Salesforce: More than a Platform, An Approach

BrightStep Partners is heading to the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference today, and I’m excited to see some of the new tools and features available to our community – particularly to see what’s new around marketing engagement, advocacy and mass email for many of the environmental and justice organizations we serve.

Many nonprofits will also visit the Salesforce Foundation zone to investigate the platform’s evolving features, and try to understand if they should make the move. Yet fundamentally, Salesforce for nonprofits is not a product or tool to be selected and compared against other vendors.

Salesforce for nonprofits is an approach.

In her last blog post, Tracy mentioned that the one constant is that tools and technologies will change.  Why pick a tool that may become obsolete, get sold, or lose its relevance for our organization? Instead – pick a platform, Salesforce, for current and future success.

Salesforce for nonprofits is a platform from which we can iterate and learn within our organizations. And just like my iPhone – I pick it not for the way it makes phone calls – but for the apps and tools that live on top of it.  Apps which I change, and delete, and upgrade over time.

For example – mass email.  Today I need a mass email tool that is more mobile responsive than my current tool and has prettier templates. MailChimp could be a great choice. Two years from now, my list has grown to 50,000.  Now I want to do more robust A/B testing. Exact Target could be a great option. With a flexible platform, I can change the tool I use for mass email (or texting, or engagement, or anything!) as my needs change and the tools themselves evolve.

Picking Salesforce isn’t about comparing a feature list vs. another product. It’s about making a commitment to experiment and evolve as an organization, and utilize the infinitely customizable platform of Salesforce, and its robust AppExchange of third-party tools, to do so.

What is the Salesforce Approach?

  • Picking a database of record from which we will drive engagement
  • Deciding to collaborate on data within our organization
  • Creating a culture around shared information
  • Choosing a platform that allows us to bring in the best tool for the job, rather than something that “does it all” – but not at all well
  • Utilizing third-party tools to accomplish specific tasks, and integrating key data back into the platform
  • Expecting that our needs will change over time, as will the tools we use to meet them
  • Creating a long-term plan to accommodate changing needs and technological advances
  • Investing time in creating something new for our organization around technology
  • Owning our organization’s theory of change by customizing the platform to track our specific outcomes

Why choose Salesforce?  Because its fundamental approach is investing in a central platform that will allow your organization to experiment and be dynamic over time.

So what if you’re already using Salesforce, but your organization isn’t aligned with this dynamic approach? Do you ever feel like you are a Salesforce Therapist, or you need one?

Look for us at the conference to get your own “Salesforce Help 5¢” Lucy button – or check out this link of where to find us this week.

Salesforce Help

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the Salesforce platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for Salesforce success. In September 2017, she was named a Salesforce MVP.

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Posted in Adoption, Change Management, Events, Implementation Success, Leadership, Planning
3 comments on “Salesforce: More than a Platform, An Approach
  1. […] want a platform that will scale with them – something I’ve called in another post the Salesforce approach. There’s a commitment inherent in that approach to move their organizations forward and extend […]


  2. […] At BrightStep we get a lot of phone calls from nonprofit leaders who are struggling with a Salesforce database that they’ve had for some time. We call these “second-phase” implementations – those in which a nonprofit revamps its data tracking to reflect its evolving metrics, programmatic work, and theory of change – or in many cases, a nonprofit needs to upgrade to get on the latest version of a managed package like the Nonprofit Starter Pack or just clean up messy data.  The beauty of this is that Salesforce as a platform is dynamic enough to evolve with an organization – something I’ve called before the Salesforce Approach. […]


  3. […] reality is that a system without an owner is bound to fail. Nonprofits are investing in a holistic approach to managing their organizations, and someone needs to manage the ship. Which begs the question – […]


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