If you are one of the tens of thousands of nonprofits that use Salesforce globally, the good news is there are hundreds of consulting firms and independent consultants that specialize in serving the nonprofit sector. The bad news is that it is not always easy to find them from among the thousands of consultants on the AppExchange and elsewhere.
I know this because a big part of my work with nonprofits is helping them with consulting partner decisions. It can feel daunting. And it became more challenging earlier this year when Salesforce.org disbanded its partner network for nonprofits and education, which, since 2015, had provided a curated list of firms aligned to these sectors.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true approaches, as well as two free resources that launched this year, including one I created. Together, they can help your organization identify and validate the best-fit consultants for your nonprofit’s Salesforce needs.
There is no substitute for getting a consultant recommendation from someone who is in the know. If you are fortunate to have a great network in the sector, you may already have your go-to sources. But in case you don’t, here are some suggestions for where to turn…
1. People in Your Own Organization
Given how long Salesforce has been around in the nonprofit sector, how many organizations use it, and the growth and turnover within organizations, there is a reasonable chance that someone already in your organization has worked with a Salesforce Consultant before, or knows someone who has. Put out feelers internally. I know it sounds obvious to say, but it is often overlooked.
2. People Outside Your Organization
This includes people you or others in your organization are connected to through nonprofit professional associations (Nonprofit Technology Network, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Technology Association of Grantmakers, American Society of Association Executives, etc.), through other types of consulting relationships (IT consultants, fundraising consultants, program development consultants, etc.), or through previous roles in other organizations (Hello There, LinkedIn). You’ll also find sizable groups on Facebook, such as Salesforce for Nonprofits and Nonprofit Connection, for posting your consultant queries.
There are also nonprofit-focused forums within the Salesforce ecosystem, such as the Nonprofit Hub on the Trailblazer Community, the nonprofit channel on OhanaSlack, local Salesforce nonprofit user groups, which typically have both meetings and online Trailblazer Community groups, regional Dreamin’ events, Salesforce World Tours, and of course Dreamforce. Make the most of these resources and opportunities to get recommendations for your Salesforce consulting needs.
Tip: Because there is such a wide variety of nonprofits and how they use Salesforce, you ideally want referrals from people in similarly sized nonprofits with similar Salesforce needs. Not every consultant specializes in every type of nonprofit, every functional area, or every Salesforce cloud. For the most relevant referrals, share as clearly as you can about who your organization is and what you specifically need.
3. Salesforce Account Executive
Account Executives (AEs) are generally assigned to organizations by organization size, so any AE assigned to your organization will have likely encountered consultants who work with other organizations your size. You can also ask their opinion on any firms or soloists you may have already identified.
Just know that sometimes AEs have somewhat limited experience with the wide spectrum of available partners and often have their favorites who may or may not be right for you, so take their referral as one among many sources.
In addition to consultants you may discover from referrals, you can also conduct online research for potential consultants. Beyond using general internet searches to peruse consultant options or validate options that may have been referred to you, there are two new directories that can help you identify consultants who specialize in nonprofit work.
Consulting Partner Finder
When Salesforce.org discontinued its partner network for nonprofits and education in February, it redirected the “Find a Nonprofit Partner” link on its site to the AppExchange. Now, instead of a curated list of around 245 firms globally, nonprofits would need to wade through a directory of over 2,500 firms. Not the most helpful move.
While there are search filters for AppExchange’s consultant directory, these have been rather limited in corresponding to the specific needs of nonprofits.
However, Salesforce’s new Consulting Partner Finder, launched earlier this year, provides additional filtering options that can help nonprofits better narrow in on partners on the AppExchange with the right qualifications.
Two of the key filters are:
1. Product Expertise
Under the “Product Expertise” filters, there is a section called “Nonprofit Solutions”. You can select this option to find any firm that has at least “Level 1 Navigator” status in this area.
Navigator is Salesforce’s proprietary method of scoring partner achievements, and a fair amount of complexity is involved, including three levels – Level 1, Level 2, and Expert. Suffice it to say that firms with a higher level have logged more relevant client projects with Salesforce and have more relevant certifications than firms with a lower (or no) level. As of this writing, there are 163 such firms with Product Expertise for Nonprofit Solutions.
However, you can also select more granular filters for “Engagement”, “Fundraising”, “Grantmaking”, and “Program Management”, based on the nature of your Salesforce needs, to identify firms who have Navigator status in those specific areas.
