloud offerings, and one might even say that it is down on it. With these investments, each release brings new innovative strides (did you see  (did you see the mentorship demo and other enhancements just this last release?), positioning Salesforce as a leader in the education technology space. The deeper you delve into Salesforce’s capabilities, the more you’ll realize that the legacy platforms’ are going to the wayside.

Fiction: There is only one option for Advancement on Salesforce

What about ISVs?  If you’re like me just a few years back, you just said, “What is an ISV?”  ISV’s are ‘Independent Software Vendors’. In Salesforce-speak, these are sometimes called ‘Managed Packages’.   These solutions play a pivotal role by offering industry-specific capabilities built on the robust foundation of Salesforce. In the advancement world, you have Affinaquest’s Advancement RM (or Athletics RM, depending on context) and UC Innovation’s (now known as Kindsight) ascend advancement suite. These solutions showcase the power of ISVs, providing specialized solutions honed over years of experience.

How do you know which is right for you?  Cloud for Good stands ready with a team of industry experts offering comprehensive services, from pre-implementation strategy development to post-launch support, so that we can guide you through a seamless transition tailored to your unique needs.

Fact: Trust is Salesforce’s Number One Value

You’ve heard Marc Benioff and other Salesforce leaders stress that ‘Trust is Salesforce’s number one value’.   This belief is not just a slogan but a principle deeply ingrained in Salesforce products, people, and the Salesforce community-at-large. Your trust is the most important commodity you can offer.  Your constituents expect you to honor their preferences and keep their private information private; your organization, in turn, expects the same thing from you and your platforms.

If you’re not a Salesforce customer today, you might be accustomed to data breaches, and even worse a complete lack of transparency when issues arise.  In the Salesforce world – trust and transparency are paramount.

Just for fun, check out this trailhead to learn about Salesforce’s emphasis on Trust and their other core values.

Fiction: Salesforce can’t handle my complex back-office

When I first started at Cloud for Good, my very first assignment was to take as many trailheads as I possibly could to learn the platforms and products I hadn’t had experience with during my time at the Indiana University Foundation/IUAA.

51 badges later, I can proudly tell you that there really isn’t much Salesforce hasn’t thought of.  Numerous times in the training, I found myself saying, “Whoa, I didn’t know they hit that level of complexity.”

I came into this role with the preconceived notion that some of the legacy platforms’ edge was the back office.  I was wrong.  Between the robust capabilities that Salesforce offers natively and the industry-specific capabilities that ISVs offer, the back office can not only do what they used to do on legacy platforms but can do much more in less time.

Fiction: Moving to Salesforce for Advancement is just a lift and shift from the legacy system

If there’s one mission that I am on this upcoming year, it’s to bust this myth. I might even dedicate a future blog post to this specific topic. Simply put, the days of lift-and-shift are well behind us in the field of advancement. Traditionally, when it came to replacing legacy platforms, it made sense to start by sitting down and mapping out key requirements, features, and capabilities. This was followed by market research to identify a solution that meets those criteria and perhaps offers a bit more. After acquiring licenses, migrating data, and adjusting business processes, you were good to go.

However, the landscape has evolved significantly. Think of Salesforce as a set of building blocks. The possibilities are endless. Whether it’s revolutionizing your commerce experience, improving constituent engagement, creating a custom-tailored digital experience for your alumni, or utilizing your data to uncover insights like never before, the starting point is up to you.

The bottom line is this – don’t start with technology.  Start with a vision.  Start with strategy. The technology part is readily available and is world-class.  Spend your time focusing on what matters to your donors and alumni, and what aligns to your mission.

Fiction: Salesforce doesn’t offer a way to share data securely across the institution

You can’t possibly spend a decade in advancement and not know how important it is to protect your donor’s information.  Security granularity is critical to advancement groups. However, so is a cohesive and comprehensive view of your constituent’s relationship to your organization.

Salesforce can handle even the most intricate arrangements.  Multi-campus, multi-school, dispersed fundraising models – not a problem.  Need donor, student, faculty/staff, employee, alumni, event, athletics (I could go on) data in one platform, all while ensuring data is restricted accordingly?  That’s second nature to Salesforce. HIPAA, FERPA, PCI, pick your acronym; Salesforce can handle all of them.

I don’t mean to minimize the importance of industry standards. Rather, I have come to understand that Salesforce gives you what you need—a unified platform to track all essential data elements in a way that is not only protected and secure but also remarkably straightforward.

Fiction: Advancement is just a bolt-on to Salesforce

At our recent co-hosted Advancement Forum, our friends at Salesforce made a profound statement “We’re not building on top of Salesforce and we’re not building inside of Salesforce, we’re simply building Salesforce.”   Salesforce is not merely adding components; it is tailoring itself specifically to the Advancement domain. While it possesses a wealth of capabilities from other clouds, the fundamental approach is one of intense focus and customized alignment with the unique needs of our Advancement domain.

If you’re reading this and contemplating elevating your constituent experience, refining your data strategy, or enhancing your technology, you’re correct. The time to consider a change is now, and there’s no one better positioned to help you on that journey than Cloud for Good.

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