Choosing the right CRM for your non-profit

Non-profits are unique organizations, exhibiting just as many differences with for-profit businesses as they have similarities. Because of this, selecting software packages, business systems, and marketing tools can be a bit tricky. Knowing which features are mandatory, which are optional, and which are unnecessary is crucial to making the right decision.

If you pick something with too many for-profit bells and whistles, your staff might spend more time trying to find workarounds than actually using the system. On the other hand, if you don't emphasize certain requirements, your non-profit could suffer. Regardless of the specific features you need, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is something you should heavily consider for your organization.

What is a non-profit CRM?

CRM software begins as a digitized address book, storing information for all of your donors, volunteers, and business contacts. That foundation is quickly expanded into numerous functions, such as creating email campaigns, tracking volunteer engagement, and analyzing donor trends. Fundraising efforts and grant applications can be compiled, evaluated, and replicated on regular cycles.

Although non-profit organizations are distinctly different from for-profit companies, there are numerous similarities that CRM can capitalize on. Traditional companies create email campaigns to boost sales, while non-profits might conduct similar efforts to keep members updated on developing events and drive higher engagement levels. Typical corporations watch revenue and profitability like a hawk, while non-profit companies must keep an eye on donations, grants, and ensuring expenditures align with legal requirements.

The applications might be a bit different, but CRM for non-profits can be a crucial investment in your organization's health.

Why non-profit organizations need a good CRM solution

In 2018, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project examined a decade’s worth of data from more than 13,000 non-profit organizations. One of the key lessons they discovered was that donor retention rates averaged below 50 percent for each of those ten years. For-profit businesses know that acquiring new customers takes between five and twenty-five times more effort and investment than simply retaining current customers. This trend might be even more exaggerated in the non-profit arena: donors who are so inspired by your cause that they’ll give their own money toward it can be very difficult to replace.

To pull another example from the business world, a customer relationship study by Bain & Co found that a 5 percent increase in customer retention results in more than a 25 percent increase in profit. The same principle is at play with non-profits—imagine how much more money and energy you could apply toward your cause if you could eliminate half of your fundraisers.

Ensuring donors stay engaged doesn't require an excessive amount of effort. Keeping tabs on them, sending email updates, and requesting support at critical junctures are all features that CRM software for non-profits can automate or simplify. Salesforce reports that, on average, non-profits who use their CRM system see a 24 percent increase in donor retention and a 36 percent increase in constituent engagement. Nine out of ten non-profit organizations feel that Salesforce for non-profits has improved their ability to achieve their mission.

How to choose a good CRM for non-profit needs

Because the nature of non-profits is so varied, lumping them all together is about as useful as putting all businesses in the same bucket. Generalizations can be helpful to some extent, but when it comes to something as broad as defining the best CRM for non-profit organizations, there are multiple types.

As you begin to research which non-profit CRM is the best fit for your association, consider the core aspects of your non-profit. When it comes to involvement, do you organize large, in-person gatherings or focus on coalescing email and phone engagement for government officials? Is your fundraising concentrated on a small group of core donors, or do you organize numerous large fundraisers throughout the year? Each CRM emphasizes different features, and some of the larger categories include:

  • Advocating for action
  • Donation solicitation/management
  • Membership organization
  • Overall program administration
  • Relationship management (for volunteers, donors, & supporters)
  • Supporting fundraising efforts
  • Volunteer coordination

If your non-profit is founded on community engagement, communication tools will be far more important. The ability to create multiple email campaigns and customize them to different avatars, locations, and demographics can revolutionize how you interact with members. Although some non-profits rely very little on cash flow, it’s the lifeblood for others. In this case, building a donor database, managing online giving, and generating contribution insights are crucial.

