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Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Salesforce Implementations

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This year, I had the opportunity to participate in a NOEW weekend growth Hackathon where Silverline helped 6 local non-profit organizations enhance their Salesforce CRM implementations, automate more business processes, and help solve the challenges they were experiencing. NOEW is a business festival that happens every year to support entrepreneurship and innovation in New Orleans. This was the seventh consecutive year Silverline sent a volunteer team of technology consultants to help local start-ups and non-profits.

With my background in mostly for-profit organization’s implementations, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences to non-profit organizations that affect the solution and even some implementation aspects.

What are similarities in for-profit and non-profit CRM implementations?

There are many similarities when it comes to fundamental elements of a project like vision and goal setting, implementation approach and CRM strategy.

Business Vision, Goals, and Benefits of CRM. Both for-profit and non-profit companies are required to have a business vision, plan, and sustainable growth model. Neither can operate effectively without knowing their customers and prospects and managing these relationships effectively. As a result, both benefit from managing customer relationships in one place and automating core processes to simplify the common tasks and processes which allow them to focus more on core goals.

CRM Implementation. The same implementation approach can be used with both types of organizations – define the user personas, identify the business process and pain points, understand the goals and priorities, and design the solution. Each company will always have some common industry practices and set of unique processes that need to be uncovered and discussed before finalizing the CRM strategy so whether you are implementing CRM for non-profit or for-profit you will always need to answer the questions Who, What, and Why before you can design the How.

CRM Maintenance and Ongoing Strategy. Both for-profit and non-profit companies need a robust plan after the implementation regarding the CRM maintenance, adoption, and data governance. It may be different in scale and methods of execution, but it must be in place to have a robust customer relationship system.

What are differences in for-profit and non-profit CRM implementations?

There are some specifics worth mentioning when it comes to non-profits.

Defining Personas. This is what I found to be the biggest difference as you are starting a non-profit implementation – the user personas are not as well defined and it may be difficult to map functions to a specific persona. The tight budgets and focus on donations and fundraising lead to an organizational structure where a lot of staff members wear different hats and handle multiple responsibilities across different areas. The company may not have certain departments that every for-profit has because these responsibilities are spread out across everyone – examples will be HR, marketing, and management. This may not be the case for bigger and more established non-profits but definitely can be found in smaller, mid-size or newly emerging organizations. That will affect your project from the very beginning as you are defining your discovery agenda and interviews, and may make some aspects of implementation like security a little more challenging.

Defining Processes. Non-profit companies have unique needs and challenges. While for-profit companies are focused on gaining profit and even with a mission and idea that is bigger than just selling goods or services they will still need to build the process to ensure they are profitable. Non-profit businesses are selling ideas and finding benefactors to support their initiatives without gaining any direct benefit from that. That will affect both how they prospect, build customer relationships, and measure their success, and must be kept in mind while implementing a CRM solution.

Unlike for-profit organizations, non-profits may not have established business processes in some areas. Because non-profits have to operate on very tight budgets and inflow or outflow of the budgets can sometimes be unpredictable, this affects how they build their operational processes. It may not be as straightforward how some processes work and they may be changing all the time to adapt to the conditions and projects. That creates complexity when trying to automate these processes.

Considering Resource Constraints. There are two main challenges that may affect your solution:

  1. Non-profit organizations may not be as flexible regarding additional licenses and packages. It may be worth discussing in advance who will have licenses in the organization and whether there is a plan to expand the usage with time or invest more in the technology.
  2. A question worth discussing in advance is: Who will be maintaining the CRM after the implementation? Because of resource constraints, most likely the best decision will be to go with the simplest solution that is not complicated to maintain.

Do you have more similarities and differences you’d like to add to the conversation? Let me know in the comments below.

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