6 Reasons to Use a CRM for Better Donor Management

As a nonprofit, you may think you don’t have a need for customer relationship management (or CRM) software. But don’t let the name fool you.

While you may not have “customers” in the traditional sense, the core function of a CRM system is to help organizations track important data about their patrons and supporters, like transactions and interactions. This is highly relevant to your need to build strong relationships with your donors. Many CRMs also offer features related to marketing, project management, and analytics, all of which can help your organization thrive.

Plus, some CRM systems are even designed specifically for nonprofits, meaning the language and features (and price!) are tailored to your needs. With that in mind, here are 6 benefits of using a CRM to manage your donor data.

1. Streamline Your Data Entry

Many nonprofits have a small number of permanent employees. As a result, they rely on a revolving roster of volunteers to handle much of their administrative work. The systems used for this work should be as intuitive as possible. The easier it is for new volunteers to learn the ropes, the faster they can get up and running.

Using a CRM designed for nonprofits simplifies the data entry process. Instead of maintaining separate databases for donors and donations (and copying and pasting information between the two), use the pre-built features in your CRM to link donors to their contributions. This could be as simple as clicking an “Add New Donation” button right from a donor’s profile. And forget about scrolling endlessly across massive spreadsheets. The user-friendly interface of modern CRM software makes it easy to see the fields you need and navigate between sections.

2. Maintain Detailed Donor History

The cost of acquiring a new donor is three times greater than the cost of retaining an existing one. Since every dollar counts for a nonprofit, it’s in your best interest to develop a solid donor retention strategy. However, it’s difficult to do so if you don’t know who your donors are and why they give.

CRM software offers a perfect solution for maintaining a centralized, detailed record of each donor. From contact information and donation history to past conversations and event attendance, a CRM is meant to capture every aspect of an individual’s relationship with your organization.

Use this wealth of data to inform your donor retention efforts. For instance, you might filter your donors based on certain criteria (like geographic region or survey responses) to send highly targeted email campaigns. You could also identify your recurring donors and send them a small gift to thank them for their generosity. The goal is to personalize your interactions with your donors as much as possible so they feel valued and motivated to give again.

3. Make It Easier for Donors to Give

Your organization relies on financial support from donors to make a difference — so you want to make sure your donation process is simple and convenient. Handwritten cheques may have been the standard a decade ago. But with so many new technologies available for nonprofits, it’s high time to take advantage of them.

Your nonprofit’s website is a great place to start. The people visiting your site are clearly already interested in your mission, so make it easy for them to contribute. Some nonprofit CRMs have online donation page functionality, which allows you to embed a donation page on your site. Each person who donates through the page is automatically logged as a donor in your CRM, saving your team valuable time on data entry.

This option is appreciated by tech-savvy donors who are used to doing things online. However, it’s also a great way to reach donors from around the world who can’t attend your local fundraising events.

4. Strengthen Your Donor Communications

Regular communication is essential for maintaining strong relationships with your donors. However, you only have so much time in a day and space on your to-do list. Automation and scheduling tools help to ensure that each donor receives the attention they deserve.

Every nonprofit knows that sending heartfelt thank-you letters (not to mention tax receipts) is an ongoing process. That’s why nonprofit CRMs are built to make these tasks as efficient as possible. Customize the pre-built templates to suit your needs, then send them off to your benefactors with the click of a button. Expressing your gratitude promptly will make your donors more likely to give again in the future.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a new donation before you re-engage with a donor. Use your CRM to schedule a reminder to reach out — whether it’s to wish them a happy birthday, to share an update on your work, or just to say hello. By connecting with your supporters regularly, you’ll increase your chances of donor retention.

5. Connect with Donors Anytime and Anywhere

If your nonprofit work takes you out of the office, it’s important to keep your donor data on hand. After all, you never know when you might have to look up or update information. But if your donor data lives in spreadsheets, the experience of viewing it on your phone will be less than ideal.

Luckily, a CRM subscription typically includes mobile apps optimized for use on smartphones and tablets. These apps make it possible to effectively manage your donor relationships while on the go. Think back to the previous point about keeping in touch with your loyal supporters. If you have a few minutes to kill, why not pull up a donor’s history on your phone and send them a quick email to check in?

The ability to add new data on the spot also comes in handy during fundraising events. Arm a few volunteers with tablets, then send them out into the crowd. The ability to log information digitally speeds up the process of collecting donations, allowing you to spend more time engaging with your donors.

6. Plan for the Future

To optimize your donor management strategy for the future, you have to evaluate its current performance. This is your CRM’s moment to shine.

Whether you use the built-in reporting tools or export the raw data for your own analysis, your CRM can show you the big picture of how your nonprofit is performing. Did you receive donations throughout the year, or were there obvious peak periods? What percentage of your donors from last year gave again this year? Who were your biggest supporters, and how did the size of their donations compare to the average?

Determining the answers to these questions will help you plan your next steps. For instance, you may need to align your fundraising campaigns with peak giving seasons, or you may want to recruit your top donors for a peer-to-peer fundraising strategy.


Every nonprofit relies on its network of loyal donors. In order to maintain this network, you need to understand who your donors are and communicate meaningfully with them. Using a CRM puts you on the path toward a strong donor management process that encourages ongoing generosity from your supporters.

Author Bio

Alanna Smith is a Content Marketing Specialist at Method:CRM, where she writes about the benefits of CRM software for nonprofits and small businesses. After working in a customer-facing role at Method, she has a deep appreciation for the pain points faced by small organizations and she loves creating content to guide them on their CRM journeys. When she isn’t scoping out tricks and tools to help Method users thrive, she’s usually running in the park.