Ambit Group: Microsoft Donor Data Platform for Nonprofits (DDP/CDP)

Completely rethink data- and process-driven fundraising using Customer Insight!

A blog post by Christian Schipp and Thomas Lewandowski, Ambit Group

October 2023

Microsoft Donor Data Platform for Nonprofits (DDP/CDP)

Currently, there is a lot of talk in the fundraising sector about the Customer Data Platform (CDP). In the context of fundraising, we simply rename the CDP and call it the Donor Data Platform (DDP). 

So what is a CDP and what is the focus? 
ChatGPT-4 provides the following answer: a Customer Data Platform (CDP) is software designed to collect and organize customer information from multiple sources and bring it together on a unified platform. This creates a 360-degree view of customers, which enables companies to personalize marketing activities and make them more effective.

What are the main functions of a CDP?

  1. Data collection: CDPs collect customer data from multiple sources, including web pages, apps, social media, email campaigns, CRM systems, and other marketing platforms.
  2. Data aggregation: Data is cleansed, reduplicated, and linked together to create unified customer profiles.
  3. Data segmentation: CDPs enable the creation of customer segments based on various criteria, such as purchase history, behavior, or demographics.
  4. Activation: The segmented data can then be used to run targeted marketing campaigns, whether through email, ads, or other channels.

What types of CDP are there?

  1. Data-oriented CDPs: Main focus on data collection and integration. Ideal for companies that need a central data source to consolidate information from different systems.
  2. Marketing-oriented CDPs: Focus more on marketing automation functions, such as customer segmentation or campaign execution. They often integrate seamlessly with other marketing tools.
  3. Analytics-oriented CDPs: Offer advanced analytics capabilities to gain deep insights into customer behavior and build predictive models.
  4. E-commerce-focused CDPs: Are specific to the e-commerce space and offer features that help online retailers better understand their customers and make more relevant offers.

"Now it becomes clear that fundraisers working intensively with data have a high interest in a CDP solution and would like to build it up as a donor data platform on their own."


Christian Schipp, CBDO Ambit Group

Attention: CDP is ≠ Data Warehouse

We can see in the market that there are sometimes misunderstandings between CDP and data warehouse. There is a huge risk of costly wrong decisions there.

ChatGTP4 explains the difference as follows: Customer Data Platform (CDP) and Data Warehouse are both data storage and management technologies, but they have different goals, functions, and areas of use. Here are the main differences between the two:

Purpose and main functionality

CDP: A CDP is designed to collect, unify and deliver customer data from multiple sources in real time. The main goal is to create and maintain a coherent and updated profile of each customer that can be used for marketing and sales activities.
Data Warehouse: a data warehouse is a large, centralized database used to collect, store, and organize data from various business systems. It is optimized for complex queries and analysis and is not specific to customer data.

Data actuality

CDP: Often real-time or near real-time. CDPs are designed to provide constantly updated customer data.
Data warehouse: Data updates can be batch-oriented and periodic (e.g., daily, weekly).

User friendliness

CDP: Typically more user-friendly and accessible to marketers, with features that enable rapid segmentation and activation of customer data.
Data Warehouse: Often more technical and requires specialized skills for data queries and analysis.

Data sources

CDP: Focuses primarily on customer-facing data sources such as CRM systems, web tracking tools, email marketing platforms, and other marketing tools.
Data warehouse: Able to integrate data from a variety of business systems, including finance, operations, and HR, as well as marketing and sales.

Data structure

CDP: Typically flat and customer-centric, focused on creating a single customer profile.
Data warehouse: Hierarchical and complex data structures optimized for complex analysis and reporting.

Scalability and performance

CDP: Optimized for accessing and activating customer data in real time.
Data Warehouse: Optimized for storing large amounts of data and performing complex analysis.

In summary, a CDP is primarily designed to provide marketers with a complete and up-to-date view of their customers, while a data warehouse serves as a central repository for enterprise data and is optimized for complex analysis and reporting.

