We have been using Raiser's Edge for over 15 years and we are considering a move to Salesforce. We are not the only UK charity to do this. At an event about choosing Finance Systems organised by Adapta consulting I met someone from a large, well known hospital who are moving to to Salesforce too. We are using Purple Vision for initial consultancy and whilst we haven't got their detailed recommendation yet, it looks like we'll be using the Causeview app for the things that RE currently does, and other apps for the things it doesn't do that we want to.
(All the opinions in this blog are my own, btw.)
(As I blogged earlier this year) I remember seeing Salesforce when they opened up the platform a few years ago, so you could create and customise your own screens. It took me back to the days when I was working on Dec Rally, a "fourth generation" programming language, on CRTs with green letters. Define your field type, give it a label, write code to fire to validate it, write code to fire when you move away from the field. All the same stuff, but on a web page. But it's in the cloud! It's the cloud! The cloud is the future! Having seen various buzzwords rise and fall in frequency in the Tech or Charity Tech press I get very bored of hearing about the next new thing (though "the cloud" as a concept is a few years old now). So if Salesforce is a web based (20 years old) front end to a relational database (45 years old), then why is it so good? I think it's because of the 8 year old concept of an App store (as came with the iPhone). There is a choice about which bits of software you mix and match to get what you want.
For the developer wanting to tweak or extend what you get with Salesforce and the apps you're using it's a mixed picture. Salesforce tops the list of Most Dreaded technologies in the Stack Overflow survey for 2015. On the other hand, according to my research seems to show that if you write your own app you can access to Salesforce built-in "objects", e.g. customers or those belonging to third-party apps, e.g. gifts.
The limits look like it's easy to fall foul of them. UK charities should be able to get 10 free Enterprise Edition licenses. That gives you 200 custom objects, which sounds like it means instances of objects, rather than 200 different custom object types. All the other limits seem reasonable, so long as you don't want to store lots of documents on there. For reports and exporting there is a limit of 2000 rows on the screen (although in theory you can export the whole thing) which looks like it means we can only post 2000 gifts at a time. You can only schedule 1 or 2 reports an hour, depending on your edition.
It's early days yet, and my research may be wrong. I'll will blog more as the project proceeds.