The Collaborative CRM Platform – Part 4 Single Salesforce Collaborative CRMs- Continued

This post continues our deep dive with single-Salesforce Collaborative CRM with recommendations for smoothing the path to success. We’ll start with common challenges and then share some governance tips that can help you combat them. We’re excited to feature The Sierra Club and After-School All-Stars in this article– thank you for your insights!

After-School All-Stars

Our previous post on this topic explored which organizations are well-suited for this CCRM model and the benefits it offers them.


If your organization is considering implementing (or re-launching) a single-Salesforce CCRM, you’ll do well to prepare for these common challenges. With some proactive planning, you can tackle or even prevent them.

Data Security

Sharing a CRM will make some folks squeamish about data security. Headquarters will need to be inclusive and transparent in setting policies for data sharing with and between affiliates. Adrianna says data security is the #1 concern raised by chapters considering joining the CCRM platform, which isn’t uncommon in networks where affiliated organizations are separate legal entities. Dave shares that the Sierra Club occasionally sees staff misuse data. However, these instances are uncommon and effectively managed with clear expectation setting and disciplinary policies.

Brian Pickett, North Peak Founder, notes that this issue often boils down to trust: “Trust needs to be front and center” for organizations pursuing this route. The headquarter office needs to be prepared to engage affiliates early and often in conversations about data security.

Strong Centralized Control

With a single-instance CCRM, headquarters will necessarily have oversight and control over the configuration of Salesforce, which might be frustrating for chapters looking for more flexibility to wrap the system around their particular needs.

However, what affiliate organizations give up in the way of control they likely get back in the form of resources saved in the long term. The central office performs most of the necessary ongoing maintenance items associated with CRM ownership (training, deduplication, enhancements, etc). This can be great for networks where the typical affiliate office has few staff. With a central office to shoulder ongoing maintenance, affiliates add capacity that makes it possible for them to adopt and own a CRM.


Because a central office owns and exercises more control over the system, a single-instance CCRM adds a layer of complexity to governance. The key to success is engaging affiliates in strategic planning and decision making for the system, which ensures the CRM is highly effective for as many stakeholders as possible.

Some recommendations for operationalizing these tips:

Identify your Executive Stakeholder(s)

It’s essential to have at least one executive stakeholder serving as a vocal and visible leader for any CRM project. This blog post outlines the key responsibilities of an executive stakeholder and has recommendations on how to find one.

Form a steering committee

A steering committee oversees the system, ensuring it supports business priorities, determining user policies, making choices about how to address problems and capitalize on new opportunities, and communicating with the rest of the organization on these topics. It should comprise representatives from across the organization.

Sierra Club had an executive-level steering committee to champion and oversee the initial implementation, which evolved into a governance committee comprised of mid-level managers from all business units that interact with the system. They meet weekly to discuss issues that impact multiple business areas. In rare cases where the committee can’t come to a collective agreement, they have an escalation process that engages leadership. For more feedback and issues that don’t impact multiple business areas, committee members act as liaisons between their departments and the IT team.

Engage power users

Power users can offer thoughtful feedback on the system, serve as informal trainers and sounding boards for colleagues, contribute to special CRM-related projects, and help reiterate policies and changes to colleagues. Adrianna says it’s absolutely essential that “every chapter has a power user or point person [for whom] Salesforce data entry and maintenance is a formal responsibility.”

ASAS also leverages informal power chapters, which pilot new or changed functionality before National rolls it out to the larger network.

Continuous training and communication

With the complex organizational structure that tends to necessitate a CCRM, information can easily get confused or lost in translation. A major driver behind the success of the Sierra Club’s single Salesforce is their training and support teams, which leverage open communication channels and adoption dashboards to understand employees’ satisfaction and skill with Salesforce. They also make a point of publicizing and continuously engaging power users, who can serve as examples for and evangelize to other staff.

ASAS does not have a training and support team, but employs many different tactics for communicating with and training staff at all levels. This includes significant Salesforce training during onboarding, Salesforce Admin “open door policy” for ad hoc one-on-one conversations, periodic user surveys, Admin-led training webinars, and more. As Adrianna says, “because national owns the system, we need to listen to users and implement their feedback.”

Examples of good governance in action

As more chapters adopted Salesforce, ASAS identified increasing numbers of shared relationships with funders. The network realized they needed to establish “rules of the road” to prevent missteps, maximize interactions with donors, and collaborate effectively. So, they gathered a group of impacted users and Executive Directors for each chapter using Salesforce to discuss pain points and brainstorm fixes. From this discussion, they created 11 rules of the road for managing shared funder relationships, which all parties agreed to follow and update periodically as needed.

Despite using several applications from the Salesforce AppExchange and developing several Salesforce Community applications, with Sierra Club’s diverse programming, many teams identify point solutions that cater to their particular needs. The team’s first approach is to evaluate these technologies that are outside the Salesforce ecosystem in light of broader organizational needs, with the goal of identifying one point solution that can be leveraged by many teams. This also enables the organization to maximize its investments in integrating point solutions with Salesforce. The key to doing this successfully is to truly understand each team’s priorities and keep open lines of communication throughout the organization.

A single CRM is an incredible foundation for collaboration, transparency, and efficiency. The Sierra Club sees these wins daily– says Dave, “People are feeling more invested in maintaining the data. They increasingly see the value of having a more complete view of the entire organization’s interaction with our constituents and are excited to change their engagement strategies based on more complete information!” This excitement in their CRM means better quality data, which enables data-driven decision making, and results in greater impact.

Dave emphasizes the significant opportunity cost that organizations well-suited for collaborative CRMs face if they don’t adopt one:

“Put yourself in the place of the constituent–if you’re not on a single CRM, they’re not going to have as positive an experience, whether they’re receiving mail or email, going to an event or volunteering, or engaging with your website. [The value of a single CRM] is not just for your own analytics and decision making, but for the constituent experience as well.”

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to connect with a group of nonprofits and Salesforce implementation partners on all things Collaborative CRM, join the mailing list and get invites to live conversations and access to resources.

If you’re considering launching or optimizing a CCRM and looking for guidance, reach out to our team.

About North Peak

About North Peak

North Peak helps nonprofits and foundations increase institutional intelligence through healthy CRM (constituent relationship management) and/or GMS (grant management system) systems and practices. Contact Us to learn how we can elevate your organization's impact.