The key to real-time fundraising is integrated

There are many providers of independent CDP solutions. This means that various systems (CRM, marketing automation, ERP, web, apps, e-commerce, payment providers, social media, etc.) must be connected to the CDP via interfaces. Although this is technically possible, it is incredibly expensive in terms of initial outlay and even more expensive in terms of ongoing costs (maintenance, updates, adjustments, etc.). In addition, the goal of true real-time marketing cannot be achieved in this way. Interfaces never have this frequency in data transfer. Moreover, in CDP we are not only talking about one data source, but about various data sources that are used in combination. The problems are conceptual.

We are not only talking about transactional data, but much more! In the fundraising of the future, fundraisers would also like to be able to use demographic data, behavioral data, segmentation and profiling information, including the entire communication history. If I need interfaces for this, the project will miss the cost/benefit moment.

That is why Microsoft took the step towards CDP on the platform for business applications a few years ago and launched the application "Dynamics 365 Customer Insight". The vision was and is that the user can work with the data directly with no/low code / drag & drop without technical skills and without the laborious construction of a data warehouse. Microsoft has developed all the necessary foundations for this and is constantly expanding them.

Thus, more than 400 connectors can be used via the Common Data Model and the Dataverse to directly connect data sources. Many solution providers today offer ready-made integrations for the platform. This reduces costs and risks enormously.

In CDP, fundraisers can now model the data as they wish. This means that a wide variety of data can be linked, correlated and enriched. It is also possible to standardize data directly in CDP.

Another element is that data can be better understood and interpreted. And to do this, Customer Insight directly leverages the power of AI and Machine Learning (AI/ML). These will greatly change the way we look at data and enable entirely new segmentation possibilities.

Predictions (Predict) can be generated using existing tools. For this purpose, already existing algorithms are used, or own calculations are used. In addition, direct access to the Microsoft Fabric analytics platform is guaranteed and allows all wishes to be fulfilled at the level of data visualization through to advanced analytics.


Now the power of the platform really comes into play!

If CDP were standing on its own, that would be the end of it. But through the integration on the Microsoft platform, the entire functionality of the CDP can now be operationalized. The segments developed in the CDP are made directly available to the fundraisers and flow seamlessly into the campaigns. The determined KPIs are made visible in the business applications and unique views on and about the donor can be created.


One KPI could be a churn rate, for example. Based on various parameters, the data determines whether there is a risk of losing an important donor. This is not only determined statistically, but also flows directly into the fundraising process. For example, a task is automatically created to clarify the situation and solve any problems.


Dynamics 365 Customer Insight Data & Journey - Here comes the Game Changer!

Up to this point, we have moved in the context of classic CDP. Microsoft is now calling it "Dynamics 365 Customer Insight Data".

As of September 1, 2023, Microsoft has renamed the previous Dynamics 365 Marketing, the natively integrated marketing and event management solution, to "Dynamics 365 Customer Insight Journey".

This is not just a minor renaming, however, but a fundamental step toward data-driven, real-time marketing automation. That Marketing Automation becomes part of Customer Insight, and thus part of CDP, is nothing but a consequence. This means that communication across all channels can also be rethought and implemented.

The entire suite is currently in transition from the classic outbound concept to real-time. All functionalities are gradually being replaced and the range of functions is being drastically expanded. In addition, there is the native integration of Dynamics 365 Copilot. Copilot is an out-of-the-box AI assistant that supports fundraisers in doing their work even more efficiently. For example, a segment can be described in natural language (I want all donors from Zurich Canton, only men, language German, minimum donation volume CHF 1,000 in the last 24 months...) and the AI generates the low-code for this and automatically creates the required segment in Marketing Automation. Other functions are image recognition and text generation as well as their interpretation. Many more features are in the pipeline and will excite us in the coming months!

Learn more about Dynamics 365 Customer Insight Journey:

Within 4 years from being a nobody to a global leader for marketing automation

This week, leading analyst Gartner® named Microsoft as a Leader for Marketing Automation:

Let's be honest - Microsoft was completely unknown in the field of marketing until a few years ago. Apart from a few marketing lists, there were no usable solutions from Microsoft itself. With the launch of Dynamics 365 Marketing in 2018, the third attempt of an own marketing automation was started. The first 2-3 years were a bit buggy and with still limited functionality. But in 2021, we decided with our experts (Ambit Group) to work with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing henceforth. From then on, we were sure that we could safely meet most of the customers' requirements. The innovations delivered in the last two years - especially with the move towards RTM - catapults Microsoft into an unprecedented era in the field of marketing. They now offer one of the most forward-looking solutions in the market.

