Considering a Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce Conversion? Part I

Establishing the Project

This is part 1 of a series on migrating from Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce NPSP

I have heard consultants touting that what seems like millions of clients are making the switch from Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce. I’m not sure what the actual numbers are but I’m sure it has become quite popular. With NPSP as a flavor of Salesforce and the very tempting introductory pricing, I’m sure it’s become even more so. Depending on the size of your organization, some of these may not be relevant. If you are a smaller, less complex organization with pretty straightforward fundraising strategies and very little variation, this guide won’t be as helpful. However if you are a medium to large nonprofit that is considering the switch, hopefully this guide will help you in your process.

Why are we doing this?

The first question to ask your organization is the ‘why’. You want to know what he primary motivation for this move is. Do you find your current system cumbersome? Is it too expensive? Does it no longer meet your needs? Have you grown? Are you finding that you don’t have the flexibility in your current system to change/grow?

Whatever the case may be, take some time to write down the why. Turn that ‘why’ into a project objective statement and get buy-in. You are going to need everyone to support this change, be excited for it, get on board with it. This includes everyone from gift processing to accounting to senior leadership. If you can’t create a level of anticipation and excitement for a new system among the people who will be adopting it, there should be some caution flags raised.

In this event that those flags are raised, a facilitation session on the topic of fundraising in your organization separated by function would be a great way to back up and start really gathering the fuel for the project objective statement. It is entirely possible that your team won’t feel the need to change or that you’ll find some tweaks to your current processes or systems may be all that’s needed. At any rate, you’ll have started a process of consensus-building wherein each individual contributor will feel heard and you won’t have any surprise resistance to the project if you decide to move forward.

When are we doing this?

Think about your calendar year. Think about the recurring campaigns, events and other times of the year you are busy. Try to plan around these types of events. Add at least 20% to the time estimate you anticipate.

Who are we doing this with?

Vendor selection is a process that probably deserves its own post. However, it is largely a matter of preference and who can do the best job. The tendency (especially in nonprofit) is to go with the lowest bidder. Sometimes this will work out, sometimes it won’t. This will all come down to personalities, project management internally, clarity of requirements, and a host of other factors.

You want to choose someone who has experience with fundraising AND Raiser’s Edge. Here are a few good questions to ask to flesh out if they really do have Raiser’s Edge experience:

How do you approach salutations and addressee fields in the migration?

-How do you approach using the naming convention automations in Salesforce when the salutations in Raiser’s Edge were so flexible?

How do you deal with non constituent records?

-What challenges do you find associated with the move from contacts to households and accounts?

The primary challenge here is training staff to understand when to use each. The person who will know the most about these particular challenges will be the person who puts together mailing lists in your organization.

How do you deal with the process of batch gift acknowledgements?

The stock answer is : There are great tools out there to acknowledge gifts – like Apsona (and it IS a great tool). But you’re looking for more in this answer thank knowing what the tool is. You’re looking for the actual process they have implemented for previous clients with examples. Provide a relevant example and make sure they fully comprehend the process. From marking it as acknowledged (SOQL limitations have been an issue), to creating templates, to dealing with batch imports and then acknowledging them.

What is your User Acceptance Testing methodology? Do you provide walk-throughs and specific testing actions? It’s really, really, really helpful to have this type of assistance in testing especially if you don’t have a dedicated Salesforce administrator on staff.

How do you recommend we do any type of batch importing? If you have a lockbox or other batch gift import that happens with any regularity, this is really important. Ask for examples and make sure they are relevant to your organization and improve your process.

-How much do you recommend we budget for support every year? You will need Salesforce expertise in-house if you want to make the most of your investment in the change. This person doesn’t have to be an Apex developer, but they should be the point person for this project from the beginning. They should have database skills and be generally knowledgeable of fundraising processes. You should plan for a large portion of their job to become Salesforce Administration related especially the first two years, but also into the future. If you cannot spare the manpower, you will want to be sure you are able to budget for that consulting going forward.

These may seem like super granular questions to ask and also super obvious ones. Someone with Raiser’s Edge experience will understand the reason why you’re asking those questions (automations in Salesforce, like the household addressee conventions).

I’ll add more as I think of them. I’m sure there are many.

What are our requirements?

This seems very simple. Fundraising! Constituent Management! Obviously! But the more granular you can get about your individual requirements the better your consulting partner can provide a budget. Salesforce doesn’t do a whole lot directly out of the box. It’s like a really fancy Rolodex (or address book) with a few automations built in. It can do pretty much anything you want, but you never know what you don’t know. So it’s really imperative that you are able to fully articulate your fundraising needs from how donors donate, to your internal bookkeeping processes to your reporting requirements. Giving circles, membership benefits tracking, membership levels, batch imports, grant reporting requirements, acknowledgement processes and all the other things that we take for granted in Raiser’s Edge must be defined. You are essentially building your own solution. What you DON’T want to do is re-create Raiser’s Edge in Salesforce. There is a tendency for people to think about fundraising in terms of RE. It isn’t intentional but it has been the gold standard for so many people for so long you have to really look at how Salesforce works and start adapting your procedures to model that, instead of ‘this is how we did it in Raiser’s Edge’. Ask why you do things the way you do them. Ask that about three times for every process you have. You’ll get to the root of each type of branching process. Look for ways to automate certain tasks, this is where you’re going to see the real benefit of Salesforce.

Are you willing to invest in training?

Training is going to be really important. REALLY IMPORTANT. I don’t mean trailheads. Trailheads ARE AMAZING tools. There is one problem though: During an implementation you are asking people to make decisions without fully understanding how the system works. Most employees are going to prioritize their jobs and fundraising over doing self-guided training. Make time to meet and do Trailheads together or test things inside the sandbox together. This will become invaluable later on in the process. If you’re not able or willing to invest the time and money in training, this probably isn’t the right time for a migration.

How much capacity do you have in in-house staff to do data cleanup?

No matter what, you will end up having to clean up data. Cleaning house is great! It’s also a lot of detailed, time-consuming work requiring at the very least an intermediate working knowledge of Excel. I don’t mean how to SUM. I am talking about INDEX, MATCH, VLOOKUP etc. If you know you don’t have this staff expertise in-house, make sure you budget consulting time for it.

Do you have staff capacity for this implementation?

This is to say, do you have an internal project manager who can make it their almost full-time job to keep everyone on track?

If the answer is no, I would recommend really thinking about freeing up their time OR holding on the project until such time as that person can be free. Whatever you do, do know that you WILL need someone to act in this function, as a liaison between consultants and staff, and as an advocate for your organization. This will take significant amounts of their time.