Does Your Nonprofit Team Need to Launch a Fleet?

As a young kid growing up in Northern California, I recall being captivated by a TV commercial for houseboat vacation rentals on a nearby lake, and subsequently pleading with my dad to rent one. A house and a boat—all in one! C’mon dad! Summoning his paternal wisdom, my father said: “son, the problem with a houseboat is that it’s both a bad house and a bad boat.” So we went camping in Yosemite instead and it was awesome.


There are plenty of “houseboats” in the software world, particularly in the enterprise, when satisfying long and complex 72 page RFPs can drive software purchases regardless of quality of the components. Has a kitchen? Check! Floats? Check. Sold!

I’d prefer a nice boat and a nice house. This is the approach we use at EverTrue to manage our business; we leverage a coordinated fleet of tools, rather than a single monolithic system. We use Mixpanel for our Product team, Intercom for our Customer Success Managers, UserVoice for Customer Support, InsightSquared for Management, HubSpot for Marketing, and Salesforce for Sales. Each of these systems is a “database,” and I’d go so far as to say that each of these systems is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, in that they all have a “Customer” defined as a first-class citizen data object.

With capabilities built specifically for specific teams, these solutions allow members of our team to be highly productive in their independent roles, and our entire company to function more efficiently. Imagine having to rely on the Salesforce admin to send a marketing email, or on our Finance and Operations Manager to know how we are performing against our sales forecast. With our coordinated tools, our entire team is more efficient, up-to-date, and productive each and every day.

We do devote some engineering resources to sync (some, but definitely not all) data back and forth across systems. But it’s worth it given the increase in productivity across the team as a whole.


At EverTrue, we think about building products for nonprofit teams through this lens as well. While the database, the lead boat in the fleet if you will, is a great repository of important data, your team needs more than just a single boat. Imagine equipping your team with modern, intuitive, function-specific solutions to accompany the database. To us, this is not creating a shadow database, but rather providing customers with the best possible fleet to better identify, prioritize, and connect with donors. Gift officers should be able to discover new insights or prospects without weeks of training or reliance on the help of a single database person. Managers should know if their Facebook investment is helping identify new targets for an upcoming campaign. And entire teams should be able to segment their constituents for any event, trip, or campaign.

Nonprofit software often looks a wee bit houseboat-y:

“Can I have a slide?” —Communications

“It needs to have working navigational beacons and at least 10 life preservers.” —CIO

“It has to have a cooler for at least three cases of wine.” —Major Gifts Officers

Is this kind of solution really helping your team get to your goals faster (and more comfortably, i.e. without sinking?)?

It is our hope that by providing nonprofits with the best fleet possible—through integrated, easy-to-use, web and mobile products that work together with a core database—fundraising teams will be more productive, efficient, and coordinated.

Is your database enough, or do you need to launch a fleet? Read EverTrue CEO Brent Grinna’s thoughts in his post, “The Advancement Office of 2015.”  


Matt Sly is the Vice President of Product at EverTrue. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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