How to Choose a CRM to Support Your Fundraising Efforts

Using technology to support your organization’s fundraising isn’t new, but it became increasingly important in the COVID era and remains relevant to this day. Nonprofits quickly had to move fundraising events online and relied heavily on online fundraising campaigns to make up for lost revenue as the pandemic swept through the world.

For many successful organizations, the center of their fundraising technology is a nimble CRM, or customer relationship management system. At Heller Consulting, we help nonprofit professionals select and choose the right CRM for their organizations and empower them with a strong technology ecosystem that ultimately frees up staff time, improves operations, and raises more funds.

What is a CRM system?

Before we go any further, let’s be more specific about what we mean by a CRM system.

When people talk about CRM solutions for nonprofits, they’re often referring to a single CRM technology solution from one vendor. Not long ago, it was an accepted best practice to operate on one CRM platform with the goal of achieving a 360-degree view of donors, volunteers, and other constituents.

Today, we recognize that a single platform typically doesn’t meet every organizational need. Often, a single core CRM solution doesn’t adequately support critically important functional areas — such as advocacy, peer-to-peer fundraising, special events, volunteer engagement, and ecommerce — nor does it adequately support advanced strategies around areas such as marketing automation.

Instead, we think of a modern nonprofit CRM system as more of a CRM ecosystem of best-of-breed tools and technologies that integrate with a nonprofit CRM platform, such as those from Salesforce and Microsoft. The benefits of this ecosystem approach to CRM include the ability to:

  • Integrate tools and technologies as you need them
  • Choose tools and technologies that best meet your organization’s needs
  • Not be locked into tools and technologies from one vendor

Fundraising Considerations When Choosing a CRM

Before you choose a CRM, it’s important to keep in mind your donor mix and your fundraising strategies. Your organization may rely primarily on major donors and grants, recurring donors, or individual, one-time donors. You may receive most of your donations online, or through traditional direct mail. More likely, your revenue pie consists of its own unique blend of all the above.

If direct mail, for example, represents a significant part of your revenue stream, there are additional capabilities that will be important, including campaign and package management and deep segmentation. Our advice is to take some time to write down what you need to support your current donor mix while also having some room for creativity.

CRM Ecosystem and Integration Considerations

One thing to keep in mind is that as the CRM marketplace continues to evolve, it’s not always necessary (or even possible) to find one solution that manages and addresses every one of your needs.

It’s more important to find a developed ecosystem of supporting vendors and app developers that integrate effectively with your platform and related vendors’ apps. Prioritizing your end-to-end donor experience requires such an ecosystem. Your new CRM will be the cornerstone of your donor relationship management, but few modern CRMs can do it all.

At minimum, you’ll want to integrate or build business processes to connect the data in your new CRM with your digital fundraising solution(s) and payment processor(s). You may also want to consider building connections with advocacy tools, accounting systems, and potentially call centers, direct mail warehouses, etc.

Consider Integrating a Marketing Automation Solution

The most effective fundraising is relationship-based. When donors feel appreciated and have a strong connection with your nonprofit, they are more likely to continue giving — and to give more.

In the past this relationship-nurturing has relied on one-on-one, personal communication by gift officers. But even as we emerge from the pandemic, organizations are relying more on doing that personalization through technology. Our clients have seen tremendous fundraising success utilizing sophisticated marketing automation tools. These tools offer nonprofits the ability to create highly personalized marketing messages that leverage the data in their CRMs to send highly relevant and timely emails.

Meanwhile, data analytics within your marketing automation tool and CRM ecosystem can surface the highest quality leads for prospecting, allowing your gift officers to focus their time more effectively on building and nurturing the most promising donor relationships.

Envision your Future Fundraising Goals

Digital transformation is now a necessity for nonprofits in today’s changed landscape. When you choose a new CRM today, it’s an opportunity to think beyond a solution that meets your current needs. Instead, imagine what could both meet your current needs and allow you to be nimble and pivot to new fundraising strategies.

As you plan for your future fundraising strategies, start by taking a look at your current revenue pie chart. Where is your largest support coming from today? How has that changed since COVID-19 and how do you think it will change in the future? Look ahead 5-10 years and determine which pieces of the pie are likely to grow, based on giving trends and your strategic plans. This should lay the groundwork for your CRM strategy and guide you when making a decision on which platform to choose.

Learn more about how the right CRM can support your fundraising efforts.

Having a nimble CRM will allow you to adapt to changing donor expectations and will provide your organization with a strong technology foundation. Find out more about the strategies, tools, and techniques that can help you power up your fundraising: Watch the on-demand webinar, Power Fundraising with CRM.

This post was written by the tech experts at Heller Consulting, who specialize in helping nonprofits make the most of their data with leading platforms like Salesforce, Blackbaud, and Microsoft..

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