There are many reasons why an organization would decide to invest in a new enterprise-level CRM. Whether they’re tired of working with piecemeal nonprofit software or they’ve expanded rapidly and are struggling to maintain their donor data in the current system, it’s time to upgrade.

When exploring heavy-duty CRM solutions, it’s often a Blackbaud versus Salesforce conversation. However, before we begin, it’s important to lay out a few baseline considerations.

These providers both offer robust, enterprise-level CRM products like RE NXT and SFDC NPSP. That means they may not be a good fit for smaller organizations working with fewer team members, tighter budgets, and little time to devote specifically to managing the database. If that’s your organization, these two software ecosystems are likely not the best fit for you.

There are, however, a vast number of CRM platforms better suited for growing organizations, so you will still be able to find a great solution for your nonprofit— it just won’t be one of the above mentioned.

If you’re a mid-size, large or enterprise-level organization looking to upgrade your operations, keep reading. This guide will explore Blackbaud’s most popular CRM solution, Raiser’s Edge NXT, and Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (or NPSP) through the following sections:

  • Blackbaud
    • Overview of Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT
    • Why does this solution stand out?
  • Salesforce
    • Overview of Salesforce for Nonprofits
    • Why does this solution stand out?
  • Which CRM platform is right for your nonprofit?

If you’re familiar with either (or both) of these solutions, feel free to navigate to specific sections. If you need a complete overview, however, let’s get started.

Blackbaud


Overview of Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT

Blackbaud is a longtime leader in the nonprofit technology space, especially when it comes to data management software and CRM platforms. The Blackbaud suite of nonprofit software includes a few different CRM offerings aimed at reaching organizations spanning size and functional needs. These are:

  • Blackbaud CRM: Their largest-scale and most comprehensive data management tool, Blackbaud CRM is only suited for enterprise-level organizations looking for a heavy-duty, fully-customized, uniquely built solution.
  • Raiser’s Edge NXT: One of the most widely-used Blackbaud products, Raiser’s Edge NXT is a scalable CRM and fundraising platform for organizations looking to bring their efforts into one cohesive platform.
  • eTapestry: Created for smaller organizations looking for a simpler solution, eTapestry is less expensive and significantly simpler to set up, though it includes less comprehensive features and data management functionalities.
As the most popular Blackbaud solution, striking a balance between comprehensive and user-friendly, this comparison is going to focus exclusively on Raiser’s Edge NXT.

Marketed as an out-of-the-box solution for a nonprofit’s needs, Raiser’s Edge has the following features:

  • Donor management. As expected of any CRM, this solution allows for the creation of constituent profiles tracking all necessary data (contact information, giving history, prospect research information, and more). Further, you can segment these profiles into groups by common characteristics and add notes to specific profiles.
  • Internal nonprofit operations. Raiser’s Edge is cloud-based, so it’s available on-the-go on any device. Plus, it allows you to create role-based work centers, so team members and departments can easily manage their individual projects and responsibilities.
  • Fundraising management. Launching multiple campaigns, planning fundraising events, collecting and processing online donations, and managing recurring/pledged/planned/crowdfunded gifts— Raiser’s Edge is ready-made to handle it all.
  • Reporting and analytics. The solution comes outfitted with a variety of premade reports commonly needed by nonprofit professionals. However, you can also create custom reports suited to your organization’s needs, allowing you to essentially pull any reports needed.
  • Marketing and communications. While you can integrate your Blackbaud solutions with the comprehensive marketing tools of  Luminate Online, that’s not immediately necessary with Raiser’s Edge. The system has social media, email, and direct mail tools readily built-in. You can create and track marketing campaigns and share-friendly custom online donation forms, all through the CRM.

This range of functionality is available on the Raiser’s Edge NXT platform straight out-of-the-box. However, as with Blackbaud’s other CRM solutions, many nonprofits choose to build out this platform for increased functionality around their unique needs. 

RE NXT allows for some customization to certain features to expand and tailor the product to fit your nonprofit’s needs, but you may want to consider bringing on a Blackbaud technology consultant (learn more here) to help in the charge if you choose to go that route.

Why does this solution stand out?

As we saw in 2019, nonprofits are increasingly looking for all-in-one tech solutions to support their fundraising needs.

Often enterprise-level solutions require third-party integrations and extensive customization to serve all of the donor management and fundraising requirements of a nonprofit. While Raiser’s Edge can be (and often is) custom outfitted for your organization’s needs, its greatest value is the fact that intensive customization isn’t immediately necessary for the platform to be useful.

The Raiser’s Edge NXT CRM was created specifically for nonprofit use, so it has fundraising and donor engagement capabilities built-in. You will still want to look into Blackbaud consulting services to help your team make the transition and learn to navigate the software effectively. However, the implementation period is still relatively short and pain-free, all things considered.

Salesforce


Overview of the Salesforce NPSP

Whether you’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for a while or not, it’s hard to miss Salesforce. A popular name in the customer relationship management conversation for over 20 years, Salesforce started as a SaaS company servicing the customer management needs of for-profit businesses.

You may be wondering— why invest in a for-profit CRM solution for my nonprofit organization?

Since its creation, Salesforce has taken huge steps towards supplementing its core CRM infrastructure with functionalities aimed specifically at nonprofits. This nonprofit-specific configuration is the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Essentially, Salesforce NPSP is a version of their CRM that’s pre-configured to meet the needs of nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit-specific features include:

  • Relationship management. You can create comprehensive donor profiles to keep track of supporters’ relationships with your (and other) organizations. You can organize these profiles by common characteristics, such as household, business affiliation, or other connections to make the most of commonalities. 
  • Campaign management. With the Salesforce CRM’s built-in functionality, you can track one-time and recurring gifts, volunteer efforts, general fundraising data, and other programs your nonprofit puts on. Further, you can easily plug in third-party programs available from the Salesforce AppExchange, like the first tool suggested in this Soapbox Engage list of tools to accept donations online. This will allow for increased fundraising, marketing, and other functionality. 
  • Reporting and analytics. Just as with Raiser’s Edge, the Salesforce CRM platform offers robust premade reporting tools for your organization to utilize. Also similar to the Blackbaud solution, your organization can create custom reports to track the specific data most relevant to your needs. 
  • Open-source nature. While the underlying Salesforce CRM itself is closed (as in, you can’t edit the product code yourself), the NPSP set of tools is open-source and flexible to change. There is a vast community of developers and users collaborating to make the add-on the best it can possibly be. This means you have extensive customization power and can tailor the solution to your exact needs.

These features cover the baseline functionality afforded by Salesforce NPSP. However, if you’re investing in a Salesforce solution— you’re likely not doing so for the out-of-the-box functionality. If you’re investing in this solution, it’s for the expansive customization capabilities it carries and the long-term value that that level of fine-tuning and flexibility can generate for your organization.

Why does this solution stand out?

Without a doubt, the biggest draw of a Salesforce solution is that the possibilities are essentially limitless when it comes to functionality and features.

While it may come with a more intensive implementation period, you’ll walk away with a Salesforce solution that is completely configured to your organization’s exact needs. Plus, this customization means it will probably be useful to your organization for years to come and if not, it can always be reconfigured to better align!

Whether you (and your consultant) build upon the Salesforce NPSP, generate a custom solution from the ground up, explore the AppExchange and the plethora of companies specializing in Salesforce solutions, or a combination of all three— you’re able to create an all-in-one constituent relationship, marketing, and fundraising software solution.

Remember: While you’ll definitely want to work with a consultant to make sure your initial migration goes smoothly, it’s also good to have help when building your overall Salesforce strategy to protect that investment in the long run. Check out this DNL OmniMedia guide to nonprofit tech strategy consulting for more information.

Which CRM is right for your nonprofit?


Now that we’ve examined the key features of each enterprise-level CRM, and what makes them truly stand out— which solution seems right for your nonprofit?

Before you make your decision, check out this quick breakdown of the two software solutions, comparing them side-by-side:

If you’re on the market for a user-friendly, useful out-of-the-box solution, Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT may be the solution for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for unlimited customization capacity, consider a Salesforce solution.

Investing in an enterprise-level CRM solution is a major decision, and landing on the right choice will involve quite a few stakeholders. Taking your time to weigh the options and discuss the pros and cons with experts will be your best bet.


When investing in a comprehensive CRM solution for your nonprofit, it’s crucial to do your research. Not only are enterprise-level solutions a significant financial investment, but they also require customization configuring to truly make the most of that investment.

When it comes to Blackbaud versus Salesforce, it’s hard to go completely wrong. Both are great software providers for enterprise-size nonprofits, so they’re a natural starting point as you begin your search. With this guide, we hope you’ve learned at least a bit more about which solution might be the generally better fit for your organization.