When Giving Isn’t Guaranteed – How Nonprofits Can Manage Relationships with CRM


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No matter their size, or the cause they serve, nonprofits today face a common set of challenges. Professionals running these organizations have to manage paid employees and a variety of volunteers, build relationships with new and existing donors, and run large and complicated fundraising campaigns and events. This detail-oriented work isn’t easy to manage, but savvy nonprofit professionals will tackle it with creative solutions.

Smaller nonprofits often rely on homegrown methods to manage all of the moving parts across their organizations. Maybe donor contacts are stored in Outlook, donations are tracked in Excel spreadsheets, and email campaigns are run through an app like MailChimp. While this piecemeal approach can help in the short term, if the disparate software being used can’t cooperate easily, data management and reporting issues can develop quickly. Many of these homegrown solutions also don’t scale well, leaving nonprofits with an extra headache as the organization grows, creating challenges when new employees are onboarded.

Not knowing where data lives – or what it really means – is a problem for nonprofits of all sizes. That’s why deploying a customer relationship management platform (CRM) can help set a foundation for success that scales. While being able to invest in new tools is not always a given in the budget conscious world of nonprofits, a CRM platform offers obvious returns on investment that can be felt across an entire organization. Here are just a few ways a CRM solution can benefit a nonprofit:

1. Save TONS of time

From onboarding new staff and volunteers, to organizing target donor lists, there are a lot of time-consuming tasks that go into running a nonprofit. Fortunately, deploying a CRM platform can create an almost immediate productivity boost.

Organizations that use CRM have a standardized and easy to understand method to track and secure contact information. This database approach can save details about an organization’s last interaction with a donor or partner, ensuring smooth and seamless communication, no matter who is making a call or sending an email.

Creating a central hub for donor and client information also goes a long way toward speeding up training time for new volunteers and employees. This is especially true because almost all CRM platforms also include integrations with common apps and suites like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace. These integrations simplify back-end work for all staff members, saving time that can be spent on more valuable activities.

2. Improve donor communication

It’s no secret that donor fatigue is real. When nonprofits continuously reach out to the same group of people for more money, it can impact donor retention rates and eventually drive donors away. Good donor management involves thoughtful and direct outreach that cuts through the noise. Fortunately, CRM platforms can help make this complicated outreach simpler.

Many common CRM solutions use marketing automation to power email outreach. That means nonprofits can easily target and quickly tap a donor database to launch automated campaigns. In addition to cutting the time it takes to get emails out the door, CRM can also help better personalize the communications with those donors. The software enables a nonprofit to launch personalized campaigns based on key pieces of donor data like age, geographic area, and donation history. This helps ensure messages are aligned to specific groups, instead of continually bombarding an entire donor database with email blasts that may or may not be relevant.

Marketing automation helps with more than just connecting with donors, volunteers, and other audiences. Nonprofits can also automate key marketing workflows, making it easier to stay better engaged with all relevant stakeholders. Best of all, marketing automation makes it quick and easy to identify what outreach is working, and what’s missing the mark.

3. Personalize features for real-time metrics tracking

CRM platforms are highly customizable and can be shaped to fit the needs of a specific organization no matter what its mission is. That means app integrations extend to software commonly used in the nonprofit world. This includes software for important functions like payment processing for online donations. As a result of this integration, organizations will see fewer errors and reduce time spent flipping back and forth between apps or tabs.

CRM can also be customized to help with real-time metrics tracking. Measurement is a key part of many businesses, but is also particularly important in the nonprofit world, where many organizations operate on tight margins and strict deadlines. CRM-powered metrics tracking can provide easy access to every available donor and grant opportunity. It can also share real-time results from fundraising campaigns and volunteer sign ups. This level of access to real-time data can help nonprofits react nimbly to our changing world, ensuring the best results.

At a time of unprecedented disruption and distraction it can be hard for a nonprofit’s message to break through. With record-breaking inflation causing belt tightening around the world, many nonprofits are also concerned donors could cut charitable giving. In the face of these challenges, it is more important than ever for nonprofits to find new and innovative ways to operate and communicate effectively. CRM can be part of the solution, helping nonprofits get organized and deliver the clear and relevant communications needed to maintain crucial donor relationships.

Ellen Brezniak
As Chief Customer Officer at Act!, Ellen focuses on building, growing, and nurturing relationships with the brand’s customers. With 30+ years of experience in technology, she is responsible for establishing a high-caliber customer experience across the customer journey and exceeding customers’ expectations by driving CX optimization efforts across Act!’s portfolio of products. Prior to Act!, Ellen held roles including SVP of Customer Success at Intralinks and SVP of Customer Success and Operations at Constant Contact, where customer retention and engagement skyrocketed under her leadership.


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