In This Article: Author Tasha Van Vlack

Considering CRM software? Here’s what you need to know to find the right one for your nonprofit

Searching for a nonprofit CRM can be overwhelming. But finding the right one can help you reach your fundraising goals so your organization succeeds in the long run.

Nonprofits have plenty on their plates to take care of.

Planning fundraising events, marketing work, managing supporters, launching campaigns, processing donation receipts, and working with board members. You have many hats to wear, right?

And as if that isn’t enough, the burden of the pandemic has been forcing mission-driven organizations to think creatively of new ways to engage and serve their constituents.

To say it can be time consuming, inefficient and downright messy without the right tools is a huge understatement.

Take Bereaved Families of Ontario Southwest Region, for example.

They invested in a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system that allows their staff to access donor information anytime, anywhere. This has been useful for their people who work remotely.

By purging an outdated legacy system and having remote access via the cloud, Bereaved Families of Ontario Southwest Region can now share data effectively and securely between teams.

The same CRM software makes it easier for the nonprofit to organize records, manage incoming referrals, see data regarding past or current cases, and monitor families through their grief and loss sessions. Being able to report on this is critical for their continued funding.

When an organization is responsible for keeping track of donation amounts, donor data and gift options, staying organized is critical.

Just ask Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) Toronto.

They bid farewell to clunky spreadsheets and migrated to a responsive CRM to improve their data management habits.

Before making the switch, JIAS Toronto handled client data with Microsoft Access. They processed donations by phone and entered donor info into Excel. But when the software reached its end of support, it left JIAS Toronto unable to adapt to changing trends in a digital world.

They found themselves running multiple systems just to pull basic information and was forced to outsource their online collections to a competitor.

The process was both labour intensive and unproductive. Important data often got lost in the shuffle.

Since migrating to a CRM, JIAS Toronto can now collect meaningful donor data and connect with those who support their cause. Supporters can give directly on the JIAS Toronto website with donations going instantly into their donor database. 

In one easy-to-use platform, JIAS Toronto can generate consolidated tax receipts for gifts annually or on the spot, and pull reports that highlight donations by account, campaign or tribute.

That’s why choosing the best CRM platform is essential to enabling your fundraising success.

The thought of moving everything to a new software and choosing which features are right for your organization can feel scary. But it doesn’t have to be. To save you time, we help break it down.

What is a nonprofit CRM?

Nonprofit CRM is a software that stores and manages everything you know and cherish about your organization’s members, donors, and beneficiaries in a central location.

It can do a dizzying number of things, too. Such as integrate with your website, automate emails, connect with your accounting software, add a new type of supporter to your system, issue tax-compliant donation receipts, and increase charitable giving through personalized messages.

And so on. 

A CRM is also an orderly way to segment and slice the data to make informed decisions that convert to fundraising success.

How a CRM can benefit your nonprofit

No doubt, a CRM can strengthen and expand opportunities that support your core mission.

From segmenting supporters by interest areas, to maintaining strong constituent relationships, tracking membership activities, and simplifying the donation process, a CRM can empower your nonprofit to manage your data effectively and confidently.

It will allow your entire team to feel the purpose in their work by having a system that takes care of the major (not to mention menial) day-to-day administrative tasks like:

  • tracking donations while campaigns are in progress
  • automating acknowledgments and receipting
  • recording every interaction with a constituent
  • managing your finances and accounting
  • assigning volunteers to activities
  • pulling analytic reports

Sounds good, doesn’t it? There’s more. You can seamlessly integrate and sync your CRM with other third-party applications to manage your specific fundraising needs, like QuickBooks, Gmail, Mailchimp, and DocuSign, among many more.

Why you need a nonprofit CRM

During the pandemic fallout, many nonprofits were using technology that didn’t hold up well. In order to communicate effectively with donors and constituents, they had to evolve and adapt their data management systems to the new reality. 

We’re in a time where supporters have come to expect highly personalized, customer-centric experiences. Technology that’s dated or hasn’t kept up with your organization can prevent you from delivering a great donor experience, working more efficiently, and ultimately raising more funds.

That’s why a CRM is a necessity.

You can weed out which parts of your operational process are time-wasters, giving you more time to focus on the important stuff.

Here are four reasons why a nonprofit CRM is a great investment.
  1. Strengthen donor loyalty

Without donors, nonprofits can’t stay afloat. So, treat them like the valuable assets that they are.

According a 2021 study from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, Americans opened their wallets in 2020 increasing donations by 10.6% during the pandemic. The biggest boost was from new donors who gave more small-dollar gifts (even though at the same time, donor retention dropped by 4.1%)

People gave to organizations they hadn’t given to before, says the report. What this means is,  there’s large opportunity for nonprofits to engage and nurture these new supporters for the long term, and talk about the good work they’re accomplished because of the support.

Handling and nurturing donor relationships with an outdated, manual system is a colossal task that involves many steps, people and responsibilities. Imagine how awful it would be to forget thanking donors for their gifts.

A reliable CRM has features that make relationship management easier, so nobody gets missed. For instance, you can record every donor interaction you’ve ever had and what their giving habits are. You can set up reminders to send phone calls or thank you letters to major donors that they won’t forget.                                      

  1. Let your data do the heavy lifting

Analytical CRM tools make your piles of data available, clear, and relevant to your nonprofit’s needs. It can even serve up those “a-ha” moments to be better every year.

To make critical, real-time decisions, you have to trust that the information you aggregate is current and accurate. That’s a challenge if you’re pulling data from numerous platforms (email data, social media data, payment processor data, online fundraising data), where it’s vulnerable to errors and missed fundraising opportunities.

To get stakeholders onboard with a CRM investment, you want to show that it’s going to do more than just consolidate your data in a new software. It’ll impact everything from donor loyalty to data management, engagement to staff retention.

Equipped with those kind of visible metrics, your supporters and backers are much more likely to get excited about you investing in this tool.

  1. Higher productivity and efficiency

Having all your major everyday activities in one place makes for easier workflow, better collaboration between team members, better project management, and a simpler way to track resources and costs.

With a CRM, task automation removes  tedious tasks so your team can focus on more challenging work.

As mentioned earlier, dashboards and metrics can help you see the bigger picture of your mission and optimize several business processes.

  1. Access your info from just about anywhere

Supporting your staff, regardless if they’re fully remote, in the office or a mix of both, will be critical to the success of your nonprofit in a post-pandemic world. CRM products and features will give your team the ability to connect, share ideas and get more done together, regardless of where they are.

7 questions for your nonprofit team to ask when choosing a CRM

Your nonprofit is unique. So, the best CRM should include the features, support and integrations that meet your specific needs. After all, the last thing you want to do is get stuck with software that doesn’t make sense for you.

Consider these questions before you schedule a demo with a CRM provider.  

    1. What do we want to get out of a CRM implementation? To reach your maximum CRM potential, it’s best to have a CRM strategy. It should include setting challenging objectives that can have a lasting impact on your organization. For example, do you want to increase donor retention by 40% over the next two years? Surpass your 2021 fundraising goals by $100,000? Or configure reports so that you can build a case to apply for a large grant?

    2. How much data do we have? The number of constituent profiles a nonprofit can collect varies. Be sure to analyze how much donor data you have before buying.
    3. What do we need to track? Everything you track should be used to make your nonprofit more successful. To do that, think about the major data you need to capture to get a holistic view of your organization’s performance to boost your revenue.
    4. Is our entire team onboard? A CRM will likely affect most of your employee’s jobs in some way. Talk to your team to get them onboard and see what they’re hoping to achieve from the new software. When you’re all on the same page, implementing the CRM and team training will run more smoothly.
    5. Can our CRM “talk” to other systems? It’s smart to integrate your CRM tools with any existing applications that you’re using. By removing the back and forth between apps, you can better your productivity and workflow. Though many organizations find it beneficial to use third-party applications, many CRMs offer native automation tools that will centralize all of your data and save you money in the long run.
    6. How fast can we get a CRM up and running? If you’re using an existing CRM, it depends on how much data you need to transfer to a new system, who needs access to your CRM, how big your team is, and how sophisticated you want your CRM automation to be. If you’re starting from scratch, setup can happen quickly. If you find it daunting or don’t have the time, consider the services of a CRM software partner like cloudStack Services.
    7. Can we afford this? This is the first question or roadblock nonprofits face as budget is almost always a driving factor in any decision. When reviewing costs, think about both immediate and ongoing costs, like integrations, licensing and system maintenance, and training, to name a few. Then there’s the greatest cost benefit of all: reducing manual tasks so your highly-skilled team can focus on more complex, productive work.

Key CRM features to look for

The best CRM will have loads of features, but there are a few that are essential for you to consider. Here are four that nonprofits we’ve worked with have found the most useful.  

  1. Data Reporting

Your nonprofit CRM should be able to generate all types of valuable reports—from financial transactions to campaign performances to donor behaviour. A good CRM can even let you configure custom reports to give you a snapshot of which parts of your operations are working—and which aren’t. With those insights, you can develop more targeted and appealing outreach strategies. 

  1. Donor Management

Imagine having a complete view of all the interactions you’ve had with donors and the channels that spur them to take action. Or the ability to create donor personas, segments and tags. A CRM will give you the ability to log emails, calls, social media engagements and any other custom info that may help you nurture your donor relationships. Remember, the better your donor data, the higher your donor retention.

  1. List Segmentation

Segmentation allows you to subdivide your contact list into any number of customized, smaller lists using tags and filters. You can segment by geographical location, demographics, donation amounts, interactions with your organization, and more.

By breaking down your lists, you can target, and more importantly, personalize messages to your leads and supporters to remind them that their gift matters.

Take the Giving Tuesday campaign, for example. On this day of global giving, you wouldn’t send your first-time donors and volunteers the same email. That’s because they’re at a different point on their journey with your nonprofit, and the message they receive should echo that. List segmentation lets you write specific messages to each group, letting you portray your ask in a way that inspires.

  1. Omni-channel integrations

A CRM comes with built-in features, whereas integrations bring in an outside tool. You’ll either want a CRM that has all basic built-ins or one that supports integrations with the platforms you need like QuickBooks, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, and Shopify.

At cloudStack Services, we help nonprofits select and choose the right CRM for their needs and empower them with a strong CRM system that ultimately frees up staff time, improves operations and raises more fundraising dollars. For more information, get in touch with us at info info@cloudstackservices.com.

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