Selecting Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce
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Selecting Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce

Investing in a platform like Dynamics or Salesforce can be transformative for your nonprofit. These platforms allow you to capture important data to fuel your mission, engage with constituents in diverse ways, and transform how your organization collaborates, communicates, and works.

The starting point, before making these investments, should be educating yourself, your team, and your organization about the important considerations when selecting either platform. Each platform has strengths but both are also rapidly changing and evolving.

Dan Shenk-Evans, Senior Consultant and Kyle Haines, Partner at Build Consulting, share key considerations nonprofits should answer before making significant investments in a platform like Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce.

In this webinar, they cover

  • How do Microsoft and Salesforce compare as vendors?
  • How do Dynamics and Salesforce compare as solutions?
  • What do successful organizations do to ensure that they get the most from investments in either Dynamics or Salesforce?

This webinar is intended for an executive audience or those tasked with helping their organization navigate complex business application decisions. It’s appropriate for an audience of varied IT experience. Build is passionately independent, and vendor agnostic. Kyle and Dan discuss specific solutions but believe any nonprofit should make carefully informed decisions about the technology that is right for their organization.

  • 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 »


Kyle:  Hey everyone, welcome to our webinar Selecting Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce for your nonprofit. We’re incredibly excited by today’s webinar. Dan and I have been putting our heads together, trying to think about the latest and greatest information we can share with you.

We’re incredibly excited to present today and share our thoughts and experiences as we have helped other organizations navigate the decision between Dynamics and Salesforce and the things that they ask about and the things that we’ve learned.

I’m Kyle. I’m a partner here at Build. And this topic is actually near and dear to my heart. Since my very early career working at Blackbaud, I’ve been focused on CRM and really interested in CRM. And it’s really interesting to me to see how much has changed from my early days in the nonprofit technology sector and how both Salesforce and Dynamics are helping to drive a lot of that change. Dan, before we jump into it, do you want to do a quick intro as well?

Dan Shenk-Evans:  Sure. My name is Dan Shenk-Evans, and I’ve been a Senior Consultant at Build for about four years. I’m very excited to be here as well. I’ve experienced the nonprofit space through a wide range of roles, including director of IT and former executive director. So I’ve seen a lot of technology within nonprofit space, and I’m glad to be here today and excited to be talking with you all.

Kyle:  Thanks, Dan. And what would be a technology presentation without a caveat to start things? So, rather than us talking about a forward looking statement, I wanted to quickly mention that Build is passionately independent. And what that means is that we really are advocates for our clients. And what we try to do is find the right solution for your individual organization that is grounded in your specific needs and your requirements and where your organization is looking to go.

We don’t partner with other organizations, so we don’t partner with Salesforce, we don’t partner with Microsoft, we don’t partner with any organization. We try to keep good working relationships with organizations like Salesforce and Microsoft so that we can stay informed around the direction of these companies and also provide them feedback and provide them information around what we’re hearing in the sector, what our clients are looking for, and how they can meet the needs and emerging needs of our clients.

Learning Goals

We’d like to cover three areas today.

Today’s presentation, as promised by the title, we’re going to spend most of our time talking about our experience, what we see as some of the differences and perhaps in some cases the similarities between Salesforce and Microsoft as we try to do a comparison from head to head.

The second thing we want to cover is how we view these platforms, how we view them enabling nonprofits, how nonprofits have used them successfully.

And we won’t spend a ton of time there because this does look different for different organizations. And this goes back to a point I made earlier about this presentation should only be one data point, should only be one part of how you think about how either one of these solutions might be the right fit for your nonprofit.

And then lastly, we want to talk about if you’re going to move to a platform like Salesforce or like Dynamics, or make a large investment in a CRM project, or any large technology project, what are the things that you need to do to be successful?

I’m going to give you a little sneak preview of what it’s about. At its core, we really think that it is change management.

And with that, let’s get started with today’s presentation in more depth.

Another caveat is we know through research that more than half of all technology projects fail. And there are a ton of stats on why this is. In our experience with CRM projects, which is what we’re talking about today, this is mostly because organizations underestimate and under-resource those types of projects. They don’t understand what the change entails.

Hopefully, today you’ll get a better sense of a number of the things that we think need to pivot alongside making an investment in a platform. When projects fail, technology is rarely the thing to blame.

Introductions: Microsoft and Salesforce

Dan Shenk-Evans:  So why are we talking about Microsoft and Salesforce? It’s mostly because they’re the dominant players in the CRM nonprofit space.

