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Salesforce for Nonprofits: Understanding the Essentials

Learn more about how to configure Salesforce for nonprofits.

If you've been researching CRM software for your nonprofit, or even if you haven't, you've likely heard of Salesforce. It's the world's leading CRM solution for businesses, nonprofits, consultants, and other organizations.

It's considered such because the Salesforce donor management system is completely configurable. Your nonprofit can transform the software into whatever you need it to be.

While Salesforce is popular because of the extensive customization options it offers, this also means that nonprofits like yours may need some guidance to make sure the solution is as effective as possible. That's why we've created this essential guide: to help you better understand how to configure Salesforce for nonprofits.

We'll be covering some of the common questions that nonprofits ask about Salesforce before their investment and during the configuration process. These questions include:

  1. What is the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack?
  2. Is Salesforce for nonprofits free?
  3. How do you execute fundraising with Salesforce for nonprofits?
  4. What are the next investment steps to configure Salesforce for nonprofits?

Salesforce is a powerful CRM resource for nonprofits when it's been set up the right way. Ready to learn more about how to maximize your use of the world's leading CRM? Let's get started.

Implementing the NPSP is the first step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits.

What is the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack?

The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is the pre-configured solution designed by Salesforce for nonprofits to use. The primary features it offers include constituent management, basic campaigns, and reporting features.

The Salesforce NPSP offers the essential tools your nonprofit needs to get started with Salesforce. These tools are essential because:

The nonprofit success pack helps configure Salesforce for nonprofits with constituent management, campaign management, and reporting features.

  • Constituent management is likely the reason you invested in Salesforce to begin with. This tool helps you track and store important information in donor profiles such as their fundraising history, contact information, volunteer hours, and other customizable fields.
  • Basic campaign management provides a centralized location for your nonprofit to view important information about your annual, capital, and other fundraising campaigns. This provides a place to store details that will help you tweak future strategies, identify new opportunities, and enhance your fundraising.
  • Reporting features of the Salesforce NPSP offer preset forms that you can view to evaluate the strategy of your nonprofit. Plus, you can create and customize new reports to get the specific data you need.

These basic functions will help your nonprofit start configuring your Salesforce solution. However, you've probably already identified some gaps in this basic solution. For instance, fully-functional donation pages, peer-to-peer fundraising, advocacy actions, and marketing automation aren't specifically offered.

For this reason, we know that the NPSP won't provide everything we need, although it's a great starting point. Make sure to look for a fundraising solution to fill these gaps that is designed to work alongside the NPSP so that you can take full advantage of your entire toolkit.

Is Salesforce for nonprofits free?

Is Salesforce for nonprofits free?

Salesforce is sometimes described as an empty bucket. It's a place to store information about each of your donors, but not much more than that upon first appearance.

You need to build out your solution with apps and integrations to ensure the configuration fits your needs.

Salesforce advertises itself as "free" for nonprofits. And in reality, the basic CRM and NPSP is free for up to 10 users. However, as we touched on before, your nonprofit will be missing a few tools. Once you've implemented those tools, Salesforce is no longer free.

There are two ways to build out your nonprofit toolbox, one of which definitely has a financial advantage over the other.

The first way to build out a nonprofit toolbox requires your nonprofit to invest in one-off Salesforce native apps from the AppExchange. In this case, each app fulfills a different need for your nonprofit. One may be used for prospect research, another for donation tools, and another for peer-to-peer fundraising. However, each app is also sold separately from one another.

The second (and more cost-effective) way to build out your nonprofit toolbox is to invest in an already complete fundraising ecosystem that integrates with Salesforce. This way, you know you have everything you need right off the bat! This system integrates with the main CRM and each of the tools also works together in a cohesive unit, unlike one-off apps.

The difference between these two methods is in the connectivity between the different tools offered by your nonprofit. Consider this connectivity with the example image below: 

Salesforce for nonprofits can be configured with either apps or integrations.

Some of the other costs to look out for while building out your toolbox include:

  • Implementation costs of the tools you choose. Be sure to ask about these upfront.
  • Salesforce consulting. This is an optional investment that your nonprofit may choose if you're having difficulties configuring your solution.

