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Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

  • 1.  Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 01, 2018 12:22
    Hi all,

    We are looking to update our Contacts Database from our current ~15 year old Access database.  Different departments have different needs, but overall we are looking to have a system that can:
    • be updated from a mobile phone or personal laptop
    • catch duplicates
    • tag and filter contacts by a variety of metrics (geographic location, job role, etc.)
    • integrate with our existing Donor database that is on Salesforce
    • integrate with Mailchimp
    • ability to create reports
    • ability to have different access levels (read only vs. full edit ability)

    Currently, software we've been considering are:

    • Kintone
    • Zoho CRM
    • Airtable
    • Survey Gizmo/Formstack/any surveying or form tool that could be integrated with Salesforce
    • Salesforce
    Has anyone migrated their contacts database that had similar needs?  Does anyone have experience with any of the above software?  Any tips on making the migration as painless as possible?

    Thanks in advance.


    ------------------------------
    Emma Vandervest
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 02, 2018 07:49
    Hi Emma,

    Finding the right contacts database system really comes down to the specific needs of an organization, and where they anticipate their organization to be in two, five, or even ten years from now.

    Most consultants recommend that you stick with a system that was designed with nonprofits in mind. When you implement a system built for something else (the for-profit sector) and try to adapt it around your business rules, it can take a lot more time, money, and headache than initially expected. And since there are a lot of great platforms in the nonprofit space, just by prioritizing your organization's needs, you should be able to hone in on a couple options that would be a good fit, releatively quickly.

    We actually just published our guide for researching donor management software earlier this week. Take a look at it when you have a chance, as it should help you ask the right questions and narrow down the field prior to getting too deep in software research.

    Good Luck!

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    Zack Augstell
    ClearView CRM
    Amherst, NY
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  • 3.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 02, 2018 09:39
    What is the difference between the folks in your Contacts database and your Salesforce development database?

    To me, it seems like a complete no-brainer to extend your Salesforce database to include the functions of this other database. Integrating is always harder and messier than it seems. And the security controls in Salesforce are very flexible and strong, so that different users see only the data that they should. Having a single database with a full picture of your organization's relationship with a constituent is the holy grail of CRM.

    Can you say a little bit about why you're even considering other options besides this?

    ------------------------------
    Thomas Taylor
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 4.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 02, 2018 12:07
    I was going to say the same thing as Thomas.  If you already have Salesforce, then you already have an outstanding contact (or customer) relationship management system that will do everything you need at no additional cost. Seems like a no-brainer.

    ------------------------------
    Rob Foley
    IT Director - The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
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  • 5.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 02, 2018 16:03
    Edited by Medha Nanal Nov 02, 2018 16:04
    Hi Emma,

    A few aspects of your organization's current tech portfolio & needs caught my eye : One, you say you need a "platform".  That tells me that you might be in need of several different types of contact records to be maintained. Second, you already have Salesforce being used for donor management, thus I assume you are running Nonprofit Success Pack. Three, you need to keep contacts that are somehow different in their engagement than the donors in Salesforce are, and you need some logical demarcation between these and your donors, by setting up selective visibility and access.

    As Rob and Thomas mentioned, given that you already have Salesforce, I think your best bet is to continue with this system. First, Salesforce Nonprofit success pack does come bundled with serious platform features. They have (arguably) the most sophisticated privacy and security related features. Also, the platform is extensible to accommodate several types of constituents, and looks like this is what you seek.

    As Rob and Thomas mentioned, I'd recommend looking into existing Salesforce to accommodate these additional contact types. I wonder why this option was not considered -- possibly there was a reason but your post does not explicitly say why. Not only is this a good use of the resource already available, but this actually might bring benefits in terms of better donor cultivation etc.

    I have helped organizations with exactly similar data and needs, to use Salesforce to successfully integrate their contact data into one central respository and that has brought numerous benefits, that has made the organizations happier and more insightful. Feel free to reach out for a no-obligation conversation if you wish to discuss more.

    ------------------------------
    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)
    www.topcloudconsult.com
    medhananal@topcloudconsult.com
    650.600.9374
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 05, 2018 08:51
    While extending Salesforce is an option, it may not be a slam-dunk.

    For one, you listed a mailchip integration requirement. The integration btw mailchimp and Salesforce has been awful over the last couple of years, and organizations that depended on this crucial link suffered through a lot of pain.

    In addition, while Salesforce can meet your requirements, the fact that it's already in use for donors means that there is likely quite a bit of process and setup that has been conformed to the needs of that department. It may be difficult to reimagine the implementation, and the governance of the system for general use by the whole org, instead of as a specific tool for fundraising.

