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

Creating a Non-profit Content Calendar – the Easy Way

There are myriad reasons why your non-profit needs to be sharing content regularly on your website and social media. For staying top of mind, reminding people of the work that you do, getting your message out (and furthering your mission), and even basic SEO strategy, content is king.

But between all of the other seemingly more pressing, mission-critical (pun intended) things your team does every day, creating and sharing content seems like a last priority. So while many organizations are aware of the “need” to publish, few do. And even fewer do it with any sort of regularity.

1. Planning Your Non-profit Content Calendar

Creating a calendar is a simple, effective way of scheduling future posts, but, if done right, makes it a lot easier to actually generate those posts. Chances are that you already have a calendar that includes major events like galas, do-good drives, annual events and celebrations, among other things.

That’s actually a great starting point for creating your content calendar, since you know you want to be promoting these events before they happen, and talking about them afterward. Thinking of those events as “content-worthy” ahead of time will likely spark ideas of things you can do and share online well in advance. Put those things on your calendar!

For calendaring and planning, I love the free and powerful Asana, which can integrate with but the best tool is the one you are most comfortable with…even if it’s the whiteboard in your office.

I recommend keeping an ongoing 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, and 1-month calendar. The further away something is, the less detailed the plan has to be. For the sake of sanity, however, anything in the 3-month window should be in prep, anything in the 1-month should be in “production,” one way or another.

Once you’ve got your major dates and content plans, you’ll likely need to add more items. So what do you add? Read on.

2. Create the Right Content for Your Non-profit’s Audience

This seems simple on the surface: Engage with your audience on the subjects that they’re interested in. The more value you provide and the more you show them that you share their interests and concerns, the more personally connected to you and your cause they will be.

The problem is that, most of the time, businesses and organizations focus on just talking about their work; or worse, asking for the sale or donation. Your audience is probably interested in other things, many of which indirectly connect back to the change you want to make in the world.

For example, if you’re a New York City theater company focusing on children’s theater, there are many areas of interest that overlap with yours, which your audience (parents of New York children) might be passionate about, or at least just interested in. New York arts festivals and arts funding news are an easy extension of news you want to share. Then there’s national and local education news, studies about the impact of imagination and storytelling, arts in education, or even that it’s a snow day!

Don’t worry about experimenting and getting it “wrong.” As long as you don’t offend or alienate people, trying different tacks may yield surprising results. With time, the more content you share, the more you’ll see what your fans respond to, with likes, shares, and website traffic. Spending a little time (and possibly sending out a survey) thinking of ideas that your audience will appreciate can go a long way and pay off greatly in the long run.

Sharing content about current events may seem like a full-time job on its own, but with a little planning, it may be easier and less resource-intensive than you might think. Which takes us to the “shortcut” in the next section…

3. Timeliness and Tie-Ins for Your Content Calendar

One of my favorite ways to generate quality, valuable content that speaks to audiences on multiple levels and isn’t all about “me” is by tying it into events happening in the world. As a bonus, people will already be thinking and talking about the subject at that time, so you may enjoy a viral boost. While you can’t plan for the latest news headline, you can plan for national holidays and, more apropos for nonprofits, awareness days, weeks and months. To make it easy to find and add these dates to your calendar, dotOrgStrategy has created a new non-profit awareness calendar feature, including links to websites with more information and hashtags you can use to join the conversation.

There are nationally-recognized philanthropic events like National Volunteer Week, and more specific ones for arts and culture. If you’re an organization dealing with health-related concerns, there is no shortage of awareness dates to tie into. For others, you may have to think a bit more creatively, but that can also be freeing and fun. For example, what’s your organization’s position on television, toilets, fathers, or the U.S. flag?

Whether you want to say something fun or poignant on social media, or to make a larger statement with an article or video, there are sure to be plenty of things to talk about when you keep track of awareness calendar dates.


This article was originally published on

From Survive to Thrive: Maximizing Your Impact on Philanthropy Day

I’m a recovering helper. The one who brings the casserole dish, and the flowers. And who calls you at 2am when your boyfriend just left, your cat is in the pet hospital and your mother-in-law is nagging at you so relentlessly that your conscience feels the weight of a 1955 Brisket Pan (I happen to have one and much like guilt, it is *heavy*).

Having spent the better part of a year asking myself how I got this way, I’m reminded of Martin Luther King’s night-time prayer, which I’ve said to myself for sometime now:

“G-d use me, what would you have me to do?”

