[GUEST POST] 5 Expert Insights Into Your Ideal Nonprofit CRM Software

Of all of your nonprofit software solutions, the central database that you absolutely need to pay attention to is your CRM. As a storage unit for all of your donor data, this database impacts all of your nonprofit’s strategies and your other software solutions.

Think about it: You raise money from a donor, and that information is saved in your database. You decide who receives marketing materials based on the profiles in the database. Even supporters who sign up for your newsletter or sign your petitions are saved in your CRM. All of your important information comes back to this central location.

Therefore, getting the most out of your nonprofit CRM will help strengthen and grow your nonprofit.

When you’re contemplating how to maximize the use of your nonprofit CRM, consider the following expert insights:

  1. CRM software often has a prominent focus.
  2. Fundraising data can be streamlined into your database.
  3. Advocacy data can be streamlined into your database.
  4. CRM marketing features facilitate outreach when maximized.
  5. Donor retention rates are important metrics no matter what CRM you have.

If you’re looking to invest in a new CRM, take these insights into consideration before you buy. And if you’re still setting up your current system, check out this system implementation article by Cathexis Partners.

Let’s dive in to see how you can get the most out of your nonprofit CRM software!

1. CRM software often has a prominent focus.

One of the important things to recognize about CRM software is that many of the solutions were designed with a particular focus. They were designed to solve a particular problem that nonprofits have.

For instance, some CRM software solutions may have a focus on fundraising. That type of solution will be designed with the goal to facilitate the fundraising efforts of your organization. Others might focus more heavily on donor retention, membership, or grant tracking.

This doesn’t mean that the features available in these software solutions are exclusively designed for that focus, but that they will be most effectively applied toward that particular element of your nonprofit strategy.

Identify the focus of your own software solution in order to effectively maximize its features geared toward that process. Other aspects of your strategy might merit additional consideration.

Let’s take a CRM that focuses on fundraising as an example. This software may offer fundraising features in addition to the classic database. It may offer features such as:

  • Customized online donation forms.
  • Gift acknowledgment letter templates.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising pages.
  • A fundraising dashboard with real-time fundraising campaign data.

All of these features take an extra step to improve your organization’s fundraising efforts as a part of the CRM software solution. Other solutions with a different focus may diverge in the types of features offered. If you’re interested in other features that are offered in a fundraising-focused solution, check out Salsa’s fundraising software that comes with Salsa’s CRM.

2. Fundraising data can be streamlined into your database.

Whether your CRM is focused on fundraising or not, it’s important to recognize how to streamline your fundraising data into your software. Too many nonprofits spend valuable time importing data from their software solutions to their database.

When you’re considering investing in software for your fundraising campaigns, look first to see if your CRM offers fundraising solutions as a part of (or as an add-on for) your database solution. If they don’t have the functionality you need, look for software integrations.

Software that can easily transfer information from one platform to another will save your nonprofit time that could be better spent on more mission-oriented activities.

Consider the integrations or add-ons for software when you’re beginning a new campaign for:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. This is a great way to find new donors through networks of your current supporters. Saving their information and responding with campaign and organization updates in a timely manner makes it more likely that you’ll retain new donors into the future.
  • Online fundraising pages. Your online fundraising page on your website is where many people (especially younger audiences) look to make a donation for your organization. It collects valuable information related to fundraising campaigns as well as your annual fund.
  • Direct mail fundraising. While cash and checks donated through direct mail still need to be recorded manually in many circumstances, make sure there is a space in your donor database dedicated specifically for cash or checks collected through your direct mail campaigns.
  • Event registrations. Registration fees are often a forgotten revenue source for nonprofits when it comes to integrations and streamlined information. Don’t forget that these forms also provide valuable information that should be streamlined into your database.

Streamlining your fundraising data will help you maintain accurate records about who has given, when they gave, and the amounts given. This provides you with a 360-degree view on each donor and their fundraising history.

