What Nonprofits Should Look for in a CRM

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Nonprofit : 9 min read

What Nonprofits Should Look for in a CRM

You’ve decided to take your nonprofit to the next level by using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. Congratulations! The right CRM can offer you a lot of insights on how your nonprofit is performing.

But what does a nonprofit CRM look like?

Should nonprofit CRMs have specific features, or can you get away with one made for businesses? Let’s take a closer look at what nonprofits should look for in a CRM.

Nonprofit CRM basics:

The right CRM can be a game-changer for nonprofits. By managing your nonprofit’s relationships more effectively, you can build a stronger donor and volunteer pool, streamline your campaigns, track donations over time, and keep on growing. Here are some basics to look for in a CRM:

  • Organized communication

Each conversation with a donor should be logged so your team has a complete understanding of every interaction, whether it’s a phone call, an email, or a casual coffee meeting. With organized conversations and the option for email integration, you can thank donors, reach out to new contacts, and keep your communication in one place.

  • Ease of use

Not many nonprofits have time for a steep learning curve. Look for a CRM that’s easy to use. It should also work with other programs your team uses, especially email.

  • Automated admin tasks

Simplify your workflow with task reminders, automated emails, and a self-updating contact list. When your CRM eliminates admin tasks, you can keep your focus on building relationships. We're big fans of email templates that can be personalized.

creating an email template in copper crm
Creating an email template in Copper CRM
  • Continual growth

Your CRM should be able to grow with your organization—no matter how large it gets. Think long-term: can your chosen CRM expand as you do, with flexible features? This is one of the biggest issues with many free CRMs. They work for the bare basics, but don’t always scale well. Look for customizable options for data tracking and project management.

Don't worry about finding a CRM that's made especially for nonprofits. The principles of a good relationship manager are the same: organization, automation, and communication.

A CRM can skyrocket your fundraising efforts in 6 ways:

Every nonprofit organization relies daily on staff, donors, and volunteers. Without those connections, your nonprofit can't function. A CRM can go a long way toward supporting that community.

But while most CRMs can provide the general benefits we've covered so far, not all relationship managers are created equal. Here's what we recommend for nonprofit CRMs.

copper crm nonprofit reporting dashboard
An example of a nonprofit CRM reporting dashboard

1. Donation tracking can help your nonprofit grow.

Financial reports can show you exactly how your organization is doing. Look for a CRM that tracks financial data, so your nonprofit can:

  • Track donations as fundraisers are happening
  • Evaluate success after a campaign is finished
  • See new or missed opportunities
  • Project next year's numbers and strategize for the future

Most importantly: you should be able to see who has donated, and when. While donation tracking is a great way to see what your organization has accomplished, it’s only a small piece of the puzzle. We'll look at why donor acknowledgment is important in the next section.

2. Cultivate your donors.

Produced by Next After, The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark tracked 115 organizations and their recurring donor communications. This study found that after only three months of recurring donations, 91% of organizations had stopped acknowledging donations from those donors. Yikes. That’s a serious missed opportunity.

Do you think those donors kept on giving, year after year? Not likely.

What happens if you do take the time to cultivate your donor pool? The M + R Benchmarks Study for 2018 reported that 60% of repeat donors continue to donate on a yearly basis.

By encouraging current donors to make repeat donations, your organization can have a stable financial base.

To encourage donor loyalty, look for these CRM components:

  • Personalized gratitude and acknowledgment letters
  • Communication tracking
  • Customizable donor (or contact) profiles
  • Compatibility with email outreach campaigns

When you allow your donors and volunteers to feel seen and heard, you can open up some wonderful opportunities for your nonprofit.

3. Make it personal.

Abila, a leading provider of nonprofit software, found that 71% of donors feel more engaged when a nonprofit sends a personalized communication.

Think about it: you can recognize a mass email when you read one. Do you value those communications? Probably not.

Escape email blasts forever by using a CRM that can:

  • Sort donors and volunteers by flexible categories.
    • You’ll be able to reach your community on a wide scale, while still remaining personal.
  • Track each and every donation.
    • A good CRM makes sure you don’t forget to thank a donor by accident.
    • Remember what we said about donor cultivation? Personalized gratitude makes donors feel like they matter, and it keeps them engaged.
  • Track your requests for donations.
    • You’ll eliminate duplicate emails, which can make a donor feel unimportant.

4. Win every time with campaign management.

A CRM should be able to track exactly where you are in your fundraising goals—without awkward spreadsheets.

The following information should be trackable with your CRM:

  1. Donor demographics: who are you asking for donations?
  2. Volunteers: do you have the staff to manage the campaign? How many extra volunteers do you need?
  3. Historical data: have you done a campaign like this in the past? What were the results?
  4. Focus and theme: for what specifically is your organization raising money? Your donors need to know!
  5. Donations: how much have you raised so far, and how many more donations do you need?
  6. Follow-up: have you sent out your acknowledgements, and have you given your donors an update on the impact their donations made?

5. Take the pressure off with easy event management.

From quarterly board meetings to galas, a good CRM should be able to support you and your staff through any size event. A nonprofit CRM should treat major events like an individual project, so you can keep multiple focuses separate.

For example, if you have a fundraising dinner coming up in June with a laundry list of to-dos, these tasks should be managed in their own section—not mixed in with all the notes for the next board meeting.

copper nonprofit crm reports

Look for these features:

  • Calendar integration
  • Event reminders
  • Task lists and reminders
  • Deadlines for event tasks
  • Project communication

Your CRM should be able to handle an event from start to finish and allow your team to focus on what it does best: cultivating lasting relationships with your donors and volunteers.

6. Harness that volunteer power!

It’s not all about the donors. With the right CRM, you can reach out to your volunteers and get the help you need—faster than ever.

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, 1 in 3 American adults volunteered in 2017. Who's volunteering for you?

Here are the ways that your chosen CRM could help organize your voluntary workforce:

  • Scheduling: this is an important part of volunteer management. Your relationship management software should be able to tell you who’s volunteering and for how long, and the future events they’ve signed up for.
  • Requests: when is the last time you asked them to help out? Have you already sent a request, and did they respond?
  • Notes and details: can you rely on their help with last-minute requests? Do they need training on a specific task?
  • Relationship-building: how many times have they volunteered for your organization? Do they donate as well? When is the last time they were thanked? Have they attended an appreciation dinner?

If your nonprofit operates on a large scale, this information is even more crucial. Your entire team should be able to use this data, whether or not they’ve met the volunteers.

An added bonus: the CNCS found that volunteers donated to charity twice as much in 2017, compared with Americans who didn’t volunteer. Your nonprofit community is so much bigger than just your donors!

Give your nonprofit the best CRM.

Modern CRMs are more than the latest software—it’s a new way of connecting your organization to the people who need it most.

By managing your relationships, events, donations, and volunteers, you can see exactly what your nonprofit has accomplished. Better yet, you can see how to grow in the future.

must-have features for a non-profit crm

The CRM that your nonprofit uses is vital to the health and longevity of your organization, and it can help your organization grow in so many different ways. Don’t miss out on future opportunities: choose a CRM with a free trial, try it out, and experiment with new ways to help your nonprofit save time and build long-lasting relationships.