10 Things to Know About Salesforce and Nimble AMS!

By: Dave Spina, Director of Development, Confluence Global

November 5, 2019


In this blog post, we will explore 10 things to know about Salesforce and Nimble AMS that will help you understand what they are how you might leverage them for your organization.

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of excitement around Salesforce. It is practically synonymous with innovation and Silicon Valley. There are countless examples of how it has enabled organizations to grow, manage their customer interactions better, and increase staff efficiencies. The product and its owner Marc Benioff, who founded the company in 1999, are in the news daily.

Still, there is also a lot of confusion about what Salesforce is. Is it a CRM? Is it only a sales platform? How do membership and donor organizations use it?

I have been exploring computer software since I was a kid in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Throughout my career, I have worked constantly to remain current on all kinds of software. For over 15 years, I was a programmer and developer for associations working on legacy systems. Now, as a Salesforce Certified Administrator and Salesforce Platform Developer, I manage Salesforce and Nimble AMS implementations.

One constant has remained true: every organization’s software implementation is different because no two organizations are exactly alike. Regardless of the software, it takes a lot of effort and coordination to configure and customize the features and functions afforded.

Let’s explore how and why Salesforce has revolutionized the way we do business and hopefully give you a clearer understanding of how and why associations and nonprofits are using it to further their missions.

10 Things to Know About Salesforce, Nimble AMS, and Confluence Global

How is Salesforce Different?

Salesforce is more than just the world’s #1 customer relationship management (CRM) platform, it’s an ecosystem that connects programmers, developers, and customers all over the world to work within the same interchangeable, highly vetted framework. The AppExchange provides an unparalleled marketplace for organizations to confidently select and plug in solutions that enhance their abilities to bring value to their unique constituencies.

The Salesforce platform has many sophisticated developer tools for customization, but it is also equipped with a set of highly configurable and powerful tools that are accessible within an easy to use interface.

What that means is that we can often avoid writing custom code to carry out a workflow automation. Once we have defined a workflow, we can drag and drop a series of connected boxes that have dropdown menus in them. We can then use the visual interface to select what happens, when it happens, and what data is affected.

That type of standardization empowers organizations to more easily create dependable workflows to save them time and effort on manual tasks that in most other systems would require significant customized coding.

1. What version of Salesforce should I purchase?

Salesforce licenses grant you access to the types of features and functions that help you accomplish the types of tasks that are required for your organization. There are many different licenses such as Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Nonprofit Cloud, Philanthropy Cloud, Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) and so on.

So, you must first take account of your needs by asking these types of questions:

  • Do you need to handle sales or support management?
  • Does your constituency need to access their data through a community platform?
  • Do you need the capability to build extensions?

These are just some of the questions you may need to ask before determining which cloud solutions and licenses you will need.

If you are purchasing Nimble AMS, you will need the Enterprise level, as Nimble AMS allows membership organizations to use Person Accounts and other relevant functionality.

2. What is NPSP?

The Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is a platform solution developed by Salesforce.org, their philanthropic arm. This package provides a business solution for nonprofit organizations with focuses on donations, volunteerism, and membership. It utilizes many of the Salesforce base components, such as Accounts and Opportunities to store the data.

It does not provide an effective means of handling business and commerce for businesses that require a more substantial association management system (AMS), such as Nimble AMS.

3. What is Nimble AMS and can I use it without Salesforce?

Within the Salesforce ecosystem, features and functions are developed and bundled into packages. There are two types of packages. They can be “Unmanaged,” which can be used as open-source templates for other developers, among other uses. “Managed” packages contain intellectual property and are meant for Salesforce partners and developers, like Nimble AMS, to create stable and upgradable solutions that conform to Salesforce’s strict requirements.

Nimble AMS is a very mature solution for associations to manage their business. Nimble AMS is embedded in the Salesforce platform fabric, leveraging the intense power that Salesforce offers with a whole new set of extensions for association business practices.

By utilizing the capabilities that Salesforce has to offer, implementing Nimble AMS provides robust CRM-based solutions while still providing the business elements for associations to handle their members, events, donations, orders, programs, and a series of other association-centric business areas.

