With the latest CiviCRM release (2.2) I am reminded that the CiviCRM team is one of the few groups actively making a product designed as a solution rather than just a tool.
The single most important feature in 2.2 is the Simplified Configuration option for CiviMail. Email marketing is a critical engagement tool for charities and all other civic groups. But for the folks that don't have the money to use commercial services, there just aren't any integrated, simple options. The new CiviMail solves that by just connecting to a SMTP server to send mail. Got Gmail? You now have open and link tracking!
Sure there are still spam management concerns... that's what paid services like CiviSMTP are for.
And yes wouldn't it be great if there was an ASP.... [any (social) entrepreneurs out there interested?] .
And, yes, other folks out there are making strides-- the Salesforce Foundation is taking some steps in the direction of an out-of-the-bax charity experience, but that hasn't been their primary focus over the past few years. As Michelle Murrain notes, the out-of-the box functionality of CiviCRM is just better... donation pages, marketing email, relationships, smart groups and more are there and with a few clicks can be working for a small group in a couple hours. You have to (sometimes) purchase and (always) integrate those solutions into Salesforce.
Now if we get the CiviCRM usability up a few notches we can have a horse race for meeting basic charity and civic group needs.