Within this space, there aren’t too many others who come even close to delivering the solution set that these two vendors do. So we will be spending most of our time discussing them. And while there are other competitors out there such as Zoho or HubSpot, nonprofit specific functionality is still very pretty thin and the pool of implementation partners that support them is also not as developed. So we’re highlighting these two because they are the dominant players in the field and have been for a while. That of course particularly applies to Salesforce. They’ve been around the longest and so they are seen as the leader. We encounter them the most because they are installed in such a huge base.

Also because of the brand recognition, we tend to have prospective clients come to us already asking questions about them.

However, Microsoft has made a lot of headway in the last few years, especially since the release of fundraising engagement in 2020. And a few years before that, they worked on the nonprofit Common Data Model. They’ve really caught the eye of a lot of nonprofits, and so they’re gaining a lot of ground. Now we’re encountering them almost on an equal basis and we want to talk about their differences today, and their similarities, because they’re both great platforms. Both have a lot of flexibility.

There’s not a huge amount of difference in terms of their base functionality, but we’ll be covering our perspective on their differences here. Last thing I’ll say is that, again, nothing we say today is a recommendation of one over the other. Every nonprofit is different. Everybody has different requirements, and so you have to take everything we say into account as you make this decision.

Kyle:  Thanks, Dan. I think we’ve both embedded this in some of our remarks, but why we’re really excited about this topic and why we wanted to create this webinar today is that the growth of Salesforce and the rise of Salesforce and increasingly the growth of Dynamics has helped inject a lot of investment in the sector.

I think we’ve seen it lacking in some ways and in the last few years, there has been increased competition and Salesforce and Microsoft are certainly helping to stimulate that investment and create a more competitive environment. And that works for our clients, and that works for the whole sector. And Dan and I are brought to this work. The reason that we work at Build Consulting, is that we like to see the impact that technology can have on clients.

These products increasingly are doing things to help nonprofits measure their impact and communicate their impact to constituents, communicate it to board members and help their staff understand the impact of their work. A lot of the investments and a lot of things these two vendors are doing really resonate with Build and with Dan and me specifically.

Then the last two things, is that these platforms oftentimes with the breadth of what they’re able to do for nonprofits inject energy into this idea of digital transformation. They can help people organize their work in new ways, understand constituents in new ways, serve constituents in new ways. And we are incredibly heartened by how these vendors are thinking about that and in many ways how the breadth of their vision around how they can do that continues to expand.

I think it’s always interesting to look at how Gartner evaluates the relative strengths of platforms. And it is only one data point. We did this presentation in 2020 and this is how Gartner viewed CRM in 2020. And in this, you can see that Salesforce and Microsoft are both seen as leaders and also as visionaries. And we’re going to show a little bit more in a moment.

Dan’s going to show what’s changed in 2022, but before he does, we think it’s important to note that this magic quadrant, again, is only one data point and they don’t evaluate other vendors. So vendors that Dan mentioned like Neon or HubSpot or EveryAction or Blackbaud, they aren’t measured by Gartner just because they are in more of a niche market. So I wanted to call out that this is really about evaluating commercial CRM solutions.

And that leads me to the other point that this is not about nonprofit functionality specifically. This is more broadly about CRM functionality. And the other thing that I thought was worth mentioning is that even though there is a gap in this one between Salesforce and its nearest competitors, it’s really important for your organization to figure out, is that gap meaningful for us? We’d say that in evaluating any solution. So just because this shows Salesforce way out ahead, keep that in perspective that there are a number of other vendors that would also be, that are also included as leaders and visionaries in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Dan, I’m going to hand over the 2022 evaluation to you.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  Yeah. And as you see, Microsoft and Salesforce are still in the leader’s quadrant, but Microsoft has gotten closer and has gotten both up and to the right. So both as visionaries and leaders, Garner sees them as improving.

And so, the only thing to take out of this is that it does reflect what we are seeing in the market and specifically in the nonprofit market, since this magic quadrant really isn’t about nonprofits. We just want to point out we’re seeing the same thing in our space, again, mostly because of Microsoft’s new dedication to business applications built on Dynamics 365.

CRM History in the Nonprofit Sector

Kyle:  Dan and I spent a lot of time on this slide talking about how to accurately capture and what picture we were trying to paint here. Where we landed was just to show how recently or the length of time that Salesforce and Microsoft have been thinking about nonprofit CRM.

For those of you who have been in the nonprofit sector for a long time, Blackbaud’s been around since 1981, which relative to technology is forever. And if anyone uses any Blackbaud products, it definitely feels like they’ve been around forever. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they were founded way back in 1981. We included them here, and this was a discussion that Dan and I had because they do have a nonprofit platform approach to CRM and that takes the form of Blackbaud CRM, which tends to predominantly be at higher education institutions and large enterprise nonprofits.

