Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator v2 broadens partner, technology footprint

April 4 2019

Microsoft's Nonprofit Accelerator launched in November 2018 and since then has doubled the size of its Common Data Model (CDM) entity set – from 35 to 75 -- and nearly tripled its network of partners from 14 to 40.

This week Microsoft is announcing plans for the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator v2, with updates in a range of areas including new and improved apps, the enhanced CDM, and plans for more solutions to come, both from Microsoft and partners.

"The Common Data Model is core to our strategy," said Erik Arnold, CTO of Tech for Social Impact at Microsoft Philanthropies, an interview with MSDW. The growing list of stakeholders, which includes both large services firms like Avanade and Ernst & Young and smaller firms, has helped shape the next iteration of the CDM schema and the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator v2.

In a blog post, Arnold wrote that Microsoft is investing in mapping templates to help third parties map CDM to their native schemas. Many have already accomplished this, he reports, including for Blackbaud's Luminate Online, Classy's fundraising suite, Fluxx's grant management suite, Jackson River's Springboard platform, and Volunteer Match's recruiting solutions.

Arnold also wrote that "Microsoft has invested in mapping the CDM to the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack," something that the team stated it had not been able to do at the original launch.

Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator v2 and CDM offerings

Erik Arnold, Microsoft Tech for Social Impact
Erik Arnold, Microsoft Tech for Social Impact

Arnold noted several organizations already using the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator: International Rescue Committee, Leonard Cheshire, SOS Children's Villages, and Team Rubicon, among others.

The Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator v2 will add more core features, align with industry standards, and use the broader set of CDM entities and attributes. The Accelerator's set of solutions includes constituent management, fundraising, beneficiary management, awards tracking, services delivery, volunteer management, and International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Organization and Activity standards.

Some of the new features draw directly on existing Dynamics 365 applications. For example, volunteer coordination, which optimizes activities and tracks preferences, skills, certifications, and availability, uses D365 Project Service Automation.

Other features are unique to the nonprofit space, like membership management, which looks at a constituent as a single contact record that can have multiple roles over time, from member or volunteer to beneficiary.

The Nonprofit Accelerator also takes a much more comprehensive approach to donor management as it relates to tracking the impact and results of funding, even between multiple aid organizations. That visibility is also where the CDM's inclusion of the IATI standard becomes important. For some organizations, compliance with IATI is mandated by governments or large aid groups, and when used across organizations it can account for how donor funds are used in the execution of specific programs. For example, one organization may provide medical supplies to a second healthcare organization working with patients. The medical supplies organization would be able to trace a donor's funds all the way to the delivery of medical care by the healthcare team on the ground.

"There is a focus on mission delivery and transparency for dollars," says Arnold.

Arnold and Justin Spelhaug, GM of Tech for Social Impact, told MSDW that the use of CDM will push new solutions well beyond Dynamics 365. There are the third party solutions that are already mapping to CDM. And Microsoft is looking to use CDM to support other solutions. For example, Microsoft is developing another nonprofit solution for smaller organizations of approximately five to 20 employees that will be built on the CDM and the Power Platform.

And Arnold says he expects that analytical solutions using Power BI, and Azure-based services will be play an important role.

At Microsoft, how can we make it easier to get organizations' data so you can derive insights? With many disaggregated data points, where can we invest in common data points, connectors, and services like cognitive search services to help organizations mine data that is less standard. So we're doing both. We're acknowledging that there is still a lot of innovation and creativity on the data collection side and we're helping aggregate data from disparate sources and build data hubs that allow them to do validation, transformations, and analysis using our toolsets using Power BI and incorporating more and more ML and AI into the core toolset.

Spelhaug noted that there is also more substantial work being done around the idea of data hubs that could result in a new reference architecture including a set of recommended tools. And he said that the use of CDM is showing measurable benefits for partners, on the order of 15 percent improved efficiency in customer projects.

"We've extensively added to CDM and expect that to drive savings," Spelhaug said. "It's about facilitating industry standard to make data interoperable and … standards more seamless. It's about lowering cost of delivery of solutions to customers and about spurring innovation."

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