Ambit Fundraising Foundation on the Microsoft platform

The Ambit NPO team, since 01.01.2023 managed by Thomas Lewandowski, has built a new and unique Fundraising Foundation for the DACH region on the Microsoft platform for business applications in the last 4 years and has already successfully implemented it at the first well-known customers.

The goal of the Ambit Group was and is to release organizations from the old world (On Premise, Legacy systems) and to bring them step by step and digestible to the cloud based Microsoft platform. Together with experts from the NPO/fundraising sector and at customer sites, we have worked intensively on the processes and data models for Contact Management, Campaign Management, Donor Management, Donation Accounting, Dispatch Processes, Master Data Management and many more, and solved them in a forward-looking way using the standard board tools.

Here symbolically the concept of the solution:

Not a Product – Solution by Design

We deliberately do not offer a "fundraising product", but work with so-called templates. The templates for many sub-elements of fundraising can be assembled modularly as needed. These are also continuously developed and maintained. The template approach helps organizations to implement solutions much faster and still be able to map their individual process and specifics. We call this "solution by design." Since we follow the Microsoft "standard" (no/low/pro code), we and the customers can benefit from Microsoft innovation at any time without restriction and are no longer technically dependent.


"We are convinced of the triad of strategy, process and software. We often see that the software to be introduced is supposed to provide answers that have not yet been answered at either the strategic or the process level. An off-the-shelf product promises quick solutions here. For organizations with a certain size and individualization, the acting persons quickly reach their limits."


Thomas Lewandowski, Head of Business Unit NPO & Education, Ambit Group

The combination of financial and marketing processes from a single source

A special feature of the Ambit solution is that the financial and marketing processes (e.g. campaigns) are directly combined. And that's where we reach the aspect of real-time fundraising. Many solutions currently available on the market, or even modern systems that have separated the marketing automation, the CRM and the financial perspective, are far too slow, reactive and the effort to combine the data is far too big. In addition, there are the enormous costs for any integrations (interfaces).

In the Ambit Fundraising Fundation, we use "Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance" in combination with "Dynamics 365 Customer Insight Journey". When a payment transaction takes place, regardless of the channel (we have integrated all online payment options together with RaiseNow), this is incorporated into the campaign in real time. Journeys are designed so that depending on the amount (or other parameters), the journey is adjusted. In combination with the possibilities of personalization, use of images, texts and videos, completely new and successful campaigns can be implemented. The manual effort is significantly reduced and automation is advanced across all process steps.

A reference video of the implemented project with one of our valued pioneer customers - Helvetas.


Advantages of integration on the Microsoft platform

Integration has benefits on a wide variety of levels. These are:

  • Reduction of the complexity of the system landscape
  • Reduction of interfaces and thus high costs and risks
  • Increased security and data protection
  • Native integration, which Microsoft provides and which significantly reduces project and run costs
  • Direct access to the data and the creation of a comprehensive 360° view
  • Use of AI in your own environment (Microsoft offers the OpenAI solutions from the Swiss or EU data center within the customer's environment. This meets all relevant data protection requirements).
  • Not only the integration on Dynamics 365 level offers many advantages, but the holistic integration with Azure, Power Platform and Microsoft 365.
  • This ensures central management of solutions, users and their role and authorization concepts with the latest standards

Cloud for Nonprofit – NPO-licence model

The templates we develop are licensed individually depending on the scope.

All solutions are based on the Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit concept. This is managed and further developed by the globally active TSI team (Tech for Social Impact). Ambit Group is a managed TSI partner and works closely with Microsoft's NPO experts.

As an official Microsoft partner, we are a direct licensor (Tier-1) and advise our customers on the entire licensing of the Microsoft platform. Specifically for accredited NPOs, Microsoft grants discounts on cloud licenses (up to 70%). In addition, depending on the initial situation, we can also apply for funding for specific workshops.

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Are you interested in this topic? I would be pleased to answer any queries you have.

Christian Schipp, Chief Business Development Officer

+41 79 954 17 09