But we hear about Blackbaud CRM less and less and hear more about Salesforce and Microsoft in our work, predominantly because the emphasis of Blackbaud CRM starts with fundraising.

Salesforce has a long history working in the nonprofit sector. In 2000, the Salesforce foundation was founded by Marc Benioff, the CEO and Founder of Salesforce, around a 1-1-1 model. And they embedded from the beginning as part of the 1-1-1 model donating 1% of profits, 1% of employee time, and 1% of something else. I don’t know what the other 1% is, but they’ve been around for a long time and they started out by donating 10 free user licenses which they continue to do today.

And as we’re going to talk about in more detail later, they’ve had a lot of different iterations over the years, but they did start in the year 2000, thinking about nonprofits and how to leverage the Salesforce platform to meet the needs of nonprofits.

We included Neon, and this is probably the area of greatest discussion Dan and I had about who the right people to highlight here. We highlighted Neon just simply because it is a name that we have encountered in the past. They do claim to have or they do talk about how they can be an enterprise CRM and offer functionality that extends beyond a traditional fundraising CRM.

Clearly Microsoft didn’t start in 2015, but that’s when Microsoft Philanthropies was formed. But it’s important to note that Microsoft has been philanthropic for a long time, and historically that took the form of discounted licenses for things like Office 365 and more on their infrastructure side. So they have a long history of being philanthropic themselves, and more recently, they’ve expanded their vision of what that looks like and extended it to products like Microsoft Dynamics and other products as well. Dan, what would you add or do you think I misstated anything there?

Dan Shenk-Evans:  No, there’s a lot of other products in the nonprofit space we could talk about. There’s a lot of acquisition happening. Other firms like Bonterra Tech who have consolidated a CRM, a fundraising human case management social services tool. So there’s a lot of movement in this field and we think a lot of it has to do with this Microsoft and Salesforce duo bringing so much functionality and performance and flexibility and scalability to the market. It’s forcing other nonprofit specific, nonprofit focused software to either acquire other software or to become more flexible because they know how many, especially mid-sized nonprofits and above are moving to these two platforms because they like the fact that they can go end to end. It’s not just about fundraising.

In 1981, Blackbaud was about fundraising because that’s what nonprofits needed a database for. But now, data is the new goal and we need power. We need business intelligence tools. We want to be able to see not only how the money came in, but how it’s being used, what the outcomes are and so forth. I just think this communicates that while the nonprofit space has been around for a long time, Salesforce and Microsoft are having an impact that is outside of their position in the market.

Kyle:  Thank you, Dan. That’s awesome.

Changes in the CRM Landscape Last 4-5 Years

Dan Shenk-Evans:Segueing from that, what are some of the changes we’ve seen recently over the last four or five years?

Salesforce continues to expand and to grab more and more companies offering more solutions under one umbrella. Three of the most prominent ones are MuleSoft, which is one of the leading ETL tools (extract, transform and load), basically a data integration tool. And they also bought Tableau, a business intelligence tool, one of the leading reporting tools, but that creates beautiful dashboards and allows for ad hoc report creation that you can slice and dice however you want. They brought that into their family of products. And then, Slack in 2021, the communications chatting tool, collaboration tool, intra office tool.

We think a large reason they did that was because of the pressure they were feeling from Microsoft seeing that Microsoft was entering into the business applications space and bringing a lot of tools to bear to provide a deep breadth of options for any organization to use. And so we think they put a lot of pressure on Salesforce and Salesforce has been acquiring as their response to that.

Kyle:  And as Dan alluded to, this is the periodic table of Microsoft. I say that as a joke because Microsoft does do an incredible number and a wide breadth of things, and it is very complex even for Dan and me and at times is a confusing universe to navigate.

And that is being amplified by changes in product names of products that become consolidated. For folks that can navigate this complex ecosystem, it can afford a lot of functionality and opportunities to integrate Microsoft Dynamics into products that you already know and use. Things like Excel and Microsoft Office and SharePoint and OneDrive, those immediately come to mind.

Dan, we have a question, I’m just going to read it really quick. This comes from Heidi and says,

If our organization is already invested in Microsoft business applications and the power platform, is Salesforce still a good option?

Dan, I’m going to put you on the spot. I think I know the answer to this, but I’m testing me to see how you answer it.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  Yes, Salesforce is still a strong option and should definitely be considered. But given what you said, this is one of the reasons Microsoft is gaining so much ground. It’s because so many nonprofits are already heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem and it just starts making sense. Hey, should we also just go ahead and consider moving our CRM over? Because we already have a lot of servers in Azure, we already have all the productivity suite, the super deep integration between Excel and Dynamics or between Outlook and Dynamics.

It can blow people’s minds. This diagram here is both the promise of Microsoft and also their Achilles heel because sometimes people will say, hey, I’m just looking for a CRM, don’t overcomplicate this. But others say, wow, I can have this all in one family.

So yes, consider Salesforce, but just know that depending on who’s on the selection team, for example, they may be really attracted to what Microsoft can offer. If you already have SharePoint, you already have Teams and they show you how deeply Dynamics is integrated with it, it’ll start carrying a lot of weight.

Kyle:  I’m going to give that answer an A plus mostly because that’s almost exactly what I was going to say. I think I wouldn’t add anything other than agreement with what Dan said, around just because you’re already heavily invested in Microsoft doesn’t mean that you can’t use Salesforce as a CRM endpoint or product.

How Microsoft and SalesForce Stack Up

All right, this is the part that I think everyone came for. We want to talk about how Microsoft and Salesforce stack up. What we’re going to do is evaluate around nine dimensions that are on the screen.

And there’s no possible way in the span of a single webinar that we can come up with all of the things that matter for every single organization. I’m going to reinforce that point again, there is no right solution for everyone.

The important work in a selection is figuring out your organizational strategy and how technology is going to align to that. And that’s what’s informing your choice, not the Gartner Magic Quadrant in its entirety, not Build Consulting’s webinar in its entirety. It’s a series of data points, including your own specific requirements. So this is really designed to be a prompter. We wanted to raise some of these things, some of the conversation above the specific tactical or departmental requirements and think about how these solutions fit, how these vendors are doing in a more holistic, strategic way.

The first thing that we wanted to look at was the vision. How well do we think their vision is articulated? As you may recall from the Gartner slide, they have a version of the vision, the completeness of vision.

This is actually something that has shifted for us and we think that Microsoft’s vision has a slight edge over Salesforce’s vision. And what drives that is that we think they started from the outset thinking about the entire Microsoft stack, and they have the advantage of the entire Microsoft stack. So they don’t need to think about onboard reporting and Microsoft Dynamics because they have Power BI. They don’t have to think about storing files because they have SharePoint and OneDrive. And that broad thinking around all of the functionality and having historic candidly dominance in some of those products like Excel and SharePoint and things like that really helps them edge out over Salesforce in that respect.

They’ve developed a dataverse in a common data model that helps define how data can be exchanged between systems. And we think that that work has really been helpful to enabling their ecosystem and helping new entrants into the Microsoft ecosystem. Think about how their system can work with Dynamics.

And also the reality is that even though there’s far greater organizations using Salesforce than Dynamics, according to Microsoft, there’s 300,000 nonprofits that use Microsoft for things like Microsoft 365, formerly known as Office 365. So they have a pretty big market that they can tap into over time.

On the Salesforce side, Dan talked about these acquisitions. We have not seen the fruits of all of those acquisitions in terms of integrating things like Tableau or Slack into their products. They feel at times somewhat disconnected.

The other thing is that they are changing. They seem to be making a number of pivots that oftentimes leave our clients and probably the broader nonprofit community a little bit at a loss about what direction it’s going.

What comes to mind is embedded in the next bullet point, is that there was a period of time where they had a product called NGOC. And then they switched direction and built something off of what was called the Nonprofit Starter Pack, that became the Nonprofit Success Pack. And recently there was an announcement about migrating from nonprofit Cloud. And this creates confusion for our clients. We have clients that are looking to make investments in Salesforce, and they don’t know if they should make them, or whether they should wait and see.

And so these things for us contribute to a belief that their vision at Salesforce is something that is continuing to evolve.

The other thing that we think is worth noting is the role of third party ISVs (independent software vendors) and Salesforce’s investment in that ecosystem seems to be decreasing. They seem to be taking on more and more functionality in Salesforce that they previously left to other vendors such as Classy, or Soapbox engaged, as another example of ISVs that historically Salesforce has enabled, but more and more it seems as though they are competitors to those third party ISVs.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  But Kyle, speaking of change, you mentioned Classy. They’ve just announced that their online engagement tool elevate is no longer going to be part of their core offering. So for people who just happened to get into it two years ago, it probably feels like a bunch of back and forth.

Kyle:  Yeah, that’s a really good point.

Dan Shenk-EvansIn terms of the ability of the company to execute, we gave the nod to Salesforce.

It mostly has to do with the fact that they were first to market and just have a huge footprint and have had an outsize impact on the market. So because of that, their time in this space, the pool of third party applications, the number of implementation partners that are out there, their experience in the field, their understanding the nonprofits, their particular knowledge of certain micro industries if you will, they just have a deeper ability to execute because of that experience.

So while we know that Microsoft is working hard and will be catching up, their partners that are fully trained, for example on fundraising engagement, that pool is fairly small still and growing but it’ll take a while to catch up to Salesforce.

So we still find in our work, there’s some specific verticals out there where it’s hard to find that many Microsoft partners that have implemented something more than five times. On Salesforce, you can likely find an ISV or systems integrator that has done it dozens of times. So for now we have to give the nod to Salesforce in this category.

Kyle:  Yeah. I remember when we were talking about this. We almost wanted to change it to a third color and make it a little bit closer than this might represent. I have in my notes that we had a lot of discussion about this. I love Top Chef; we had to have a chef’s conversation about who was going to be the winner and it was really close. But Salesforce, as Dan said, we both agree is out ahead of Microsoft.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  I think part of that has to do with that last bullet point under Salesforce. There’s so many more changes. We’ll talk a little bit more later about nonprofit Cloud. Salesforce’s new flagship product for the nonprofit space was just announced, but is not fully released. The fundraising is not available, for example. It adds to a sense of what should we do; there’s confusion. Also, with all the recent layoffs and the reorganization that’s happened so that not all the nonprofit staff have their jobs under a nonprofit focus, department or practice, if you will. There’s some question marks there.

Kyle:  Yeah. That’s a great point. So what has been the experience that our clients have had of both of these vendors? The reality is that Microsoft made investments in the form of heavily discounted products for a long, long time. Even if, as I said earlier, they have not particularly thought about things like Dynamics, we have seen that investment both in sponsorship of industry convenings, and licensing discounts.

When we presented this in 2020, a question that we had was, will Microsoft feel some of the pressure that Salesforce has faced in terms of expanding revenue from licensing? And to this point, we have not seen that happen and they’ve continued to offer heavily discounted licensing. They will freely say that they need a revenue generation model to be self-sustaining, but what they’ve communicated to us, and to the sector, is that they’re driven first by impact and secondarily by generating revenue.

And so I just wanted to note that better experience with account executives at Microsoft compared to Salesforce. Again, we think a lot of that’s driven because account executives don’t have the same revenue pressures that perhaps their peers do at Salesforce.

And lastly, we do think that for Salesforce, oftentimes their marketing has been significantly out in front of reality in terms of painting a picture of the completeness or capabilities of their products that don’t always match up to exactly where they are at that given moment.


Dan Shenk-EvansIn terms of cost, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but in general, we find that Microsoft is a good bit more affordable. And the reason I put that caveat in there is that sometimes it feels like with either of these systems, you need a PhD to understand all the different pricing models, options and licensing levels. That especially applies to Microsoft because as you saw before, they have so many different services and products and applications and ways of doing things it can get confusing.

But when it comes down to cost right now in most of the projects we’re seeing, Microsoft can be substantially less. And that has to do with the discount being heavier or sometimes it is given more for the same price. So for example, with the amount of data allotment you get per license and CRM license with either of these systems, Microsoft gives about 10 times as much storage, for each user you buy.

And so and that plays out in many different ways, such as what does it cost for a sandbox? Salesforce usually charges per sandbox unless you get the unlimited edition. But even there, you end up paying for sandboxes. While on the Microsoft side, they’re free as long as it fits under your storage allotment. And if you need more, you just have to buy more storage.

So when you start adding in some of the products like marketing, again, the difference in costs can be noticeable. And so that’s something that needs to be evaluated, when you’re looking at these two products. I will say that it also gets very confusing because with both of the products you need to have a lot of third party tools. Evaluating that can also get complicated.

If for example, SharePoint meets your needs and Teams meet your needs for collaboration, you don’t need a third party collaboration tool or document storage tool while in Salesforce often you do still have to find that third party tool. So it’s another area where Microsoft can come out ahead.

Kyle:  Yeah. When we’ve done selections before, we don’t want cost to be the primary driver of making a selection. We tend to walk organizations through really understanding what their requirements are first and then looking at the cost to meet those requirements. And so, a caveat that we would both offer to this slide is that, this is an important data point, but this should not be the primary driver. It should be really about which solution meets your needs first and cost is a close second or maybe even a third, but it’s not the first thing that should drive these decisions.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  No, it should definitely not be in the top consideration. Much more important is to look at return on investment. Like we said before, if there are partners in the space that can do a much better job of returning a high ROI on your implementation into the Salesforce space, then that cost is actually lower because you’re getting more out of it over the long term. So definitely don’t make it your top priority, but it is something that nonprofits are looking at.

Kyle:  Yeah, I love the framing around ROI. That’s a much more succinct, articulate way than I was trying to frame it.

