Constituent relationship management (CRM) software is a way for nonprofits to track their relationships with donors and other constituents.
CRM software records past involvement and basic donor data, helps nonprofits implement tailored outreach strategies, and gives organizations insights through robust reports.
Nonprofits use CRM software to better organize data, manage their supporter relationships more effectively, and all around practice more efficient and successful fundraising.
Since CRMs consolidate data, all sources can communicate to give nonprofits a comprehensive understanding of their donor relationships.
Since past involvement with a nonprofit is the best indicator of future involvement, it is crucial that organizations have a holistic picture of their supporter interactions.
With detailed insights, nonprofits can tailor outreach strategies to speak to supporters’ habits and preferences, leading to a more invested base!
The Most Important CRM Features
In-Depth Donor Profiles
A nonprofit CRM system should be able to track everything from donors’ names and addresses to their historical involvement with your organization.
The more information you have, the more relevant and engaging your communications will be.
Reliable CRM software should be able to send out automated and targeted email campaigns to the donors whose email addresses you have on file.
You should also be able to customize these emails so they reflect your brand and needs.
Your CRM should be able to generate a variety of robust reports, from those on universal fiscal activity to those on individual donor engagement.
The most powerful CRMs should even let you configure custom reports to receive organization-unique insights!
In order to send out the most relevant and compelling communications to your donors, your CRM must include list segmentation features.
By being able to segment your constituent list, you can approach donors much more accurately and efficiently.
Benefits of CRM Software
With a lot of data coming in from a variety of sources, it can feel like your data management is scattered. The centralization that nonprofit CRMs provide makes data tracking and consultation much easier.
Not to mention, this centralization provides you with a complete understanding of your donors, since you’ll have the full picture to inform your efforts.
It takes personalized outreach to build an invested supporter base. But with your communications in one platform and donor data in the other, segmentation can be an arduous process.
Since CRMs house both communications and donor information in the same place, you can quickly segment your list by specifying any field filed in the platform!
With CRM software, your organization is able to store constituent social media profiles and target social media posts right from the platform! Plus, you’ll have access to social sharing tools that your supporters can use to forward your content to their networks.
These tools can help you spread your social media reach, enabling you to acquire more new donors and better engage existing ones.
Many CRMs have basic event management tools that will help you streamline the planning process and provide your donors with a more convenient event experience.
For example, you should be able to build custom event registration forms that supporters can use to purchase tickets online, as well as track event RSVPs to monitor attendance and view it in conjunction with other supporter actions.
Since CRMs track virtually everything, your nonprofit can run a variety of reports, expediting your operations and giving you deeper performance insights that will enable you to improve more quickly.
For example, you can generate up-to-date reports on your financial activity to share with stakeholders and the government, as well as run reports on any of your efforts (quite literally!).
Donors aren’t the only constituents you need to manage! In fact, CRMs can help you oversee the involvement and optimize the efforts of all types of contributors so that your strategies are sure to be a success.
For example, you can create universal workflows for complex campaigns and projects, assigning staff and volunteers to different duties. The software will even alert them when it’s time to act!
Nonprofit CRM Software Uses
A nonprofit’s annual fund requires constant attention. Since annual campaigns are continuous fundraising efforts, nonprofits need an effective way to keep up with the constant influx of supporter and donation information. CRMs are that way!
Additionally, since annual campaigns are focused on forming and developing donor relationships, CRM software is a critical fundraising tool.
Nonprofits must use constituent relationship management software to determine the best appeal, communication, and follow-up strategies.
The major gift cultivation process requires plenty of time and resources. Not to mention, nonprofits must be able to strike the perfect timing for their meetings, asks, and follow-ups!
Without strong CRM software in place, your staff can easily get their wires crossed.
CRMs enable you to get necessary insights into prospects (for example, affinity and giving capacity) and plan out complex cultivation and stewardship workflows across staff.
The bottom line is that you need a strong CRM system in place in order to win those major gifts!
Your nonprofit doesn’t just rely on monetary donations. Similarly, your CRM system should track more than just donor contributions!
Your software should also be able to keep up with volunteer involvement and interactions.
With CRM software, your organization can more easily plan out volunteer projects and target certain volunteers with the opportunities they would be most suited for.
When you use CRM software to keep track of volunteers—and not just donors!—you can more effectively engage all types of supporters!
Most nonprofits know just how difficult event planning can be. Whether you’re organizing a gala, a marathon, or a charity auction, it can be difficult to stay on top of all of the logistics you need to cover!
CRMs ease the burden of event planning. They can do everything from targeting the most relevant event prospects to crafting personalized follow-ups with efficiency.
Most CRMs enable you to create customizable event registration forms where supporters can conveniently purchase tickets and RSVP online.
Plus, by organizing your event through your CRM, all data collected from your event will be channeled into your supporter profiles, giving you yet another insight into their involvement.
Fundraising with Nonprofit CRMs
CRM software includes fields to store any donor data field imaginable, from basic biographical and contact information to complex giving and interaction histories.
Many CRMs even enable you to create custom fields to track unique information that’s highly pertinent to your organization. Additionally, most CRMs allow you to track which supporters are a part of your membership programs (if you have one).
Since this information is all stored in one place, not only is it easier to organize, consult, and leverage, but you’ll also receive a holistic view of your donors.
With a complete picture into their habits, affinities, and preferences, you can better target your supporters with the personally tailored outreach strategies that lead to longer-term relationships (e.g. greater giving!).
CRMs have basic prospect research and cultivation tools (for example, you’re able to track donor data that might tip you off to prospects, craft personalized communications, and plan out multi-step cultivation workflows).
However, to receive the most accurate and powerful insights into major and planned giving prospects, you’ll likely need to implement a prospect research tool or hire a consultant.
Having an accurate and comprehensive set of data in your CRM can really help you out here. The more data you have to inform your screenings, the better able you’ll be to pinpoint the donors who could be giving more!
Matching gifts are essentially the “buy-one-get-one-free” sale of the fundraising world.
And luckily, any matching gift information you receive from your donors can be logged in your CRM software! All it takes is integrating your CRM with a matching gift tool.
These tools enable you to place a field that donors can use to check their matching gift eligibility right on your donation form. If a donor happens to work for a company that gives matching gifts, you’ll know to send matching-gift-tailored emails to them from now on.
The more donors know about matching gifts, the more likely they will be to submit the paperwork to their employers. And the more likely your nonprofit is to receive larger donations—with minimal extra work!
CRM Software: Our Top Picks
Salsa is much more than just a CRM! It’s a full fundraising suite.
With the addition of robust advocacy, peer-to-peer, and communications tools, your nonprofit can accomplish everything from one platform.
Fundly CRM is a powerful donor management and online giving platform.
Your organization is able to mix and match a wide variety of features, from event planning to crowdfunding, to find the perfect fit.
DonorPerfect’s CRM software offers nonprofits plenty of variety.
With both on-site and cloud-based models and a number of add-ons, you’re sure to find a solution that can meet your needs!
Bloomering is a full-featured CRM software that focuses on donor retention.
Use features such as the donor at-a-glance view with integrated data from DonorSearch to improve relationships with your constituents.
Essential CRM Software Integrations
Double the Donation
Double the Donation is a powerful matching gift tool that enables organizations to raise more money from companies and corporations.
By integrating this tool with your CRM, your organization will be able to collect data on your donors’ professional relationships and see where the matching gift opportunities lie!
360MatchPro, powered by Double the Donation, is an end-to-end solution meant for nonprofits with greater matching gift needs.
With 360MatchPro, you can identify matching gift eligibility through more channels, automate complex email campaigns, and run robust reports on your performance so you never miss out on the opportunity to raise more money!
By integrating DonorSearch’s wealth screening and prospect research tools with your nonprofit CRM, your organization will quickly be able to spot potential major donors in your base.
When you know who to target, you’ll be better able to plan out intelligent cultivation and stewardship strategies. Never again will your nonprofit leave money on the table!
I help run a small nonprofit. Do we need CRM software?
Any nonprofit can benefit from CRM software! However, it’s important to consider your needs carefully before shopping.
While you want a solution that’s going to be scalable, your organization might not need something with all of the bells and whistles.
Not only is more complex software more expensive, but your organization also might not be at the point where a CRM with a complex feature set is necessary.
Instead, focus on the basics—like comprehensive donor profiles that can help you get to know your supporters better and grow your base!
How does CRM software actually work?
CRMs are complex pieces of software, so the way they work can vary significantly from platform to platform.
However, most CRMs include:
- Customizable supporter profiles where you can track all donor data and interactions.
- Communication automation and list segmentation.
- Campaign management features, like task calendars and staff reminders.
- Basic online donations capabilities, such as the ability to create branded webforms and track donations.
In some CRMs, these features will be lightweight, while in others they’ll be more robust. This level of variation can accommodate nonprofits with all sorts of functional and budgetary needs.
Can CRM software be integrated with our other fundraising software?
A powerful CRM should be able to support integrations with all of your fundraising software and automatically pull data from these sources.
However, keep in mind that integration can take a significant amount of time and money.
The ease of integration depends on the platforms you’re trying to integrate. Some pieces of software will be more or less compatible with your CRM than others, so make sure to ask your vendor during the buying process!
Does CRM software include features aside from donor management?
CRMs are known for being comprehensive. In other words, the short answer is yes!
CRM software can include all sorts of tools, from member and volunteer management features to event planning capabilities and much more.
However, as with most facets of CRM software, the features you’ll receive depend on the vendor you work with. You’ll have to evaluate your needs, then scope out a vendor who provides the feature set you want.
“Donor database” is an exact synonym for “nonprofit CRM software.”
“Nonprofit CRM” is an abbreviated way of saying “nonprofit CRM software!”
“Fundraising software” applies to any type of nonprofit-specialized software (including CRMs!).
“Nonprofit software” is another term for “fundraising software.”
“Donor management software” can be used interchangeably with “nonprofit CRM software.”
“Donor relationship management software” is another synonym for “nonprofit CRM.”
Cloud-Based vs. Onsite CRM Software
- What is it? Cloud-based CRM software is accessed via the internet, through an online login portal. Staff members can access the software simultaneously from any computer, tablet, or smartphone (many cloud-based CRMs even have mobile apps!).
- Who is it good for? Cloud-based software is ideal for nonprofits who often need to use their software on the go (for example, during events and donor meetings). It’s also great for nonprofits who need to provide users with varying levels of permissions access.
- What is it? On-site CRM software is a more traditional solution. Installed on a computer at your nonprofits’ office, it can only be accessed on one device, from one location.
- Who is it good for? On-site CRM software is generally used by larger organizations, who have more resources to install and maintain it. This type of software is also more secure than cloud-based software and must be used by certain nonprofits, like healthcare organizations, for information protection.
CRM Purchase Considerations
How Much Data Do We Have?
Nonprofit CRMs vary in the number of constituent profiles they can store, so it’s important to determine how much donor data you have currently before buying.
Don’t forget to leave yourself a little extra room. Your organization will be growing after all!
You should also evaluate how difficult data transfer to the new software will be and how much support your vendor provides with this process.
What Do We Need to Track?
As we’ve mentioned before, the features and capabilities included in nonprofit CRM software can vary significantly from solution to solution.
Think about which major data points you’ll need to capture (and what various efforts you’ll need to run).
Your software should either have these capabilities built in or support integrations with another platform that can provide them.
Is Everyone On the Same Page?
Considering how comprehensive CRM software is, it will likely affect most of your staff members’ jobs in some way.
That’s why it’s important to make CRM selection a collective effort. Talk to your staff to see what they’re hoping to gain from the new software.
When everyone is on the same page, you’ll have a united front to pitch the purchase to your board, and the implementation and training processes will run much more smoothly.
What Do the Reviews Say?
CRM software is a significant investment, so it’s absolutely crucial to do your research before you sign the contract.
