On Monday, January 14, 2019, Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce, announced its acquisition of roundCorner, a software vendor focused on CRM for the nonprofit sector. Salesforce.org, formerly known as the Salesforce Foundation, is responsible for managing Salesforce’s 1-1-1 initiative. That entails donating 1% of profits, 1% of employee time, and 1% of technology to nonprofits.

In many ways, this acquisition is the logical next step in the long-standing relationship between roundCorner and Salesforce. A Salesforce platinum ISV partner, roundCorner has also received investment from Salesforce in the past. roundCorner’s products, particularly NGO Connect, have formed a core part of Salesforce.org’s offerings for in this space.

Constellation POV

We see two main take-aways from this acquisition:

  1. This is likely to be a happy and more comfortable long-term home for roundCorner
  2. The type of acquisition highlights the value and importance to customers of specialism

As a for-profit company, roundCorner was competing in a narrow but competitive market. Though bolstered by the partnership with Salesforce, it lacked the market presence of publicly-traded Blackbaud, for example. (For a view on the key players in the nonprofit CRM space, as well as the do’s and don’ts of nonprofit CRM, check out the excellent blog by the folks at Build Consulting.)

Coming officially under the umbrella of Salesforce.org ensures that roundCorner’s technology will continue to play a leading role in Salesforce’s nonprofit offerings. It also secures the long-term investment required to continue to innovate and build out these capabilities.

More importantly, this acquisition points squarely to the crucial role of specialist knowledge. Enterprise systems are only really effective when they are design to address the distinct needs of a given type of business, non-profit or otherwise. The tremendous power of Salesforce’s platform, applications, and ecosystem lies in a customer’s ability to configure those elements to meet their unique needs (while maintaining things like standard data structures and interoperability). The big drawback is that many customers who lack the capabilities and resources (read: most nonprofits) to do this on their own need something adapted to their needs out of the box.

Salesforce.org has been at this long enough to recognize that managing constituents and donors, administering grant processes, and organizing volunteers and events don’t have direct analogues in for-profit business operations. Bringing the specialist capabilities of roundCorner directly under the purview of Salesforce.org should accelerate the ongoing development of a Salesforce offering better tailored to the particular requirements of nonprofits.

Meanwhile, we’ll be watching to see if lessons learned about the value of specialist knowledge in the nonprofit sector influence other aspects of Salesforce’s core business as well.

Photo courtesy of Care International