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Building a cost-effective salesforce data warehouse for nonprofits

Optimize Salesforce data for nonprofits economically.
Written by
Unmesh Sheth
Published on
May 28, 2023

Building a cost-effective Salesforce data warehouse for nonprofits involves strategic approaches to maximize impact while staying within budget constraints

In the mission-driven world of nonprofits, robust data management is integral to maximizing impact. The ability to integrate, analyze, and report on data can facilitate strategic decision-making, optimize resources, and enhance outcomes.

Salesforce, a leading CRM platform, offers an extensive data ecosystem that can be leveraged for impactful insights. However, nonprofits often grapple with how to build a cost-effective data warehouse for Salesforce that aligns with their resource constraints. This guide presents a strategic approach to this challenge, highlighting the unique value of Sopact's Impact Cloud.

For non-profit organizations, it's crucial to understand that Salesforce, while powerful, may not always meet all your data and analysis needs. Here's a breakdown of the key points from the article mentioned above, viewed from a non-profit lens.

Salesforce: A Solid Starting Point, but Not Always Enough

Salesforce has set the industry standard for managing critical relationships with donors and stakeholders in non-profit settings. However, like any tool, it has its limitations, especially regarding complex data analysis.

Inflexible Reporting

When you first start using Salesforce, its basic reports can be beneficial. However, as your non-profit grows and your needs become more sophisticated, you might find that these reports are no longer sufficient.

Some data queries can be challenging with Salesforce due to its data structure. For instance, you may want to track and analyze the patterns of your donors, their interactions, and their donations over time. While Salesforce provides this information, extracting and interpreting it can become time-consuming and frustrating.

Salesforce challenges
Fig: Challenges

Limited View of Your Non-Profit

Salesforce is focused primarily on managing relationships and only provides comprehensive visibility into some aspects of your non-profit operations. For example, it might integrate differently with your volunteer management system, donor outreach platform, or event management software.

Although you could create custom integrations between Salesforce and these other systems, this process can take time and effort. Furthermore, Salesforce was designed to serve as a source of truth (SSOT) for only some of your non-profit's data.

Extensive Customization:

A Double-Edged Sword

Salesforce's customization feature is often touted as one of its primary advantages. However, these customizations require high skill and can become expensive and time-consuming, especially for a non-profit organization with limited resources.

Do you think you should train your staff to become Salesforce experts? While that's an option, it could also mean devoting a significant portion of their time to managing Salesforce rather than using your data to drive your mission forward and make a real impact.

Pricing and Accessibility Limitations

Salesforce's pricing model may restrict who within your organization has access to the system, for example, only data. As a result, only some of your team members may need full access, but they might still need to view or analyze specific data. This puts non-profits in a difficult position: you can either increase your budget to allow more people access to Salesforce or limit who can derive insights from your data.

The Power of Data Warehouses

If your non-profit organization needs help with the limitations of Salesforce, a modern data warehouse might be the solution. It offers an affordable way to centralize and analyze all your data on a timeline that fits your needs.

Despite the perception that data warehouses are expensive and complex, the landscape has evolved significantly. As a result, today's data warehouses are far more user-friendly and cost-effective, allowing non-profits to harness their data more effectively to advance their missions.

So, while Salesforce can be a helpful tool for relationship management, you may need to consider other solutions to better serve your non-profit's analytics needs.

Off-the-shelf data warehouse: The challenges to nonprofits

Data warehouses are potent resources for storing and analyzing extensive data collected from various sources, including Salesforce. They can provide a comprehensive understanding of your nonprofit's opportunities and risks. However, many organizations have learned that constructing a robust traditional data warehouse can take time and effort.

Complexities in Constructing Traditional Data Warehouses

If you ask about data warehouse creation experiences around the nonprofit sector, you'll likely hear tales of significant challenges. Often, these projects become behemoths filled with many intricate details that require the utmost attention.

For example, Salesforce's own "Advantages of Implementing an Enterprise Data Warehouse" outlines a series of steps that reveal just how involved this process can be:

Define Your Logical Data Model (LDM): This involves documenting your organization's operations, including a catalog of business entities and relationships critical to your nonprofit.

Define Your Enterprise Data Strategy: This includes determining whether there's a Customer Master or Master Data Management system in place and which LDM entities are involved.

Document the Data Lifecycle of Each Entity in the LDM: Each entity within the LDM will have its lifecycle, and understanding each is critical for developing strategies for data tiering and governance.

Translate Entities and Cardinality into Objects and Relationships: This step requires expertise in the Salesforce platform.

These are just the first four steps. The process still involves another eight stages, each requiring careful planning, understanding, and implementation.

Maintaining Traditional Data Warehouses is Expensive

After you've built your data warehouse, maintaining it becomes another challenge. Regular server backups, system server software updates, and server migrations are all part of the upkeep. However, suppose your data warehouse is cloud-based; you can make some maintenance work easier for you. In that case, you'll still have to regularly tune your data warehouse's performance to ensure queries remain quick as your data volume grows.

