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Why Nonprofits Need Industry-standard Data Architecture

By November 7, 2016

By: John Gorup, cross-posted from

Whether it’s helping children, saving the environment, or curing disease, a nonprofit’s biggest challenge is fulfilling its mission. But challenges such as sustainability, donor engagement, and constituent management continue to drain many nonprofit’s resources. Inadequate technology often makes solving these challenges nearly impossible. In fact, in a study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, 77 percent of those surveyed said they wanted more help “Using technology to improve my organization’s effectiveness.” A nonprofit cannot thrive on technology alone. But good technology smoothes out all the challenges that go into being an effective nonprofit.

Improving nonprofit operations begins with better data architecture. For any organization, data is its most important technical asset. Data architecture determines how an organization’s data is structured, maintained, and integrated. Getting data right sets up the whole organization up for success. That’s what makes Salesforce’s announcement of the the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) so exciting.

Salesforce, of course, has grown into a tech industry behemoth. They have set the standard for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology. What makes Salesforce a great technology for nonprofits is they take the operational efficiency they’ve developed for business, and mixed it with their domain knowledge and heart for philanthropy. To help nonprofits leverage Salesforce technology, they created, a unique nonprofit that makes grants to youth and education organizations, as well as helps other nonprofits improve their technology.

So what is the NPSP? NPSP is an open source app, created by a collaboration of Salesforce customers and partners. “Open source,” for non-techie people, simply means the code is transparent and available for free on GitHub, an open source repository. This allows developers to continually collaborate to improve the application. Regardless, the core of NPSP is an industry-standard data architecture, along with pre-built constituent and donor management components, which allows nonprofits to focus on their mission.

Creating the Connected Nonprofit

The reason the NPSP is such a powerful tool is that it forms the foundation of the Connected Nonprofit, a platform to connect a nonprofit’s constituents and stakeholders on one flexible platform.

As you can see in the chart, the NPSP is a foundational layer, built with Salesforce Lightning, and is a part of the system of record. It gives nonprofits an industry-specific backbone on which to build a platform to support all aspects of a nonprofit’s digital life.

NPSP Connected partner

Where to get started?

A slide like the one above, may seem overwhelming to most organizations. Fortunately, because of the pre-work built into the NPSP, it can be a reality faster than you can imagine. The first step, though, is educating yourself on the possibilities. Here are five points to start the process of becoming a Connected Nonprofit:

  • Technology can seem overwhelming to anyone. One of the best innovations Salesforce has made in the last few years is their learning platform, Trailhead. Trailhead has hours of easy-to-consume education available on topics like how Salesforce can be used for fundraising and managing volunteers.
  • Read’s CEO, Rob Acker’s blog announcing the NPSP, where he gives some more detail on the new offering.
  • Listen to’s Chief Revenue Officer, Allyson Fryhoff, on the next in nonprofits podcast.
  • Sign up for a 30-day trial of the NPSP, and check it out yourself.
  • Visit Appirio’s nonprofit page. We’d be happy to talk with you on how you can get the most out of NPSP, and help make you a truly connected nonprofit.