Is CRM software really right for your organisation & are you ready for it?


The benefits of customer relationship management technology (CRM) have been well publicised. Whether you are a business or a charity, the software can be a real life saver when it comes to keeping track of customers, clients or donors and the marketing/operational interactions we have with them.

That said, it’s not for everyone. Many charities abandon CRM software projects before the implementation is even complete because they don’t realise the time commitment and investment required to get value from a system.

So before your charity fills out the form for free or hugely discounted software from organisations like Salesforce or Microsoft, ask yourselves the following questions. They will help to determine if you need – and can benefit from – CRM technology:


  • Do you have data on donors or clients that you need to share between team members?
  • Do you have disparate data on donors or clients in multiple documents, spreadsheets or files?
  • Is it easy for team members to get access to data or information from wherever they are, or do they need to physically travel to the office or rely on emails from colleague to view it?
  • Do you have all of your information on the services you provide a single client in the same place, or are they listed in several databases held by individual service teams?
  • Are your funders demanding reports that are difficult to produce in a short timescale?


If you answered ‘no’ to the majority of these questions, you are probably not going to see great value from a CRM software system and would likely find it to be more of a burden than a benefit for your organisation. Instead, you may find it more beneficial to formalise your processes.  All you need to do to increase you organisation’s efficiency in dealing with clients and donors is to ensure your databases and spreadsheets are kept up-to-date and accessible to the right people.

If you answered ‘yes’ to more than half of these questions, however, your charity may indeed benefit from the use of CRM technology. Which brings us to the next step in the process – are you ready for it?

This next set of questions will help you determine if your charity is ready to undertake the challenges of implementing CRM:


  • Are you currently losing track of donors, receiving complaints or missing out on donations or funding?
  • Do you have a senior executive committed to resolving these problems?
  • Can you clearly articulate what you are trying to achieve with a CRM system?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of the processes for collecting and updating your data?
  • Can you identify the cost benefits of CRM for your organisation?
  • Will it save you time and increase the accuracy of your customer interactions?
  • Do you understand the benefits of CRM for the people on the ground actually carrying out the processes/updating the system?
  • Do you have the technical resources (or understand the cost of acquiring them) to implement a CRM system?


If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions then you are well on your way toward CRM success! If you found yourself floundering or answering ‘no’ to some of the questions, you need to take a hard look at the organisation and weigh out the costs versus the benefits to determine if it’s right for your team.

I realise I’ve taken a bit of a ‘tough love’ approach to CRM, but trust me, I’ve seen charities with the best will in the world fail at the first hurdle. I’m a huge advocate of the technology and know charities – large and small – that couldn’t function effectively without it, but it does require a change in the way of working and buy-in from all levels of the organisation to achieve this level of success.

By asking yourself these questions before taking the plunge, you can help to ensure you make the right choices about your approach to CRM.


by Richard Cooper, Director or Programmes

This post originally appeared on Civil Society on 10 February 2014.


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