4. What is the difference between an Account, a Contact, and a Person Account in Salesforce?

In most Salesforce implementations, an “Account” represents a customer, typically a company, where a “Contact” represents an individual in the company. When individuals are your primary source for engagement, Salesforce also provides “Person Accounts,” which combine an Account and Contact to represent an active individual with your organization.

These options allow you to flow information down or up from the organization level to an individual in ways that are most appropriate for your needs, like prospect status, membership status, and so on.

5. How does Salesforce provide updates?

As a SaaS (software as a service) platform, Salesforce will push out a new release of their cloud solution three times per year. This occurs every winter, spring, and summer. Each release includes new features, enhancements, and issue resolutions.

Salesforce will update your sandboxes and other development instances first. This will allow you to view and test the new features before your production environment is automatically updated.

With this approach, you are always on the latest version, and you don't have to do any work to make the update happen.

6. If I have Nimble AMS, can I still get apps from Salesforce's AppExchange?

The answer is yes. You can still view and download apps from the AppExchange when using Nimble AMS. Please make sure that the solutions you do download do not have issues working with Person Accounts as Nimble AMS requires Person Accounts to be enabled.

7. Is it essential to become Salesforce Certified?

No, you do not need to be Salesforce certified to be a productive user of the platform. However, certification does come with its benefits:

  • in preparing for your certification you will be exposed to a greater scope of Salesforce than your day-to-day offers;
  • certification provides recognition to your colleagues and to the Salesforce community that you have an understanding of the platform in your area of certification; and
  • it helps with career opportunities, advances in position and/or salary.

Outside of certification, you can learn plenty about how to use Salesforce through Trailhead – a free, robust training platform and searchable knowledge base.

8. Can I import my data into Salesforce from anywhere?

The short answer is, yes. Salesforce provides several options when it comes to data importing. Data Loader and Workbench are two Salesforce-centric solutions used for importing data.

However, if you have data across many different data sources -- or if your data is complex with many related entities -- you may need to consider a customized data conversion.

9. What is Community Hub?

Community Hub is a proprietary solution managed by Community Brands that utilizes Salesforce's Community platform. The Community Hub package provides your Nimble AMS constituents with a means to edit their profile, register for events, become a member, build relationships, process orders and other engagements. It should be your primary member portal solution when using Salesforce.

10. The Future is Bright for Salesforce and Nimble AMS

What is important to remember is that Salesforce is not just one thing. It is an ecosystem that allows organizations of all configurations to leverage automation and creativity to do what they do better. It allows regular staff to easily use it for day-to-day use, but it does require trained experts to know how to best leverage it. Nimble AMS is one mature part of the ecosystem that enables membership organizations to leverage association-centric business areas and provides an engagement platform for members within Community Hub.

As Director of Deployment and Deployment Services at Confluence Global, I am surrounded every day by smart, sophisticated people and technology. I am proud that our work with Salesforce.com, Salesforce.org and Nimble AMS is helping associations and nonprofits spend more time and effort on their missions.

Over the last 20 years, Salesforce has become known as the future of technology today because of how rapidly customers can collaborate and take advantage of the innovation as it happens. While Salesforce continues to grow and evolve over the next 20 years and beyond, I look forward to seeing where we can take it together.

Learn more about Confluence Global's Salesforce Implementation and Support Services

Meet the Author!
Dave Spina, Director of Development

Dave brings over 17 years experience to serve as the chief technical systems architect and designer of custom solutions for Confluence Global's clients involved in building robust and innovative solutions. Additionally, he manages the development team, organizes duties for team members and provides a point of escalation on development.

Connect with Dave on LinkedIn! 
Connect with Dave on Twitter!

About Confluence Global

We use our over 50 years of experience, relationships, and partnerships to help membership and donor organizations augment technical staff, optimize business processes, and implement the right software to best fulfill their missions.

Follow us on Twitter @confluenceglobe 

Network the Confluence Global team at Upcoming Events

Change Management

We hold your hand at every step. We help you effectively prepare your organization and your constituents with communications templates and other proven change management techniques.