What we really wanted to talk about here is, when making a choice between Microsoft and Salesforce, what is going to be the relative ease with which you can integrate applications that you already have? And probably the easiest way to articulate that is really around marketing. And so if you have Mailchimp already, it’s going to be much easier to integrate Salesforce and Mailchimp because that integration has been around for a long time. If you want to keep Constant Contact because that really works for your organization and emailing is not a big part of what you do, that’s totally fine as well.

You can go way upmarket and look for a much more complex marketing automation solution. And so the broader point here is that, when vendors seek to integrate with a CRM solution, they are starting with Salesforce because it is the dominant player in the marketplace.

And what we see is that it’s more of a nascent integration marketplace when it comes to Microsoft. Our understanding is they’re trying to nurture that. But Salesforce is still way out ahead of Microsoft. But again, you have to figure out how important those integrations in that marketplace are to you.

Dan talked about this in the last slide. As you’re evaluating these two solutions, understanding all of the integration points helps determine how big of a deal this is for your organization. How important is it that there is a much larger integration ecosystem in Salesforce than Microsoft?

I will mention just really quickly that something in Microsoft’s favor is that it does have an integrated ERP or accounting solution, Business Central. And it also has some strengths in other areas including service and HR and operations and inventory management. But what we’re really talking about is third party integrations.

Dan Shenk-EvansSpecific to nonprofits is the fundraising question. And as we’ve already said several times, Salesforce was first to market with NPSP which stood for Nonprofit Success Pack. When they came to market in 2008, 2009, with that, it was a game changer in the nonprofit space because now you had a platform that could be configurable with low-code, no-code but that also provided this key need for nonprofits, which was fundraising.

It took many years to develop it into a more mature product, but Salesforce had those 10 years to develop it while Microsoft came out with a fundraising engagement in 2020.

So across the board, Salesforce tends to be ahead in most of the areas. Fundraising engagement is a step above MVP (minimally viable product). But it’s a very solid first step into the field and they were able to learn from a lot of Salesforce mistakes over those years.

So there’s also some positives there that they’re going to be able to avoid some of the pain that Salesforce went through. But again, like we’ve already said, there’s just more third party products out there that are already integrated. And so your universe of options on the Microsoft side is more limited. We will still give our nod to Salesforce in this category as well just because of their long term experience in the field.

And I want to point out that the last bullet point on the Salesforce side is the new nonprofit focused solution, the nonprofit Cloud. It was just announced several months ago and its initial focus was on program case management. Fundraising hasn’t even been released. So you have to wait for at least a few more months to see what they come out with later this fall.

We assume they’ll be able to use all the experience they gain with NPSP to release a pretty mature product. But right now there’s questions because we just don’t know. Nonprofit Cloud does not have fundraising yet.

Kyle:  And just to talk about Microsoft really quickly before we go to the next slide. I kept this on here from our last presentation. We have seen Blackbaud and Microsoft working together in some areas, and sometimes that’s been initiated by Blackbaud, sometimes by Microsoft. What we’ve seen most is that more and more, Blackbaud is leveraging Microsoft’s Power BI, Power Automate, things like that to enable functionality beyond the capabilities of their products themselves. We would love to see more and more of that, and I think also see it in Salesforce as well, because there are a lot of organizations for whom Blackbaud products do work for a subset of their organization. And figuring out how to make that work in a broader CRM ecosystem is something that has been challenging and required the use of third party integrations in the past.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  And we should add that this is focused on their native tools, if you will. There’s third party fundraising applications built on both of these. And we don’t have the time to discuss them, but both sides have a lot of other products that have been built on top of Dynamics or Salesforce that are full-blown fundraising systems, usually in particular, vertical industries.

KyleHonestly, our take is that Salesforce is so far out ahead of Microsoft in terms of having an infrastructure around learning built, that it’s hard to imagine Microsoft catching up in the short-term. And that largely takes the form of their self-guided learning Trailhead. It is an incredibly valuable resource. I can’t say enough good things about it from the perspective of it helps enable new users. It’s done in a way that is accessible, that can bring new people into the nonprofit technology space. And it is a really effective and powerful learning mechanism and self-guided and self-paced. And it’s a model actually, not only for Microsoft to emulate, but so many vendors to emulate. They also have a Power of Us Hub that allows people to ask questions and get them answered, which gets a lot of engagement.

And then on the Microsoft side, the reason that we think that their enablement is challenging is, I think Dan said you need a PhD in licensing, but you also need a PhD in the periodic table to really understand what these products do. What are the right ones for us? Is there overlap? How do they intersect? And it’s just really a challenging environment to navigate for the average business user.

And there’s also really slim documentation as it relates to fundraising engagement specifically. Dan mentioned the fundraising application on Microsoft Dynamics. And there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to provide adequate onboarding and training and documentation as it relates to that product.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  Now we move on to the perceived fit. And by that we just mean how does the application fit within the ecosystem that already exists at the local nonprofit. We think Microsoft comes out ahead in this criteria. Again, mostly because so many nonprofits already have Microsoft 365, they’re using Word, they’re using Excel. So in general end users more and more now are feeling like, oh, this looks familiar. I’m comfortable with this. I like the fact that I can with Outlook enter data straight into Excel. There’s just a lot of extra features that people tend to like.

On the Salesforce side, from the beginning, there used to be the joke that it felt like you had a Frankenstein system, because of how many different third party tools you needed for every little function. And yeah, it’s still the case, although they’ve overcome a lot of them.

But again, as they’ve acquired new tools and new solutions like Slack and Tableau, they’ve integrated them, but it feels like a partial integration when you compare it to some of Microsoft’s, the systems that are built on the same platform.

So, this is not necessarily a huge lead for Microsoft, but for some nonprofits, it just seems to fit more naturally into their current ecosystem if they’re starting from scratch. But if the organization already has Salesforce in place, it’s very hard to dislodge it because of how much value they are likely already getting out of it and because Salesforce has built so many integrations already.

Kyle: The next slide is around business intelligence. Business intelligence can mean a lot of different things. For today’s webinar, it’s really about how do you glean insights from your data and how do you report on those insights, display them, present them to people and act on them? And we gave the edge to Microsoft for a number of reasons. One is Power BI, which is a competitor to Tableau. It’s part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. It’s easy to license it. And while Salesforce has acquired Tableau, the impact of that acquisition is not really clear. For example, it has not made its way to being embedded natively into the Salesforce Sales Cloud.

The other thing that we like about the Dynamics ecosystem is it recognizes that for many people, Excel is their reporting tool and it creates easy connections to Excel so that people can, whether they’re generating a simple list or want to bring a report over into Excel, we really like that they understand that not everybody wants to build a custom report. Sometimes they just want the information in Excel.

We could probably spend an entire webinar talking about the common data model and the Common Data Service. But that creates some logical hierarchies for how data’s organized. And the Common Data Service creates prebuilt connectors between many existing solutions including Salesforce.

Going back to the question earlier about being a Microsoft shop and having Salesforce, if you want to leverage Power BI to do reporting you can connect directly to Salesforce. And so we see that as a real strength of the Microsoft ecosystem in general.

So here’s the summary slide as of July 19th, 2023. This is a changing ecosystem. It’s something that we’re constantly following. And this is how, at least in today’s webinar, these two stack up. And this should just paint a generalized picture.

Hopefully it paints a picture that it’s not a straightforward choice. As you saw today, even though Microsoft slightly edged Salesforce, you really need to figure out for your organization, what leads you to a specific solution versus another in addition to doing a lot of requirements gathering.

Dan Shenk-Evans:  As Kyle said earlier, here at Build, we like to put technology last despite how unnatural that sounds. We just know technology is not the reason a project fails.

If they are going to fail, it’s going to have to do with leadership and governance or operations processes and data. And so we like to focus on those first and we call it our information strategy framework.

Whenever we approach a project, and we recommend this whether or not Build is involved at all: always look at whether you have the right leadership in place. Is leadership aligned? Do you have the governance structure in place to manage the technology in an ongoing way? You don’t want to have shadow IT cropping up left and right where nobody knows where the data’s going, or how to integrate with the CRM. Leadership and governance is absolutely crucial.

Operations, do you have the right people in place? Do you have sufficient staff to manage as well?

Processes, I think everybody knows what those are, but are standard operating procedures documented? Are people following them? Are there accountability structures in place?

And then data, as I mentioned earlier, data’s the new gold. Everybody wants to get the highest value out of the data they can. But if you don’t know what you’re tracking, why you’re tracking it, how you’re going to leverage it, if you haven’t set up the right naming conventions, agreed upon the data taxonomy – as we know, garbage in, garbage out.

So we help organizations to focus on those four aspects first. Then let’s talk about the technology because no matter what you do with the technology, it’s not going to be as successful, or successful at all, if you don’t address those first four topics.

Kyle:  Thank you, Dan.

Implementation Considerations

We wanted to talk about some of the things that you might want to consider as you think about implementing Dynamics or Salesforce. These remaining slides are really agnostic in that, not only do they apply to either Salesforce or Dynamics, you can take them and apply them to any large technology project.

And as you’re going to see, this really gives a nod to what BUILD thinks is incredibly important to make technology projects successful and to be the projects that succeed, not the 50% of the projects that fail.