Unfortunately, for years, I confused G-d’s words with the whims of others, losing all manner of sanity, sleep and recently, hair, over giving every part of myself to everyone else. This is complicated for me on a faith level as much as it is on an emotional one. My religion calls me to be communally available, open and attuned and yet, too much of that medicine is proving, well, venomous.

Though many have chimed in about the so-called disease to please and the Plato’s cave-like tunnel of our own demons, I have become taken with the notion that the experience of being helpful is actually, often, disguising, life lived for the sole purpose of survival.

What I mean to say is that we so often extol the necessity of our giving, that we mask some of the more complex or difficult reasons that drive our essence to give. And that this veil is clouding our organizations as much as it is clouding the best of ourselves.

Take organizations that are run through shame and guilt, for instance. They are always engaged in a push to get others to give but rarely are they fueled by something other than that which leaves donors and members exasperated and as it happens, exhausted.

It is impossible to work toward mission and vision when you are starving the people you work with of a purpose other than to make ends meet.

Even worse, is when our mode of giving actually sets us up to be taken advantage of. By saying “yes”, are we saying no to what matters to us and even more, to the work that needs to be done? By serving as someone else’s objects, are we neglecting to make ourselves and others active and engaged subjects standing where the world and we need to be?

Perhaps this Philanthropy Day, we can look a little closer at our dearest projects and causes and gently pull apart the barriers of our egos. And once we peel away the unnecessary parts, we can start to look at how we function not only within ourselves but in our workplaces and teams.

Serial helper and recent conscientious favour selector/objector that I am…these days, when I work with others, I ask myself the following

Four Questions for Thriving Leadership:

1. My heart asks: Do I get to fully be myself here, with you or in this?

2. My head  inquires: Can I and we change the operating rules, developing our work, our world and ours selves together for good?

3. My soul yearns: By doing this, am I operating from self-preservation or self-growth and affirmation?

4. Tradition requires: Is this a relationship in which I and all those I encounter are subjects…or objects?

In a week that provided sobering wake-up call after wake-up call for every human being to take up the task of world’s mending, too many of us are consumed by the ongoing cycle of crisis to muster up the awareness to put a spoke on the wheel. We are living to survive and in so doing, we are neglecting to thrive.

Yet, as this People of priests, and scholars, prophetesses and artisans can attest, we know this to be true:

Searching for our true self has always been the beginning of finding G-d and as it happens, each other.

By putting our focus on the best of others and ourself, we can make our philanthropy a force for good on Philanthropy Day and each and every day of the year.

And that is a mitzvah (good deed) in which we should pour all our hearts, heads and souls.

Nonprofit Marketing Using Impact Funnels and Storytelling

Boris of dotOrgStrategy.comBoris 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 […]

Nonprofit Crowdfunding Storytelling Tips

Nonprofit Crowdfunding: 7 Storytelling Tips for Successful Campaigns

Crowdfunding is a method of raising funds from many people in order to fund a project or other venture. Although it is widely used in for-profit entrepreneurial projects, it also has great applications for nonprofits as well. When campaigns are run correctly, non-profits can realize great returns, including increasing funding and growing their supporter community.

This concept predates the Internet, beginning many years ago in a variety of capacities, such as authors advertising book projects and the sale of war bonds. The modern online version first gained popularity online in arts and music communities. ArtistShare was launched in 2003, followed by IndieGoGo in 2008, Kickstarter in 2009, Microventures in 2010 and MobileCause in 2014.

The industry as a whole raised $16.2 billion in 2014, $34.4 billion in 2015 and may have topped $60 billion in 2016. It’s an industry that has continually grown in leaps each year.

While there are great successes, roughly two-thirds of projects fail to raise their intended funds. Success often pivots on careful planning, and that begins (and ends) with storytelling.

Why Non-profits Must Tell Great Stories

As with every aspect of communications, non-profit crowdfunding has to incorporate effective storytelling.

  • Stories help people connect with and remember things
  • Stories have the power to help make decisions
  • Stories help to inspire a sense of generosity

People are likely to support those with whom they most identify. Showing abstract numbers, no matter how impressive or relevant, doesn’t inspire people as much as the plight of an individual. Telling your story (or that of your cause’s target beneficiaries) from a sympathetic perspective, can sway people to support it and take action. When people are presented with the story of an affected individual or group, they are likely to give twice as much as they otherwise would have.

Seven Non-profit Crowdfunding Storytelling Tips

1. Answer the five Ws and H

As with any good story, you need to include who, what, when, where, why and how. Who are you trying to help with this campaign?

