Richir Outreach works with a variety of CRM's for many clients and under many different circumstances. Two of the popular options out there for our clients are NationBuilder and Salsa. This blog post compares those two platforms on several different levels.
Both services charge on a sliding scale, based on the number of people in your database. NationBuilder starts its pricing model at a lower cap, with tiers as low as 200 email-able supporters. This is a pro for smaller organizations who may only have a few hundred or a few thousand supporters. However, NationBuilder tiers appear to stop at about 100,000 email-able supporters, at which point you may have to upgrade the account. Where NationBuilder's pricing model is relatively fixed, Salsa's is more flexible and in the past has allowed organizations to negotiate fees on a case-by-case basis.
Both offer additional services and packages at additional fees. Both have a host of tools and add-ons that come with an extra price tag. These packages are discussed in more detail below.
Salsa is only available to progressive clients. NationBuilder is available to anyone, regardless of political affiliation.
Both platforms offer 24/7 support. However, in my personal experience, Salsa has consistently been more responsive and easier to contact than NationBuilder.
Salsa and NationBuilder offer different sets of advocacy tools. NationBuilder's tools are generally more geared towards on-the-ground campaigning, while Salsa has more sophisticated online advocacy tools.
Specifically, here are some things Salsa can do that NationBuilder can't:
- Target actions, petitions, and letters based on geography and individual. This is a pretty complicated and customizable feature.
- You can target a specific legislator, or target a class of legislators like all governors. People can enter their zip and automatically send a letter to their governor. Salsa keeps contact information for legislators from the national to the local level and will automatically store, generate, and update this information.
- Have different messages show up for different people. E.g., commend Connecticut's governor for their actions and reprimand Texas's in the same campaign.
- You also have the ability to add custom contacts, should you wish to target public figures, newspapers, etc.
- Letters to the editor - allows your supporters to send emails to local newspapers directly
- Automatically adds and updates a supporter's voting district based on their address
Here are some things NationBuilder can do that Salsa can't:
- Creation of custom walklists for door-to-door campaigning
- Additional advocacy tools typically come from third-party apps which integrate with NationBuilder and offer a wide variety of services and products.
Targeting and Search Functions
Salsa outperforms NationBuilder here, hands down. It has much more powerful search and reporting functions with a wider selection of characteristics from which to search. NationBuilder's search function is more user-friendly, but overall less powerful. This may not be a concern for smaller groups, who may have less time and effort to put into precise targeting, but is a definite concern for larger organizations.
NationBuilder does a better job of integrating with your CMS because it is the same platform. Your pages and data all live in the same place and are accessible from one interface. Salsa only handles supporter data information. Donate, sign up, petition, and other pages where you are asking your supporters to give you information about themselves, all live on Salsa. Pages that live on Salsa have a Salsa URL (something that looks like: org2.salsalabs.com/o/...) rather than your website's URL. There is an option available to customize the URL where Salsa pages live, so that it looks like: action.yoursite.org.
Usability and Documentation
NationBuilder is a clear winner in terms of usability. It is extremely easy to pick up and navigate, with consistency across the platform in how things are set up. The interface is clean and well-laid out. Salsa's new interface is a definite improvement over the old one, but due in part to greater choices and customizability, Salsa has a steeper learning curve.
Both platforms have extensive documentation and a support community. However, in general Salsa's documentation is more detailed and their customer support is more responsive in answering questions about how things work.
This is a really common trade-off: money for power, and ease of use. Salsa is generally more expensive, more powerful, but less user-friendly, while NationBuilder is less expensive, less powerful, and more use-friendly. The best fit for your organization is going to depend on how you weight certain characteristics and features. For some organizations, there is a clear winner. For others, it's a more difficult decision.