The Value of a New CRM System for Your Nonprofit

Jett Scott Winders
February 15, 2022

Is it time for your nonprofit to move to a new customer relationship management (CRM) solution? You might have started asking yourself this question for a variety of reasons:

  • Your current CRM/donor management solution might be up for renewal, and/or your solution vendor is pushing you to upgrade to a new version of the solution.
  • Your current solution is frustrating, making it difficult to accomplish what you need to do.
  • You have defined goals for the future that you realize your current solution can’t support.

These are all great reasons to consider moving to a new CRM system. But it’s also important to think about what you’re moving to, not just what you’re moving from.

What a new CRM system can do for your nonprofit

Your nonprofit has goals around fundraising and mission delivery, and you need technology to support your work around those goals. Having the right CRM system in place can help your organization in multiple ways, including:

  • Delivering on your mission more efficiently and effectively by streamlining operations so your organization’s staff can focus more on fundraising and mission initiatives, and less on time-consuming processes.
  • Raising more money through effective donor management, more targeted and personalized communications, and better reporting that informs data-driven decisions.
  • Stepping up the way you track, manage, and communicate with donors, volunteers, and other supporters.

TIP: Learn how to convince your executive director or board of directors it’s time for a new CRM system: Read the article Building the Business Case for Nonprofit CRM in the COVID Era.

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 at Heller Consulting have recognized 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. 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

Is now the right time for your nonprofit to move to a new CRM system?

If the benefits of moving to a new CRM ecosystem haven’t convinced you that it’s time to make a move, here are some other factors to consider:

2020 and 2021 taught us some valuable lessons.

If your organization is like many that we’ve heard from, the stress test of 2020 highlighted that your nonprofit needs a stronger technology foundation that offers long-term, sustainable support. The right CRM system can help you easily:

  • Work from home when needed
  • Change operational processes
  • Add or modify programs to meet growing demand for services
  • Scale up fundraising
  • Engage with donors and other constituents in new ways

You can take an incremental approach.

One of the great things about moving to a new CRM system (using an ecosystem approach) is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You can have a long-term CRM ecosystem strategy yet start only with solutions for your most critical functions. Then, you can add, optimize, and iterate over time as you work toward your CRM vision.

Moving to a new CRM system might cost less than you think.

Some organizations are finding that they can gain more functionality at the same or similar price by moving to a system that better meets their needs. Other organizations that look beyond the one-time conversion cost to the total cost of a new CRM system over three to five years find they can actually save money.

TIP: Learn how to sort through your options for CRM and maximize your budget: Download the Nonprofit CRM Pricing toolkit.

As your organization evolves, it’s critically important to have the right CRM ecosystem in place to optimize your operations today and support your strategic goals for the future. If you’d like help deciding if it’s time to move to a new CRM ecosystem, contact Heller Consulting.

About the Author

As the Director of Business Development for Heller Consulting, Jett works collaboratively with nonprofits to map their business needs to CRM tools and functionality so that organizations can deliver their missions more effectively and raise money more efficiently.

Topics: Donor Management
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