Customer Relationship Management Software is about relationships!

CRM For Nonprofit Organizations, CRM for Nonprofit, Not for Profit CRM, Best CRM Nonprofit is about Relationships,

The nonprofit world is all about creating and managing relationships with its constituents.  So, why is it that some nonprofits don’t spend more time and focus on developing new and existing relationships? Maybe it’s because many nonprofits are simply complicating the matter and need the help of software automation such as Customer Relationship Management to assist in developing their programs. Below you will find several simple ways using a good CRM system may help develop relationships at your nonprofit.

The Secret of CRM is Building Relationships 

1.  Consolidate… Avoid Disparate Data Syndrome!

This article  posted some time ago underscores the process some nonprofits use to manage their relationships.  The results are alarming:

Over half the small to medium-sized nonprofits who responded said they store information about contacts in more than four different places. In fact, 20% said they store it in more than ten places! Many of them use solutions that make it hard for the whole staff to access it – 58% used Excel, 52% used a personal contact manager like Outlook, and an alarming 55% reported using slips of paper.

Storing information in 10 places and using slips of paper is a really bad idea.  All of that information represents a valuable relationship and connection you have with someone who believes in your mission.  A CRM helps you treat each of your constituents as a whole person by allowing you to see how they have engaged with you in the past while also showing the many ways they relate to your organization. When you have all of their data in the same place, you can clearly see who people are, thank them for their previous donations, and facilitate a deeper relationship between your organization. Do not minimize the value of those relationships with sloppy Customer Relationship Management business practices.

2.  Relationships matter:

It almost sounds like a cliché, but it’s still true; a solid service relationship matters.  If you want your donors and friends to continue to champion your cause with their friends, you have to go above and beyond normal service.  Consider this story as an example:

A widow learned about a particular charity through a friend. She decided to donate because she was so taken with what the organization did for physically challenged children. She gave $50 online at the organization’s website. She got a minimal receipt by email but never received a thank you letter in the mail nor any other communication from the organization. She never donated again.

How much time would it have taken to pick up the telephone and contact a first time donor? At the most, five minutes.  If the organization would have investigated a little more deeply, they might have learned about the widow and her connection to the organization.  As it stands now, the organization will never know, and likely not grow their donor base.  Look for ways to make small “touches” that will yield second and third conversations with your donors.  You will double and triple your returns.  How can you keep tabs on all of those “touches”? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to know the digital foot print of your constituents?  A small investment in a software system may make your Customer Relationship Management more manageable.

3.  Time is Money:

One of the common objections to Customer Relationship Management software is the cost.  Does it really save you in the long run if you don’t have an efficient system in place?  You spend countless hours tracking down people who know “something” about donors, and then cobbling their memories together to try to build solid connections with your donors. And, what happens when your development officer who know everything leaves your nonprofit?  Your nonprofit pays employees to do the work at hand, however, the intellectual capital stored on each donor, volunteer, or vendor doesn’t have to go when he/she does.

The reality is this, cost should be a small obstacle to overcome in comparison to the relationships you potentially harm because you do not have a “single version of truth” in a quality software program.  Your time is valuable.  Your mission is critical, and no one is making it happen if you are always spending your working hours trying to decipher someone else’s handwritten notes. With Customer Relationship Management, people in your organization start to get on the same page, thinking similarly about business practices, using the same tools and building relationships with the same constituents. Building stronger relationships is the secret to increasing your chances to grow your donor and member population.

To talk more about how Customer Relationship Management Software can play a significant role in your nonprofit, please Contact Us.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

CRM for Nonprofit free advice and consultations

Do You Wish You Had Jessie’s Membership Software?

Membership Management Software like any software isn't perfect. Finding a new tool isn't like getting a new girlfriend.

Come on! If you were around in the 80’s, you know you sang along to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie Girl”, right? Heck, you may even have watched old Rick on General Hospital.

No, this article is not about Rick Springfield, rather a quick look at some stats and key findings about Association Management Software which I found interesting and wanted to share with you. The findings made me think about the problem with expectations and comparison.

Further, it made me ultimately think about the problem with wanting something perceived to be better before you truly know it is or not. For those who weren’t around (or would rather forget they were involved in the “80’s”), I have provided a “refresher” at the end just for you, enjoy!

Listen to Rick With Your Membership Software?

