Why Are There So Few Nonprofit CRM Admins?

UPDATE (Jan. 25, 2018): Tal reached out to let us know that the 2017 version of the report discussed in this blog post is now available. Download it here.

Recently, we’ve been thinking a lot of about data and how to set nonprofit staffers up for success when implementing a new CRM. So when we saw the State of Salesforce Within the Nonprofit Sector 2016 report from Cloud for Good, particularly the stat that 48% of organizations do not have a dedicated Salesforce administrator, we wanted to know more.

I put my questions to Tal Frankfurt, founder and CEO of Cloud for Good, to get his perspective on why so many nonprofits don’t dedicate someone to Salesforce and the consequences of that over time.

KG: What do you think holds orgs back from assigning/hiring a dedicated admin?

TF: From my experience working with nonprofit organizations over the last decade, there are two main reasons nonprofits do not have a full or part-time Salesforce Administrator.

The first reason is that the Total Cost of Ownership (TCP) of the system was not taken into consideration when the migration was initially made. When evaluating the TCP there are three main elements an organization needs to review:

  • Acquisition cost (Salesforce user licenses, Pardot or Marketing Cloud licenses/costs, and the cost of third party applications)
  • Implementation costs (helping you design, build, and deploy your new technology)
  • Support and maintenance costs.

In many cases the hidden costs of maintenance and support and the less-tangible costs of training, user adoption, and efficiency are not included in the organization’s budget or they are considered as overhead that the organization is trying to avoid at all cost. The technology plan must be able to forecast these recurring costs based on the current numbers and the organization’s future growth.

The second reason many nonprofits do not have a dedicated admin is due to the lack of understanding of the potential of the technology. Salesforce is much more than a database—it is a platform that can help the organization create more value. But if you’re only try to get by doing the minimum, you won’t get the value that your investment deserves.

For example, the Food Bank of New York City consolidated all of its intake forms into one streamlined process, which allowed it to reduce the intake time from fifteen minutes per customer to less than two minutes per customer. It is also running the second largest tax preparation program in the United States. They processed close to 50,000 tax returns in the year before we implemented their Salesforce Communities solution. This number was almost doubled in the year following their implementation. Have staff who are dedicated to the technology helped them double the impact they are having with New Yorkers.

KG: What are the essential tasks for an admin?

TG: Salesforce admins are not your typical “IT people” because they often wear many hats and operate more like business analysts than database administrators. They’re often required to analyze complex problems, understand data, provide advice about taking action on data, formulate complex solutions, and work with the management team on key initiatives. They’re not developers, but they have special powers to make things happen.

From my experience the Salesforce administrator tasks are divided into three categories:

  • Salesforce administration: The admin is responsible for continuing the customization and development of the system, managing the users and data, and providing ongoing documentation of the system.
  • Training: With the continuous development of Salesforce (four major releases every year) and staff turnover rates (which seem to be especially high in the nonprofit sector), the administrator should constantly develop and train end users, keep documentation up-to-date, and communicate future Salesforce releases and enhancements.
  • Growth: The admin should design and manage the ongoing development of the platform to meet the organization’s evolving mission while creating additional value for the organization.

Good Salesforce administrators are in high demand because they are not just implementing the decisions of others, they are involved in the decision-making process. Salesforce administration is no longer an "accidental" career—it is a desired profession.

KG: How have you seen this lack of administrators play out—what are the differences in outcomes between orgs that do and do not have one?

TF: Based on our recent survey results, we found that the organizations who had a dedicated person(s) are also the organizations who reported that the organization’s management is dedicated to making the most out of its Salesforce investment. These organizations use more Salesforce products, say that their data is a strategic asset or a competitive advantage, and plan to integrate back office systems with Salesforce to create a more complete picture of their interactions (if they haven’t already).

Choosing the right technology is not a decision that you should enter into lightly. We are in the midst of a major technology revolution and succeeding in this revolution does not necessarily mean consuming additional technology, or as many of our customers’ fear, replacing employees with new technology. Nonprofit organizations need to focus on enabling their employees, board members, and the constituents they serve to achieve more with technology.

Learn More

To see how other nonprofits are thinking about and using Salesforce, read the full report from Cloud for Good (2016). Get the 2017 version here.

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