How to Choose: Microsoft Dynamics vs. Salesforce for Nonprofits

 In CRM (Constituent Relationship Management), Software Selections

9 Factors when Comparing Microsoft Dynamics vs. Salesforce for your Nonprofit

Are you an executive at a nonprofit organization looking to enhance efficiency, manage relationships, or boost fundraising by investing in a CRM, and wondering about Microsoft Dynamics vs. Salesforce? Many nonprofits turn to either Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics to build their CRM ecosystems. In this post, we’ll explore key factors to consider when choosing between these platforms. From cost-effectiveness to integration capabilities, we’ll provide a comprehensive analysis of both platforms to help you make an informed decision for your nonprofit’s growth.

Two important notes before we dive in:

  • For the purposes of this conversation, we’re looking at Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud (NPC) and Microsoft Dynamics Fundraising and Engagement (F&E).
  • As always, it’s important for us to stress Build’s passionate independence. Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics aren’t the only solutions we evaluate for our clients, but they tend to be leading contenders for organizations whose CRM must extend beyond a specific department or type of constituent.

As you evaluate Microsoft Dynamics vs. Salesforce platforms, and truthfully any technology selection, what’s most important is determining what is most relevant for your organization. For example, your assessment of your needs may reveal that costs are not the most important deciding factor for your nonprofit – the opportunities to inject artificial intelligence may come out in your selection as the driving factor behind the success of your investment. Conversely, your nonprofit may be seeking to consolidate systems and eliminate multiple vendors, and that dimension may be the leading consideration in your planning.

These two platforms are evolving and their relationship to their nonprofit client base is evolving rapidly too. In this article we try to give you a sense of how they compare in nine dimensions. When you read this, you should keep in mind that specific costs or acquisitions may have changed – and the introduction of AI tools is creating rapid change – but your selection process should still consider these fundamental dimensions as you work your way through the advantages and challenges of each platform.

  1. Vision for the Future
  2. Ability to Execute: CRM
  3. Experience that Nonprofits have with the Vendor
  4. Costs
  5. Ease of Integration
  6. Fundraising Ecosystem
  7. Ease to Learn
  8. Business and Productivity Tool Integration
  9. Business Intelligence

Vision for the Future

Our conclusion: Microsoft’s vision for the future has an edge over Salesforce’s.

Microsoft

Microsoft has taken a strategic approach from the start, focusing on integrating the entire Microsoft stack. Their substantial investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the seamless integration of AI into everyday workplace products have further solidified their leading position in the market.

Layering in their utilization of Power BI for onboard reporting, SharePoint and OneDrive for file storage, and the development of a common data model within the Microsoft Dataverse reflects a comprehensive strategy. The intention is to create a seamless experience where the integration of these existing products generates a sense that “the sum is greater than the parts.”

Salesforce

In contrast to Microsoft’s holistic approach, Salesforce has chosen to integrate additional functionality through strategic acquisitions. Notable among these acquisitions are Tableau for reporting and data visualization and Slack for business communications. The outcome of this strategy can sometimes lead to products feeling somewhat disconnected and perceived as a combination of individualized tools, rather than forming a broader, unified solution set.

Ability to Execute: CRM

Our conclusion: In terms of the ability of the company to execute, we gave the advantage to Salesforce.

Microsoft

Microsoft is relatively new to the nonprofit ecosystem, particularly in the realm of nonprofit business applications. The company is diligently working to catch up with established players. As expected with any emerging player, Microsoft has faced challenges, including the number of implementation partners, third-party integrations, and the size of the nonprofit community utilizing Microsoft Dynamics. Despite being in a growth phase with its nonprofit practice, Tech for Social Impact, Microsoft needs sustained investments to expand and align with its stated vision and intentions within the nonprofit space.

Salesforce

Salesforce holds the distinction of being the first to market, boasting a significant footprint, and exerting an outsized impact on the nonprofit sector. Their extensive experience in this space has contributed to a robust ecosystem of third-party applications and a substantial network of implementation partners. This depth of experience translates into a profound ability to execute, demonstrating scalability that Microsoft currently struggles to match. Salesforce’s ongoing innovation is evident in the introduction of Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud, announced in 2023. While its potential is promising, it represents the third notable pivot in product strategy in the past decade, occasionally leading to disruptions within the nonprofit community.

Experience that Nonprofits have with the Vendor

Our conclusion: Looking at the experience our clients have had of both of these vendors, we give the advantage to Microsoft.

