Nonprofit Cloud – the good, the bad and the ugly?

Lionheart Astro making a power move!

Written by Paul Ginsberg

16th March 2023

This week there’s been some very significant announcements around Salesforce’s price commitment to nonprofits, the (re)launch of the Nonprofit Cloud and a shake up of Account Execs. I share some details, extra information I’ve been able to find out, and my initial views on all of this.

For context, my area of interest is smaller European nonprofits – usually between 1 and 100 users – so that’s where my focus is.


It’s worth understanding what the current challenges in the community are, so you can work out if Salesforce has come up with appropriate solutions. It may come across as a bit bleak, but the positive news comes later, so do continue reading!

After the merger of into Salesforce, the mention of the Salesforce’s old 1-1-1 program (1% time, 1% equity and 1% product) disappeared from Salesforce’s website. AEs appeared to be bringing in more “commercial” side selling-techniques without having empathy or, indeed, awareness of the nonprofit sector. Stories of mis-selling were well-known before, but only got (much) worse.

Added to this, in the last few months redundancies have disproportionately impacted staff, and “activist” shareholders started circling, forcing Salesforce into a position where they publicly said that they wanted to increase their profit margin.

Well, when you’re giving 75% discounts as standard to nonprofits, there’s an easy way to improve the profit margin, but it won’t benefit charities or causes they are serving.

Price Commitment

This news comes from last week’s True to the Core. It’s the unscripted session at Dreamforce and TrailblazerDX. The most senior people from Salesforce, and the product managers that report to them, answer questions from attendees. They literally have no idea what may be asked – and are typically called out by the questioners if they “spin” too much. Due to the honest answers given, it’s a firm favourite for all those passionate about Salesforce.

Screenshot of the panelists at True to the Core TrailblazerDX 2023, with Parker Harris over on the right
Parker Harris (on the right) leading his very male team at True to the Core

Michael Kolodner stepped forward and asked for reassurances about the “vision” for Salesforce’s nonprofits. Parker Harris expressed surprise that anyone in the community would be worried*  and then said (from 21m 20s onwards):

  • There will be no change to the 10 donated licences
  • Discounts will remain the same (so that’s 75% off the headline price of most products)
  • The donated product will be expanded to include the all of the “Nonprofit Edition” 

*ahem, I’m surprised that he’s surprised, but anyway.

So basically, I was hugely reassured by this and thank Parker for his commitment. I can confidently recommend Salesforce to my customers, friends and others that I talk to, without fearing that the carpet will be pulled from under their feet at renewal time.

(Re)launch of the Nonprofit Cloud

As of last week there was still the question of what the Nonprofit Cloud edition actually covers. Not being an official partner, I had asked AEs for some time about this but never seemed to get a call back. Basically, it was an easy marketing phrase, a loosely defined shopping list of products, rather than anything more substantial.

Nonprofit Cloud elements, particularly the lifecycle from Fundraising to Program Management to Engagement
The Old Nonprofit Cloud

So, this week, made an official announcement. It was full of a lot of spin and short on details. An FAQ could have really helped reassure customers. So I am hugely grateful to Brad Struss and Sarah Epting who clearly have the inside track, and publicly shared their knowledge.

Specific Details

  • The Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is being retired and replaced with something based on Person Accounts
  • You get more product (“reimagined program management, case management, outcomes, marketing engagement, and fundraising in a single solution”)
  • Salesforce are clearly saying that the full Nonprofit Cloud is not available yet, but that there is (at least) a medium term roadmap
  • The 10 donated licences now cover the Nonprofit Cloud
  • New licences cost $60 per user per month; previous licences cost between $6.25 per per user per month (I’ll skip the “per user per month” from hereon) for the really savvy/fortunate, and a more typical $36 or $48 a month for most


The majority of European smaller nonprofit customers (1-100 users) do not use that much of the NPSP offering, so many probably won’t use many features of the new Nonprofit Cloud, just the core elements around Contact and Account management and – with Person Accounts – standard Salesforce features like Opportunities and Cases.

With this in mind, the key thing is to just use the features you need. So while the additional licence price may be $60, given Parker Harris’ commitment at TrailblazerDX, it should be possible that customers will be able to buy Platform licences at $6.25 or Sales Cloud licences at $36 instead for when they have more than 10 users, and continue meeting their needs within that. Both these options mentioned support Person Accounts, so that may be the way to go for many organisations just starting out right now.

This is a significant price increase. Salesforce is still an appropriate choice for many customers, but have executives seen the competition recently? The word on the street is that Microsoft Dynamics has caught up significantly over the years in terms of usability and functionality. Also, if you have specific “smaller organisation” needs consisting mainly of mailing lists and donation management, then there are many cheaper and equally modern CRMs are available.

My request of Salesforce? Well, ideally to bring the Nonprofit Cloud pricing back down to the level of Sales Cloud. I suspect that’s not going to happen, so instead to put the Sales Cloud and Platform licence cost back on to the updated Pricing Guide; this will help Account Execs who otherwise sometimes don’t even think that these are available to nonprofits. The community fought for many years to have this information published, and offered their thanks once it was done, so to remove it is a retrograde step which I suspect will just lead to the previous arguments being re-vocalised.


Anonymous sources indicate that there’s a 18 month roadmap for the Nonprofit Cloud to reach feature parity with the NPSP. Only after that will a data migration tool be developed, which actually makes a lot of sense – you can only migrate data when there’s somewhere to migrate it to!

