This was originally posted on Beekeeper Group's website.
Every advocacy group needs a way to organize its constituents. Often times, managing hundreds or thousands of supporters or potential advocates, organizations deal with thousands of pieces of data about their members. Organizing all of that data into a logical and easy-to-access database requires more than a simple spreadsheet. This database is called a CRM, or as we call in the advocacy world, a Constituent Relationship Manager. CRM tools can be found in many industries. For many large brands keeping track of customers and vendors, for example, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management
We’ve helped quite a few advocacy organizations in need of a new CRM find the right solution. At Beekeeper Group, we’re tool agnostic across the board. That means we don’t limit ourselves to recommending one specific solution to every client; rather, we work with the tools that best suit our clients’ needs. We’re certified partners with many of the CRM vendors serving the advocacy sector, and we have extensive experience working with them.
Regardless of whether you’re working with us to find the right solution – your advocacy organization needs to know the right steps to take to select the best CRM tool.
So, how does an advocacy group like yours select the right one? Here are five questions to ask:
- What is my list of “must-haves?” Every organization has specific needs. Does your trade association send mass-mailings? Do you want to track your advocates’ actions? Do you need an integrated “Contact Your Members of Congress” feature? Does it integrate with other database or tools used by the organization? Determining your organization’s “must-haves” and compiling a list of key features is step one when shopping for the right CRM. When asking this question it is very important to separate your “must-haves” from your “wish to haves.” No CRM tool will work exactly like you want it without some modification.
- Which CRM satisfies my list of key features? Step two requires examining your must-haves and researching the CRM options available to you. We typically request an in-person or screen share demonstration from each CRM vendor when working with a client in determining a CRM solution. Creating a strong relationship with a CRM representative goes a long way when you have questions. Picking the CRM that has the functionality that you need is a no-brainer, but it’s not going to be easy to find unless you research your options and ask the right questions.
- How much does this option cost? CRM pricing adjusts with your needs, from around $100 per month, to thousands of dollars per month. Typically, CRM pricing is dependent on how many features are needed or the size of the constituency. Will the monthly or yearly fee include customer service? Will it include new features as the CRM rolls them out?
- Is it easy to learn? We know just how busy advocacy groups are working with their members and how valuable their time is. That is why it is important to take a look at the CRM’s management interface and determine if there is going to be a steep learning curve. One part of the CRM selection process should be requesting access to demo accounts for each of the CRM options your organization is considering, and taking a few minutes for a guided walk-through of the interface.
- What type of ongoing support does the vendor offer? There are few things worse than feeling stuck as you manage a database of thousands of supporters. When picking the right CRM solution, it’s important to ask what type of ongoing support the vendor offers. Is there a dedicated, on-call account support representative if anyone in your organization has a question? Is phone support offered? Does the price include customer support, or is that an added feature? Don’t discount the importance of strong customer service.
There are dozens of CRM options available to advocacy organizations, and picking the right one requires asking the right questions. Not all CRM solutions are the same, and with the right information in your pocket, your organization can pick the right CRM to successfully manage your supporters for years to come.