Over the past five years or more a lot of the hype and buzz around CRM solutions for non-profits has focused on the emergence of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce as suitable platforms for technologists to build custom solutions on. Discussion includes the relative merits of “platform and proprietary”, but all the focus is usually placed on the possibilities offered by the rise of platform.

The noise and excitement becomes about comparisons between Salesforce and Dynamics as platforms, and between the partners building on them, but what about those specialist solutions which were already servicing the sector – and their providers who have dedicated years to their development? What happened to them and where do they fit?

To me, it felt like they’ve been a bit battered by the emergence of solutions being built on flexible and adaptive platforms and in many respects many of the specialist solutions providers could be reasonably described as having retreated into their shells in the early 2010’s.

Maybe there was a complacency among them, where they’d been dominant for some years and felt that their knowledge was a suitable safety net to protect them from new competition. Certainly a lot of the leading providers could be accused of having neglected their solutions, or letting them plod along rather than keep pace with the times or seek innovation.

Regardless of the causes, the rise of platform undoubtedly sent a shockwave through the marketplace and it’s taken some time for the traditional specialist providers to understand, appreciate the challenge, and to respond.

In the last year however we’ve seen the first signs of recovery, with specialist providers introducing new modern solutions which leverage their deep knowledge of the sector. These dedicated specialist providers are now adopting modern technology to provide flexible solutions with the inherent characteristics of modern CRM, plus the benefit of their insight and experience.

These specialist non-profit CRM solution providers have regrouped, having learnt some harsh lessons, have refreshed their offerings and are starting to show confidence in the values of their deep sector understanding, and in having specialist systems in which they are invested, and over which they have complete control.

Complementing this, some of the providers who were previously seen as quite entrenched are showing a new side to themselves, with a more open culture, a willingness to engage with the rest of the sector on a more equal footing, to interact and to integrate with a wider number of partners.

The non profit CRM marketplace is as vibrant as it’s ever been and there are substantial benefits to be achieved from buying in to the modern tech propositions from specialist providers with deep credentials and dedication. The competitive edge between providers and between solution models can only benefit the non profit sector as the propositions and delivery options enhance and evolve.

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