The Benefits of CRMs for Nonprofits

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Do nonprofits really need to invest in using a CRM system to manage their contact data? The answer is: yes! Whether you are a big or small organization, a CRM will help you to strengthen and grow valuable relationships and opportunities.

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a cloud-based technology software that allows organizations to effectively manage and document customer 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? 

Why CRMs Make Sense for Nonprofits

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 can help nonprofits to:

  1. Centralize information: a great number of nonprofits use 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The challenge is that storing data in different spreadsheets, managed by different people, can result in incomplete or outdated data, and makes tracking historical data nearly impossible. A CRM allows nonprofits to  store all that data in one, organized place, which can be easily managed by a various team members over time.
  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 Segment contact types: list segmentation is a daunting task especially when data is outdated, inaccurate, and/or not in the same format.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 contacts by, for example, constituent type, interest area, geographic location, and then export the list to your outreach campaigns.
  3. Know your audience: a CRM will keep track and record the activities of your audiences. By analyzing your supporters’ 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 audience’s behavior. This data will give you the insight to tailor a relationship-building strategy that best suits your various audience groups.

How to Choose a 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 main things you’ll want to take into account as you explore the CRM market landscape are:

  • Your requirements: what are your priorities? Is it to better segment contacts? Improve reporting? To 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. 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 and maximize your impact. 

Written By

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

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