Every successful nonprofit knows the importance of building and maintaining relationships. As nonprofits grow, tracking and managing these relationships between supporters, donors, and volunteers can become challenging.

To help support growth and expansion, some nonprofits turn to a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This modern tool helps keep a digital record of nonprofits' relationships and allows users to track and analyze that information to achieve their organizations' goals. If you are a nonprofit looking for a way to get an edge on building and maintaining key relationships, a CRM system may be just what you need.

Keep reading to learn more about what CRM is, how you can use it in the nonprofit space, and how to select the right one for your organization.

What Is CRM?

There are thousands of CRM systems available, and they offer a wide range of features and tools. At its most basic, CRM is a way to centrally track and store external interactions and relationships that drive success inside your organization. CRM systems allow companies to store information such as phone numbers, email addresses, notes, and other details in one centralized location. This enables users to understand past, present, and future interactions with customers, leads, and employees.

Externally, a CRM system drives marketing efforts that allow a company to learn more about their customers and better anticipate future needs. Internally, a CRM can help track the success of sales teams and customer support members. Popular CRMs include:

  • Hubspot
  • Zoho
  • Zendesk
  • Salesforce

How Nonprofits Can Use CRM Software

While CRMs have gained widespread adoption in sales, e-commerce, and other industries, nonprofits have been somewhat slower to adopt them. However, the ones that have invested in a CRM system tend to experience promising results. Below are some of the most popular uses and benefits of using CRM for your nonprofit.

Centralize Your Data

Your nonprofit is likely already tracking information like donor contacts, fundraising stats, and other vital details. Most organizations track this knowledge with spreadsheets, emails, and in some cases, pen and paper. The problem with these methods is that they require a lot of time and effort to search and could be impossible to share or access across teams.

A CRM system allows a nonprofit to centralize important organizational details in one spot, allowing employees and volunteers to find what they need with ease. Consolidating your data can also give you insight into past performances and help guide the nonprofit's future efforts.

Increase Your Collaboration

No matter what your nonprofit does, CRM can help bring teams together, keeping everyone on the same page and receiving critical information. In a for-profit business, CRMs often increase collaboration between sales, marketing, and management. For a nonprofit, this could mean opening new doors for employees, directors, and volunteers to share critical insights and track the success of fundraising efforts.

Some CRMs will also allow the project leads to assign tasks and follow a project's progress. Digital CRM platforms add additional flexibility, allowing users to access, share, and input information on the go from their smartphone or any computer with internet access.

Gain Insights About Your Supporters

Going beyond a simple contacts list, CRM can help you dive deeper into your relationships. It will keep track of actions individuals take and provide an overview of behaviors to help guide future decisions. For example, it can tell you what events donors have attended, which events they volunteered at, and the monetary donations they gave. This data can help a nonprofit build a strategy for future communications with this donor and what types of programs they may respond best to.

Create New Marketing Campaigns

A CRM system allows you to group volunteers and donors with common behaviors for future fundraising and marketing efforts. These campaigns can target the behaviors and preferences of different audiences. It's the same strategy that large corporations use to promote new products or encourage reordering of existing ones among targeted customer segments. Nonprofits that use these tactics to drive engagement can see significant increases in their fundraising goals.

Track & Analyze Your Fundraising Efforts

Similar to the tracking of donor and volunteer efforts, you can also use your CRM data to track the effectiveness of different fundraisers. From the number of attendees at an event to dollars raised, you can get the numbers you need at a glance using CRM. These insights help you know who to invite to the next gala or tell you which events need some improvement for next time.

How to Select the Right CRM for Your Nonprofit

While adopting a CRM system as a nonprofit can offer many advantages, they can be costly to use and time-consuming to integrate. To make sure your nonprofit is making a wise investment, consider doing the following before selecting a CRM.

Define Your Requirements

Precisely what CRM does depends on the particular system you select. Different CRMs are built to support different features and industries. To make sure you are getting the one that best fits your nonprofit's needs, you will need to define your present and future requirements. Some popular requirements for nonprofits may be the ability to:

  • Store and track donor information
  • Forecast fundraising
  • Automate marketing
  • View reports and dashboards

Establish Users & Stakeholders

Establishing who will need to use your CRM is also critical for success. Will it be directors who need to view annual reports, volunteers who will be contacting donors, or employees that need to track tasks and other requests? Whoever your expected users are, make sure your CRM will be able to give them easy access and that your organization can set appropriate data access for its users.

Consider Integration With Your Existing Tools

Depending on your organization's data size and age, you may need to take your current tools into careful consideration before choosing your CRM. Different CRM systems allow integration with some tools like excel, but not all. If keeping some of your current tools in place is essential, don't overlook compatibility.

Set Your Budget

Like any decision, cost is a critical factor. With so many CRMs to choose from, you will have options for any budget. However, do your homework. Not all features are standard, so don't jump in before you know what's included and what's a paid add-on.

Don't Lose Sight of Your Mission

Remember, precisely what CRM does depends on the particular system you select. Likewise, the insights gained from using CRM will depend on the information you feed into it.

While CRM may not solve every problem, it can help your nonprofit better fulfill its mission by retaining existing donors and reaching new people who care about your cause. It will also help keep multiple team members and volunteers on the same page for a growing nonprofit.


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