  • What do you hope to accomplish and use funds for?
  • When do you need to do this by?
  • Where are people affected?
  • Why is this cause important to you (and to your supporters)?
  • How do you plan to make it happen?

2. Make it personal

As noted above, it’s important to tell the stories of individuals. Use examples of people that you are already helping or who are you currently trying to help. Details and specifics will have more of an impact on donors that you’re hoping to attract.

3. Make it specific

Focus on a specific goal to achieve a specific result. Write about what you’re planning to do with the money and what you’re hoping to achieve. By having a specific goal in mind, more people will be inspired to donate.

4. Make it visual

Pictures and videos will make people want to spend more time reading about your campaign, while greatly enhancing the personal connection to your cause. Make sure to use quality, relevant images and videos. According to IndieGoGo,

“Campaigns with a pitch video raise 4 times more funds than campaigns without one, so it’s clear that the crowdfunding community enjoys videos.”

For more on the power of visuals and suggested uses, see our article, Visuals: A Nonprofit Storytelling Superpower.

5. Make your donors the heroes of the story

Express how important donors are to your cause and your success. You literally can’t do this without them. That makes them the true heroes of the story that you’re writing. So make them feel important and part of a winning team.

Show that you appreciate them and the time they are taking in learning more about your cause. There may be a place built right into the platform that you’re using. Make sure to thank donors individually because this will really show how much you care.

6. Show why your organization is the right one for the job

Demonstrate why your organization is the right one to take on this cause, and why – with supporters’ help – you are the best-poised to succeed. This is a great opportunity to highlight your experience, expertise, access and proven track record.

7. Provide a compelling call to action

In order to turn a potential supporter into a hero, they must take action. While most crowdfunding platforms have a request for donations built in, your campaign will work better if the hero’s call to action is built right into the story and gives the reader a clear instruction (e.g. “Help us give students like Matthew a fighting chance, with a tax-deductible donation.”).

Action Steps: Start Your Story

Determine if Crowdfunding is Right for this Cause or Project

Crowdfunding isn’t right for every occasion when a nonprofit wants to raise money. Our infographic can help you decide if this is the right project and the right time to run a campaign for your cause.

Pick the project to get started with

Your nonprofit may have multiple projects that could use funding. Choose the one you feel is the most important to start with and has the greatest chance of success. Focus on raising money for that cause before moving onto others.

Start crafting your story

Use the tips above and begin to write your story. Focus on the individuals that you’ve helped and the reason behind why this cause is so important. Once you convey those reasons, it will show readers the importance behind it as well and inspire them to help.

This article originally appeared on, where Boris shares frequent digital strategy advice for nonprofits.

613 Seeds of Social Entrepreneurship in Chicago: Bringing Advertising to Nonprofits & Other Ideas

613 is not only the number of mitzvot that we find in the Torah or the number of seeds that we find in the pomegranate, a symbol of fruitfulness, knowledge and wisdom, but it is also the name of the JCC Chicago’s social entrepreneurship incubator, Seed613. Seed613 promotes social entrepreneurial initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Chicago Jewish community but also the community at large, moving forward.

This year’s cohort of 17 passionate social entrepreneurs presented their ideas during the Launch Night (May 17) to a packed house at 1871 Chicago, home to nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, and tech talent schools. The ideas for social enterprises ranged from throwing parties with a purpose, sophisticated dining for networking, wearable technology in healthcare to ventures in real estate and Jewish programming.

Having spent the past 10 years working and volunteering in non-profit sectors, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous projects and leadership seminars, but none of them was quite like Seed613. With its hands-on approach and focus on the development of an actual business plan for a venture with a social dimension, this highly selective 12-week bootcamp provides fellows with the real-world skills leading to putting their business and financial plans into action and bringing their ventures to the market.

When I applied to become a Seed613 fellow, I was working on a few non-profit projects for which entrepreneurial skills would be very handy. However, at the same time, I had long wanted to develop a project of my own and Seed613 seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn the business ways. I didn’t come with a precise idea and the fact that I was expected to bring that non-existent idea to life in 12 short weeks came as a surprise to me at first, but then quickly turned into a great challenge.

What I had, though, when I joined the bootcamp was a great passion for arts, advertising and causes, so I merged them all together. I decided to focus on helping non-profits promote their causes by connecting them to millennial artists – and this is how creative: for good came to life. Advertising is an expensive enterprise, even for businesses, but non-profits, which often have very limited marketing budgets, struggle with producing visually appealing imagery that would help them raise awareness about their causes and generate broader support. I am glad I was able to participate in Seed613 and help me bring creative: for good to life.