The last year has been a whirlwind for many of us. Pandemic trends spiked and are now tapering off. Fundraising trends seem to be emerging, with fewer donors in 2020 despite much higher online giving participation. Within Zuri Group, we took on more projects helping clients with Salesforce, Hivebrite, and a number of other “new to us” applications that our clients asked us to help them with.

vendor relationships

Last fall, I wrote about Zuri Group’s commitment to objectivity and our clients, to whom we often refer to as Big “P” partners. We eschew formal partnerships with vendors because it gives us license to zero in on our clients’ needs. We can share facts and experiences. We can cut through the sales pitches. And, we have heard positive feedback from many of you because of this position.

First, this approach does not mean we shy away from vendor relationships. We are great partners with other vendors. We help our clients’ vendors achieve success by ensuring that our clients are successful. We just avoid contracts and details that prohibit us from serving our clients as fully as possible.

Second, with our nuanced approach, clients and prospective clients have questions.

Can you really implement these applications without the vendor? Almost all of the time.

Can you implement with the vendor? Sure, so long as it is in the client’s best interest.

How do you keep up with product innovation? We serve as extensions of our clients and have access to the same resources vendors give to their clients.

Can you maintain such an objective position in light of “exchange” programs that seek to reward aligned (i.e., co-opted) vendors rather than objective ones? Sure…we do so every day as our clients ask us to represent them in their initiatives.

So, given that we do both—serve as a great client Partner while being a great-but-informal vendor partner—what does this means for our vendor relationships? In general, this has meant we’re engaging with more vendors. 2020 and 2021 have been busier than previous years and have encompassed more and more applications. We have built even more integrations. We have helped launch more new tools while keeping the central CRM functioning smoothly. In essence, we have become a trusted partner who can make these products work.

Our four main observations since COVID hit sum up the findings around and the advantages of our approach to vendor relationships:

  1. Partners with great products welcome the approach. Great app vendors are ready for folks like Zuri Group at the table.
  2. Weak partners (in staffing or in application) push back hard. Not wanting a competent third party at the table can be a red flag.
  3. Clients need an honest arbiter of the truth which an objective party like Zuri Group can provide. Without a third party, decisions often become one-sided and miss opportunities to connect the arc of the whole advancement ecosystem and workflow.
  4. Working remotely on projects can make it even easier to engage us. There is less and less friction to our work (like travel and onsite schedules) which means we can typically have an expert “in the room” no matter when the next vendor discussion is happening.

The final observation here is that Zuri Group is also a vendor. As an outside party, we sometimes benefit from the alignment with other vendors. We like to think the added lift from another party is low given our end-to-end advancement operations and technology capacity, but (like a good vendor) we are comfortable working shoulder-to-shoulder with any vendor that our clients deem important to their success. So, if you are already neck-deep in an advancement technology engagement and need an objective third party to help, please get in touch. We’re hear to help everyone, particularly our clients!

Looking for a trusted partner?

John is an innovative leader and strategic thinker with over 30 years of experience and more than a decade in the nonprofit technology arena. John founded Zuri Group in 2007 with the knowledge that nonprofit organizations are most successful when they have trusted partners in technology on the team.

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