Top CRM tips and which software product is best for the job

A new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be a great thing for your charity, whether you’re relatively well-seasoned or just starting up.

The big difference it can make is in enhancing how your charity communicates and engages with donors, members and supporters. Beyond that, it can provide key insight for your organisation and even help with internal processes.

On a basic level, a good CRM can:

  • Store large files
  • Keep data organised and consistent
  • Allow for categorisation and searching for specific data
  • Provide a personalised experience for users

The big challenge with any new CRM project is to get everyone on board from day one. The success or failure of taking up a CRM platform is getting everyone to engage with it, which really means forcing it to seem like the most important task in a day.

By involving the users right from the start of the CRM project, you’ll be able to get their feedback from early on. This will help encourage your users to want to use the system as they can see the benefits, rather than being obliged to use the system that has been thrust upon them.

Understand both your current and future needs

Audit: Start by listing all the digital tools you are using: CMS, CRM, email system, payment provider, third-party fundraising tools, campaigning tools, hosting servers, etc.

Requirements: Conduct a series of interviews with key internal stakeholders across the organisation. How do they use the website and other digital tools? What improvements would they like? Any new functionalities they would love to have? How hands-on could they be?

Ease of use: This really depends on the size of the digital team and how likely it is to expand. Many organisations are starting to equip staff with digital skills (e.g. content production). If that’s where you’re going, make sure the CMS doesn’t require three days of training and hours of help from your team.

Budget: Open source doesn’t always mean free. It usually means no on-going licence fee and the possibility of amending the source code. This “possibility” is a necessity in 99% of cases (a percentage based on experience rather than robust research). You will need additional budget to train staff and keep the CMS up-to-date, as well as your plugins and bespoke code. In rare instances, open source may not be the most cost-effective solution for you.

Centralise and integrate data

An effective CRM system should offer  the ability to link to other software that stores client/donor information. By syncing all of your data to one platform, you’ll be able to produce more accurate, reliable reports.

Centralising your information makes it much easier to access every piece of information about your contacts in one place.

We all know it would be great if it was as simple as getting all of your data and sticking it in one place, but this often isn’t the case.

You will very likely be dealing with data sets that vary in format, recency, accuracy and frequency of update. Some may even need to be updated for compliance with data regulation. Additionally, some records are likely to be outdated or  inaccurate

The best results come from uniformity. This means sophisticated name and address normalisation to match all of an individual customer’s data together. Consistency when you integrate or migrate data sets prevents your reports from getting messy.

Know exactly what you want to get from it

Charity CRMs are an essential tool during every stage of donor-charity relationship-building, but you should really think through your communications needs before purchasing a new CRM.

Excellent communication forms the foundation of these relationships and helps them thrive, so your organisation must be able to communicate with donors efficiently and effectively.

While one charity CRM might enable you to send emails directly from the platform, others might require the implementation of an outside tool to address this communication channel. While some charity CRMs might have advanced direct-mail features (for example, the ability to auto-address envelopes and built-in word processing), others might lack direct-mail features altogether.

Don’t expect an end date

A CRM is an ongoing database that supports the work of your organisation. It is not something that comes to completion. While it’s crucial that data is kept neat and compliant, it should be something you’re always building on.




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