So, the “the rule of 6” applies. Whenever Salesforce releases a new product, it takes at least 6 releases (2 years) for it to become fully functional and have the majority of bugs ironed out. This was true when I joined the ecosystem in 2011, and is still true today. So, basically, don’t panic, perhaps do some yoga or grab your anti-anxiety medicines and see how this one pans out. There are still customers out there on NPSP v2 (v3 was released in 2015), so support for existing clients isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Michael Kolodner (of TrailblazerDX fame) shares more thoughts about the timelines and practicalities involved, which I think gives much needed insight and clarity.

Silver Linings

Perhaps the NPSP has had its time. It came from a place where Person Accounts were unloved and poorly supported within Salesforce. This has changed, perhaps beginning around 5 years ago. I occasionally have wondered if Person Accounts might be a more sensible option in terms of architecture, especially now that we have Related Accounts in the core product. I’m presuming the Nonprofit Cloud announcement means that Affiliated Contact-style functionality will be bought over, along with other items such as Household Management (not that I ever used much of it!) – which I understand should arrive this autumn.

There’s a hidden bonus in that the NPSP was a “no limits” managed package, but still occasionally caused problems with CPU usage, amongst other things. The Nonprofit Cloud is part of the platform functionality (not sure if that’s the right term for it, but hopefully you’ll understand) so is less likely to trigger these limits, causing fewer headaches, particularly for larger organisations (or small ones that grow large!).

Sometimes we need to confront our technical debt and change. Some customers may even instead want to seize this opportunity to do an “org swap” and clear out a whole load of technical debt. Regardless of the approach, I suspect the end results will be worth it.

Final thought on this: The new offering and pricing page also brings simplicity and clarity. Sales, Service and Nonprofit Cloud all rolled into one, with clear easy to understand pricing. There were a lot of addons previously and anything which reduces the likelihood of Account Executives selling inappropriate licences is a bonus. Speaking of which…

Account Executives

Another impactful announcement in the last week! Smaller nonprofits no longer have Account Executives. Carlos Pierre, Senior Director, Business Operations at, says: “Instead of a single Account Executive, NGO Power of Us Program customers now have a team of specialists focused on your organization. The .Org Essentials Account Specialists will be your point of contact for all of your account needs.”

So hopefully smaller nonprofits won’t have to bore themselves with AEs who constantly churn, rarely have the technical insight, don’t have enough time to read and accurately process requests, fail to understand the needs or the sector, and are motivated by quarterly bonuses for hitting certain targets… and that’s if they were reachable in the first place.

A fan of AEs? Not most of them, sorry! 

I was initially extremely excited by this announcement but it was later clarified that this new approach will only cater for those customers with the 10 donated licences and nothing more.

As with much of this post, it’s a very much evolving scene. I’ve just heard that there is a specific (small) licensing threshold/amount that will also be included in this team-based approach. I understand that plan is to see how well this new system works and, if successful, and when lessons are learned, to widen the net to encompass more clients. I really hope this is the case as I believe that most smaller clients (certainly those with 30 or so licences) will benefit from the new methodology, without AEs breathing down their necks.

Stretch goal for Salesforce: Add Platform licences to the “Your Account” feature that’s been rolled out over the last couple of years. Self-serve is the way forward, and will reduce Salesforce’s costs.

Not all change is positive, there will be some disruption as the new team settles in. AEs provided some support to nonprofits, to help point them in the right direction. I’m presuming that the new team will run regular webinars answering common AE-style queries in a more mass-market fashion. But that could make the information more accessible. 

Of course, for the stranded nonprofit with queries there’s also the relatively impartial and definitely independent monthly Ask Me Anything. As of this month, it’s now available in both US and EMEA-friendly timezones, as well as nonprofit community groups which meet in towns and cities across the world.

Final Thoughts

First a correction: I note that Lori Freeman referred to Salesforce’s 1% equity donation in her Nonprofit Cloud announcement. I’ve spoken to many Salesforce people in recent years, and no one can find any details explaining what this means. The page that used to refer to this has been taken off Salesforce’s main site. I suspect that commitment is history. Perhaps the money has long since been spent, but if anyone from is reading this and knows about it, do drop me a line and I’ll happily strike out or update this paragraph.

It’s expensive. Everyone is looking at price. With inflation at 15% over the last year and funding not increasing proportionately, then are customers really going to go for a 66% increase in costs, especially as Salesforce was never a cheap option in the first place?

Salesforce remains a good product. It has its challenges and competition is biting at its heels more than ever before. With the new pricing certainty provided at least the community now knows where Salesforce stands on the pricing issues. It will take longer to make a judgement about the value of the Nonprofit Cloud and to check whether it is a good fit for nonprofits to consider.

And finally, the most important thing: for existing customers there doesn’t have to be any difference in terms of cost or product; you can stay on the status quo for a very long time. It’s a matter of choice. New customers, however, should definitely be checking out Person Accounts, and perhaps also the Nonprofit Cloud, to see which Cloud and licensing options meet your needs.

Thanks to the people mentioned for sharing their knowledge and thoughts, and also to the people behind the scenes who have given me additional insights and input. Clearly this is new territory. I’m keen to know what everyone else is thinking about this, from consultants to end users, to those even inside Salesforce – perhaps use the comments below, or feel free to reshare, adding your own observations if you want.

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