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We all know donor management is the key to personalizing donor communications and a vital factor in donor retention. Segmenting and managing donors effectively makes for  better relationships and encourages future engagement. But what is the best way to get this accomplished? Enter CRM – Customer/Constituent Relationship Management tools.



crm tools

What to use CRM tools for

The concepts and processes of CRM were originally intended as marketing resources for the for-profit sector. When used for donor management, CRM tools can help organize and expand a nonprofit’s relations with donors and prospects thereby maximizing fundraising efforts.

The host of CRM tools available vary significantly in complexity, function and cost; there is no one-size-fits-all system. These are some of the facets of an efficient CRM program:

  • The CRM system can organize and coordinate all donor/prospect data an organization uses for appeals, marketing and managing donor communications.
  • By automating the processes of donor interaction, a CRM system frees-up nonprofit management to focus on other areas, knowing that no donors or prospects will be forgotten.
  • The CRM is a place to store all of your donors’ information so it’s easy to update and share with your whole team.
  • A CRM will show when your organization last communicated with a donor, and why. You can see a complete history of your nonprofit’s dealings with each donor or prospect.
  • Comprehensive CRM programs can deliver metrics on various aspects of the fundraising process automatically and generate reports that aid strategy and forward planning.

As CRM systems become more complex, the fundamentals of good donor management remain the same. Whether the method is traditional or digital, better CRM should always be the goal.

Is the best tool in your PC already?

Most organizations aren’t awash with spare cash. Does donor management mean a whole department’s staff, costly software and weeks of training? Are there any existing systems that could work as an adequate donor management tool?

One of the most basic and still one of the best systems for small-scale donor management is Microsoft Excel. Like many small businesses, the smaller nonprofit can use Excel as a starter tool for managing donor/volunteer information. It’s a useful system, affordable and user-friendly.

If you don’t have Excel, visit TechSoup.com for free software options.

If you’ve ever used Excel in the workplace, you’ll be familiar with its ability to create charts and organize financial data. But dig a little deeper into its vast capability and you’ll be surprised how powerful the program really is.

Take a refresher course – available free online  – and you’ll be surprised how well this familiar program may work for your organization.

If your nonprofit is just starting out and not wanting to increase overhead, a system you’re already using for another application could be your answer. A costly purpose designed system for donor management may mean money down the drain if there’s no use for all the added features a more complex CRM offers.

Do you need a better CRM system?

Just as nonprofits can outgrow operating space, they can outgrow their donor management tools. While traditionally Excel is a great resource with a vast amount of capability, an application specifically designed for CRM has more features and deliver more value.

Switching systems is an involved procedure costing time, effort and money. Before investing in a shiny new program, be very sure that what your organization needs is a new donor management system. Ask these questions about your existing system before making a decision and you may save having to switch to a new CRM.

  • More training could be the solution if the current system has features you can’t use or understand.
  • Do you have support options for your current system? Is there available and affordable support?
  • Are you sure your system doesn’t have all the capabilities you want? Can you access documentation?
  • Is your system too weak for essentials? Having a system that fits your methods and budget is vital.
  • Perhaps the system is simply out of date, missing new features. Find out how it stays updated.

Every donor management system – from basic to cutting-edge – will only be as good as the user. Any system, despite the bells and whistles it boasts, will deliver poor results when implemented the wrong way.

When a switch is inevitable

You’ve asked questions and explored all possibilities but there’s no way around it; your organization needs a purpose-built CRM. Before choosing any program, research available CRM solutions online and talk to colleagues. The systems below are two examples of what’s available:

Sumac is a CRM designed specifically for nonprofits that offers five levels of functionality. The most basic version, “Bronze” is a free basic CRM system for one user with free online training, unlimited email support and unlimited upgrades and usage. For a reasonable monthly fee you can add Sumac Online; this lets you access your database through the internet.

BatchBook works for small nonprofits with budgets to match, an option that won’t break the bank and offers donor management basics. Based on storing your contacts in the cloud, this system gives a free 30 day trial and allows you to organize contacts, build better donor relationships and collaborate with team members.

Have you found an affordable, effective CRM system for your organization? Please share the good news with us in the comments!

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