According to data from the National Center on Charitable Statistics, approximately 30% of nonprofits fail to exist after 10 years.
One of the most common reasons for this is the avoidance of adopting new technology that can help you do your work better (and better spread the word about your charity).
A nonprofit CRM puts you on an able footing to capture the attention of potential supporters by letting you:
- Keep track of supporters and donors.
- Manage events and volunteer opportunities.
- Automate repetitive messaging (like tax receipts).
- Communicate with supporters with outreach tools.
That being said, for small nonprofits, balancing fundraising and spending on tools for data management and supporter outreach is a challenge.
That is where this post will help you. We go through:
- The direct benefits of a CRM platform.
- What you need to assess before adopting new technology.
- Aligning your nonprofits needs with CRM features.
What is a nonprofit CRM software?
What do I mean when I say that a CRM can help you do your work better? We can start by knowing the function of a CRM.
What does it do? A CRM lets you manage relationships with your supporters, donors and volunteers. Among other functions, a CRM,
- Tracks and updates your constituent data, syncing with website forms and outreach tools.
- Can help you track the efficiency of your marketing efforts through data visualization.
- Helps you retain supporters, by running data-informed messaging campaigns.
What does it replace?
- Spreadsheets to keep track of constituent information.
- Manual data entry to update constituent information.
- Manually sending emails, texts and making calls to supporters.
Let’s expand on the key benefits of using a CRM.
Benefits of having a CRM for your nonprofit
Messy data management means you spend a lot of time wrangling data that could be better spent crafting and testing your messaging to constituents.
Data management is the key function of a CRM. All your data is in one place, and integrations keep it up to date.
Ex. If a supporter RSVPs for an event, it will reflect in your database. That means you can segment supporters to send a follow-up message as a reminder on the day of the event, through integrations with your communication tool of choice.
Dashboards for data
Finding out what is and what isn’t working is just as important as hitting send on a message for the first time.
CRM dashboards help you visualize the success of your campaigns as they are running. Oftentimes, they are customizable, letting you view just the information you need.
As mentioned earlier, a centralized database lets you keep track of your constituents and segment your messaging.
The added benefit is message personalization. The more targeted your message is, the better the chance of getting a positive response from constituents.
For example, you could send a solicitation text message citing the previous amount a donor gave, showing it’s impact, and then asking for a repeat donation.
Technology is all about clearing up time and effort for things that tools can’t do.
If you have ever waited to click send on a social media update at the right time, or an email, you can safely forget about that with a CRM that integrates with communication tools (or provides them natively).
The same goes for data entry. Your CRM should sync with all the other tools you are using, keeping constituent data up-to-date, and eliminating the time spent on data entry.
Almost as time consuming as data entry is the management of staff and volunteers.
Most CRMs let you oversee your collaborators, give them access to specific projects, and send them alerts to take action.
Things to determine before deciding on a nonprofit CRM
Here are some things to take into account when deciding to adopt a CRM.
How do you plan to use the CRM?
Determine the major use cases that a CRM can help you with. For example:
- Event management
- Volunteer management
- Email campaigns
- Text message campaigns
- Calling campaigns
- Major giving
- Financial reporting
We discuss use cases and CRMs that can help you with them, further in this article.
Who is going to interact with it on a daily basis?
Accessibility is a major consideration when choosing a CRM.
Figure out whether your staff and volunteers will be working with your CRM on a daily basis (or just specific campaign managers.) Do they need a mobile app to get their work done? Or will they be working from an office? Answers to these questions will determine whether a CRM is right for your nonprofit.
How much are you willing to spend?
Know your budget, and know what you are paying for when you choose a CRM.
Some CRMs (like Salesforce) are free for nonprofits, but will still need you to hire a consultant to implement it for you.
Others are built for you to get started in no time at all, but will need to pay monthly or yearly, like Bitrix24.
Let’s help you pick a CRM by matching the features you need with the tools that offer them:
Best CRMs for small nonprofits based on features
If cost is your deciding factor, here are some free nonprofit CRMs for you to consider. It is to be noted that free plans often have a limit on the features that an organization can access.
Bitrix24 offers a free plan for an unlimited number of users during the pandemic.
Bloomerang is free for up to 250 contacts.
Wild Apricot has a free plan for up to 50 contacts.
Low cost will remain a factor for the other software suggestions in this article.
Events are a key part of fundraising for nonprofits. CRMs help you collect registrations, onboard event volunteers, and fundraise. These platforms allow you to:
- Create events and publish them.
- Collect attendee registrations and payment.
- Gather attendee information through forms.
- Evaluate the success of your events.
Salesforce offers integrations instead of native tools to achieve the above. Choose from integrations with Eventbrite, Blackthorn Events, and Event Spark.
The more volunteers you have, the harder it is to keep track of them. Take a look at these CRMs with specialized volunteer management tools that let you:
- Create custom volunteer events.
- View volunteer profiles with preferences, skills and volunteer history.
- Automate messages to volunteers.
- Track volunteer attendance.
Email, SMS and calling tools are important considerations for nonprofits. Some platforms offer native solutions for outreach campaigns, while others rely on integrations. CRMs with messaging tools let you:
- Schedule emails and text messages to contacts.
- Personalize messages based on the data you have in the CRM.
Salesforce integrates with CallHub for texting and calling and tools like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor for emails.
NationBuilder integrates with CallHub for texting and calling and allows for native bulk emails.
If your nonprofit relies on monthly donations from loyal supporters, here are some platforms that make it easy to set up a monthly giving process and get supporters on board. They allow you to:
- Set up recurring donation options.
- Automate thank you messages to supporters.
- Send tax receipts to donors.
Grantmaking is often a major source of funds for organizations, and there are plenty of things to consider when it comes to a successful grantmaking effort (deadline for individual grants, proposal documents, grant sources, etc.) Here are some platforms that allow you to enhance your grantmaking efforts by:
- Keeping track of deadlines for grants.
- Creating to-do lists for individual proposals.
- Storing proposal documents.
The tax-exempt status of nonprofit organizations creates the need for specialized software for accounting. Here are some CRM platforms that offer accounting capabilities such as:
- Payroll management
- Budget development
- Donor invoices
How do you make a decision?
- Look at reviews: The first thing you can do is get a 2nd opinion before making a decision. Look to platforms like G2 and Capterra for user reviews, or ask on social media.
- Look at their price: Budgeting is paramount for small nonprofits. If you find an option that is perfect for you, but is over budget, you might want to consider compromising on features.
- Talk to their team: If you’re still unsure whether a CRM has the features you need (or whether you even need one), most software providers are ready to talk to interested nonprofits and answer questions.
- Try a demo: Try out the software yourself if the provider has a demo option for the CRM.
Once you have made a decision on your CRM, the next step is to look at tools that can integrate with them to help you communicate with your supporters.
CallHub’s texting and calling tools are built to help nonprofits reach out to their supporters in personalized, engaging ways.