Salesforce donor management system: What you need to know

Donors are the backbone of your nonprofit, providing the support and funds you need to complete your mission. Connecting with them and finding opportunities to reach new donors should be essential to your fundraising team’s work. 

For nonprofits decades ago, fundraising teams may have been able to manage their organization’s supporters with paper, pen, and many filing cabinets. However, modern nonprofits have more complex donor management strategies, more donors living in distant locations, and more outreach platforms to coordinate campaigns on. As such, fundraising teams like yours need a donor management system. 

Donor management systems allow you to track donors’ information, build relationships that span years, and get more value from each fundraiser. While many donor management systems are available today, the most notable is Salesforce

Salesforce offers numerous platforms that can advance your donor management strategy. To help your nonprofit understand what Salesforce has to offer and how to get started with one of its products, this guide will answer several common questions nonprofits have about Salesforce:

  • How does Salesforce donor management work?
  • Why should my nonprofit use Salesforce as our donor management system?
  • What donor management features does Salesforce offer?
  • How can I get started with Salesforce as my donor management system? 

If you have more questions about Salesforce after reviewing this guide, consider contacting a Salesforce consultant. Consultants partnered with Salesforce can answer in-depth questions about the platform and what it can do for your nonprofit. 

How does Salesforce donor management work?

Salesforce has multiple products dedicated to helping nonprofits with fundraising and donor management. 

While you can customize your Salesforce system in various ways, the core Salesforce products you should be aware of when considering what donor management system to invest in are:

There are a number of Salesforce donor management tools to choose from and use together.
  • Nonprofit Cloud. Nonprofit Cloud is the primary platform Salesforce offers for nonprofits, and it contains the base features your charitable organization needs to get started with Salesforce, enabling you to manage all of your data in one unified, cloud-based CRM. Specifically, Nonprofit Cloud offers extensive case and project management tools with plans to implement fundraising tools into the system later in 2023.
  • Elevate. Once a donor has joined your nonprofit, your donor management team should take steps to increase their value. With Elevate, your team will have tools for managing recurring donors to help strengthen relationships and prevent lapse, as well as personalized ask features to create donation requests tailored to each donor. 
  • Insights. Salesforce Insights Platform Data Integrity helps nonprofits keep their data accurate and up-to-date with deduplication and other database cleaning tools. With an organized database, your team can trust that your data is reliable and leverage it to build a more effective donor management strategy. 
  • Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. Building relationships is the heart of effective donor management. Marketing Cloud Account Engagement for Nonprofits allows you to forge these connections with its user-friendly custom email builder, personalization tools, and intelligent reporting capabilities.
  • Experience. Empower your supporters to engage with you online through custom experiences built by Experience Cloud. Experience Cloud allows you to provide self-service tools and membership pages for donors, saving your team time by allowing donors to manage their giving. 

Depending on your nonprofit’s needs, these products can be used together or purchased individually. However, as a starting point, nonprofits interested in Salesforce should look to Nonprofit Cloud, Salesforce’s primary platform for nonprofit organizations. 

For example, one nonprofit may invest in Nonprofit Cloud as their core donor management system and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement to access centralized communication tools from their Salesforce instance. By contrast, others may prefer to use Nonprofit Cloud as their central donor data management system. Still, they also have a third-party marketing tool they want to integrate with Salesforce and continue using. 

In addition to these products, Salesforce has other options to support your nonprofit’s efforts beyond donor management. For example, Grants Management can help you track your grant applications, while Case Management provides tools to manage your programs.

Whether you’re interested in just one or two of these products or are considering all of them, Salesforce’s range of platforms allows you to customize your donor management system while being rest assured that all of your software will work together seamlessly.

Why should my nonprofit use Salesforce as our donor management system?

Among donor management systems, Salesforce is the number one solution for a reason. While many donor management tools offer similar features, Salesforce’s variety of products, continually evolving technology, and broad community of developers and consultants are just a few of the advantages of Salesforce. 

