Using Salesforce to Cultivate Donor Relationships | Beth's Blog

Using Salesforce to Cultivate Donor Relationships


Note From Beth: Last month, I did a webinar for the SalesForce Foundation on measuring social media.   The Foundation is offering webinars and publishing white papers for nonprofits.  Two recent papers that caught my eye were:  “How to Use Social Media for Social Good” and “Building Meaningful Engagement.”   Recently,  I had an opportunity to meet Tal Frankurt, CEO of Cloud for Good, where he shared some thoughts about how a well-designed SalesForce database could be an excellent tool for managing, measuring, and tracking relationships with donors.  He agreed to write this guest post on the topic.

Using Salesforce to Cultivate Donor Relationships by Tal Frankfurt, Founder and CEO, Cloud for Good

Prior to founding Cloud for Good, I worked for a nonprofit organization that loved to collect information. When I joined the organization as a director of resource development, I inherited the organization’s most valued treasure, an Excel spreadsheet with all the donors and foundations we had contacted in the past  seven years. This was (by far!) the largest spreadsheet I have ever seen in my life. In addition to this Excel, we had Constant Contact for email marketing, Eventbrite for event management, Outlook, and Quickbooks .

Excel is great with numbers but it is very limited. As a resource developer I could not efficiently track year to year donations or identify if one of our graduates was a potential donor. It was a great tool to analyze quantitative information but it did not enable me to manage relationships between the information I tracked; Excel is “flat”.

When I spoke with my peers I identified common issues they were having with their existing donor database:

  • It was too complicated
  • It did not do what they you needed it to do
  • They could not access the information when they needed it  most
  • When they accessed the information, they could not  understand it
  • When they understood the data they didn’t  trust it
  • They felt like they worked for the system
  • There are too many systems
  • It did not support their mission

While working at this nonprofit, I learned about Salesforce Foundation and their philanthropic model that allowed us to receive 10 free licenses.  This got the ball rolling.  We migrated from Excel to Salesforce and doubled our income from donations within 12 months. While implementing a new technology does not automatically double your fundraising results, Salesforce was the secret sauce to this success.

First and foremost, Salesforce is not a donor database. We realized that our relationships with our constituents were constantly evolving.  Maintaining their information and interactions in multiple locations made it very difficult for us to cultivate relationships. Instead of spending hours comparing files, importing and exporting data from Constant Contact to Eventbrite and back to Excel, and attempting to de-duplicate these various data sources we focused on building relationships.

Salesforce made it very easy to track every interaction I (or anyone else in my development team) had ever had with a prospect, donor, or a foundation including, phone calls, emails, tasks, or meetings. The ability to centralize all our information also allowed us to create an institutional memory which was extremely important for our donor cultivation efforts. Best of all we accessed this information from anywhere- on any mobile device and at any time.

Salesforce’s flexibility and integration allowed us to track a lot of customized information about our donors. Therefore, while we communicated with many individuals and organizations, our messaging was very personalized. Additionally, Salesforce’s automatic workflows allowed us to create tailored “action plans” for each fundraising opportunity. For example, when a gift was smaller than $100 we had set up the system to send them an automatic email thank you letter, when it was between $101-$1,000 we added the gift to an “end of the week” acknowledgement list, and if the gift was larger than $1,000 the system created a task for the executive director to give them a call as soon as possible.

We used to only track the gifts we won or lost. One of my favorite features of Salesforce is that it allowed me to start tracking the gift even before I  made the ask or submitted the letter of intent. This feature allowed me to know -at any given moment-how many proposals I had out and how many I might have next month. It allowed me to forecast, based on past years’ experience and by doing, it helped me become more efficient.

I always tell our clients that if I talk to them in 3 years and they are still using the exact same customization in Salesforce something is wrong. I am not looking for dramatic changes, but just like your mission is not going to be exactly the same in 3 years, so shouldn’t your CRM. Salesforce is constantly changing and evolving to help our clients keep their constituents in the center.

