We answer the questions about CRM databases that you were too afraid to ask
If your role hasn’t involved using the charity’s database, or you work for a small charity that doesn’t use one, you may wonder what CRMs do and why they are needed.
CRM stands for customer relationship management and a database is a set of data stored in a structured way that makes it easier to view and understand. Your CRM database is your center of truth for information. It is the place that you visit to get a 360-degree view of all the people your charity interacts with.
Your CRM can tell you if a volunteer has taken part in an event, if one of your supporters has a brother who has used your services, or how long a case study was connected with you before they shared their story – and so much more.
There are a number of specialist CRMs designed to meet the specific needs of the charity sector. The right version for you will depend on the size of your charity and the level of functionality required.
How do you add people’s details to the database?
Personal details can be added manually by creating a new profile and filling in the fields. However, there are often opportunities to automate this process. The ideal option is to find out if there is an API integration between the place you are capturing people’s details online via registration forms and your CRM.
Integrations like this allow data to flow automatically from your registration forms to your database. If this is not possible, you can download data from your registration systems as a CSV file and upload it to the database.
Whose details should you store?
You should create a new record or profile for anyone who has supplied you with their details because they have interacted with you in some way. It is important that their contact preferences are recorded correctly.
With the introduction of GDPR, asking the right questions about communication preferences when someone supplies you with their details and storing those preferences in a uniform way on your CRM is vital.
What information should you record?
There are a few key pieces of information that should be stored on your database: personal details, contact information, activities, and financial information.
Personal details: The front page of a database record will show the personal details of each constituent. The minimum information is usually name and email address, but several other fields such as postal address, date of birth, and relationships are available. As you get to know your community more, you can update these fields to help you remember important details about each person.
Contact information: You should record what people are happy to be contacted about and how they would like to be contacted in a standard way on your database.
Activities: The most valuable members of your charity’s community are likely to be connected to you in more than one way. They might have started as a service user before deciding to give back by volunteering and then deciding to raise money through virtual events. All of these activities should be recorded in the same place to get a rounded view of the people who make up your organisation’s ecosystem.
Communication: Databases also allow you to record when you have spoken to someone on the phone or emailed them so that anyone can see when they were contacted and what was discussed. This is useful if several staff members are likely to be in contact with the same person.
Financial information: It is vital to keep records of donations, purchases, and even gifts-in-kind. Your CRM database will allow you and financial auditors to match the income in your bank account to individuals and organisations.
CRM databases are a powerful tool for communicating with your community in a personalised way. You can select groups of people based on any field entered into the database and export a spreadsheet of the selected group’s details to use in your email software or for mailings.
Your database is also a brilliant tool for evaluating and planning for the future. Many databases will have standard reports built in that you can run with one click, as well as the ability to build bespoke reports. You may want to look at average donation amounts, length of volunteering term, or frequency of service use.
Getting to know how CRM databases work can be a learning curve, but the benefits of using one are significant. Using a CRM enhances your ability to understand and connect with your community of supporters, volunteers and beneficiaries.