Platform still dominates but Specialist systems are fighting back.

As I wrote in my first article on this subject, whilst the early part of the decade saw the rise of platform solutions built on Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics for the NFP sector, in the past 12 – 18 months we’ve witnessed something of a recovery by the specialist NFP CRM providers.

The reasons for this may in part lie in the natural cycle of preferences we witness in many contexts of life; the Stones vs. the Beatles, SEGA vs. Nintendo, Stars Wars vs. Star Trek, or iOS vs. Android.

More relevant though is a narrative which sees specific and genuine investment and a re-vitalisation in the specialist NFP CRM market. This is happening alongside recognition of some of the real challenges faced by non-profits seeking to implement platform solutions. Those challenges include a better understanding of the scale of investment required to enable those projects to succeed, which may comprise significant financial sums time and knowledge input.

Of course it’s probably beyond coincidence that these two are happening at the same time. The specialist NFP CRM providers will undoubtedly have understood this challenge before most of the sector. Maybe that’s what’s inspired their revitalisation.

What have specialist solution providers been doing?

Approaches have varied in terms of how these specialist solutions have adapted to the rise of platform.

If thankQ may have lacked capacity or confidence to rebuild themselves, their acquisition by Access Group led to a full re-invention of the product. What we see now is a modern browser-based solution with rich features leveraging thankQ’s inherent functionality and the sector insight of those behind it. That investment is surely paying off when seen in light of the amount of new business Rob Barr and his team are bringing in.

Meantime in South-West London Centrepoint were consolidating ideas they’d worked on for some years to bring Oomi to market. Oomi is an all-new cloud-by-design CRM, centred on a powerful workflow engine and built using the same tools provided to clients to support their self-sufficiency. The classic membership and events CRM functionality has been enhanced with features supporting education, committee management, product sales and fundraising. All of this gives the team a very strong story to tell, which is being very well received.

Long-standing Trade Union and Membership specialists Millertech branched out into CiviCRM  few year back to reinforce their non-profit credentials. Now they’ve re-configured their traditional SodalitaS system as well. Merlin comes with a sleek and clean new interface, flexible workflow automation, and a focus on operational efficiency. The product therefore retains the core strengths of their Oracle base, especially when it comes to volume transaction processing, whilst increasing in functionality, openness and intuitiveness.

Not to be outdone, ProTech have developed Pro9 as a modern and feature-rich CRM which reinforces their strengths around qualifications management and accreditation. Offering an integrated web presence, and SaaS delivery through ProCloud with government-accredited security, Pro9 is another reinvented specialist NFP CRM to reckon with.

Next time we’ll be looking at some of the key reasons why specialist NFP CRM systems remain a viable and strong alternative to platform solutions, and consider how ASI are seeking to address this challenge by evolving their IMIS CRM into an “Engagement Management System”.

We’ll also check out updates from the likes of APT Solutions and 3si and take a view on the latest charity fundraiser technology coming out of Blackbaud, Donorfy, and OneAdvanced among others.