How nonprofits can minimise Salesforce implementation costs

Hyphen8 strives to help nonprofits to minimise Salesforce implementation costs wherever possible. As well as being passionate about our social mission, in the current economic climate, we are all keen to sharpen our pencils. None more so than third sector organisations who need to demonstrate the value of investments to Trustees, donors and other stakeholders, and in some cases to rely on fundraising to pay for the configuration of new technology.

In this blog, I explore some of the main ways that non-profit organisations can keep down the cost of their Salesforce implementation when they engage an external partner.

1. Phased approach

The beauty of the Salesforce platform is that it is completely flexible and easy to configure. So you don’t need to ‘go live’ with all of your processes at the same time. You can fast-track the benefits by taking a phased approach as ongoing changes can be developed and tested in a Salesforce Sandbox (development environment).

  • Prioritise the key processes for phase 1 that will add the most value
  • Phase future enhancements over time in line with available budget
  • Factor in existing software contract renewal timings to reduce licence costs

2. Appoint internal super-users

We are great believers in self-sufficiency – using one of my favourite analogies, we like to give you the fishing rod rather than the fish. This not only reduces reliance on external partners but also increases internal ownership and user adoption. Internal super-users can be trained during the implementation to get involved in the configuration of time-consuming elements such as forms and communication templates.

  • Super-users don’t have to be technical wizards but it does help if they are more technically-inclined
  • Make sure that time can be dedicated to this role without detrimental impact on their day job

3. Minimise scope creep

With careful initial scoping of requirements, your implementation partner can provide accurate cost estimates for the implementation. However, costs can creep up if too many change requests are raised during the project. It is vital that rigorous project management processes are in place so that there is complete transparency on time/costs incurred.

  • Ensure that requirements and deliverables are documented in sufficient detail before the project starts to avoid any disputes over what is in scope
  • Appoint an internal Project Manager who can channel feedback and monitor time logged against requirements
  • Plan and finalise the content of data capture forms, email and document templates before they are handed over

4. Avoid unnecessary bells and whistles

It’s a simple fact (that applies to most things in life) that the more bells and whistles you add, the more it will cost. The Salesforce platform allows you to go beyond standard functionality and develop custom processes, screens, buttons, apps, integrations – the scope is almost unlimited. These are, of course, often necessary but they all take time (and therefore money) to develop. The good news is that it is now more than ever before easier to configure complex requirements using native Salesforce tools. If you do want to keep costs down, we encourage you to stick to standard Salesforce unless it is absolutely necessary.

  • Make sure your partner identifies any requirements that will require custom code that will require specialist skills to maintain
  • Don’t assume that users will reject standard Salesforce functionality until they have tested it
  • Check that your selected partner is up to date with the latest Salesforce tools

5. Prepare your own data

It may sound dramatic but data is the blood that pumps the heart of any database. If users lose trust in the integrity of data in their shiny new system, their interest may wane. Data migration can often be the area that burns a lot of time. Don’t brush this under the carpet, it’s better to invest some internal time to this task to avoid unnecessary costs being incurred.

  • Prepare your data – if you have multiple spreadsheets / data sources – consolidate them where possible or opt to carry out some of the imports yourselves)
  • Only migrate the data that you really need – the more disparate and complex the data sources, the more time it will take to migrate
  • If you don’t have internal capacity, think about drafting in low cost resources (or even family members) to help clean up your data

6. Train the trainer

Training is an important part of the introduction of new technology within an organisation and should not simply be a tick box exercise. Depending on your team’s size, diversity of roles and geographical location, training costs can mount. Especially if all sessions are delivered by an external trainer. So we often recommend a ‘train the trainer approach where an internal user can cascade their knowledge.

  • Choose someone who is engaging and understands your business processes
  • Don’t request lengthy user training materials if these can be managed internally and are likely to change frequently
  • Plan for an ongoing training programme that includes refresher sessions, new starter inductions and advanced training

7. Widen the scope

It is very common for organisations to use a wide variety of applications for different purposes and the ongoing costs for these can add up.  To save ongoing costs, consider whether Salesforce can be used instead. With a rich array of out of the box features and continually enhancements with 3 new releases each year, chances are the platform offers what you need. There are also thousands of plug in specialist applications available on the Appexchange, Salesforce’s app store, many of which are free or discounted for nonprofits.

  • Even if they don’t seem relevant, do make your partner aware of ALL of the apps currently used
  • Have an open mind – it can be difficult to switch away from apps you have used for years but if cost-savings are significant, it’s worth exploring alternatives

8. Choose the right partner

The process of selecting the right Salesforce partner to implement your solution should not be taking lightly. It should not just a case of comparing day rates – it’s more about evaluating who offers the best value for money. It’s also worth investigating whether you qualify for any pro bono time from or partners that participate in the Pledge 1% programme.  

Your partner should guide you through all of the elements that will help you to save costs and not incur them and:

  • Have experience delivering similar types of solutions to minimise solution design and development time
  • Be able to provide references for projects delivered on time and on budget
  • Demonstrate that they follow best practice in terms of methodology, quality of documentation, project management processes

I hope that this blog provides some food for thought that will help to save money that can be put towards contributing to good causes.  If you need help estimating the cost of your Salesforce implementation, get in touch at