Mike Maxwell

Technology and Strategy Coach for Small Business and Nonprofits

5 Considerations for Moving to a New Email Marketing Platform

EmaillIconThinking about changing your email marketing platform (EMP)? It’s a relatively common project these days for small- and medium-sized businesses who have outgrown their old platform. If it’s something you’re contemplating or planning for, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Data migration:

It goes without saying that you’ll want to transfer your email list, but the other data you’ve compiled on your old EMP is valuable, too. Consider whether you need to preserve reports, timestamps and other data that might be valuable in future analyses. In many cases it’s worth dumping the last year’s worth of campaign reports into Excel files or PDFs so you’ll have them if you need them. If you’re able to preserve the data in tabular format, all the better. Then you have even more flexibility when you want to compare performance between old and new EMPs.

2. Preserve opt-out data

It’s critical (and a legal requirement) that you preserve the preference of any email recipient who has opted out of receiving email from your organization. Make sure that you know how this data is recorded in your old EMP, and that you have a clear plan for replicating that data in the new EMP. Then test new segmentation rules thoroughly to ensure that opt-out preferences are being honored.

3. Update your SPF record

The ‘Sender Policy Framework’ record in your DNS settings are important for ensuring high deliverability of your email. This record contains the list of IP addresses that are authorized to deliver email from your domain. Make sure this record is correct and updated to reflect the new EMP.

4. Update websites and processes

Make sure you have a complete inventory of forms and links that point to your old EMP, and then update them accordingly. This applies not only to ‘subscribe’ forms and messages, but also anything supporting email preference setting and unsubscribing. Be sure to avoid having your customer-facing email preference forms pointing at your old EMP because any unsubscribe requests will not be recorded on the new, active platform.

5. Kimono open or closed?

By making the above changes you’re likely to enjoy a smooth transition to your new EMP. However, if you’re faced with a situation where you can’t keep your current ‘from’ email address as the ‘from’ address in your new EMP (or some other more involved transition), you may want to consider telling your email recipients about the transition before it happens. It would give them a chance to whitelist your new ‘from’ address before you start using, improving your deliverability percentages.

But you may be able to do the transition to your new EMP without much noise. Some lists are very sensitive to email that does not conform to the usual subject matter, so a ‘heads-up’ email may be enough to scare away a few recipients.* Some lists love that kind of transparent communication and engenders loyalty among recipients. You’ll know best how your people may react, and whether to make them aware of the transition or not.

* As a side-note, don’t be afraid to scare away recipients who are barely tolerating receiving your email in the first place. Ideally your email list is comprised of people who brighten up when they see your email in their inbox. They are the most active and valuable members of your community. Spend your energy bringing in more recipients like that, and worry less about losing a few skeptics.

Salesforce for Non-Profits

Salesforce Foundation - for Non Profits

The Salesforce Foundation provides 10 seats and its Non Profit Success Pack to eligible organizations for free.

Salesforce.com has been around for a long time. I first heard about it when I worked at a dot-com startup in California. At the time, Salesforce was predominantly used for managing leads and what we now call “CRM” activities. Once I moved on from that job, Salesforce fell off my radar.

That is until I started working for High Country News, a non-profit regional magazine based in Colorado. Before I started there, another HCN staffer had already wisely signed up for Salesforce’s Non Profit Starter Pack (NPSP). After some time spent getting to know Salesforce I came to realize what a value it is.

Non Profit Success Pack: An enormous opportunity for most non-profit organizations.

  1. It’s FREE. The Salesforce Foundation provides the NPSP at no charge to 501c3 organizations, including the licenses for 10 accounts (or “seats”).
  2. It’s useful right out of the box. The NPSP is aptly named having been pre-configured to give an organization new to Salesforce man of the tools they’d need to properly track donor activity.
  3. It’s powerfully flexible. Salesforce is nearly infinitely extensible given that there is an enormous industry out there constantly churning out new functionality specifically for Salesforce. A large number of the “apps” that are created for Salesforce are free to all Salesforce customers. But even those that are created for Salesforce’s paying customers are available for free to non-profit organizations due to the heavy emphasis on philanthropy within the Salesforce ecosystem.

There are a great many additional reasons to look into Salesforce NPSP for your non-profit, but there are also some things you should be aware of:

  • Salesforce is complicated. Perhaps because of the incredible flexibility and power of Salesforce, it can be challenging to understand how to customize your account to better suit your unique processes or data. There is a wealth of online documentation and training for Salesforce, but it takes time to work through.
  • Hidden cost: Salesforce administration. Because it is such a complex tool, a non-trivial amount of staff time must be devoted to administering the day-to-day of your Salesforce account. Some organizations end up training a member of staff to become their Salesforce Administrator, or simply hiring one externally. There are a great many Salesforce consultants out there in the world (including me!), so short-term help is always an option. But some of those experts can charge hourly rates above $200/hr. (NOT me!)
  • Data migration can be tricky. Many organizations I’ve worked with have legacy software for managing their donor/subscriber/customer data. To use Salesforce that data must be migrated from the old tool into the new Salesforce environment. If that process isn’t done properly, it can create long-term problems that will hamper an organization’s ability to use Salesforce, or worse, degrade process efficiency and irritate already over-worked staff.
  • Complex business rules = expensive implementation. One of my nonprofit clients wanted to recreate most of the business rules in Salesforce that they use in their legacy system. Unfortunately, when the project was fully evaluated, the costs to recreate those complex business rules easily added up to over 6 figures in implementation costs. Organizations with simple business models, or those that can adapt to the Salesforce environment stand a better chance of migrating affordably.

Effective Salesforce Consulting

Despite the concerns listed above (and those that aren’t), I consider Salesforce and the NPSP to be a potentially game-changing tool for most non-profits. Once an evaluation of an organization’s capabilities and objectives is completed, and a rational, measured approach to moving your data and processes to Salesforce is created, the non-profit stands to benefit a great deal.

  • Efficiency: improve your processes so that staff time is spent engaging with your supporters rather than pushing paperwork or wrestling with archaic systems.
  • Enhanced donor engagement: Donor-facing tools and communication can often be radically improved once your data and systems are no longer locked up in legacy systems. Automated emails, communication preferences, household-specific information, and contact history are just some of the out-of-the-box features available in the NPSP. And, with Salesforce’s extensibility, the opportunities for expanding this engagement are nearly limitless.
  • Increase donations: With new systems in place you can make it easier for your supporters to donate. Track the performance of your development campaigns so that you can work more effectively.


So, if you’re interested, please get in touch and I’ll help you understand more of the pros and cons of using Salesforce within your non-profit organization.