Much unhappiness is caused by comparison

Well, now that we have digressed a bit down memory lane and/or sparked a resurgence in “Who the heck is Rick Springfield?” the hunk of this article rests in the idea that a tremendous amount of unhappiness may be caused by comparison.

So why do we compare? In many cases, comparison or the desire to have something else is often linked to some form of insecurity or fear. It’s the idea that someone or something is better than what you have. After all, the only way to compare is to lift something up and diminish something else. If something is better than what you have, then there is certainly something that’s worse .

In the case of software, does that mean that all are equal? No. So, how do we avoid comparison in software?

First, we need to realize that it’s just code written by people. And, the truth is every software program has a unique value proposition, strengths, cons, looks different, and have different people supporting it. Fundamentally, they were written from a unique foundation and sought to provide a new way to solve a problem better than the alternative.

Before you covet, let’s look at the facts folks

Guess what? 60% of associations do recommend their current Membership Management software. Surprising? Yes, despite the recent articles, the majority of Association Executives from this survey would recommend their current Association Management Software. If you haven’t seen this graphic before, below you will find a recent study for by Bear Analytics which may help you picture the numbers. has provided data on Membership Database Software in your search for AMS Software.

Is CRM Satisfaction better or worse than AMS satisfaction? 

Quite frankly, the 60% number was more than I would ever have expected. In fact, the numbers were so high that I took some time to look at some other research data provided on CRM, Customer Relationship Management Software.  I have a lot of roots in CRM software and felt like this may provide some good insights here. And, according to a Software Advice survey done on a comparable size group (about 300), only 39% of CRM users stated they were happy with their existing CRM tool. Wow! Association Executives like their software 21% better than CRM users like their software.

In a recent survey performed, CRM Satisfaction is less than Association Management Software by 20%

The Solution May be What You Have

In light of the good report, Association Executives should take some comfort in these numbers. In that spirit, I encourage the 60% of respondents who would recommend their solution to take a few moments to enjoy it! Send an email into your vendors customer support just to say “Thanks” rather than “Calling” just when things go wrong.  For the 40% who don’t, there are options out there which may be better suited for you as well. And, know that we just need to help you find the right “Fit”. There are good options to be explored!

People, Processes, and Technology 

However, we must realize that there is no technology out there which can overcome bad training, bad processes, or bad data. As stated before, often times when systems suck, it’s not about the database software in place. Rather, failure stems from the impact of poor processes and poorly trained resources. Success may simply be achieved by training your team to know how to use what they have better.

Listen to Rick!

Don’t wish you had “Jessie’s AMS”. Let’s switch the radio frequency in our minds. In fact, I suggest a new song from the classic Mr. Stephen Stills called “Love the One your With“.

Do you Love the Membership software you are with!

Go ahead! Take a moment and relive those 80’s glory days! 

If the AMS is Dead? My Thoughts on the Death of the AMS

Death of the AMS

For decades, Association Executives have used specialized off the shelf software written just for them to perform their duties more effectively. For many, we have referred to this as an Association Management Software, The AMS. Is it still relevant? In this article, I am addressing a specific thesis from a veteran Association Executive, Mr. John Mancini, who believes that the AMS software falls short in living up to the expectations.

 A Thought On The AMS Software Myth

Mr. Mancini’s Core Thesis: 

Below you will find an excerpt summarized to prime you for my thoughts to follow:

One Executive Director believes that the AMS Database is dead. We discuss here.

My Thoughts, I hope you find them Smart! 

1. One-Size does not fit all: 

Mr. Mancini uses a German term, Eirelegende WollMilchSau, in order to paint a problematic view among his colleagues about Association Management Software (AMS) software. In essence, he believes it’s time for a change in the prevailing thoughts that an AMS is still capable as an  “all in one”. And, the thought that an AMS can solve the majority of problems today is flawed thinking.

I agree that there is not one software which can solve the problems of every size association today. We keep track of over 100 systems which purport to have a solution for membership based organizations in the market today. The “marketing noise” is thick and the cloud of uncertainty weighs heavy on many Association Executives seeking a solution. There is not “One-Size” fits all which is a legitimate choice for every size (small,medium, large) association today.

2. Expectations: 

Per Mr. Mancini, the prevailing thought has been that the AMS has been viewed as the “Sun” in the Association technology “solar system” far too long and as Association Executives it is time for the community to reset their thoughts and expectations about its capabilities and merits of worth.

