Salesforce.Com Providing Free Software to Nonprofits

By Geoffrey James

When most people think of CRM, they think of corporate sales. The truth, however, is that a great deal of sales activity goes on inside other organizations. Nonprofits, for example, have constant money-raising needs that often require a significant amount of salesmanship. Unfortunately, the CRM software that could help these nonprofits raise more money to fund the valuable services they provide the community often is an expensive luxury. They seldom have the resources needed to make the full commitment.

Salesforce.com is taking steps to help. The company is ensuring that more than 200 nonprofit organizations have the software they need to make the most of their fundraisers. Rather than offering the software at a discount like other software firms, salesforce.com is offering its software to selected nonprofits for free. The company also is making best practice and training materials available to such organizations so they can become productive more quickly.

The salesforce.com program is part of an overall trend among software firms to be more responsive to the community at large. While Microsoft’s big money donations often garner the lion’s share of the attention, it’s companies like salesforce.com that are on the front lines, especially when it comes to changing the way corporations encourage philanthropic giving.

The traditional method of corporate giving generally involves some form of charity drive, with employees encouraged (and often subtly coerced) to give money to large, international charitable organizations. While the money thus gathered no doubt is beneficial, salesforce.com is taking a different approach by emphasizing community involvement. Salesforce.com, in fact, has made a commitment to spend 1% of its resources (time, equity and profit) on philanthropic activities. For example, salesforce.com offers its employees six paid days for community service per year, a program that boasts an 85% employee participation rate.

For companies like salesforce.com, providing free software for nonprofits is put into the greater context of corporate concern for philanthropy. At the same time, salesforce.com’s programs inevitably result in higher morale and positive publicity. For example, salesforce.com was one of only three recipients of the first-ever U.S. Chamber of Commerce Corporate Stewardship Award. At the time, Donald L. Evans, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said the firm “represents the best of a business making a difference in its community [and] serves as an inspiration for others to follow.”