Handling People, Organizations and Households in Salesforce
Last Updated on Sunday, 5 March 2006 10:38 Written by Steve Sunday, 5 March 2006 10:38
I had a great conversation with Tucker MacLean last week about how to model the nonprofit world in Salesforce.com. Tucker is the Salesforce.com Foundation Fellow for 2006–he’s a Salesforce.com Coporation employee who is on loan to the foundation for a full year, with the task of doing what he can to make Salesforce.com more usable, accessible, and powerful for nonprofits. I’m really excited that he’s in this position–it shows a commitment by the corporation to improve the nonprofit version, and Tucker has tons of real-word experience with the application and getting it to work for real clients and their processes.
We talked about modeling gifts, membership, volunteers, and other processes, but the biggest issue facing nonprofits on Salesforce.com is how to model People, Organizations, and Households.
I have been raving about the flexibility of Salesforce.com on this site for quite awhile now. But nothing is completely flexible–some core architectural decisions are made in the development of all software, and those decisions have ramifications for how the software works. Long ago, Salesforce made the decision to focus on the model of sales where you are primarily selling to a business, and your interactions with other people are in suppoprt of that relationship between your business and the one you are selling to. So Salesforce.com does a great job for a shoe wholesaler who is selling shoes to retailers, but isn’t really built to help the shoe retailer sell to the individuals who come into the shop.
This focus on business to business sales (B2B) causes a problem for nonprofits. We deal directly with individuals when we get donations and memberships. We don’t really care what company these people work for–it’s our relationship with them as individuals that matters.
So what we really need is to have a Salesforce.com that is focused solely on business to individual interactions (B2I) and our worries would be over. We don’t care about B2B at all. Well, not exactly.
Ever apply for a grant from a foundation? You generally work with a grant manager during that process. They let you know what the foundation wants, and work with you to line up your plan with their giving desires. You then give them a proposal, which the grant manager takes away to closed door meetings, and a decision comes back to you. This is a classic B2B interaction. You’re working with a person, but you’re really dealing with the organization. Most nonprofits need to handle this kind of interaction.
So if we had B2B and B2I functionality, we’d be set, right? Still not quite there.
A nuance of that relationship with individuals that nonprofits have to deal with is households. If one donor lives with another donor, you want to be able to thank them as a unit, and send only one piece of mail to their residence. We want to know the individuals, and if they are tied to any other individuals in this way.
So let’s recap:
- Nonprofits need B2B for things like dealing with foundation grants. We need to work with people only in the context that they are employed by an organization we are trying to work with.
- We need B2I funcitonality so that we can work with individuals with no regard to whom their employer is.
- We have to be able to group those individuals in households for acknowledgement and direct mail
Oh, and here are a couple extra just to make things interesting:
- Ever had a foundation employee make an individual donation to your organization? My org has. We shold be able to support that.
- Ever had an individual donor work for a corporation who does matching gifts? We have. We should be able to know who an individual donor works for so we can make sure not to leave money on the table.
So, it’s really very simple when it comes down to it…it’s no wonder that nonprofits have trouble with CRM databases! The good news is that modeling all of these relationships is possible in Salesforce.com. I’m pulling togther a way to do it, and will write it up shortly. It’s really just gelling for me right now, but it feels like it will stand up to the light of day. We’ll see.