From finding new donors, growing gifts from existing supporters, or managing the back-end fundraising efforts, Salesforce helps organizations establish and grow donor relationships in addition to the donation cycle from pledge to payment.

Tal Frankfurt ( is the Founder and CEO of Cloud for Good ( a Salesforce implementation partner working primarily with nonprofit and educational institutions to create and implement strategic solutions based on cloud technology. Tal was chosen in 2010 to be one of the first Salesforce MVP Program members, an exclusive club representing the top 1% of the Salesforce community, and has maintained that status to date.

13 Responses

  1. Tim Connor says:

    Tal is a great guy to work with! He’s helped our organization develop tools using Salesforce to better handle our donors.

  2. Hey Tim, thanks for your kind words! We enjoy working with you as well!

  3. […] is a cross post from Beth’s Blog, click here for the original […]

  4. jake says:

    Hi, I’ve been recently a lurker close to your blog for a few months. I love this article plus your entire website! Looking forward to studying more!

  5. Hey Tal,
    Sounds like you’ve been doing some fantastic work. On behalf of all charities I applaud your contribution to the difficult terrain of fundraising.

    I recently joined a UK based charity and they are using excel to maintain donor contact information. They’ve asked me to migrate everything to Salesforce but they have no idea how to use the software and neither do I. Could you possible suggest some links to basic tutorials (I don’t know the first thing about salesforce) plus information on how to create the database you describe above. Thank you so much!
    Truly indebted

  6. Hey, there is a wealth of information out there about salesforce for nonprofits. To name a few:
    – We created a free nonprofit manual, you can download it from the AppExchange:
    – The Foundation has a great YouTube channel:
    – If you click on the help and training section within salesforce (top right corner) you will access lots of documentation.

  7. Paul Peters says:

    Great website Tal I enjoy reading your article. Keep on with your good word for charity you will be blessed!!!!

  8. We know Nonprofits Using Innovative Technology to Increase Meaningfully Engage Donors.

    # Salesforce, World’s Most Innovative Company has created a cloud based CRM solution that allows small and medium-sized Nonprofits/Ngos to share their work with donors in the most engaging way possible: through stories. They offer a refreshing, innovating, and time-saving solution for nonprofits that are looking to increase their donor retention.

    Expert Salesforce Consultant can help NonProfits on this online mass funding platform “Salesforce CRM for Nonprofits”. Although the implementation isn’t always smooth, they can easily solve all problems in partnership to make it a positive, outcome to your nonprofit organization.

    Write me back if any assistance is required on Salesforce CRM Nonprofits or Visit

  9. […] unless the most recent version is emailed for reference. In an article posted originally on Beth Kanter’s blog, according to Tal Frankfurt of Cloud for Good, making the switch to Salesforce from an old outdated […]

  10. […] Beth Kantor, an expert in non-profits and social media, interviewed the founder of one of these consulting companies in her blog and he mace some very good points about how a database can be used to help your fundraising efforts.  If you have someone who can poke around in Salesforce, you can probably figure out how to do the simpler ones yourself.  The interview is here – Using Salesforce to Cultivate Donor Relationships. […]

  11. […] nonprofit life may look like for many in the sector: As a nonprofit resource manager, he inherited a hodgepodge of project management and data-management tools, ranging from Excel to Constant […]

  12. Brett says:

    An interesting point about if you are using the same configuration in 3 years time you are doing something wrong. Aunties and Uncles Qld are now a couple of years into our journey with SFDC and has been important to bed down the system and have people use it. But that usage has meant requests for improvement are coming, but the great thing is that we can manage those changes. In previous systems any changes were hard to make.

    Great blog 🙂

  13. Taylor says:

    Hi Tal, I’m transitioning into a development and communication role for a charter school management organization in California. I’ve been granted access to our SalesForce database to begin looking around and learning how donor relationships are tracked and organized. If you have any other resources about using SalesForce on a development team, I’d GREATLY appreciate them!