So much of a project like moving to Dynamics or Salesforce is about setting the right expectations for the organization about how complex this change is going to be and making sure that everybody understands what the road ahead is.

And the second thing that I wanted to talk about was and this might seem a little bit out of place, but increasingly we think it’s important that organizations really, in addition to understanding their CRM strategy, understand their data strategy.

And we call this out because many organizations have historically conflated CRM with data. And if one of the goals of moving to a new CRM platform is to better capture and leverage data, there probably needs to be a broader conversation about what the longer term data strategy for your organization is going to be.

I don’t think that for many organizations, CRM should be the hub for data. Increasingly it’s just an endpoint and it’s an application that’s part of a broader data ecosystem.

The next part is making sure that as you understand and communicate the complexity of the change, that you address any differences of opinions of people who are going to be impacted by this project.

So if the fundraising team really loves the donor management system they have, and your hope is to move them onto Dynamics or Salesforce, that’s an important difference of opinion and that needs to be addressed. And the work needs to be done before selections are completed or indefinitely before implementation starts.

Dan is going to talk about this in more detail, but an investment in Salesforce or Dynamics is going to mean the way that you think about staffing changes. And we have heard far too many instances of organizations leaping to a solution like Dynamics or Salesforce and not really thinking through how it’s going to impact staff. That could be staff need a different set of skills. They need to be up-skilled, you need additional staff, you need the support of vendors. Something that frequently gets missed is people, if people lurch into these decisions.

The next thing is that these are big projects, probably not surprising at this point, for those of you who’ve heard from your colleagues about these types of projects. This might be different for your organization from a technology standpoint. This is a multi-year project. You need to plan and budget for it, both sometimes with capital expenses, but certainly with ongoing operational expenses.

The last thing I want to mention is that because of the duration and intensity of these projects, interest in this project and people’s desire to work on it is going to wane at times. So in your change plan, you should be thinking about how you’re going to identify when people’s interest is waning and how you’re going to remedy it.

Maybe that can take the form of acknowledging it, maybe you could buy them pizza. I mean, there’s any number of different things. Probably it’s more complex than pizza, but thinking about how we are going to help sustain this project over a long period of time is incredibly important as you think about a Salesforce or Dynamics investment.

Change Management Considerations

Dan Shenk-Evans:  As we wrap up today’s webinar, I just want to focus on some change management considerations. One Kyle already alluded to in that the organization needs to understand that the sum is greater than the parts. This involves both negotiating between teams who have differences of opinions, but also helping people to realize their return on investment is going to be greater if they participate in a joint way as opposed to just getting what they want. It’s just very important to make sure that everybody understands that they’re in this together and working toward the same goal.

The change will impact people differently. And so, with the change management plan, you have to realize that some people are just more adept at change. Others have jobs that are easier to change their processes, and so that needs to be recognized and not everybody treated with a cookie cutter. So just make sure that when you design a project, you understand that you may need to work more closely with certain groups because the impact on them is going to be so much greater than with others. Whether it’s a change in process, a change in technology, or both.

Finally, we mentioned governance several times in this or this meeting. We really believe in having a standing governance committee, a data governance committee that helps arbitrate between areas where there’s disagreement, also makes decisions, and helps come up with naming conventions. All those things need to go through a committee that has the whole organization in mind and understands where the organization is on the data maturity model and can help move it forward in a way that’s cogent and coherent and people know how decisions are made at the organization.

Again, keeping shadow IT from cropping up in places where it’s unexpected.

Kyle already talked about the new rules. A platform is complex. These two systems are incredibly powerful and with power, comes responsibility. And so unfortunately Build sometimes has to be called in to help rescue a project that did go to one of these platforms but didn’t have everything in place to manage it well.

It is hard to get organizations out of that mindset because they feel like, hey, we invested so much money in this, why is it not working? Well, often they just didn’t have enough support. They didn’t sign a contract with the implementing partner. And that should really be considered because these systems are not like the small nonprofit systems of the past that you would just put the intern on it to be the administrator. It just doesn’t work that way at all with SalesForce and Dynamics. You have to have really skilled, experienced people managing the whole project.

Kyle:  We included here that, as you think about projects, creating a change plan is incredibly important and it’s an essential part of any technology change project.

Thank you, Dan, for all of the work that you put in and all of the research you did to get us to today. I have a feeling that research is going to have to be ongoing because of all of the changes that we’re seeing.

If anyone has any questions after the webinar, please feel free to reach out to us. You can reach out to us via the contact us form on our website. Both Dan and I are on LinkedIn and we’d love to answer any questions that come up that we didn’t get to today. Thank you, Dan. Thanks everyone for joining today and hope everyone has a great week.

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