Today Microsoft announced a new member of the Dynamics 365 family: Microsoft Fundraising and Engagement. This is very interesting because up until now, Microsoft has never had a big end-user facing solution for fundraising. Microsoft Tech for Social impact has done a great job in bringing technology to the non-profit and this new Dynamics 365 offspring is potentially a big thing. However, it might be also a potential threat to other companies that have developed their own fundraising solution on Microsoft Dynamics 365 or even as stand-alone solution.
A complete suite
Flores.nl worked before with Microsoft TSI on the Non-Profit Accelerator and was given the privilege of attending demos of the new Microsoft Fundraising and Engagement in an early stage. Together with a selected group of Microsoft Partners we got sales and technical trainings on Microsoft Fundraising and Engagement. And I must say, we were positively surprised! We were looking at a very complete solution. In the sales training we got an overview of the areas that the application ticks and most within Fundraising were ticked: payments, direct debit, households, events, membership, IATI. And this is just version one. The roadmap shows planning for Grant management and Insights amongst other, coming somewhere next year.
This solution cannot be called a simple Dynamics solution. It is also not the next version of the Non-Profit Accelerator. It is more complete, and it contains more than a Dynamics solution. The frontend is a Dynamics 365 solution that runs on Dynamics 365 for Sales and a back-end that uses the Common Data Model, SQL-Server and Azure functions to store data, schedule tasks, perform calculations etc. It also comes with a set of APIs to inject data into the system more easily than using the standard Dynamics 365 API. A sidenote: this architecture was not fully given in detail; it is what we saw during the demo’s and trainings. It might be a bit different now it is released.
Is this a competitive product?
So, the big question is, is it a competitive product for the fundraising market? This heavily relies on the adaptation of the partners. If they do not offer it to their customers, it will not be a success. And the partners will only offer it if is a better proposal than their own solutions, or when they can add this to their portfolio. The underlying question then is: is the product ready for the market?
Is the product ready for the market?
For Flores.nl it counts if the product is ready for the West European market (our playground), so when Flores.nl was initially asked to become a launching partner for this, we wanted to understand if we could adapt to that market. Unfortunately, training and documentation alone were not enough to get a clear picture of whether this product will adapt easily for the European market. We know that it can be changed to meet customer needs and maybe in the beginning most implementation will require changes, but the effort needed to make the product deal with, for instance, Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is still unclear to us.
So, Is it ready for the global market or the US market? Well, we cannot fully answer, since our customer base outside Europe is not big enough to make those conclusions. However, we do think this product needs a round more. It is very promising, but it also needs a bit of ‘Tender Loving Care’ by, for example, a UX-designer in order to give the application a more generic unified interface (maybe by now that is already taking care of, we were involved in an early stage). Is that a dealbreaker? No, but people tend to trust good looking software better than software were the interface is not consequent.
Is it a threat to existing fundraising software?
We think the world is big enough not to talk in threats. The fundraising world can really use more options for their software. Salesforce has its Non Profit Succes Pack, Blackbaud has it’s own suites and Microsoft , ….well, basically Microsoft had to rely on partners coming up with tailor made solutions, often specifically for a branch or a region. We do not think this product will immediately be a threat to companies like Blackbaud with its world-biggest customer base or to Salesforce implementations, but it gives surely more options in the Dynamics 365 world.