ProSpeak: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Today’s CRM Solutions for Nonprofits
This approach only works for precisely the business rules and products originally outlined. It’s as though you wanted to receive and send packages through UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service — that would require three mail slots installed to accommodate each company’s packages. Although this model is open, since the vendors involved have standardized the mail slots, you still pay each to install its standard mail slot. It leaves you little control, and future changes usually trigger additional costs.
2. The Door Chain
Application programming interfaces (APIs), which vendors are beginning to unveil, represent a big step toward openness — but an API is like a door with a chain on it. APIs enable custom integrations with particular modules or elements within the software and exist for everything from constituent data (biographical, contact, etc.) to transaction information and processing.
APIs reduce reliance on vendors to design applications for your needs or build custom applications. But you’re still restricted because APIs are for specific modules and allow you to read and write specific data. Plus, these non-native applications (outside of the software) require separate, ongoing maintenance.
In this scenario, the door is cracked but cannot open further, so you’re limited on the size of the packages that can pass through the space. You can peer inside and ask that visible items be passed to you. However, most organizations need the ability to swap out furnishings, or in tech terms, create a flow for their software space that meets their unique needs.
For instance, a development professional who travels might need to access and update donor information from a mobile device. He would be hamstrung if his CRM system has an API for biographical data but not interaction history. He could retrieve and change a donor’s address and phone number(s) but not important information on the supporter’s favorite project. Although the “door chain” approach is more open than the “mail slot,” you’re still locked out of your own house and stuck reorganizing your space in the front yard.