Microsoft

Clients often report a more positive experience with Microsoft’s account executives, attributed in part to the company facing less revenue generation pressure compared to Salesforce.  Additionally, Microsoft has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the nonprofit community, evident in consistent product discounts and conference sponsorships. This philanthropic dedication extends to Dynamics, emphasizing Microsoft’s extensive experience in making philanthropic investments in the nonprofit sector.  Build has advocated directly with Microsoft that this is a strength they should continue to leverage – being seen as a partner to the nonprofit community while balancing that partnership against the reality of needing to be a profitable organization/business.

Salesforce

Salesforce’s nonprofit marketing engine has, at times, outpaced the actual capabilities of its products. The marketing narrative, portraying broad capabilities, doesn’t always align with practical realities. This misalignment poses challenges during implementation, especially when organizations skip a comprehensive selection process. The gaps between marketing promises and reality become evident during implementation, potentially causing difficulties in collaboration with implementation partners. Given the substantial investment required for such a platform, Build emphasizes the importance for nonprofits to critically assess beyond the hype and delve into the substantive aspects of any platform, including Salesforce. We’ve chronicled some of our concerns with Salesforce’s practices, some of which they’ve improved while some remain.

Costs

Our conclusion: In our evaluations, we have found Microsoft to be more affordable.

Microsoft

Microsoft often emerges as a more cost-effective choice in the selections we’ve led. Their commitment to supporting nonprofits is evident through discounted licenses, spanning from Azure to Microsoft 365 to Dynamics. However, navigating the pricing landscape for both systems can sometimes feel like it requires a PhD, particularly with Microsoft’s extensive array of services, products, and applications, leading to potential confusion.

Salesforce

On the pricing front, Salesforce has occasionally presented challenges with a perceived lack of clarity. Our experience highlights instances where Salesforce’s pricing appeared oblique, and there were times when account executives didn’t fully grasp how to best meet the licensing requirements of nonprofits.

Despite these considerations, at Build, we emphasize that cost should not be the sole driver in selecting technology. We guide organizations through a thorough understanding of their requirements before delving into cost considerations. Emphasizing return on investment (ROI), we stress the importance of a well-defined project that takes a holistic view of ROI during the selection process.

Ease of Integration

Our conclusion: When evaluating the landscape of third party integrations, Salesforce has the advantage

Microsoft

Microsoft excels in seamless integration within its product stack but operates in a relatively emerging marketplace with external vendors. Despite active efforts to grow this ecosystem, Microsoft faces a disadvantage compared to Salesforce. Organizations should thoroughly assess the importance of integrations by evaluating existing tools, needs, and opportunities. Microsoft’s value lies in the collective strength of its individual components, covering business, productivity, communications, and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Additionally, Microsoft offers Business Central, an integrated ERP accounting solution, and excels in service, HR, operations, and inventory management.

Salesforce

In the integration landscape, Salesforce is the go-to for vendors linking their products with nonprofit CRM solutions due to its established dominance. For instance, if you use Mailchimp, integrating Salesforce is smoother due to their long-standing compatibility. Evaluating these solutions should focus on understanding the importance of a larger Salesforce integration compared to Microsoft for your organization.

Fundraising Ecosystem

Our conclusion: Salesforce has the edge when it comes to fundraising, thanks to its sizable head start.

Microsoft

Since Microsoft is newer to the field, it was able to learn from a lot of Salesforce’s mistakes over the years. However, Microsoft doesn’t boast Salesforce’s broad array of third-party products catering to fundraising needs and solutions that are seamlessly integrated. Your universe of options on the Microsoft side is more limited.

Salesforce

Salesforce has a significant head start in incorporating the unique aspects of fundraising requirements. In 2008, Salesforce revolutionized the nonprofit sector with NPSP (Nonprofit Success Pack), which not only offered a free, community-built code but met a crucial nonprofit need: fundraising. Evolving from the Nonprofit Starter Pack to NGOC, then to the Nonprofit Success Pack, and presently, the Nonprofit Cloud, each transformation not only altered the product name but also redefined the product’s strategy and capabilities. Now, with Nonprofit Cloud, we are entering a new era that holds the potential to unlock the full value of Salesforce’s entire ecosystem of “Clouds.” It’s an exciting time, and while we are still in the early stages, the possibilities are promising.

Ease to Learn

Our conclusion: These are rich, deep, and complex ecosystems. We give Salesforce a strong advantage over Microsoft in terms of ease of training new users.

Microsoft

Navigating Microsoft’s products can feel like solving an incredibly complex puzzle, which poses challenges for the average business user. Understanding the right products, potential overlap, and intersections with existing tools can be complex, often surpassing the capabilities of IT teams. While there are nascent training and adoption resources related to Fundraising and Engagement, Microsoft lacks the comprehensive onboarding, training, and documentation seen in Salesforce’s Trailhead. Microsoft’s investment in systems to ease new user entry falls short of what Salesforce has achieved.

Salesforce

In learning resources, Salesforce takes the lead, leaving Microsoft playing catch-up. Trailhead, their self-guided learning platform, stands out as an invaluable resource, effortlessly empowering new users and successfully drawing more individuals into the nonprofit tech realm. Microsoft should take note and aim to emulate Salesforce’s model, setting an example for other vendors. Additionally, Salesforce’s Power of Us Hub fosters engaged discussions and provides prompt answers to questions.

Business and Productivity Tool Integration

Our conclusion: When it comes to synergy with the ecosystem that already exists in your nonprofit, we think Microsoft comes out ahead for those already using Microsoft products

Microsoft

Many nonprofits are already using Microsoft 365, including familiar tools like Word and Excel. The user-friendly interface and seamless integration across Microsoft products, such as entering data from Outlook directly into Excel or saving a Word file in SharePoint, contribute to a sense of familiarity among end users. Microsoft’s approach emphasizes consistency in interfaces and integrations.

Salesforce

From the outset, there was a joke about Salesforce feeling like a “Frankenstein system” due to its reliance on numerous third-party tools for various functions. Despite integrating new tools like Slack and Tableau, it can come across as a partial integration compared to Microsoft’s systems built on the same platform with a consistent appearance. While not a decisive lead for Microsoft, this criterion becomes crucial if your organization is already using Microsoft or Salesforce, considering the challenges associated with changing systems.

Business Intelligence

Our conclusion: We give the edge to Microsoft for its ability to glean and report on insights from your data.

Microsoft

Microsoft secures a higher score in Business Intelligence due to Power BI, a competitor to Tableau, which is seamlessly integrated into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem and offers discounted nonprofit licenses. We also like that Microsoft Dynamics easily connects with Excel for reporting. Many users find Excel sufficient for 90% of their reporting and analysis needs, as it’s a familiar tool and doesn’t require creating custom reports. For those ready to explore more advanced features, PowerBI offers a powerful reporting tool.

Salesforce

The integration of Tableau with Salesforce products feels like an add-on. Despite Salesforce’s marketing claims, Tableau post-acquisition lacks sufficient integration into the Salesforce technology ecosystem, making Salesforce the weaker player in providing effective data and reporting tools that minimize friction.

Conclusion

In the realm of nonprofit CRM solutions, both Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics Fundraising and Engagement stand as excellent options, offering a comprehensive perspective on organizational dynamics and constituents. As you navigate this decision-making journey, take the time to delve into the unique strengths and potential limitations of each platform.

Our Nonprofit Change Management Planning Template helps organizations invest in change management and reap the benefits.

As part of the Build Change Management Framework, we created this free Nonprofit Change Management Planning Template. It’s part of a set of tools we use to help organizations approach these projects with a change management view.

Summary

The nonprofit mid-market ecosystem is changing and evolving. It’s something that we’re constantly following. This post examines how these two platforms, Microsoft Dynamics vs Salesforce, stack up at the moment. Build has tried to paint a generalized picture to help your selection process and inform your decision.

Hopefully we painted a picture that it’s not a straightforward choice. Even if we gave Microsoft a slight edge today over Salesforce overall, you can see in each category what the narrower concerns and strengths are, which can help you dig into your own needs and priorities.

Our hope is that by sharing our experience with these two large systems with you, you can add these reflections into your own specific requirements gathering and strategic planning. If you have more specific questions, let’s talk.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • Anna Caplan
    Anna Caplan Consultant

    Anna (they/she) has more than 14 years of experience in nonprofits and education, Anna has held diverse roles encompassing nonprofit founder, program management, fundraising, communications, and operations. Anna is distinguished by a creative and collaborative approach to resolving intricate challenges and is deeply committed to listening, adapting, and crafting tailored solutions that help nonprofits thrive.

  • Dan Shenk-Evans Senior Consultant

    For almost 25 years, Dan has guided nonprofits through IT strategic planning and implementation projects that have transformed their missions. He has a wide range of IT skills, including researching, selecting, and implementing innovative solutions that enhance service impact and re-engineer inefficient workflows. More »

  • Kyle Haines Partner

    Kyle is a co-founding partner at Build Consulting with over 25 years of experience as a nonprofit technology leader and Chief Information Officer (CIO). His expertise lies in aligning technology to drive impact, foster strong relationships with constituents, and optimize organizational operations. More »

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