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CRMs for Nonprofits Are More Essential Than Ever

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Amidst the various challenges, pivoting, and re-prioritization that 2020 has brought about, do nonprofits really need to invest time and resources in a CRM platform to manage contact data? The answer is: yes, CRMs for Nonprofits are more essential than ever! Whether you are looking to improve how you use your current CRM or shopping around for a new one, a CRM will absolutely help you strengthen and grow valuable relationships and opportunities that support your mission.

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a cloud-based technology software that allows organizations to effectively manage and document contact data and interactions in a systematic way. CRMs are a must-have in the commercial and private sector in order to manage customer information and identify sales opportunities; however, organizations within the nonprofit sector aren’t always sure if it’s the right fit for them. They’re not “selling” a product, so why should they invest in using one? 

As digital transformation and improving the way enterprise organizations operate to deliver services, research and communications, CRMs play an integral role in how contact data is collected, managed, segmented and used in order to effectively engage audiences (in the right way and through the right channels!), maximize fundraising efforts, prioritize resources, and find efficiencies across the board.

How CRMs Benefit the Nonprofit Space

While their purpose and functionalities may not instinctively appear relevant from a nonprofit standpoint, CRM capabilities are in fact extremely beneficial to mission-driven organizations. From maintaining strong relationships with constituents, to segmenting supporters by issue and interest areas, tracking membership activities, and streamlining the donation process, CRMs give nonprofits the power to manage their data confidently and effectively.

More specifically, a CRM helps a nonprofit to:

  1. Centralize information. A great number of nonprofits rely on Excel spreadsheets to store and manage contact data. The challenge is that storing data in different spreadsheets, managed by different people, can result in incomplete or outdated data, and makes tracking historical data nearly impossible — not to mention require a great deal of time and resources to manage. A CRM allows nonprofits to  store all that data in one, organized place, which can be easily managed by various team members over time. While it’s an additional investment, the efficiencies it creates justify the price tag.
  2. Segment contact types. List segmentation is a daunting task especially when data is outdated, inaccurate, and/or not in the same format. A CRM ensures that you have high-quality data, and can easily segment your lists by the criteria you’ve set up. You can then segment and tag contacts by, for example, constituent type, interest area, geographic location, and then export the list to your outreach campaigns. Again, the efficiencies in creating automated processes here and directing contacts to appropriate content and outreach streams is incredibly valuable, especially when it comes to creating engagement or requesting support.
  3. Know your audience. A CRM keeps track and records the activities of your audiences. By analyzing your contacts’ actions, such as the events they’ve attended or the most recent volunteering campaign they signed up for, a CRM gives you a holistic view of your target audiences’ behaviors. This data will give you the insight to tailor a relationship-building strategy that best suits your various audience groups.

How to Choose the Right CRM for Your Nonprofit

There are a huge number of CRMs out there, and understanding the benefits and differences between each of them can help you choose the right one. The key elements you’ll want to take into account as you explore the CRM market landscape are:

  • Your requirements and priorities: What are your goals? Is it to better segment contacts? Improve reporting? Have more robust contact records? Defining your various needs will allow you to define which functionalities are must-haves, which are nice-to-haves, and which are not needed at all. 
  • Your internal users: Who on your team needs access? Do you have team members with technical and analytical expertise? Is your team less technical? What your team can bring to the table from both a technical and contact relationship perspective will help you to evaluate the need for either a complex, customizable solution, or a simpler out-of-the-box approach.
  • Your existing tools: Stepping back and looking at your digital ecosystem, which of your existing tools and platform need to be compatible with your CRM? At a base level, the CRM you choose should be compatible with your website CMS; however, you may also want (and require) it to connect to your email marketing platform, your social media accounts, and your timesheet management system, to name a few.
  • Your budget: most CRMs vary in price based on the number of users as well as the numbers of contacts. If you’re unsure of where your budget should fall, taking a look at both of these total numbers will give you a good idea of what your CRM investment will look like.  

A CRM will help your organization stay organized and efficient. As the world looks to find its way through this global pandemic, nonprofit organizations are strategically positioned to show leadership and direction in solving some of the biggest challenges communities and sectors are facing. The right CRM that best fits your organization’s requirements is going to do that, and set you in the right direction to reach your goals, professionalize your approach, and maximize your impact.

Written By

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Still not sure which CRM is the right fit for you?

It can be a tough choice to make. We’d be happy to talk through your priorities and provide recommendations. Get in touch today!