As of this writing, firms in these categories range from a low of 31 firms for Engagement to a high of 128 for Fundraising. Selecting multiple options will further narrow the options. For example, if you select Fundraising and Grantmaking, the number of firms goes from 128 to 50.
2. Industry Expertise
Under the “Industry Expertise” filters, there is a section called “Nonprofit”. This is also based on Navigator status, but the criteria are less extensive than for Product Expertise. As of this writing, there are 183 such firms with Industry Expertise for Nonprofit.
As with Product Expertise, there are also more granular filters here, in this case for four industry subsectors: “Affiliation & Membership Groups”, “Environment, Nature, & Energy”, “Social Services”, and “Nonprofit – Other”. This can help you narrow in on firms whose project experience is in one of these specific sub-sectors.
Furthermore, in the Consulting Partner Finder, these nonprofit-specific filters can be combined with other filters, such as firm size and location, to help you hone in on the most relevant firms for your organization’s needs.
Here are some tips to keep in mind with the Consulting Partner Finder:
- This tool only includes official Salesforce partners who have created listings on the AppExchange.
- Because of the particulars of how Navigator works, some firms who have experience and qualifications in the nonprofit sector may not show up as such in this tool. For example, of the 245 firms that were part of the Salesforce.org partner network as of December 2022 and aligned to the nonprofit sector, only 143 are currently discoverable on the Consulting Partner Finder via the Product Expertise and/or Industry Expertise filters described above.
- There is currently no way to distinguish firms who provide services for (or intend to provide services for) the new Nonprofit Cloud, launched earlier this year, versus the previous generation of nonprofit solutions.
Like Salesforce’s Consulting Partner Finder, Watt’s List is another free resource that provides multiple search criteria by which nonprofits can find Salesforce Consultants.
Unlike the Consulting Partner Finder, Watt’s List only includes firms that provide Salesforce-related services to nonprofits. I launched it to help fill the gap left by the disbanding of the Salesforce.org partner network as well as provide an expanded set of options and tools for nonprofits.
Watt’s List includes:
1. Consulting Firms and Independent Consultants
Watt’s List allows listings for any Salesforce-related consulting firm for nonprofits, whether or not they are an official Salesforce partner, as well as independent consultants.
As of this writing, there are 134 consultant listings on Watt’s List, including 103 consulting firms and 31 independent consultants. The vast majority (114) provide implementation services, but some firms specialize in managed services, data analytics, strategy, etc.
As the Salesforce nonprofit ecosystem has matured over time, the capacity to provide Salesforce-related services has expanded to include many firms that don’t provide traditional implementation services as well as a bevy of independent consultants – many of whom were Salesforce users in a nonprofit and/or former employees of traditional implementation firms. I wanted to provide a place where qualified providers of all sizes and types could be found.
2. Nonprofit-Specific Search Criteria
Watt’s List has search filters that are focused on the typical Salesforce needs of nonprofits. This includes filters for nonprofit subsectors (15 versus the Partner Finder’s 4), filters for all thirteen of Salesforce’s nonprofit-specific solutions, including both the existing managed packages as well as the new Nonprofit Cloud, filters for target nonprofit size, and filters for experience with nonprofit-specific third-party apps.
Like the Consulting Partner Finder, these filters can be combined to help you narrow in on which partners have the right combination of attributes for your organization’s needs.
3. Diverse Ownership
Watt’s List enables users to identify firms that are majority owned by an underrepresented group in the tech sector, including women, Black, Latinx, Native, and LGBTQ+ ownership, to aid in discovering a more diverse set of consultant options than are typically discoverable elsewhere.
As with the Consulting Partner Finder, here are tips to keep in mind with Watt’s List:
- Watt’s List only includes firms who have voluntarily created a listing.
- Unlike the AppExchange, there is no validation of the specific Salesforce credentials held by a firm, nor of the types of projects completed. However, for any official Salesforce partner, Watt’s List provides a link from their profile to the AppExchange for additional verification. And for independent consultants, there is a link to their Trailblazer profile to learn more about their qualifications.
Together, these two resources can help you identify and validate potential consultants, picking up where Salesforce.org’s partner network left off. When used in conjunction with referrals as part of a systematic search process, your nonprofit will be better equipped to find and evaluate the consulting resources that are the best fit for your Salesforce needs.