Is the New Salesforce Analytics Wave Right for Your Nonprofit?

Editor’s note: The NTEN Blog and Connect normally do not include articles that are specific to a platform, product, or service. This is to ensure that the Blog is about ideas that support change rather than a specific tool that may not be accessible and affordable to all. However, given that this month’s theme is Evaluation and Measuring Impact, and given that Salesforce’s Wave Analytic tool was recently announced, we bent our own rules a bit and asked NTEN Community champion Michelle Chaplin to share her thoughts with us about Wave. Her gracious response to our request follows.

A few weeks ago at the 2014 Dreamforce Conference, Salesforce announced a new analytics tool called Wave. And by announced, I mean with all the expected Dreamforce fanfare, including The Beach Boys crooning “Catch a Wave.”

What? Isn’t that how all new products are launched?

Salesforce Analytics puts your reports and dashboards on steroids, giving you the ability to easily visualize the data in your Salesforce instance. Unlike traditional dashboards, Wave lets you instantly drill down into your data. So you can quickly go from looking at total yearly donations to monthly donations from donors in a specific region.

And because it’s on the Salesforce1 Platform, you can easily access it from a tablet or mobile phone, making it easier to reference important data points and pull up useful data visualization tools during meetings.

Do I Need This?

Salesforce Analytics is designed to make data-driven decision making more efficient. If you regularly bring up dashboards and reports to strategize how programs should go forward, then Analytics could save you some valuable time. It’s designed to make it easy for you to get answers from your data, and easily share those answers with clear visualizations.

If you’re not quite that dependent on your data for all your decisions, then it’s probably better to forego the additional expense of Wave for now. Salesforce Analytics doesn’t provide you with any information you don’t already have access to, it just makes your data easier to access.

On the other hand, making your data easier to access and drill down on may help your co-workers adopt data-driven decision making.  Wave makes it easier to answer questions with your data. So if you can use it as a tool to increase user adoption, it might be worth the additional expense.

The most important (and probably easiest) question to answer is how much data do you have? Salesforce Analytics is useful because it makes large amounts of unwieldy data easier to navigate and manage. If you are a relatively small or new nonprofit without a lot of data, then Wave might not be worth the price for you.

What Does It Cost?

In order to use the Analytics Cloud, Salesforce users will need an additional license. A Builder User License costs $250/user/month and provides full access to the tool (creating datasets, building dashboards, etc.). An Explorer User License costs $125/user/month and allows users to access and customize the analytics apps. More information on pricing is available here.

There will be discounted nonprofit pricing available in the next few weeks. Reach out to your Salseforce Account Manager for more information.

Keep in mind, however, that the Salesforce Analytics Wave is designed for the for-profit Salesforce user, so there will be some upfront set up and customization that needs to be done. Factor in these initial time/financial costs when considering whether or not Salesforce Analytics fits in your budget.

Michelle L. Chaplin
Senior Manager, Online Fundraising
Michelle Chaplin is the Senior Manager of Online Fundraising at PBS, where she manages the fundraising initiatives at; manages the Best of PBS monthly newsletter, which has grown to more than 1M subscribers; and supports PBS member stations to improve their online and overall fundraising initiatives. Before joining PBS, she was a Program Manager at BRAC USA for more than four years, during which she have provided marketing support and built an online, social media and traditional media strategy for the largest NGO in the world. Additionally, she’s implemented and maintained a several Salesforce CRM databases and developed multi-channel donor acquisition and retention strategies. Michelle has an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU.