Long-Term Sustainability with a Nonprofit Donor CRM System

Donor CRM Systems for sustainability at nonprofits

Ask any nonprofit executive to identify the most critical factor in the sustainability of their organization. And, you logically would think the answer would center around how well the mission is carried out. But the reality for every nonprofit is that without significant donor support, it would become nearly impossible to carry out the mission. In this article, I opine about how significant a solid nonprofit donor CRM system is in growing their donor base and ultimately sustainability.

Sustainability via a Donor CRM System 

While working with Nonprofit Executives, I have found that nonprofit sustainability depends largely on the agency’s ability to attract and retain donors. How is this done? Agencies must evolve in ways that maximize their use of Donor CRM database systems. Let’s look at expanding nonprofit customer (aka donor) relationship management for long-term sustainability.

Walking in the donors’ shoes 

Notice how I referred to donors as “customers” above. Why? Most major donors view themselves in that light:

  • They want to be recognized, as does any good customer, as a welcome part of the organization—almost like a family member.
  • They want to be acknowledged as a holistic person, not a checkbook.
  • They want to feel that the agency staff members care about them, not just their gift.

Why not just depend on the donor’s attraction to the agency’s mission? Here are just a few reasons:

  • There is increasing competition for every donor dollar. Regionally, nationally, and internationally, more and more organizations—some with similar missions—appeal to your agency’s donors and potential donors for gifts.
  • The prevalence of social media messaging creates both opportunities for increased communication and, at the same time, a social distancing between the agency staff and the donor. After all, social media are forms of mass communication unlike a personal note or telephone call.
  • Cultural norms, especially with respect to technology and communication, divide generations more than ever before. From baby boomers, to Millennials, Gen Xers, and Gen Ys, each generation comes equipped with expectations about types and levels of technology they prefer when it comes to interfacing with a nonprofit.
  • Bottom line? It is the nature of the relationship between the agency and the donor that makes the difference as to whom the donor will support.

Many Nonprofits have become increasingly adept at helping donors feel acknowledged, recognized, and welcomed. Investing in a crm system that performs functions related to Moves Management, Activity Management, Demographic Management, and/or Reporting of Donors helps agency staff track aspects of the nonprofit’s interfacing with donors and donor preferences.

Room for Growth—and Sustainability via a Donor CRM System

For quite a while now, commercial businesses have invested in crm software systems that go beyond tracking current customer behaviors and preferences. Businesses also track marketing and sales opportunities and activities—a pipeline management system.

Known as “customer relationship management” or donor relationship management, this approach underscores the notion that the right planning and contact tracking system maximizes efficiency across the commercial enterprise to help employees identify and take advantage of new opportunities to attract potential customers and increase sales.

Perhaps this is novel concept for some “old school” nonprofit executives today, but in order to survive and thrive will depend on how technology is used or not used in your organization now and into the future. Nonprofits that want to get serious about long-term sustainability—especially those whose donor base consists largely of a graying population—would benefit from adding a donor CRM system to their strategic plans for growth.

Evolving to a Donor CRM Software System

A donor CRM system for nonprofits goes a step beyond the tracking systems that nonprofits used in years past. Today, donor CRM systems are much more focused on how to leverage the data needed so that development officers can compete. It links a strategic pipeline management to current donor management and creates a plan for staff to invest in activities that will result in long-term sustainability.

With a CRM system, a nonprofit’s marketing plan can be tailored to attract donors from each of the culturally different generations. Plans can be segmented by gender, type of employment, familiarity with the agency’s mission, and other categories.

  • Planning includes multifaceted two-way communication avenues for marketing, for example, targeted by age group.
  • CRM systems tailor donor cultivation activities by age, gender, or individual preferences.

The only requirement? The decision to move forward with a CRM system. The right software that fits your organization’s mission and budget already exists. It’s time to embrace the market trends and face the facts. Nonprofits need to be armed with the best fit tools which will help them compete.

SmartThoughts has the expertise to help you invest wisely in the right software to add CRM to your donor management system to begin to implement a plan for long-term sustainability. Contact us for more information on our approach to software selection projects.

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Top 10 Questions You Should Ask On A Software Reference Call

Top 10 Super Smart Questions to ask of a software reference

Ok, Nonprofit Association Executives. It’s down to the wire in your search for the best damn Nonprofit Donor Database Software system in the land. You have dotted your “I’s” and crossed your “T’s”. It’s for certain  you have done your due diligence and finally your nonprofit is down to the last choice. In this article, we tackle the purpose of a software reference call, who you should talk too, and the top questions to ask too.

Purpose of the Software Reference Check 

I believe that it’s important to note that the reference check is one of the last steps before negotiating the purchase. The purpose of the reference check is to provide an audit of sorts on what the vendor has stated that they “can” do. In other words, the reference check is to find out if things are not what they seem such as was the purchase in line with expectations, any unexpected surprises, warnings to know about before implementing, or perhaps recurring issues that may be stated.

Who Should You Talk Too In A Software Reference Call 

It’s important to visit with relevant references. Here is what I suggest on who you should visit with on a reference call:

  • If possible, with context that is similiar to your situation. In other words, if you are a museum, talk to museums using the software too. You also should desire to have a conversation with somone who has the software at least 6 months and not more than three years too.
  • While not always feasbile within the nonprofit software sale situation, if you have a choice you want to talk with several different titles on reference calls. You may want to ask for the Executive Sponsor, the development officer who was in charge of the implementation, and perhaps someone who has specific experience in a high priority area for the software you desire such as Grants Management.
  • As a nonprofit you don’t have an unlimted budget for IT, do you? Of course not. So, references should have a similiar level of IT support that your organization has in place too.

Super Smart Questions to Ask on a Software Reference Call

So, what do you ask a reference to be sure that what you need mirrors your goals and requirements which are important?

To that question, we have come up with some questions to aide in the process for your nonprofit in this situation. Below is a list of valuable questions you should always ask during a reference call.

what to ask on a reference call

  1. What is your role in using the Nonprofit software database system? Ex. Primary User, Project manager, Support person.
  2. Were you the decision maker responsible for purchasing the last Nonprofit CRM?
  3. If you were involved, what made you choose the solution you selected?
  4. How long did it take you to do high priority functions? Ex. Sending an email to your donors or setting up events for the conference? Ask what is most important to your nonprofit.
  5. How long did it take to get your data migrated?
  6. How complete is the integration with Accounting? How hard was it to set up and maintain? Dues Billing?
  7. Have you seen an increase in efficiency since you implemented the nonprofit association management solution?
  8. How long did it take before you began to see a return on your investment?
  9. What’s the single best thing about the system? What is the worst thing?
  10. When implementing, did you incur any costs in addition to the price of the solution?

Ok, we couldn’t get it down to 10, sorry! So, here are several bonus questions for ya’ll:

  1. Did the vendor offer to give you anything in return for being a reference? How often are you used as a reference?
  2. Can you tell me about your experience with implementation and support? What went well? What would you do differently?
  3. If you went to another company, would you absolutely buy the same system again or would you look to see what else is available?

Closing Thoughts on Software Reference Checks 

References should be respected. They are taking time out to help you. So, I believe it should go without saying but it’s important to be respectful. Here are some ideas to do that:

  • Be sure you are talking to the right person
  • Schedule your call via email.
  • Send out questions before the call to minimize the time on your call.
  • Stay on track with the time that they provide to you.

If you have any insights into other questions which may help the community. Please share below.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind!

We provide a free document outlining the key questions to ask of a software reference