CRMs for Nonprofits: Improve Your Constituent Relationships

The use of “Customer Relationship Management” or “Constituent Relationship Management” (CRM) systems is standard in for-profit businesses, however, many nonprofits are yet to embrace the power of CRM as a donor management tool. Many still rely on spreadsheets, or a loosely connected combination of various tools to track donor engagement, volunteers, campaigns, and other critical functions that sustain and grow nonprofits.

The benefits of investing in a good CRM—several of which are free—far outweigh the time and financial costs, as it simplifies daily operations and effective outreach.

Using CRMs opens up new ways of doing things more efficiently and more effectively. And as your organization grows, you can scale this essential nonprofit tech to suit current needs. These programs can serve both the small volunteer-based nonprofit to the multi-million-dollar international nonprofit organization. A simple spreadsheet cannot effectively handle such a scale of operation in a multiuser, multi-location environment.

Benefits of Using a CRM for Nonprofits

Coordinated Communication

Maintain an easy flow of information among volunteers, donors, board members and service recipients. Since nonprofits can have so many people to manage, using a CRM eliminates much of the complication and reduces the chances of mistakes in communications.

Efficient Processes

Time and money are essential to every nonprofit (and indeed, every business); streamlined processes available from a robust CRM help save both.

Preservation of Organizational Knowledge

As time goes by, your organization learns things about its supporters, its processes, and best practices. In most traditional settings, the knowledge exists in individuals. With a CRM, this knowledge gets preserved in the system, allowing the organization to keep running smoothly even when key individuals leave.

Visibility of Relationships

At the click of a button you are able to see all the relationship running across the organization. It shows a record of events, emails, volunteer contacts and donations, among other types of essential information. You don’t have to dig through tons of information (and cobble together multiple spreadsheets) to get to what you need.

Simplified Data Management

With a great CRM, you can create a new marketing campaign or plan an event with just a few clicks, even targeting specific people based on donation or participation levels. These tasks can be time-consuming if you work the “time-tested” way with Excel or Google Sheets, a separate email system and donation system.

In-Depth Knowledge of Your Benefactors

Using a CRM opens up a whole world of information about your donors, volunteers, and other contacts you track. You will get to know their interests, what they respond to, and even (with some systems) what they share on social media, so you can best appeal to them.

Features to Look for in a Nonprofit CRM

The landscape of online CRMs is getting crowded, with several big players and a lot of specialty systems created just for nonprofits. Whether you need all of the bells and whistles of the paid platforms or can use one of the free (and still powerful) ones depends on your needs.

Here’s a checklist of features to consider when choosing your nonprofit’s CRM:

Workflow Automation

A CRM that makes it easy to automate common processes like receiving donations, thanking donors, sending out mail-merge email campaigns to people who meet specific criteria, creating follow-up tasks, and sending weekly activity summaries can save the organization a lot of your most precious resource: time.

Collaboration and Sharing

It should allow all the employees to work on common projects and share both information and resources.

Easy to Scale Up or Down

A system that will grow with you, supporting a larger donor base, adding or eliminating functionality based on your needs.

Managing Overlaps

A good donor management application should be able to maintain and clearly show any overlap in the stakeholders. For example, a volunteer becoming a donor, a beneficiary becoming a donor, etc. Instead of spending hours sorting out duplications and comparing data, the organization can spend the time building relationships.

Simplifying & Unifying Processes Across Departments

Depending on what your nonprofit does (or wants to do on a regular basis), a centralized system for donor management, engagement, email, marketing, and even fundraising, allows the whole organization to work together seamlessly.

Access Control

Nonprofits rely on volunteers, interns and various staff members to keep things moving. Since many people might be working from the same database, the program should allow for restrictions to functions depending on the tasks and role of the user.

Data Integrity

Working from a decentralized (cloud-based) system can pose security risks, if your data is not properly protected. Some systems will allow you to install on your own server, but that could introduce added costs of hosting and maintenance.

Getting Your Nonprofit Started with a CRM

There are many options for CRMs out there, some more daunting than others. Choosing the right one for your organization depends on your current resources, technical expertise and, of course, your needs.

We rounded up a few top-rated platforms and outlined the uses, pros, cons and costs of each to get you started.

Civi CRM – Open source CRM, event management, donations/payments, volunteer management platform and more, for charities & nonprofits.

Neon CRM – Donor management, event management, donations/payments, volunteer management platform and more, designed specifically for nonprofits.

Salsa CRM and Salsa Engage – Powerful online, mobile and social fundraising software and constituent relationship management tool.

GiveGab – An agile platform specifically tailored for nonprofit donor and relationship management.

Insightly – CRM that allows you to organize and track your current and potential donors.

Hubspot CRM – A totally free customer relations management tool that allows you to organize and track your current and potential donors.

This article was originally published on dotOrgStrategy.com

Boris of dotOrgStrategy.com
Boris is the founder of dotOrgStrategy, a platform for teaching nonprofits how to effectively use technology to achieve and expand their missions, without over-stretching their resources; and Speed of Like, a boutique digital agency focusing on small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. A storyteller and entrepreneur, Boris is excited to combine his passions for technology, storytelling, and making a positive difference in the world by helping organizations increase impact locally and globally, through digital tools including websites, social media, email, advertising and crowdfunding.