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Salesforce NPSP™ vs. Blackbaud CRM™: Where are they now

By: Stacey Segal, Vice President

In July of 2017, I wrote about the differences between Salesforce NPSP™ and Blackbaud CRM™/ The Raiser's Edge™. Now 2 ½ years on, I thought it would be a good time to revisit those findings.

Purchasing new software is a significant investment for nonprofit organizations. For many organizations, after a lot of analysis, it comes down to two groups of solutions – one group based on Blackbaud technologies and another group based on the Salesforce platform. (Note: since our last post in 2017, acquired both and RoundCorner representing one of the most significant changes in our comparison.)

While BrightVine is a member of the Blackbaud Partner Network, we often conduct internal, and customer paid 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 and recommend new tools when appropriate.

While we are a Blackbaud Partner, we help our customers identify the best solutions for their organizational needs, and that doesn't always mean a Blackbaud product. We often find clients mixing and matching software solutions. We also never accept any form of compensation from any partner/vendor when their products are selected by our customers.

In this post, we will primarily evaluate Blackbaud CRM™ and Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack™, but we will also touch on Blackbaud's Raiser's Edge™/ NXT™ offering.

How Do We Do It

There is no right or wrong way to evaluate a software product. At Brightvine, we rely on our own proprietary Fundraising CRM Capability Model™ (FCM) to make sure our analysis includes a comprehensive level of depth and breadth necessary to evaluate any software solution. If you'd like to learn more about our FCM, please contact us.

The results of our findings are based on the commercially available version of these software solutions as of December 31, 2019. They are true and accurate based upon the public information available at that time. Please reach out to us with any specific questions regarding our methodology and approach to software selection.

In the following sections, I will discuss the pros and cons of the products evaluated and provide comparisons based on organization size and product.

Summary by Organization Size

Enterprise-Sized Organizations

In 2017, after an in-depth analysis, BrightVine determined that the market-leading solution for large and enterprise-sized nonprofits was Blackbaud CRM™. We still believe this to be mainly true in 2020. Our only variance in 2020 is that Salesforce Marketing Cloud surpasses Blackbaud Internet Solutions for Online Marketing (we note online only because Blackbaud CRM™ has superior direct marketing capabilities. We will discuss this later.)

Blackbaud CRM™ offers the most comprehensive out of the box Fundraising CRM solution with the ability to customize and integrate with other solutions. Salesforce NPSP™ is built on an enterprise-worthy platform but requires much more customization and configuration and lacks a lot of out of the box nonprofit-specific functionality that others have.

Salesforce and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) continue to build out the nonprofit offerings, but the acquisition of by has raised questions by many in the industry. While Salesforce has indicated that they plan to continue the investments into the nonprofit offerings, many are taking a wait-and-see approach to determine what impact that acquisition will have on the overall roadmap - and cost - of the product.

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: In 2017, we did not include NXT™ in our analysis because we felt it is still too early in its development to be fairly compared.) NXT™ continues to grow as a serious contender, and Blackbaud has made substantial progress with NXT™. Organizations should be evaluating NXT™ when looking at software solutions.

For both the small and large-sized markets, Salesforce NPSP™ continues to see adoption in the marketplace due to the product's flexibility and extensibility; however, it still needs to catch up to Blackbaud's robust constituent, donor and transaction-processing feature sets.

Other considerations in 2020

As we noted before, the acquisition of and RoundCorner by has been one of the most significant changes. Many organizations are watching closely to see what impact that will have on NPSP. Some saw the acquisition of RoundCorner as a negative. In 2017, RoundCorner provided competition to Salesforce NPSP™, and that was good for the market.

Will the acquisition of .Org lead to profit over product philosophy, and how will the roadmap be impacted, if at all? Salesforce's public statements are that they are increasing staffing levels and further investing in development. Time will tell. I am remaining open-minded about what the future will hold for NPSP.

Since 2017, Blackbaud and Microsoft announced an Integrated Cloud Initiative for Nonprofits™ in which both companies would invest. They introduced their first jointly-developed solution, Nonprofit Resource Management™(2018) and in 2019 announced their commitment to further integrate by creating connectors that make it simpler to connect Blackbaud solutions with applications on Microsoft's Power Platform and in Office 365. This is a big advantage for Blackbaud and a relationship customers and partners alike are looking to for further opportunities.

We often hear nonprofit leaders say, "but, Salesforce is free." While the first ten licenses may be free, there are many costs associated with the implementation and with add-on Apps, customizations, and ongoing management of the tool. Just because Blackbaud doesn't offer free licenses doesn't mean it's going to be any more expensive than Salesforce after all is said and done. This is something each organization should evaluate when making any decision.

If you believe that Salesforce will work for your organization "out of the box" or a sales executive has told you it's "easy" or "you don't need experts to implement" check with a third-party consultant or another organizations that have successfully implemented Salesforce NPSP. Making the assumption that it will work without significant effort and cost is a dangerous one to make. Additionally, if you read the blogs of many Salesforce partners, you'll see they say Salesforce "re-imagines" their core functionality for nonprofits. Sometimes it's hard to translate software that was built for one purpose to another and while it can be done, and is done with NPSP, it comes with effort and a price tag.

Summary By Vendor/ Product

Blackbaud™ Solutions

As we said in 2017, Blackbaud's Raiser's Edge™ is a tried and true CRM for nonprofit organizations. It is not as customizable as Salesforce NPSP™ or Blackbaud CRM™, but it is a reliable, comprehensive and proven solution. It also requires fewer technical resources to support the solution. If your organization doesn't have an IT department with developers on staff, and you don't have the budget to pay vendors, Raiser's Edge™ / NXT™ is a good choice.

Raiser’s Edge™ / NXT™: Pros/Cons

  • There is a vast network of resources with nonprofit implementation experience, given the product's longevity in the marketplace.

  • The product was built for the nonprofit industry, and while the Salesforce NPSP™ platform offers a robust experience, unlike Blackbaud's solutions, Salesforce's primary audience is the for-profit sector and the product has been adapted for nonprofits.

  • 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, memberships, acknowledgments, etc.

  • Raiser's Edge™ / NXT™ offers a user-friendly interface for fundraisers.

  • The SKY APIs™ will allow for further development by partners.

Blackbaud CRM™

Blackbaud's most robust platform is also 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 critical pieces of functionality out-of-the-box. As the product has matured, the need for customization has lessened compared to what was required in 2017. This was perhaps one of the more significant changes in the 2020 evaluation process.

Blackbaud CRM™ Pros/Cons:

  • 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 more extended implementation and more staff to manage the solution. Unlike Salesforce NPSP™, the number of "add-ons" to fill product gaps far fewer than it once was.

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

  • Blackbaud's software is a PCI compliant, and payment processing is fully integrated. Salesforce has this on their roadmap for NPSP.

  • Blackbaud Internet Solutions™ (BBIS) has remained stagnant. While Blackbaud has made and continues to make some changes, their solutions are not as advanced as Salesforce Marketing Cloud™ for online fundraising, and we have seen a large number of organizations integrating Blackbaud CRM™ with Salesforce Marketing Cloud™ and other products.

  • Blackbaud CRM™ provides the ability to segment and analyze data for Direct Mail. Salesforce has not yet addressed this need in NPSP.

Salesforce™ Solutions

Salesforce 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. Our analysis in 2017 revealed NPSP™ lacked many standard features nonprofits expect and heavily relied on the AppExchange for 3rd Party integrations/solutions. While they have made strides since 2017, you'll still need signification customization, configuration, and integration with Apps. Every app comes at a cost. The number of apps, the maintenance, and the price, required for nonprofits to be successful with NPSP™ can be a significant hurdle for many organizations to this day.

Some of the most essential Apps that your organization will likely require include (and none are free): Network for Good™ or iDonate™ for online donations, Eventbrite™ or Cvent™ for Event integration, Apsona™ for batch data entry and for mail merge, Salesforce Marketing Cloud™ (yes, this is a Salesforce Solutions, but it comes at a cost, so we've included it here) or Pardot™ for email marketing, KnowWho™ for advocacy, Volunteers for Salesforce™ to manage volunteers, Auctions for Salesforce™, Quickbooks™ Integration or another Financial Management tool integration App or more likely customization, and SF Shield for data auditing. 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™ itself.

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 complicated because the data structure is very different from common nonprofit solutions. 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, the best and most robust come at a cost.

  • Volume-based pricing can make Salesforce a much more expensive solution than others as organizations grow.

  • If you're looking for a database with no limits, then Salesforce might be the right solution for your organization. Because it's so scalable, it can work for almost any kind of organization - however, that may also be a con for some organizations.


As technology changes and enhances, this could be the most significant investment you make this decade. When selecting a software solution for your organization, it's essential 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 of an organization.

Even in 2020, there is still no software solution for nonprofits that is perfect. Just like with Gmail or Adobe, you will always find gaps in any software solution. Your goal should be to find the one that meets the majority of your critical requirements and allows you room to grow.

Our findings in 2020 show that Blackbaud CRM™ and The Raiser's Edge/NXT™ are the strongest fundraising CRMs along with Salesforce Marketing Cloud™ for online marketing.

A structured and thorough evaluation process can be an invaluable tool for gaining the information needed to make an informed decision. Blackbaud's Raiser's Edge™/NXT™, Blackbaud CRM™, and Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack™ are three viable solutions in today's nonprofit fundraising CRM landscape.

We will review the solutions again at the end of 2020 to see what progress Salesforce has made with their roadmap, how the acquisitions impact their offerings - if it does at all - and what Blackbaud does this year.

Even just updating a topic like is an ambitious undertaking for a blog post. There are many features that we didn't discuss in this post that may be relevant to your organization (like where your data lives and how easy it would be to convert off of that platform should you decide to implement new software) and those topics should be considered before making any decisions.

This post is based on publicly available information as of December 2019.

About Stacey:

Stacey has been working with the nonprofit industry for more than 20 years and has hands-on fundraising and nonprofit management experience. She serves as the secretary of Animals Asia US Board of Directors and President of the Charleston Startup and STEM Foundation. Before joining BrightVine, Stacey spent eight years working with with some of the largest non-profit organizations in the world throughout the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Australia.

Stacey's nonprofit experience includes managing the annual campaign for a 16,000+ employee health-care system in Florida and serving as the Director of Development at the Holocaust Museum in Florida. She has worked for several National Hockey League teams planning special events, managing grant requests and over-seeing Hockey Fights Cancer™ Campaigns.


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