When you begin evaluating CRMs for non-profit company, focus on these four specific areas at a minimum:

Requirements for CRMs for non-profits

  • Functionality: How user-friendly is the system? Is it intuitive, or will it require quite a bit of training? Are all of the features you need central aspects of the program, or are some less robust than you need?
  • Customization: A good CRM will have templates that support your general efforts, but can be adjusted to fit your specific needs.
  • Size and scope: Evaluate where you are and your short-, medium-, and long-term growth goals. You want to find a CRM that is easy to use where you are right now, but powerful enough to grow with you.
  • Integrations: If you currently use other apps, tools, websites, or software systems that affect your donor or volunteer relationships, check to ensure that they can integrate with the CRM you’re considering.

The Best CRM for Non-Profits

Although hardly an exhaustive list, these vendors characterize some of the best of what CRM has to offer non-profits. All three place a greater focus on different areas. For example, Salesforce CRM has the best donor retention capabilities, Salsa CRM boasts the most streamlined marketing tools, and Kindful CRM offers non-profit owners numerous customizable tools for online fundraising.

Salesforce CRM for non-profit organization

The undisputed leader in the for-profit CRM field, Salesforce has substantially customized its platform to fit the needs of various non-profit organizations. One of the critical advantages you can capitalize on here is the ability to generate deep insights into every aspect of your constituent base. Powered by artificial intelligence, Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics can help revive languishing organizations by offering ways to reach volunteers and donors in ways you might not have considered. One of the struggles many non-profits face is how to scale without coming across as robotic or detached. This is particularly poignant with highly emotional areas of engagement, such as memorial gifts.

Their Nonprofit Cloud offers innumerable ways to customize every aspect of your organization. For example, a recent fundraiser generated a large number of new contacts. You can enter these into the CRM software and develop a customized marketing campaign, complete with email sequences, specific engagement strategies, and followups to solicit future donations.

Salsa CRM

If grassroots communication is one of your group’s pillars, Salsa is a software platform you should seriously consider—as 10,000 other organizations already have. They heavily emphasize multi-channel advocacy, such as targeted messaging to local, state, and federal elected officials, as well as direct mail and click-to-call tools. If you consistently work with events, auctions, grants, and large numbers of volunteers, Salsa has features to facilitate those efforts.


Kindful CRM for non-profits

Kindful is geared toward growth in both membership and fundraising efforts. Online donations have never been easier than with this software, which provides numerous templates to design and customize various web pages according to the type of non-profit campaign you’re employing. Social media integration is available with a single click, letting donors and volunteers share their efforts on Facebook and Twitter.

This software system integrates with popular payment processors like PayPal and Stripe. Financial recordkeeping and management is a breeze, easily synchronizing with QuickBooks, Shopify, Emma, and Eventbrite, among others. Kindful is designed for non-profits in any situation where you need to keep detailed records about donor amounts and activity.

One more proof your non-profit needs a CRM solution

Here at iTechArt, we have great experience powering non-profits with CRMs, and we’d like to encourage other non-profits organizations looking to multiply their social impact by means of technology.

One of the recent examples is our partnership with Equal Education (EE), a social enterprise committed to bridging the learning gap and providing tuition for Looked After Children, adopted students with SEND, and vulnerable learners. The iTechArt team was set up to facilitate communication with tutors and streamline increasingly complex processes in one system.

The client decided to go after Salesforce due to its social focus and powerful functionality, and iTechArt acted as a EE’s Salesforce implementation partner to build a non-profit record management platform from scratch. Our primary goal was to leverage rich Salesforce expertise as well as perks of Salesforce Silver Consulting Partner status to deliver the solution that would help the EE team break free from multiple spreadsheets and tools and boost the productivity of every single endeavor.

We’ve successfully met the challenge and are still continuing to customize the EE solution. Equal Education is extremely happy with using the CRM system on a daily basis. By centralizing and automating everyday tasks, the company won some precious time back for what matters the most, i.e. achieving its mission to make education accessible for everyone.

Final Comment on your non-profit CRM

Regardless of which platform you choose, incorporating CRM software into your non-profit organization can revolutionize your group’s efforts. Not only will these tools make you more efficient, but they'll also ultimately serve to help you become more effective in accomplishing the goals you've prioritized.

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