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Blackbaud vs Salesforce Software Selection

Clients frequently say to us, “We got approval to invest in new CRM, what software should we pick?” Seems like a simple question, right? Well, the answer – at least for some organizations - may not be so simple. The answer depends on the needs of the organization and how available solutions will meet those needs. And for many organizations, after a lot of work and analysis, it comes down to two groups of solutions – one group based on Blackbaud technologies and another group based on the platform. In this week’s blog post, we’ll take a look a closer look at this topic.

Because BrightVine is a technology agnostic, independant consulting group, we often conduct internal efforts to review commercially available products in the marketplace. This allows us to build a working knowledge of solutions and stay apprised of product advances. We leverage this information to perform software selection processes for our customers. In this post, we will evaluate Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge™, Blackbaud CRM™ and Nonprofit Success Pack™ (NPSP) (formerly Nonprofit Starter Pack™ )

How Do We Do It

There is no right or wrong way to evaluate a software product - only better ways or ways that may be prefered to another. Brightvine relies on its proprietary Fundraising CRM Capability Model™ to make certain the analysis includes a comprehensive level of depth and breadth necessary to evaluate a solution. A description of our high-level process can be found in our “Software Selection: The Basics” blog post.

The results of our findings are based on the commercially available version of these software solutions as of December 31, 2016 and are true and accurate based upon the information available at that time. Please reach out to us with any specific questions regarding our methodology and approach to software selection.


Enterprise-Sized Organizations

After in-depth analysis, BrightVine determined that the market-leading solution for large, and enterprise-sized nonprofits was Blackbaud CRM™. It offers the most comprehensive Fundraising CRM solution with the ability to customize and integrate with other solutions. While built on a proven and enterprise-worthy platform, the version of Salesforce NPSP™ currently available lacks much of the nonprofit-specific functionality that is inherently rich within Blackbaud’s products. This platform holds a significant amount of promise for nonprofits as NPSP, the Salesforce AppExchange and Salesforce independent software vendors (ISVs) continue to build out offerings. Blackbaud has an competitive offering with Luminate™ CRM (acquired from Convio) built on the Salesforce platform.

Small to Large-Sized Organizations

For small to large-sized organizations, Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge still holds its advantage in the marketplace because of its long history supporting nonprofits and the rich industry specific feature sets Note: Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT is not included within this analysis because in our assessment, it is still too early in its development to be fully compared. It is, however, be a serious contender within the next year or two dependant upon Blackbaud’s delivery schedule.

For both the small and large sized markets, NPSP™ is gaining momentum in the marketplace due to the product's flexibility and extensibility, however, it needs catch up to Blackbaud’s robust constituent, donor and transaction-processing feature sets.

Blackbaud™ Solutions

Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge™ (RE) is a tried and true CRM for small to large-sized nonprofit organizations. RE is not as customizable as Salesforce NPSP™ or Blackbaud CRM™, but RE is a reliable,comprehensive and proven solution for organizations looking for an easy implementation and standard, industry-best practice solution.


  • There is a vast network of resource given the product's longevity in the marketplace.

  • The product was built for the nonprofit industry from the start and while the platform offers a robust experience, unlike Blackbaud, Salesforce’s primary audience is for-profit.

  • The Raiser’s Edge™ works on day-one, out-of-the-box, with little configuration required and there are numerous built-in tools to manage things like online donations, etc.

  • The legacy Raiser’s Edge (™) software is an installed software.

Blackbaud CRM™, Blackbaud’s most robust platform, may also be the most comprehensive donor management/nonprofit CRM product on the market. Like Salesforce NPSP™, it’s highly customizable and configurable and provides the capability for large to enterprise-sized organizations to integrate with 3rd party software, external data sources, and so forth. Like Salesforce NPSP™, there is a large amount of configuration that is required and there can be a large number of customizations depending on the organization's needs. However, unlike Salesforce NPSP™, Blackbaud CRM™ offers many more key pieces of functionality out-of-the box and as the product has matured, the need for customization has lessened.


  • Blackbaud CRM™ shares many of the same Pros/Cons as Salesforce NPSP™. It is a large platform that is highly customizable and configurable and as such, requires a longer implementation. Unlike Salesforce NPSP™, the number of “add-ons” to fill product gaps far fewer.

  • The product has matured in functionality to the point where it now meets the lion’s share of core needs of most nonprofits based upon our proprietary Fundraising CRM Capability Model™

  • Blackbaud’s software is a PCI compliant and fully integrated within the solution.

Salesforce™ Solutions’s Nonprofit Success Pack™ (NPSP) is an open-source, highly customizable platform that allows nonprofits the ability to configure and customize a unique solution that meets the needs of the organization. This means that out-of-the-box Salesforce requires a “data model” to be applied. These data models contain configurations many nonprofit organizations use. Our analysis revealed, NPSP™ lacks many of the standard nonprofit configurations and relies heavily on the AppExchange for 3rd Party integrations/solutions. For example, batch entry of gifts is done through a 3rd Party App which comes at a cost. The number of apps, and the maintenance and cost, required for nonprofits to be successful with NPSP™ can be a significant hurdle to many organizations.

Some of the essential Apps that your organization will likely require include and none are free: Classy for online and mobile fundraising, Apsona™ for batch data entry and for mail merge, Network for Good™ or iDonate™ for online donations, Eventbrite™ or Cvent™ for Event integration, Salesforce Marketing Cloud™ or Pardot™ for email marketing, KnowWho™ for advocacy, Volunteers for Salesforce™, Auctions for Salesforce™, Quickbooks™ Integration (or another Financial Management tool integration App). There a many Apps available from the App Exchange™, we have only mentioned a few here, you can find an exhaustive list in the App Exchange™.

You'll need an app like Cloud For Good™ Nonprofit 101 for help and support along with a contract from a 3rd party support/integration provider.

Another consideration is that not all Apps are Lightning compatible/ready (Lightning is salesforce's new user interface) and this may provide an inconsistent and confusing end user experience.

Salesforce NPSP™ Pros/Cons:

  • Salesforce can do just about anything, however that doesn't come without a cost and doesn’t mean you won’t need a significant amount of customization and configuration.

  • Salesforce is extremely complex and there can be a pretty steep learning curve for those in the nonprofit industry who don’t have huge IT shops.

  • Converting to Salesforce is complex because the data structure is very different from common nonprofit solutions and if you’re converting from something like a Blackbaud product, you might be trying stick square pegs into round holes.

  • While there are free Apps in the App Exchange, many of the most robust and appealing Apps come at a cost. While the base product pricing can seem very attractive to nonprofits, it’s important to evaluate the total cost based on all the additional Apps you’ll need to fill in product gaps.


When selecting a software solution for your organization, it’s important to consider many factors. Nonprofit industry vertical, organization size, technology expertise, budget and perhaps most importantly your organization’s specific fundraising and CRM business requirements are all essential inputs to selecting a solution that will best meet the needs on an organization. While no software package a “silver bullet,” all packages are not created equal. A structured and thorough evaluation process can be invaluable tool to gaining the information needed to make an informed decision. Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge™, Blackbaud CRM™ and Nonprofit Success Pack™ are three viable solutions in today’s nonprofit fundraising CRM landscape, however, the most robust solutions compared here were from Blackbaud.

This topic is an ambitious undertaking for a blog article. We hope you’ve been able to take away some valuable insights.

​​In future weeks we will continue this series comparing third-party tools often used to fulfill requirements not met by these solutions, common justifications for picking a specific solution and more. Stay tuned for more information from our team.

At BrightVine, we work with our clients to provide software selection services and can assist your team with their selection, implementation and more. Learn about our services today. Contact the team at BrightVine for suggestions and options to consider.

About BrightVine

BrightVine was founded in 2010 as a client-centric professional services organization dedicated to providing fundraising technology services and managed services to nonprofit organizations. We are a product agnostic consulting firm specializing in the nonprofit industry.
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