    You also haven't mentioned what your underlying communication system is. Are you using Office 365? G Suite? Something else?

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 06, 2018 11:52
    @Isaac Shalev, I appreciate your note of caution and I know you were mostly responding to the 'slam dunk' comment but there's a good Salesforce-MailChimp connection available via Cazoomi that make the two programs talk well. As well, adding or changing any significant technology (in this case a 'contact database') is going to take re-imagining of how it interacts with other systems. Whether that ends up being an upgrade to one system to handle the new load (i.e. - Salesforce) or launching/integrating a new system, the job is significant either way.  Whether the fundraising team wants to share their database is a different challenge, mostly cultural, not technical, let alone less technical than integrating two databases (typically).

    Most organizations are looking to consolidate databases so top-of-my-list would be to vet Salesforce for the role of 'contact database.'

    ------------------------------
    Brian Pickett
    Founder and CEO
    North Peak
    www.NorthPeak.com
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted Nov 06, 2018 12:14
    Brian, thanks for sharing the Cazoomi connection - when it became available it solved a huge pain point in the ecosystem.

    In my work helping nonprofits evaluate solutions, I have found the culture and change management challenge has greater impact than the technical challenge. Or, put another way, when you do a good job on culture, fit, and alignment, you tend to pick systems and define projects, requirements, and visions that are relevant, resonant and achievable. The technical challenges, while still requiring work to overcome, are much less likely to upend the entire project.

    Anyway, I think we'd all agree that for sure any org already running SF successfully should consider extending it to address more organizational challenges, and that consideration should be one of a few paths that the org considers in doing its diligence.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted 28 days ago
    Hi all,

    Sorry for my huge delay in replying.  While extending how we use Salesforce is definitely an option, our concerns are

    1) We would need a huge amount of new Salesforce licenses.  Even if some of those licenses were platform licenses rather than a full Salesforce licenses, it's a high cost.

    2) Someone mentioned above the cultural concerns around extending use of Salesforce to other departments, and this has come up in my conversations with different stakeholders.

    Again, neither of these mean we're counting Salesforce out, just the reasons why we're seeing what our options are aside from Salesforce.

    I hope that clarifies.

    ------------------------------
    Emma Vandervest
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted 22 days ago
    Edited by Medha Nanal 22 days ago
    Hi Emma,

    The concerns you mention above are very much valid. That said, in regards with the comment that you will require huge number of additional licenses, some clarifications might be helpful.

    Specifically regarding Salesforce, there are two cases where you might need a very high number of licenses: when you wish to unveil Salesforce access to a large number of internal users, and secondly, for a scenario where you wish to make some sort of self-service type interface available to your database contacts. This second scenario pertains to so-called "Communities license" and can be indeed a huge number.

    For most nonprofits that I work with, number of internal user licenses seldom constitute a "huge" number (this is regardless of which CRM system is being used). Also, by strategically allocating CRM licenses, more can be achieved with fewer licenses. If the organization is indeed large, then bringing together all different types of contacts & data into one database has benefits that justify the additional license cost. Some of these benefits include data integration, seamless data visibility & reports across various organizational units for management, and ability to track & manage the entire engagement of a contact with the organization (the so-called 360 degree view into a contact's profile).

    The second concern you mentioned regarding cultural challenges in getting a common piece of software accepted by all departments: Once again, this is a very practical concern, but not impossible to overcome. Typically, if the teams see the value in combining organization's data, then they will join the effort, and do so enthusiastically. (I discuss some culture-related issues in my NTEN class regarding Data Driven Fundraising).

    I have worked with organizations, small and large, to help them devise a data/CRM strategy for their unique needs and also have worked with individual teams within the organization to help them transition to the new solution successfully. Often times, teams who were the most resistant to adoption have been the happiest ones after the transition. It may be useful for your organization to engage some outside help to assess your needs and find the best solution, rather than coming up with something that involves less negotiation & planning, but brings fewer benefits. Feel free to get in touch with me for further (no obligation) conversation, if you wish to discuss additional details.


    ------------------------------
    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)
    www.topcloudconsult.com
    medhananal@topcloudconsult.com
    650.600.9374
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Selecting a new Contacts Database platform

    Posted 21 days ago
    If seat-licensing is an issue, you might want to consider hosting your own database, or using a system (Eg Bitrix24) that doesn't scale costs sharply one users. You might also reach out to your preferred vendor and see if they'll quote you a custom enterprise plan that's more suited to your needs.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------