It's been over 18 months since I last gave my 'state of the nation' view on the shape of the (now not-so) "new" CRM systems in terms of their applicability to fundraising technology needs, and a lot has happened since; so here's my latest opinions:
Who's using Salesforce and MS Dynamics for Fundraising?
It's noticeable that even in the last 6-12 months, there has been a shift in the mindset of some mid-large UK charities which, for the first time, is starting to pay dividends for the CRM suppliers. It's well known that Barnardo's are the first large UK charity to be implementing Salesforce for fundraising, Greenpeace International are now doing so too, another national UK charity is implementing Microsoft CRM Dynamics for their supporter relationship management system with another to start soon, and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research have been using CiviCRM for a while (as have MSF outside the UK). And there are more in the pipeline for all these systems. Plus, of course, there are many more NFPs using these solutions for non-fundraising applications.
So why now for larger charities?
Although Salesforce, Dynamics et al have been adopted by charities for several years for non-fundraising solutions, and although smaller charities have been using the systems for their fundraising needs, why are we now seeing the mid-large charities start to take this route? There are probably a number of reasons:
- There are naturally less such projects for the larger charities and those organisations that are/have been looking have taken until now to have made decisions - equally, such projects are not cheap, so there are of course fewer of them.
- It has still taken until recently for the sector to truly believe, and to have it really shown to them, that these CRM systems can provide the fundraising functionality they need - for too long, suppliers had just been saying "yes, we can do it" without any real supporting evidence or suitable background to make the larger charities comfortable. They aren't all there for all areas of fundraising but there's been huge steps.
- Inevitably, some charities have waited until someone else took the initial leap into this space, but with Barnardo's, Greenpeace and others now doing so, it makes it that much easier to see the benefits and possibilities.
- It has taken some time for the resellers and business partners (implementers) - not the software suppliers themselves - to show their credibility in being able to sell and implement these systems for fundraising. Not in terms of technology but in terms of showing the charities that their in-house fundraising knowledge, and how technology can be used for fundraising, is good enough to support such implementations. That said, I think this is still a challenge.
- The acceptance of the cloud is growing every day in the NFP sector, and there is less concern over security than there used to be. This has probably never been such an issue for IT staff at charities, but it did un-nerve trustees earlier in the cloud's evolution.
- Amongst the "templated solutions", the functionality itself has improved.
- The CRM software vendors and their partners are darned good at marketing!
- And last but possibly not least, some charities have grown tired of waiting for some of the traditional fundraising database suppliers to provide viable, cost-effective new releases and versions which they need for their fundraising. And there are definitely a lower selection of viable options now from such suppliers than there were some years ago.
Certainly not. The traditional fundraising database suppliers for large/mid-size charities, companies such as Blackbaud, thankQ, ACS (ex-IRIS) etc, have also been selling their software, some with good volumes, and so although the CRM systems are denting their sales they still haven't overtaken them. At least not here in the UK. And on the lower end, AdvantageNFP Fundraiser, Harlequin, even KISSS still sell plenty of systems.
Similarly, it is not just Salesforce and Dynamics who are selling 'CRM' systems. CiviCRM, a "CRM" system created especially for NFPs, is definitely growing in popularity here in the UK and even more so worldwide (and I'm going to be dedicating a blog to CiviCRM in the weeks to come); Workbooks.com are becoming an interesting option having recently made several sales to the membership sector; and I hear occasional things about Zoho and vTiger, but not that much. Sadly, SugarCRM doesn't seem to have made the inroads into the sector which I thought it might do (unless anyone can tell me differently?).
So what does all this mean now to other charities who might be looking to replace their existing fundraising database? Is it really any different to a few years ago in terms of what they can get or expect from 'generic' CRM systems?
Well, yes and no.
Yes it is different in that they won't be trailblazing (so much) any more, and they can hear and learn about other charities' experiences. Yes, in that (some of) the resellers and partners implementing these systems are more fundraising savvy now and should offer better professional services. And yes in that the cloud (which many CRM suppliers are tied to) continues to grow in acceptance and popularity.
But No, in that, at the end of the day, it still comes down to what is right for each charity depending on their needs, and the technology is just one aspect of any such decision. As I have expounded many times, there is no point buying a cloud-based solution or a whizzy CRM database just because it is that if it can't deliver what you need to support your fundraising operations. And that hasn't changed. There are still good, solid options for fundraising packages and there are good, solid reasons for charities to buy those, as well as CRM solutions.
I'm going to be blogging a lot in the coming weeks about some of these considerations, and some of the lessons I've learned when helping charities procure and implement both CRM systems and traditional fundraising databases, and those lessons are equally as important - more so? - compared to the software you ultimately use.
Finally, one last thought for now: I think the number of viable, good fundraising database solution suppliers has shrunk in recent years, especially for larger charities, and one great benefit the CRM providers have done is given charities a whole new approach which they can at least consider - and that is definitely a good thing, whatever they end up actually buying.