Calculating cloud costs can be complex, and if not monitored closely, the price of a cloud-based data warehouse can dramatically increase. Given their budget limitations, the cost factor becomes a significant challenge for nonprofits.

Adapting to Changing Needs

Change is inevitable, and your data warehouse must adapt when it happens. For example, introducing a new online event management system or switching to a new social media marketing tool will mean reevaluating your data, designing a solution, testing it, and possibly modifying the structure of your data warehouse.

Additionally, as your users become more sophisticated in their data analysis needs, your IT staff must adjust the data warehouse to meet those needs continuously. This continuous adaptation can strain your IT resources, which can be particularly challenging for nonprofits with limited staff and budgets.

High Failure Rates of Traditional Data Warehouse Projects

Given these substantial hurdles, it's common for many traditional data warehouse projects to fail. For example, Gartner estimated that around 60% of big data projects fell in 2016, and later they suggested that this number was too conservative, estimating the failure rate closer to 85%. These statistics can be daunting for nonprofits contemplating building a traditional data warehouse.

In conclusion, while data warehouses offer powerful capabilities for understanding and leveraging your data, it's essential to consider the challenges and resources required, especially from a nonprofit perspective, before embarking on such a project.


Traditional Data Warehouse Project
Fig: Challenges today

Sopact Impact Cloud: A Nonprofit-Centric Alternative to Traditional Salesforce-Driven Data Warehouses

Traditional data warehouses, including Salesforce-driven solutions, can pose significant challenges to businesses due to their complexity, cost, and time-consuming nature. Likewise, nonprofits face unique challenges due to their distinct needs and constraints. These challenges often involve resource limitations, lack of specialized skills, and impact management's need to track their progress toward their mission. Sopact Impact Cloud provides a technical solution for these nonprofit organizations, acknowledging and addressing these unique needs.

  • Instead of pushing all data into Salesforce and maintaining several integrations, Sopact Impact Cloud provides comprehensive and 100+ data integrations specifically for nonprofits. It handles traditional data and includes impact management data, allowing organizations to effectively communicate their outcomes and accelerate their grant-raising process.
  • While generic off-the-shelf data warehouses might offer quick solutions, they often need a nuanced understanding of a nonprofit's operations. Sopact's answer, on the other hand, is specifically tailored to the needs of nonprofits, ensuring they get an edge in driving their mission forward. Moreover, unlike other solutions, Sopact doesn't just give a pretty dashboard; it provides a means to understand and use your data to enhance your impact truly.
  • Relying solely on spreadsheets for data analysis can quickly become a logistical nightmare for any organization. Sopact's Impact Cloud removes the pain of "spreadsheet hell" by providing an intuitive and robust platform for managing and analyzing your data.
Impact Cloud
Fig: Solution

Sopact Impact Cloud: Power and Simplicity Combined for Nonprofits

Sopact Impact Cloud offers an innovative approach to nonprofit data management specifically tailored to meet the needs of nonprofits. It provides a comprehensive and cost-effective solution that can be quickly adopted even by those without extensive technical skills.

Critical features of Sopact's Impact Cloud for various roles within the organization include:

  • For Nonprofit Managers and IT Leads: Sopact's Impact Cloud allows for comparing data across multiple sources, offers easy access to data, simplifies setup, minimizes maintenance worries, and provides transparent, upfront pricing.
  • For Nonprofit Analysts: Impact Cloud ensures easy and quick data access, maintains up-to-date data, simplifies the addition of new data sources, accommodates the most popular reporting/BI tools, simplifies complex analyses, and allows more time to be dedicated to deriving insights from data rather than data wrangling.

Salesforce Data + Impact Measurement

Sopact Impact Cloud's unique focus on impact measurement sets it apart from other data warehouse options. While other solutions may provide fundamental data analysis and reporting, Sopact's platform goes beyond that by allowing nonprofits to track and communicate their impact on their mission. With over 100 data integrations specifically designed for nonprofits, Sopact Impact Cloud enables organizations to efficiently collect and analyze impact data alongside traditional data sources. This gives nonprofits a comprehensive view of their operations and ensures they make a real difference in their communities. In addition, with Sopact's Impact Cloud, nonprofits can effectively measure their progress and communicate their achievements to donors, stakeholders, and the public. This unique feature makes Sopact Impact Cloud an invaluable tool for nonprofits looking to maximize their impact and make data-driven decisions.

While traditional data warehouses may provide generic solutions for businesses, Sopact's Impact Cloud offers a nonprofit-centered approach, tackling the everyday obstacles of data management and catering to the distinctive requirements of impact management. This makes it an exceptional choice for non-profits seeking to optimize their data to advance their mission. 

Learn more: social impact

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