In other words, it can never hurt to get a second opinion, especially if that opinion happens to be from organizations who have used the software.
Check out some online reviews and ask your vendor for references from other nonprofit clients. If something seems off or they won’t provide references, you might want to consider looking at another vendor.
What Are the Integration Options?
Gone are the days when nonprofits kept their software in separate “silos.”
CRMs provide a centralized solution, so integrations with your other software platforms are a must. Otherwise, your insights will be limited.
Find out before you buy whether or not the CRM you’re looking at supports fluid integrations with the other platforms you use. Bonus fact: CRM software integrated with other platforms is called a “CRM system!”
What’s Our Budget?
Unfortunately, it costs money to raise money, and CRM software is no exception.
Therefore, it’s important to set a clear budget and remember your budgetary restrictions as you decide which CRM to buy.
Keep in mind: the price listed on the vendor’s website usually doesn’t reflect the full cost. CRMs can have hidden costs, such as number of profiles, payment processing fees, and training and support services.
Buying Nonprofit CRM Software Step-by-Step
Common CRM Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them!)
Your CRM isn’t scalable.
Your CRM should be capable of growing with your organization as your needs evolve and you acquire new constituents. If it isn’t, you’ll be shelling out more money for a new solution sooner rather than later.
Make sure that the CRM you select has room for extra supporter profiles and can be expanded upon with additional vendor features and third-party integrations like robust event management software.
But remember: you want to strike an even balance here. Your organization also doesn’t want to waste money on a feature set that’s much too expansive for your current needs.
Your CRM software doesn’t include social media capabilities.
Presently, social media is one of the most prevalent communication channels. If your organization is looking to engage donors online, you should be establishing a solid social media presence.
It will be much harder to stay on top of your social media communications without a CRM.
Not only can your CRM keep track of supporter social media profiles, but it also gives you the tools you need to spread your reach and gain valuable performance insights.
In other words: if your nonprofit is active on social media, your CRM should definitely have social media features!
You don’t set goals for your CRM software.
CRM software is meant to enable your organization to better track constituent involvement and exceed your fundraising goals. However, if you don’t set any goals, your CRM will be reduced to a glorified database.
Start by setting objectives for your donor retention and acquisition rates more broadly, and then get down to specifics.
For example, perhaps your nonprofit wants to send out a certain number of emails and increase your open and click-through rates. Or maybe you want to broaden your social media reach.
Whatever the case is, make sure that your organization is setting goals that you can easily track in your CRM so that you can hold yourself accountable for growth!
There isn’t a clearly defined process for your staff members.
Some data (like email addresses and information submitted through online donation forms) will automatically be logged in your CRM system.
But other data points, such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings, might need to be inserted into your software manually.
In order to provide yourself with the most accurate and comprehensive set of data, you should establish clear data entry and management procedures. Set guidelines for all data sources, and keep task overlap to a minimum.
Additionally, make sure that all staff members using the database are trained on your software.
Expert Advice for CRM Software
CRM software can help your organization stay much more organized than using a simple spreadsheet would. The automation features included in this software are priceless for nonprofits, especially those with limited resources.
Nonprofit CRM software makes donor stewardship friendlier. With all information in your base, you can truly understand your donors to build genuine, invested relationships.
For fundraisers who are used to thinking their fundraising database is “all there is,” it’s time to get hip to constituent relationship management (CRM) software and cloud solutions!
Donor databases are vital for nonprofit fundraising. We need to treat donors like the valuable humans they are. That means remembering what they say, when they’ve given, and how they’ve interacted with us.
Additional CRM Resources
More Info About Nonprofit CRMs
Looking for even more information about nonprofit CRM software?
Take a look at this amazing resource from our friends at Fundly. It’s extremely comprehensive!
Questions About Buying a CRM
You might still have some questions about nonprofit CRM software.
If so, check out these answers to the 20 most frequently asked CRM questions.
Types of Fundraising Software
Nonprofit CRMs are just one type of nonprofit fundraising software.
Find out more about the many other kinds of software that can help your nonprofit!