Other benefits nonprofits using Salesforce can leverage include:

  • Centralized database. Keep all of your data from campaigns, events, and online outreach in one central location. Salesforce integrates with a wide range of third-party tools, including CMSs, allowing your data to flow seamlessly into your Salesforce system. 
  • Extensive customization. Salesforce is a customizable, flexible platform that scales with your nonprofit. Organize your donors and get the detailed insights into your fundraising that you need by partnering with a Salesforce developer. 
  • Salesforce AppExchange. Continuously expand your Salesforce platform and connect with supporters in new ways using apps created just for Salesforce. The Salesforce AppExchange is full of add-ons built by the Salesforce team and reputable third-party developers to provide users with new functionalities. For example, Volunteers for Salesforce is a free, must-have app for nonprofits organizing their volunteers, many of whom can become loyal donors. 

For nonprofits looking for advice on managing donors and better leveraging their Salesforce platform, the Salesforce community is also brimming with knowledge from consultants and developers. Explore thoroughly written guides answering common questions about how to use a Salesforce feature or partner with a consultant specializing in Salesforce to get insight into your situation. 

What donor management features does Salesforce offer? 

Each Salesforce product offers your nonprofit different features to improve your donor management. Plus, with customization options, your nonprofit can continue expanding your CRM’s functionality as much as you need. 

To provide insight into what your nonprofit can look forward to with Salesforce, here are a handful of the top donor management features:

  • Personalization tools. Donors give to causes they feel a personal connection to, and you can build that connection by continually reaching out with unique messages tailored to each donor. Salesforce allows you to design email templates and populate them with relevant donor data to ensure each message is customized for its recipient. 
  • Prospecting options. Major donors are one of your nonprofit’s strongest, most reliable fundraising sources. Using Salesforce’s donor management tools, you can scan your donor database and identify supporters with wealth and philanthropic markers, indicating their ability to make a major gift. 
  • Automation. Many nonprofit professionals feel they spend too much time on rote tasks such as data entry, filing reports, and basic emails. With automation features from Salesforce, you can set up data syncs, generate reports quickly, and create automatic emails to free up your staff’s time to focus on tasks that require a human touch. 
  • Detailed donor profiles. The more you know about your donors, the better you’ll be able to reach out to them. Use Salesforce to track donors’ information, create custom tagging systems to organize your donors, and integrate your various software applications to ensure any time a donor interacts with your nonprofit and the engagement is recorded in their profile. 
  • Event and campaign management. Events and campaigns require a lot of planning. Nonprofits running multiple campaigns at a time can significantly benefit from Salesforce’s organization and management tools for events and fundraisers. 

As mentioned, these basic tools are just a start. Additional apps and help from custom developers allow you to build out your Salesforce system so it meets your staff and your donors’ exact needs.

How can I get started with Salesforce as my donor management system?

If you’re considering investing in Salesforce, the first step is determining which product is right for you. Do an internal assessment of your donor management needs to understand what you want from your platform. This includes establishing donor management goals and what Salesforce can do to help you achieve those goals. 

For example, if your nonprofit needs a new CRM and is looking for a system with out-of-the-box tools that can be further customized, Salesforce for Nonprofits is likely the right choice. However, nonprofits needing comprehensive marketing and outreach tools should look into Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. Then, reach out to Salesforce’s team to schedule a demo and get any remaining questions about your chosen product answered. 

From there, research Salesforce developers that can help you implement your new donor management system. Depending on your needs, this process may include data migration, complex integrations, and custom software development. 

When looking for a developer to work with, consider Salesforce partners offering development and consulting services. These agencies will be able to provide comprehensive service, allowing you to set up your system efficiently and begin connecting with donors as soon as possible.

Wrap Up

Choosing a donor management system requires looking at your nonprofit’s size, goals, supporters, and staff. While no one-size-fits-all CRM solution will work for every nonprofit, Salesforce’s range of donor management platforms and extensive, highly scalable customization options make it a flexible choice for many organizations. 

Discover if Salesforce is the right system for you by reaching out to Salesforce’s team as well as consultants who can provide advice on what role Salesforce can play in helping you achieve your donor management goals. 

To learn more about Salesforce, explore these additional resources: 

Interested in how Salesforce can transform your donor management? Partner with Fíonta to learn more.