The Truth About Getting Salesforce for Free
The Truth About Getting Salesforce for Free

The Truth About Getting Salesforce for Free

06/11/2021 by Cate Howes
What “free like a puppy” might really mean when it comes to Salesforce licenses.

Salesforce has an incredible program for nonprofits in which they donate the first ten licenses to any organization with a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). It’s called the Power of Us program. If your organization is looking to use Salesforce to save money, or even to use Salesforce completely for free, this article is for you. 

I have heard some say that Salesforce’s Power of Us license donation program for nonprofits is “free like a puppy” — implying that while the licenses are free, the commitment of resources in order to have a good experience should not be overlooked. 

For those who have ever had a puppy, you know that if you don’t nurture, clean, or train it, things probably will not go too well. In this way, I agree with the assessment — Salesforce is not “free,” nor are they really intending for it to be. The donation program lowers the barrier to entry for nonprofits to take advantage of world-class technology and use it to raise more money, serve more constituents, and reduce their overall risk as an organization (something that the industry was reminded not to ignore in a very real and tangible way this past year). 

What I believe gets lost in this “free like a puppy” sentiment is that puppies are great! 

Along with many fellow Americans this past year, I ended up getting a new puppy. We had wanted a dog for a while and figured we would have more time at home to dedicate to him. When we got our pup, the Salesforce analogy of “free like a puppy” kept coming to the top of my mind. 

Here’s what getting a puppy and deciding to move to Salesforce have in common.

1. It’s not a decision to make lightly

We had been talking about getting a dog for about a year before we actually brought him home. We knew we wanted one but money and time were incredibly important factors in our decision-making. If the conversation of moving to Salesforce starts with “it’s free” or “we could save money,” I would recommend taking a step back. 

Salesforce has a lot of amazing benefits — as you can imagine, working as both an implementation partner focused on Salesforce and as a former employee, I think Salesforce is great. In my opinion, it really is the best database platform for nonprofits. But I don’t think this because it’s free. I think their donation program is pretty remarkable, but the purpose of the donation is to make the platform more accessible to nonprofits by reducing overall costs. 

Yes, you may reduce annual costs if you choose to go with Salesforce. If you go beyond the donation, you get access to Salesforce products that a for-profit company would easily spend 2-3x more on. There are still a lot of considerations to keep in mind when evaluating a move to Salesforce. I won’t walk through all of these considerations here; there is some great information on that in this post: High Reward Outcomes with Salesforce: 7 Steps to Success 

2. The more committed you are to the process, the better your results. 

We started by reading a couple books (okay, five different books — and yes we were mocked by friends) and watching Zak George YouTube videos for how to train a dog. We wanted to prepare ourselves, make sure we had all the necessary supplies setup for when he came home, and we wanted to be on the same page training-wise. This all may sound a little over the top, but having a well-behaved, happy, and healthy dog was really important to us.

If one of us was saying “stay” and the other saying “wait”, that would be confusing stuff for an 8-week old puppy brain. If you bring a puppy home without any of the food he is used to, or without a confined place for him to play and sleep, things are going to get messy. It all requires some preparation and alignment! So does Salesforce. 

The beauty of Salesforce is that it is a flexible platform and can help you manage not only your fundraising or your programs, but everything that your organization does. You can manage fundraising, programs, and volunteers all from a single source of truth —giving your employees visibility across departments, the ability to make data-driven decisions, and time back in their day to focus on the mission as opposed to manual and tedious data entry. The flip side is that the flexibility and possibilities can be overwhelming. 

Your organization needs to get on the same page about what your goals are and how you plan to achieve them before you begin your implementation. Translating your business goals and processes into Salesforce is where your implementation partner comes in. Don’t get bogged down in the features and functionality list — plan out your vision for your organization itself, and then talk to your trusted consulting partner and Salesforce Account Executive. Here’s a helpful starting point as to how to have those conversation internally as they relate to Salesforce: Prepare for Success with Nonprofit Cloud

3. The benefits far outweigh the costs. 

Sure, we didn’t get a ton of sleep in the beginning and we were forced to become morning people. And yes, we ended up buying way more toys and random stuff than we expected, or realistically needed. 

But you know what? We actually get a lot more done when we wake up earlier. Watching his excitement over new toys and treats brings us very real joy. When you talk about getting a puppy, everyone talks about how much work it is going to be. The benefits outweigh the cost of that work by miles. He brings us daily happiness and unconditional love, and we have never once regretted the decision. 

In terms of Salesforce, you will give your organization the opportunity to be more efficient in everything you do. The additional resources spent in time and money at the onset are going to be repaid many times over by the additional insights you gain on your constituents, your fundraising dollars raised, and the reduced manual efforts required of your staff (read: Staff retention). The list of benefits is far too long to write out here  —- but if your organization and staff had more time in their day-to-day to serve constituents and more money to work with, what would you do? That is the benefit of Salesforce. You can read some success stories here: The Women's Center of Jacksonville, The Mobile Pantry Program, and But ultimately, I would encourage you to think about what you want to achieve as an organization, and talk to your consulting partner about it. 

Some studies show that dog owners actually live longer. I’d argue the same can be said for Nonprofits who think about and invest in technology the right way.

What are your reasons for considering a Salesforce implementation? Let me know in the Salesforce Trailblazer Community. Subscribe to the Arkus newsletter to get the top posts of the Arkus blog directly to your inbox.