How to Embrace the Value of Nonprofit CRM (Even If You’re Not a Techie)

Learn how to make the most of your fundraising tools with these tips to help you shift attitudes and increase the ROI of your nonprofit CRM.

Many nonprofit folks see themselves as, well, nonprofit people. And with the many, many roles they serve, it’s more than understandable that they don’t want to add “tech pro” to the list. That said, reshaping attitudes around tech throughout your team can ease the resource strain your staff feels daily, so we hosted a webinar about how to do just that. Our panel featured nonprofit tech pros and fundraisers who know what it’s like to ride the CRM struggle bus:

Discover top takeaways from Clean Up on Aisle CRM: Evolving Mindsets Toward Tech & Data. We hope they can inspire you and your team to become better acquainted with your CRM or adopt a new one to benefit your awesome mission. 


Nonprofit CRMs Are Made for Modern Giving

CRMs are a relatively new development in the nonprofit sector, and for a good reason. With the reach of the internet, donor communities continue to expand, which means the face-time that once expired giving is taking on new forms. 

A Quick History of CRM in the Nonprofit Space

At the start of World War I and for decades following, donors generally gave through their churches, synagogues, mosques, templates, and other community-centric spaces. Small organizations were fueled by check and cash donations given to organizations that hit close to home in both a spiritual and physical sense. 

As large, multichapter nonprofits became more prevalent in the nonprofit sector in the 1980s, so came the need for better, more efficient tracking and broader reach through technology. Enter: The CRM Evolution. 

While CRMs started as sales tools to help businesses manage the customer pipeline, the concept expanded to the fundraising space, and for good reason. A CRM can help your nonprofit harness the efficiency of for-profit companies without losing the heart that makes your organization the world-changing operation it is. 


Adopt the “Tech Stuff” as Part of Your Role

When team members perceive tech tools as personal assistants rather than an extra chore, they’ll gain efficiencies they’ve only dreamed of before. But first, it’s up to leaders in your organization to personalize the technology you adopt by connecting its capabilities to each person’s role on your team. 

Structure, methodology, and intention in technology adoption empower team members to see aspects of your CRM, data, and technology tools as a part of the community building they do as fundraisers, administrators, operational experts, and communications professionals.

In addition to showing how it can support roles, demonstrate how tech relates to your organization's vision. Show the value of tracking success and failure as a trust-builder in these investments. This can inspire your team and your board because money follows vision, and your board wants to know that funding will reap the greatest ROI possible. 


Speed Date CRMs (Unless You’re a Married at First Sight Type of User )

Finding the right CRM is critical to successful tech adoption. After all, the BEST CRM is the one you're going to actually use, so we suggest you “date” a few - or a bunch (hey, #LiveYourLife) - and see which one you fall in love with. Taking a one-and-done approach to choosing a CRM is possible (Just like Married at First Sight), but the likelihood you’ll find success in a system you barely know isn’t very high. 

If evaluating CRMs feels like a burden, you’re not alone. The good news is, speed dating in the CRM world is a breeze when you’re on Pond. On Pond, you can create a project like “Find a CRM,” and providers will come to you. When you choose to meet with a CRM provider for a demo (AKA “speed date”), you’ll get that helpful information - plus money in your Pond account to spend on your eventual purchase. It really is that easy. 


Tips for a Successful Nonprofit CRM Speed Date

Just like you know your must-haves and deal breakers before embarking on an IRL speed date, set your standards and prep your questions before meeting a CRM. 

Change the way you think about the cost.

Having a hard line on a budget can be limiting. Rather than stick to a number, consider the efficiency gains that each tool’s features can offer. For example, a CRM that includes donation forms that automate data entry can save your database administrator hours each week. Consider that major savings and factor it into how much you’re willing to spend. 

Learn what your staff and peers use now.

If you're using spreadsheets or a database, you’re way ahead of the curve of complete CRM novices. Take note of the tech your team is already using, so you can ensure that your CRM can bring everyone together around one central system. 

Once you ask your in-house team, reach out to nonprofit peers who can recommend CRMs based on their experience. This can be especially helpful if their organization is similar in size.  

Pinpoint and prioritize your must-have CRM features.

Lean on the data you have now to reveal the features that will matter most. Create a spreadsheet and answer the following questions:

  • What % of your donor base are major donors?
  • How much of your revenue consists of recurring donations?
  • Are grants a factor in your fundraising?
  • How much revenue comes from online donations?

These numbers should guide how you prioritize must-have features, but they don’t necessarily need to be the only features you consider. Let’s say you’d like to venture into peer-to-peer fundraising but haven’t just yet. Add that to your list, but consider its place on your list based on the numbers above. 

Consider user experience Priority #1.

While it’s highly unlikely that a CRM will check all of your boxes, user experience is by far the most important one. You could buy a system with all of the bells and whistles, but if it’s complicated and clunky, your team won’t get value. And if that’s the case, why buy it all?

Ask about the onboarding experience.

Understanding the onboarding experience lets you and your team prep for a crucial transition period. Your questions can include:

  • What does your onboarding training look like?
  • Do you offer onboarding by role? 
  • How long does data transfer take? Are there fees?

You’ll also want to confirm the support that will be offered beyond onboarding. You may have tech expertise on staff which is fantastic, but unless their role is strictly “Tech Pro,” you’ll want your CRM provider to equip team members with articles, walkthrough videos, and training sessions to get them up to speed with the features they need most. 

Make sure that your tech partner shares your values.

Just like you would in a human partner, you want your tech partner to reflect your values. Consider the diversity of their leadership. Are they a B Corp? Does their brand take a stand on important issues? If this isn’t evident when you visit their website, discuss their company values in your meeting. 

Recruit a volunteer to create a nonprofit CRM evaluation spreadsheet.

Of course, you want to choose well when it comes to your CRM, but gathering all of this information takes time. The good news is, you aren’t alone! You have many community members who would love to help you in the evaluation process, so reach out and recruit someone to lighten the lift. 


Work on Your Relationship with Your CRM: “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

Your relationship with your CRM won’t always be a walk in the park. An even tougher pill to swallow, sometimes the frustration you feel is…kinda on you.

Sometimes our expectations aren’t aligned with the capabilities and processes the CRM supports, which means it’s up to us to accommodate the CRM by:

  • Adjusting organizational processes to better sync with the CRM
  • Dedicating time to learning CRM features and functionality
  • Taking role-based training classes to get more from your CRM
  • Establishing professional development around CRM and data practices

These practices take time and a whole lot of patience, but that healthy relationship with your CRM will be well worth it. 


The Key to Getting the Most Out of Your Nonprofit CRM? Learn It, Use It, Love It

Your willingness to make it work can go a long way in CRM success and staff adoption of better tech practices. When you set your standards high for your system and yourself, there's no stopping you. 

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