Written By: Shane Norris - Oct 9, 2018
Blog5 min read

4 Helpful Considerations When Selecting Nonprofit CRM Software

Are you currently on the hunt for new nonprofit CRM software?

For anyone with deep ties to the nonprofit world, you probably know how CRM software can have an immense impact in creating meaningful relationships with donors.

Nonprofit CRMs—also known as donor management software—provide a reliable method of tracking relevant donor data. With a comprehensive view of a donor’s relationship, nonprofits can engage their donors appropriately and keep them involved for years.

There are so many vendors to choose from; it is often difficult to determine which will be the best fit for you and your organization.

In this article, we’ll walk you through several considerations for you to think about if you’re in the market for nonprofit CRM software:

  • What Defines Nonprofit CRM Software
  • Features You Want
  • Tallying the Costs
  • How to Compare Vendors

Once you make your way through these considerations, you should able to select a new solution with confidence.

What Exactly is Nonprofit CRM Software?

Constituent relationship management (CRM) software primarily serves as a solution for nonprofits to foster better relationships with their donors and constituents. CRMs were originally designed to be robust sales tools for the commercial sector.

In recent years, CRM software has evolved to satisfy the needs of nonprofit organizations. Today, nonprofit CRM software has become an essential piece of technology that helps nonprofits improve how they reach fundraising goals.

What exactly is nonprofit CRM software?

Although it may have started in the commercial sector—where it is referred to as “customer” relationship management—CRMs are built to do very similar things across both sides:

  1. Document communication between customers/donors and sales/outreach specialists.
  2. Record financial transactions (e.g. sales, donations) with reporting functionality.
  3. Tie all pertinent data together to provide a comprehensive view of the relationship with every prospect/donor/customer.
  4. Provide a way of sharing information with organization members.

Businesses have been using CRM software for years, but nonprofits are quickly catching up. As an outstanding tool for optimizing fundraising strategies, managing your organization’s data, and engaging your donors, implementing a CRM will make any nonprofit professional’s life much easier.

Below are some of the top-rated nonprofit CRM software you may run across in your search:

These are only a small sample of nonprofit CRM software from which you can select. There’s no perfect, “magic bullet” solution for every nonprofit, so it’s crucial to do your research.

Let’s take a look at four helpful considerations to help choose a solution that’s right for you.

1. Features and Functionality

Keep in mind that there are a few differences between a B2B-centric CRM and a CRM that is specifically intended for nonprofits. Simply put, you want to use the right tool for the job.

At its core, what you’re ultimately looking for in a nonprofit CRM is its donor and constituent data management capabilities. Here’s a look at functionality and features you’ll likely want:

  • Contact & Communication Management: For every entry in your CRM, you’ll want to retain accurate records of contact information as well as a history of communication. Additionally, you may want to think about whether or not a particular solution has the option to create custom fields to segment your donors into relevant groupings.
  • Donation Management: From recurring pledges to one-time donations, a CRM should be tracking all donations and attributing them to designated campaigns and donors. If your organization needs a way to track major donations, make sure you try to find a tool which handles this task appropriately.
  • General Data Management & Entry Tools: Data hygiene is crucial for the reliability of your data. When evaluating different software, ask your database administrator about what data entry and management features they would like to make their lives easier.
  • Reporting: This is another key component of any CRM. Think carefully about what performance metrics are important to you and how a given CRM handles reporting jobs.

Outside of these four core aspects your CRM software should have, here are a few other features you may want to think about:

  • Receipting
  • Pledge Reminders
  • Monitoring Fundraising Campaigns
  • Grant Proposal Management
  • Marketing Platform Connectivity
  • Lead Scoring
  • Online Donation Collecting, Processing

2. Ease of Integration

Across many nonprofits, managing data is a complex task because of the volume of data they must oversee. Additionally, a lot of that data lives in numerous places, which only messes things up further for database administrators.

The best method of managing data typically involves integrating data from these sources into a single system of record (SOR). A nonprofit’s CRM is one of the top sources that can be a pain to integrate, but it’s important because of the value of the data it stores.

When considering a nonprofit CRM software, try to understand what data integration will look like once it put into place. Some will have native integration tools and features right out of the box, meaning they’ll be more “integration-friendly” than others on day one.

Even if what you end up choosing doesn’t naturally integrate with other systems and software, you can still leverage a third-party data integration tool, such as ImportOmatic.

3. Support and Add-On Services

You aren’t just looking for the right software; you’re also looking for a vendor that will provide a level service that will maximize what you’ll get out of your CRM.

Vendors often provide multiple services related to their software. This usually includes the initial setup, maintenance, and training required throughout the CRM’s lifetime.

  • Initial Setup: At the very beginning, your vendor will likely assist in a setup process, but the level of service delivered at this phase can vary drastically. For example, some CRM software vendors may expect you to import all of your data by yourself, charge an additional fee to transfer data for you, or data transfer may be included as part of your package.
  • Training: After setup, you’ll want your team to start using the CRM as soon as possible, so there will be an acclimation period of learning. When examining vendors, ask questions about what they offer in the way of training.
  • Management & Customer Support: As time carries on, you may run into a couple of instances where you need to rely on customer support for assistance. Whether it’s troubleshooting issues or coordinating necessary software updates, this is still important to keep in mind.

4.  Comparing the Costs

Obviously, the cost is one of the biggest questions to answer when a nonprofit is evaluating a new CRM. Just remember that it is possible to find a solution that satisfies both your wants, needs and budgetary restrictions.

However, there are multiple parts of the equation to think about when you’re trying to understand how much a given CRM will cost you. Upfront costs are the most apparent, but you will likely encounter recurring or unanticipated costs along the way.

calculating costs of nonprofit crm

In the beginning, you may only be charged by how large your data set is or how many users (AKA seats) you want to have access. Beyond that, many vendors may charge you for things like uptraining, database cleanup, or even software updates.

Costs are a vital consideration; dig in and try to get a complete idea of the costs you may incur.

Final Thoughts on Nonprofit CRM Software

With an understanding of what a nonprofit CRM is, how it can help your organization flourish, and what things to look out for, you should be able to choose one which works best for you.

Above all else, if your CRM doesn’t help you optimize your relationships with your donors and constituents, you either need to find one that does or find out how to get the most out of the solution you end up choosing.

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About Shane Norris

Shane has worked in nonprofit technology for over 20 years. Prior to joining Omatic, he spent several years at Blackbaud (and partners) in Product Development and Professional services. He holds a Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Shane and his wife Elizabeth have two beautiful daughters.