10 Signs Your Nonprofit is NOT Ready for Salesforce

Salesforce is a powerful tool. And if you’re tasked with implementing a new data system for your org, there are very good reasons why this might be the way to go.

But there are valid reasons to stay away, too.

My staff knows how much I love Salesforce. And as much as I wish every org could implement it without issue, that’s just not how it works! Your org needs to be in the right headspace to knock a Salesforce implementation out of the park. Take it from someone who’s experienced some of these issues firsthand: this isn’t the right tool for everyone. And that’s okay.

So, how can tell when Salesforce is just not the right fit? Check to see if any of these indicators are present before you commit your nonprofit to the Salesforce Ohana.

10 Valid Reasons NOT to Implement Salesforce

1. Your org is going from no system at all to Salesforce.

This isn’t to say that Salesforce can’t work in this situation; ‘new’ can be good. But consider that for your end users, this is like running before crawling. If there’s no infrastructure whatsoever for your data – or maybe you’re not even collecting any yet!– then the necessary investment may be more than what makes sense right now.

*Tip*: But don’t abandon the data strategy altogether! Start small with spreadsheets and other low-cost tools, and see how your org responds.

2. Your leadership team isn’t invested in the outcome of your implementation.

You’ll need your leadership’s support throughout this project, including after your rollout. If leaders aren’t engaged in each step of the process, then you’re missing a critical element to your own success.

3. You need this implementation done yesterday.

I don’t know that any worthwhile system can be configured overnight. But certainly not Salesforce! A proper implementation takes planning and testing – typically months of it – so don’t sign onto Salesforce if your org isn’t willing to put in that time. Otherwise, you risk making major decisions on the basis of turnaround rather than what’s right for your data.

4. You’re not prepared to roll this out to staff.

Configuring a Salesforce instance is tough, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the rollout. If you have no plan, desire or authority to train, troubleshoot and provide support to end users, then stop right here. Any implementation is only as successful as its adoption phase, and that simply won’t happen if no one is willing to do the necessary hand-holding with your staff.

*Tip:* This is less about Salesforce and more about people. Even if we could build the most user-friendly system in the world, we can’t assume that everyone will just “get” it. Ya know?

5. Expectations on how staff will use Salesforce are unclear.

Are folks required to use this thing or what? If leaders don’t set the precedent early on about how they’ll hold staff accountable, then 1 of 2 things will happen: people won’t feel the need to use Salesforce at all, or they’ll grow resentful once they learn that it is in fact mandatory. Both options will hinder your success, so if you’re putting your neck on the line to spend time and money on this effort, be clear on what you’re working with.

6. Your org’s data needs are simple.

And by that, I mean simple enough that any other system would go beyond your wildest dreams. The setup and maintenance of Salesforce is a lot on its own, so if something else works and requires half the effort, that may be the safer bet to start.

7. You don’t have a relationship with your end users.

Technically speaking, anyone can come into your org and set up Salesforce. The science of it is easy. But the art of it -setting things up in a way that lends to the productivity and efficacy of your users- is hard. And it’s pretty much impossible if you don’t have someone on your implementation team who’s willing to make those connections.

*Tip*: This type of workplace empathy is a gem of a skill. So get practicing! Figure out how your users work, their pain-points, and drivers. Then, use that knowledge to set up a system they’ll grow to love tolerate.

8. Because it’s free.

Some orgs get drawn to the “free”ness of Salesforce, not realizing the setup and maintenance costs (which amount to precious time and expensive skill). If freeness is your motivating factor, or you’re working with a non-existent budget, tread carefully.

9. Your leaders expect that once it’s set up, Salesforce will be a “done” project.

There’s a reason so many of us are called “accidental admins”. Salesforce basically started out as a temporary side project, before the configuration and maintenance consumed our roles. Your team may not see the reality just yet, but if they insist that the system needs to maintain itself, I’m telling you right now: ain’t gonna happen. =/

10. Because all the other nonprofits are doing it.

Salesforce is great, but there’s also a dark side to this Salesforce game. Just ask any of the orgs who implemented too soon or with the wrong partner, who are now bitter towards their costly CRM. (Orgs, it’s not too late!.) You may see that more nonprofits are getting on the bandwagon, but remember that the orgs who are successful with this have the necessary resources to make it happen.

Take time to shop around for a system that’s going to fit your org’s needs, capacity and budget.

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