I am often asked to implement free or discounted CRM for non-profit organizations, my hope in this blog is to help non-profits understand the value of CRM software.

While there are several CRM packages that are free or next to free for non-profits, they frequently produce results on relation to cost.  One of the main reasons for this is that much of the setup/implementation is left to the organization itself.  This is a daunting task when many non-profits run with a limited staff and volunteers, most of which are not software implementation experts, let-alone CRM business strategy experts.  Non-profits seem to fall into the do-it-yourself mode of CRM implementation even more-so than for-profit organizations and the affects can be even greater (see my blog on the costs of doing-it-yourself).

Rather than a long, drawn-out process, it is critical that a non-profit receives return on investment (ROI) rapidly through their CRM implementation.  It is equally critical that the software be configured and simple to use (since an untold number of volunteers may need to be trained on a regular basis).  This is where the non-profit should rely on a CRM consultant that understands these values and that can help them to work through the processes quickly and efficiently.

When you think about it, CRM for non-profit is even more complex than a for-profit organization.  Often non-profits have to track:

 

  • Donors
  • Gifts
  • Memberships
  • Capital Campaigns
  • Alumni
  • Partnerships

 

All while attempting to keep each informed as to what is happening with the money collected.

Corporate America is turning more and more to CRM software to enable them to better understand their customers and be proactive to each customer’s needs.  They understand the value of each customer and realizing that maintaining a customer takes more than an occasional phone call or email.  If that is true with Corporate America, it should be even more so with non-profit organizations.  Let’s face it, America’s pocket book is getting tighter and people want to know that their charitable contributions are appreciated, acknowledged, and worth-while. 

Finally, without a business partner helping with the support of CRM, many non-profits lose focus on CRM and end up with a patchwork of databases that are neither user friendly or functional.  The main question to ask when considering an investment in CRM is what will it do to the bottom line, and who is best able to help with it.  Consider these facts:

 

  • Many volunteers that are working on databases for non-profit organizations are frustrated by the inefficiency of the system (often entering data into multiple sources), and the lack of usage of the data in future endeavors.  Volunteers participating in what they see as non-productive process have a much higher burn out ratio.  What would your organization be like if it had a lesser turn-over of volunteers?
  • Often a non-profit will use a score of volunteers to do what one automated process can do, thinking that they are saving money since volunteers are free.  Can you imagine what would happen if your organization were to repurpose those volunteers into doing something more mission oriented?
  • Non-profits are competing for America’s share of the charity wallet with antiquated systems and poorly-executed processes highly dependent on volunteers.  Through automation of processes and responses non-profits are able provide a consistency of action in prospect and donor follow-up and appreciation often increasing donations by at least 10% annually.  (This means more than simply implementing a CRM database, it requires set-up of processes and the automation of those processes.)  What would a 10% increase in your gross contributions look like for your organization?

 

Ultimately, whether the software is free or not, the success of CRM software depends on the implementation execution of a good business strategy.  My best advice is do what you do best (the mission of your organization) and rely on CRM experts to help you achieve success with your donor/support database.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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