When you look for complete solutions to integrate with Salesforce, be sure to look for one with user-friendly configuration.

For instance, Salsa Engage for Salesforce has easy-to-use configuration, connection, and mapping interfaces so that the sync doesn't require significant time or staff investment.

Learn More About Salsa Engage for Salesforce!

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How do you execute fundraising with Salesforce for nonprofits?

How do you execute fundraising with Salesforce for nonprofits?

When your nonprofit invests in a complete fundraising solution in order to build out Salesforce for nonprofits, all of your fundraising software tools work together to accomplish every aspect of your strategy.

Instead of only having integrations between each individual tool and your core CRM (Salesforce), which is what you get when you invest in individual apps, a complete fundraising solution ensures each and every tool can pull data from one another.

When you're investing in this cohesive unit, make sure the solution offers all of the fundraising features your nonprofit needs to succeed. 

What features should you look for while investing in software to pair with Salesforce for nonprofits?

Features to look for in your fundraising solution

How can you be sure your nonprofit is investing in a truly complete solution? You'll need to look for a fundraising solution that offers the most essential and useful tools.

Some of the fundraising tools your nonprofit should look for include:

  • Online donation forms. Online donation forms should be customizable so your nonprofit can add your logo, suggested giving amounts, and custom form information from your supporters.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. The peer-to-peer fundraising tools you should look for should have event pages, available coaches for campaigns, and both personal and team fundraising pages.
  • Event registration. Plan fundraising events with Salesforce for nonprofits. Event registration tools integrated with your CRM make it easier to add event attendance to a supporter's donor profile.
  • Payment processing. Make sure the payment processing system your fundraising software provider offers is PCI-compliant. This ensures a safe transfer of money from supporters to your nonprofit.
  • Email marketing. Look for a solution that allows you to set up email series that you can use to lead your supporters to complete a specific action. You should also be able to brand each email with your organization's logo, colors, and fonts.
  • Social media marketing. Enable social sharing buttons on advocacy and fundraising actions so that your supporters can help promote your nonprofit. Plus, schedule posts to publish ahead of time to ensure a constant social media presence.
  • Automated gift acknowledgements. Send automated gift acknowledgements to your donors and provide them with the necessary tax information they need while showing your appreciation for their generous contributions.
  • Advocacy tools. Look for fundraising software that also provides advocacy tools so that your organization can ask for signatures on a petition, click-to-call actions, and social media actions in addition to gifts.
  • Dashboard analytics. Make sure your fundraising solution offers real-time dashboard analytics and visual representations of success to view at a glance in addition to the comprehensive reports your organization can pull.

You're probably thinking, "wow, that's quite a list," and you're right! There are a lot of tools your organization should look for when investing in comprehensive fundraising software. But can you imagine purchasing each of these tools separately? Those separate expenses add up quickly!

In addition to these features, your nonprofit should also look into the integration details that indicate an effective synchronization of information.

Note: Salsa Engage for Salesforce is designed to offer all of these fundraising tools and functionality while harnessing the power of the Salesforce NPSP, providing your nonprofit will all of the fundraising and CRM tools you need.

What integration information should you look for while investing in Salesforce for nonprofits?

Integration information to look for in your fundraising solution

Just having access to the best tools isn't enough. When your nonprofit finds a solution that offers everything you need, you should also make sure that solution also offers all of the integration features that make it a successful Salesforce partner.

When searching for a good Salesforce partner, look into the integration information for the following details:

  • Bidirectional data integration. Bidirectional data integration ensures that all of your supporters' engagement data will flow from the fundraising solution into your CRM and provides easy segmentation and automation for fundraising and marketing.
  • Frequent synchronization. Reduce the lag time synchronizing information from your CRM to your fundraising solution and vice versa. Some solutions sync as frequently as every 5 minutes, ensuring you have access to essentially real-time data.
  • User-friendly configuration. You don't want to waste too much time (or money for consultants) to effectively configure or sync data. Make sure the integration is easy to get up and running quickly for the average Salesforce user.
  • No third-party platforms. Limit the number of platforms you need to worry about in your software toolbox. Make sure you don't need to worry about a third party for sync mapping, configuration, error logging, or setup options.
  • Match and merge. Look for a solution that offers the option to harnesses the built-in Salesforce Duplicate Matching rules or to manually control this aspect of the CRM system.

When you consider all of these elements together, you end up with a software solution that harnesses the built-in tools native to the Salesforce CRM, such as contacts, campaigns, and opportunities. However, it's further built out to also harness the complete fundraising solution in its entirety.

For instance, Salsa Engage for Salesforce harnesses all of the power of Salsa's fundraising tools while complementing and drawing on the existing opportunities offered by the separate CRM.

What are the next investment steps to configure Salesforce for nonprofits.

What are the next investment steps to configure Salesforce for nonprofits?

There's a lot of information out there about Salesforce for nonprofits. Your head is probably reeling with information. Take comfort in the fact that we've established some concrete next steps for you!

1. Determine your fundraising software needs.

The first step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to determine your needs. Make a list of the needs you're looking to fulfill by investing in new fundraising software. Consider both the needs you need to fill now and the ones your nonprofit will have in the future as you continue to expand. (Use our essentials list from earlier to get started.) Remember that your nonprofit's needs are uniquely yours and cookie cutter just lists won't do it. 

2. Decide how you want to build out Salesforce.

The second step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to decide how you will build out your system.We recommend finding a complete fundraising software integration rather than investing in individual native apps from the AppExchange. However, it's always good to conduct research about both and come to your own decision as to which will be better for your nonprofit. Don't forget about long-term costs in addition to the short-term while conducting this research.

3. Conduct research using comparison lists.

The third step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to conduct research. Start creating a list of potential vendors. Get a jump start on this list by looking at the referral pages of companies that you trust. Consider looking at partnership lists from the other organizations you invest in. Referrals from these sources tend to be preferred over random companies. You can also start comparing functionality using these lists as well as software review sites like Capterra or G2 Crowd.

4. Research the software online.

The fourth step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to continue your research.Narrow down your list of providers by conducting extensive research on each one. Make sure everyone on your shortlist has all of the functionality necessary to build out Salesforce for nonprofits. Try to ensure all of these solutions are also within (or close to) your budget. While you don't want to lose out on a great solution, you also don't want to break the bank!

5. View a demo of your favorite solutions.

The fifth step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to get a demo of your favorite solutions. Contact the various software providers on your shortlist to schedule demos with them. Be sure to ask all of your questions (don't be shy about anything) so that you can make a true comparison between the software solutions. Conduct research beforehand and make sure you have all of the questions you want to ask, including about price and functionality, so that you're ready going into the demo. 

6. Last round of research.

The sixth step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to do one last round of research. Conduct one last round of research to solidify your decisions. This step isn't designed to make you second guess yourself or cast doubt on the decision. Instead, it's supposed to solidify your thinking and help you feel good about the choice you've made. If you don't feel good about it, you may want to rethink your selection process. 

7. Select your vendor.

The last step to configure Salesforce for nonprofits is to choose your solution. Congratulations!

Now it's time to invest, set up, configure, and train your staff to use the new software. With your new solution, the power of Salesforce for nonprofits is in the palm of your hand.

What's the best solution to build out Salesforce for nonprofits?

The best solution to kick off your research is Salsa Engage for Salesforce. Salsa Engage is a complete nonprofit solution that helps organizations enhance every aspect of their fundraising strategy.

Not only do they offer all of the features mentioned in section 3, but they also offer a full, easy-to-implement integration with Salesforce.

Since we moved to Salsa, we've been able to fully integrate our peer-to-peer fundraising and our online fundraising with our donor database. This is a huge time saver.

- Debra Norman | Development Associate


Salesforce for nonprofits is a major draw to many nonprofits because of its "free" solution. While it may not necessarily be as "free" as many would like it, there is a reason it's considered the world's leading CRM solution.

Get started building out your toolkit to harness the full power of Salesforce for nonprofits.

If you want to unlock more supporter management and fundraising tips, check out these additional resources:

Learn More About Salsa Engage for Salesforce!

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Topics: Donor Management