February 6, 2019

Setting Up a CRM System


How the right implementation helps Nonprofits Manage Their Donors

Nonprofit organizations work hard to make our world better. They appeal to donors to meet needs and support causes that touch our hearts. But they have requirements of their own that people rarely think about unless they have worked in a nonprofit, and they directly affect their ability to achieve their mission. They need up-to-date technology for nonprofits to manage processes and programs, specifically, a CRM system. 

People who work in nonprofit organizations are pretty passionate about what they do and don’t have time to search for, configure, or update new technology. However, a lack of efficiency makes their jobs harder and impacts the number of donors they can contact to support their cause.

Board members, staff, and volunteers see significant needs in the world around them and feel an equal need to do something about it. They can:

  • Send food around the world to stop children from going hungry.
  • Build sanitation equipment to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Encourage processes to reduce the effects of climate change on crops.
  • Develop youth programs that create entrepreneurs instead of gang leaders.

With a slim budget, these organizations of dedicated professionals fight an uphill battle when it comes to technology. Their organizations are expected to operate and keep up with an impossible list of manual priorities. 

One of our business partners, Carol Willis, speaks from her previous experience as a development director in a nonprofit. When she started that role, she saw right away that some type of donor management software or CRM was urgently needed. She shared her thoughts with us about the investment decision and also about setting up a CRM system.

“Making the decision sounds like a Catch-22 situation, and that’s what it feels like,” she says. “Resources are slim, so leaders can be pretty hard to convince that money should be spent on software. The board may feel they can’t afford it, but at some point, you can’t grow your organizational resources without the software. They can’t afford NOT to get it if they want to continue to achieve the mission. The CRM system will more than pay for itself in the long run.”

An important mission deserves a technology solution to simplify processes, customize donor experiences, and handle accounting tasks more accurately. Doing so will lead to greater fundraising opportunities and a higher volume of donors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you manage your donor information?
  • Can you see at a glance which donors are drawn to specific programs?
  • Who gives monthly and who gave two years ago?
  • Who is related to whom, and how?
  • Where do they work?
  • Which of your events have donors been to, and who invited them?
  • When did you last communicated with them?
  • Who prefers a phone call to an email?
  • Who wants to remain anonymous?
  • When did they make their first gift?

Donors expect you to know these things about them to maintain a personal relationship that fosters trust. They want to know their gifts are appreciated and making a difference. Your cause is important to them.

If your organization has a consistent level of even minor success, using a spreadsheet, or a series of them, to track this kind of information will get out of control quickly. Salesforce has a specialized product called Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), favored by many nonprofits, including some of our clients. A CRM like NPSP collects all this information in one place and then lets you pick the areas you want to analyze in your donor base according to various aspects. You can sort them into segments for appropriate communications.

How do you manage your constituent communications?

It’s a fact that the longer you wait to get thank you letters out, the less likely donors are to make a second gift. Plus, there’s the email newsletter, invitations to galas and events for different segments of donors, and online surveys to former program participants. With a CRM system, you don’t need much time to accomplish these activities. It does it for you and provides reports to keep you updated on progress.

Some CRM systems have their own function for invitations and email marketing campaigns built in. Others integrate brilliantly with existing email marketing platforms like Constant Contact and Eventbrite. They’ll also sync with either Outlook or Google email to share your contacts and the details of each communication. You can write up a customizable template, specify the group you want it to go to, and hit send or print.

How do you know if a program is working?

Nonprofits need data on activities and outcomes to know if the resources they steward are having the desired impact. Also, donors demand to see results and how success is measured. Without technology, this can be a highly labor-intensive task resulting in inaccurate reporting even with the best of intentions.

One of the benefits of Salesforce’s NPSP is that it not only tracks contacts and automates communication, it also supports program development and funding capacity by collecting program data and reporting on outcomes. A user-friendly dashboard lets you see all the details.

If you decide to get a CRM system, get help to figure out which product or application will work best for your needs. The right expert can quickly customize it to gather the data you want, train your people to use it, test it, make changes, and troubleshoot any problems. You want to use it as soon as possible to take full advantage. Learning how to do it yourself leads to mistakes that cost time and money. These are already tight commodities.

Carol weighed in again on the debate to hire an expert for setting up a CRM system: “Once I got the okay to look into CRM’s, a consultant in my network helped me decide on the right one. His firm got us set up and trained us to use it. Beyond that, nothing was budgeted to support the implementation for the staff. I conducted a few sessions to orient them, but they kept using their own processes, continuing to use separate spreadsheets. It worked in the past, and they didn’t see the urgency of learning something new.”

A consultant like Small Business CRM Coach acts as a partner on an implementation strategy to gain buy-in by explaining to the staff how the new procedure will help everyone and expand their capabilities. They ensure everyone sees the benefits relating to their role and the mission of the whole organization.

Nonprofits are often staffed by a combination of employees and volunteers. Turnover can be high because of stress and low pay. When money is tight for onboarding and volunteer training, holes occur in processes, and the purpose behind procedures is lost. Before you know it, the CRM system is a mess, no one wants to use it, and it’s no longer cost-effective. An ongoing relationship with a qualified partner can fill in knowledge gaps, keep everyone up-to-date, and your database clean.

Small Business CRM Coach is passionate about making your world better. We want you to thrive and accomplish great things. We are also techno-geeks who understand databases and get really excited about helping you use CRM systems productively to achieve goals.

How are you tracking your staff, tasks, events, and donors? Is your organization growing? Do you need a better system, or are you having a hard time figuring out how to use all your current CRM features? Contact us for Small Business CRM Coaching and Consulting to help you choose between desktop applications or cloud-based solutions with more data storage options and access across digital devices. 

Get the most out of your CRM by reaching out for a Discovery Session to assess your situation.