Yes, I agree that expectations are out of whack for larger associations who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a platform. It’s a fallacy to believe that one software system is capable enough to handle the load requirements of large organizations today. Government Relations software, Social Networking Software, Learning Management Software, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation Software, Financial General Ledger software and even advanced business reporting are often software options which sometimes need to be considered in place of the traditional “All in One” membership database software program.

Having said that, I work with many small and midsize associations who are reviewing options today. And, the number one reason why we are called into to help is to assist with finding a solution to improve inefficiency caused by disparate systems. They want a prescription to eradicate a virus which I refer to as Disparate Data Syndrome. In short,

  • They seek one data version of the truth.
  • They desperately need to get out of “Excel Hell”.
  • “Bring all their data together into one unified platform”.

Therefore, I disagree primarily with Mr. Mancini in the sense that every size organization cannot work with one Association Management solution to handle the membership needs of the organization.

3. Guess what Ladies and Gentlemen? Size does matter!

In other words, size does matter in terms of the capability to solve problems with an “Eirelegende WollMilchSau” or single Association Management Software solution today. In fact, I believe there are quite a few awesome software solutions built and designed for small and mid size associations today which can accomplish what they need. Association Management system are capable of bringing together many disparate systems. In fact, most AMS systems can bring together 6 common systems used today into one platform. And, that’s what most are asking for, wanting , and quite frankly need to accomplish in the small to midsize arena. More often than not, small and midsize associations can get what they need.

4. If all you have is a hammer….

Now, back to the larger size associations and the problem with perceptions. I believe it’s applicable to think about the law of the instrument proposed by Abraham Maslow’s in “The Psychology of Science”. In essence, it’s the concept that many have heard “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Because many large associations have “bought” into the idea of an all in one AMS system, it’s a common belief that “everything” should be solved by it because that’s all you have. To the point, it may be that an Association Management software system can’t handle the workload required by very large associations. I believe the error falls in the belief that just because you have an AMS software in your association, that it has to be able to solve all problems. Having ” A hammer” doesn’t mean that it should be used for everything.

5. To Thine Own Self Be True

Each trade and professional organization is different. Regardless of being an association, your people, processes, and existing technology are different from your peers. And, certainly, larger Associations have dynamics which are quite diverse and unique. It’s important to be realistic about who you are before you settle on “one” system or going the route of the “best of breed” in order to solve your business challenges. You have to determine your uniqueness and open your mind to the realization that the myth of “one system” may or may not transpire.

6. Integration, Integration, and Openness Required  

Moving forward, platform plays and systems with an open architecture in this space will be paramount to find success in the large association arena. I believe that integration software tools and allowing an easy to use open Application Program Interfaces (API) to allow systems to connect will rule the AMS world moving forward.

Today, the great thing for Association Executives is that many of the leading Association Management Software systems today provide and foster partner relationships with “best of breed” providers such as email marketing, marketing automation, abstract management, reporting etc. And, today open API’s and Cloud based solutions open the door for all this to transpire easier, faster, & cheaper than ever before.

In the commercial software world, tools such as Cazoomi, Zapier, Itduzzit, Dell Boomi, Scribe etc. do this now for many enterprise software applications. It’s a beautiful thing!

My final Thought: 

  • Do I believe that Association Management Software (EMS or whatever you call  it) is dead for every association? Not at all!
  • Do I believe that there should be a realignment of expectations and stop seeking the sacred Eirelegende WollMilchSau myth? Absolutely, right on brother! 
  • Do I believe in having a system which provides easy integration, connectivity, and strong best of breed relationships with strategic partners? You betcha!

Any software should be viewed as an enabler. We need to “CTRL/ALT/Delete” the expectation that there is one silver bullet for every problem faced in an organization.

People, Processes, and Technology are the players involved in this so-called “mythical story”. And, the two P’s which tend to make us the most “pissed off” are tough to swallow. Why? Because it’s easy to blame software.

Regardless of size, Associations need to find an open platform and software partner which understand where “they fit” respectively. It is critical to clearly define early on what can and can’t be accomplished with a respective solution. You will always need a master database system and the membership database software (AMS) today does that quite well.

I enjoyed Mr. Mancini’s thoughts, but I believe we need to reset the expectations a bit, tone down the marketing noise and focus on getting “what you need”.

Until then, I hope you keep SmartThoughts in mind.

We can help you get the membership software you need!