3. Advocacy data can be streamlined into your database.

Your CRM software should help your nonprofit streamline information from all of your supporters’ actions, including your advocacy software. You can capture valuable leads through advocacy actions and other non-fundraising efforts.

Therefore, look for advocacy software that can help you streamline information from advocacy actions and lead capture forms into your CRM. This is done the same way as fundraising software, either through CRM features, add-ons, or integrations.

Because your advocates can quickly turn into donors, the information you collect through your advocacy campaign efforts can help kickstart their engagement. Remember that those who sign your petition or participate in a click-to-call campaign are those who support your mission and will likely want to get more involved with activities and continue their support.

The information collected during these campaigns is generally minimal, usually including a name, email, and sometimes a phone number. Therefore, after these types of campaigns, your nonprofit should focus on creating more robust profiles. Collecting more information through donation forms or event feedback surveys is a great start to help expand profiles. So jump right into getting new advocates even more involved!

4. CRM marketing features facilitate outreach when maximized.

Your marketing efforts are closely related to your nonprofit CRM because this is generally where you find information about marketing material recipients. Therefore, marketing campaigns are drastically improved when you complete them using the features of a nonprofit CRM.

Some of the features you should watch for include creating donor segments and automating marketing materials.

Creating Donor Segments

Segmenting your lists of donors in your nonprofit CRM helps your nonprofit send messages that are intended for specific audiences.

Targeted messages tend to create more meaningful experiences for your donors. For instance, if you create a list of donors who attended your last event, you can send a message to them thanking them for their attendance and telling them about your upcoming event schedule.

Segmenting your donors helps you create more effective marketing strategies. Make sure your CRM offers the possibility to save letter templates to send to these segments of donors. To get started drafting these letters, resources like Fundraising Letters offer premade templates that you can adjust for your audience.

Automating Marketing Materials

In addition to the messages that you send to segments of donors, create general marketing materials and automate the sending process for those materials according to specific action triggers. This creates an automated email series that leads supporters to complete an action for your nonprofit.

For instance, marketing automation for nonprofits empowers your organization to set up an email series trigger when a supporter signs up for your newsletter. This series consists of emails reminding that supporter about the opportunity to donate. Once they submit a donation, they are dropped from the series and labeled as a new donor.

While you should absolutely keep in mind the important upcoming trends for nonprofit marketing, make sure you don’t forget about your foundations: email, direct mail, and social media. That’s right, social media is now considered foundational. All nonprofits should have social media platforms to keep up with the times.  

With the right automated marketing system as a part of your CRM, you can even trigger social media posts to go live at the same time that announcement emails are sent out to your donors.

5. Donor retention rates are important metrics no matter what CRM you have.

While only some CRM software solutions focus specifically on donor retention, it’s an important consideration for all nonprofits to keep in mind. The nonprofit population comprises too large a percentage of donors who only give one time.

Organizations that make a conscious effort to retain their donors see an increased and more steady revenue stream than those that don’t. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to maintain your donor retention using your CRM software. These steps include doing things like:

  • Making donors a part of your team. It’s easy to think of fundraisers as completely separate from donors. But changing your mindset to consider donors part of your team will help you communicate better with them and work toward a goal together.
  • Vary your communication methods. It can be exhausting to get bombarded with emails or letters. So mix it up! Make sure your CRM software offers multiple methods of communication features to create some variety easily.
  • Acknowledge donor gifts right away. Showing your donors that you appreciate them is one key way to build relationships with them. Immediate acknowledgment letters triggered by your CRM after a donation shows this appreciation and helps donors feel more connected.

Be sure you also send your nonprofit annual report to donors. This report shows that your nonprofit is making an effort to be transparent with your donors and their investment in your organization. Access to a comprehensive CRM makes it easy to compile these reports using data stored in the software system.

Your CRM is central to many of your nonprofit’s strategies. Help your nonprofit grow by maximizing the use of your CRM. These insights should give you some ideas to get started!

By Gerard Tonti, Senior Creative Developer, Salsa Labs

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.

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