Our guide to charity CRM systems will get you up to speed with the concept and potential benefits of such systems – and offer a few tips on getting started
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems provide businesses with a central digital database in which to record, organise, manage, and store all their interactions with customers and prospective customers, as well as business partners and suppliers. It’s a hugely important software sector, to the extent that the market for CRM products is now worth tens of billions of pounds, according to Gartner.
And it turns out that CRM systems can also be extremely valuable for charities, especially once they’ve been customised to the specific needs of non-profit organisations. Charities using CRM software enjoy donor contribution growth of at least 20%, according to UK Fundraising, and 82% of charities that use CRM systems say that the systems save them time and increase their income, according to Salesforce research into CRM trends in the charity sector.
When CRM systems have been customised to meet the needs of charities they are sometimes known as constituent (rather than customer) relationship management systems. This is a nod to the fact that charities are managing supporters, donors, and beneficiaries, rather than business customers.
Here’s a theoretical example of how a charity might make use of a CRM system. Let’s imagine that the charity has a list of prospects – people who may be interested in making a donation. This list would be stored in the CRM’s digital database, and every time someone from the list is contacted by mail, email, or phone, a note of this contact would be added to their entry. If they make a donation, the date and amount would also be added.
That means that any staff member with access to the CRM can see all the information that the charity has about any individual or group of people. That makes it easy for a fundraiser to segment the database – perhaps asking the CRM system for a list of people who have donated at least once but not donated within the last six months so that they can be contacted to ask for a repeat donation. Or the fundraiser could call up a list of the twenty most significant donors over the last year to invite them to a VIP fundraising event.
Without a CRM system, charity staff have no easy way of knowing when prospects should be contacted, whether they are existing donors or potential donors, and whether they have recently been contacted by another staff member. There is a risk that donors may be contacted repeatedly for further donations by staff who are unaware that other staff have already contacted them, or that donors are asked for repeat donations too soon (or too late) after they previously gave.
Moving from the theoretical to some real-life examples of the results that can be expected with a CRM system, Chana Charity used its Access thankQ CRM’s donor management features to increase its repeat donations by 25%, while the National Youth Choir of Scotland saved more than £21,000 a year on postage for renewals using donor management features in the same CRM system.
The benefits of CRM systems are well understood by the largest charities, and just about every single charity with income of over £100 million per year uses one to improve service delivery. But when it comes to smaller charities, CRM penetration is much lower: only 31% of small charities with income of £10k–£100k use a CRM system, while just 11% of micro charities with an income of under £10k use one. Why is this?
The most common reason, according to Salesforce’s research, is that smaller charities are put off by the potential cost of a CRM system, while others fear that implementation will be too difficult (especially if it involves bring data from many different sources into the CRM system) and that they will lack the time to train staff to use the system.
The cost concern is clearly a legitimate one, even if, as mentioned above, 82% of charities find that their CRM system increases their income. But it is worth bearing in mind that many CRM vendors offer special rates for charities (for example Raklet CRM is available from the Charity Digital Exchange for £12 per year.)
Some vendors even offer free versions of their CRM products. These include Insightly (for a maximum of two users), HubSpot (although this is not specifically designed for charities) and Vtiger (basic features only).
The implementation concern is also a fair one, although small and micro charities are likely to have very few data sources – perhaps just a handful of spreadsheets and an email system – to integrate into a CRM. (Larger charities would likely need an integration partner to prepare their CRM for first use.)
Another reason for the low take up of CRM among small and micro charities is that many smaller charity leaders may be unaware of all the things that a CRM system can do for them. 58% of charities surveyed by Salesforce know that it can be used for donor management, (as well for beneficiary and supporter management), but far fewer charities – just 8%, according to Salesforce – appreciate that many CRM systems offer business intelligence and reporting features to help with campaign management service delivery, and just 6% are aware of the volunteer management features.
There are many other CRM features that could be extremely valuable to charities if only they were aware of them. For example, many CRM systems allow charities to accept payments and donations: World Villages for Children saved £20,000 per year on direct debit transaction costs alone using the donation management feature in the Raiser’s Edge NXT system.
Other important and often overlooked features include:
Things to consider:
Features: All charity CRM systems have donor management features, but which of the lesser-used features mentioned above could give your charity a boost?
Cloud or on-premises: Most CRM systems run from the cloud these days, meaning there is no need to manage the software or security surrounding it yourself. Using software running in the cloud also makes it easy to let mobile users or remote workers access the system. But you may be concerned about entrusting your data to a third party.
Cost: Are you looking for a free solution? Will there be any third party setup or integration costs involved? What is the license or monthly subscription fee, and what limits are there on the number of users?
Integration: How easy will it be to integrate the CRM with your other systems such as an email server or payment system? Can you do this in-house or will you need help?
Charity CRM systems to consider:
There are many charity CRM systems worth looking at, and these include: