How to choose a fundraising CRM solution

11 May 2020 Expert insight

Your three-step guide to selecting fundraising and donor management software, from Blackbaud Europe.

Any successful non-profit organisation is built on a foundation of good relationships. You need to find the people who connect with your cause and get to know them. But as you succeed in this, your relationships will grow more sophisticated — and there’ll be more of them.

Before long you’re managing a complex, interconnected web of data. After a certain point, every charity takes the decision to invest in a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) solution to allow them to make sense of this complexity and drive growth using the data.

And as we navigate the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the right supporter management tool has never been more important for maintaining relationships with donors and demonstrating the vital work you continue to do for your cause.

Nevertheless, investing in the right technology is a critical decision for charities and is inevitably a big business change for the organisation. And it’s why Blackbaud Europe initially released the Guide to Choosing a Fundraising CRM solution, which has been downloaded by over 1,000 non-profit organisations over the last two years.

For many organisations there can be a number of years between CRM reviews, given CRM’s critical role. But at Blackbaud, we help hundreds of organisations consider their CRM needs every year — and have been doing so in the UK since 1999. And as the sector continues to work to understand the impact of COVID-19, your CRM needs to support your organisation’s day-to-day operation as well as plans for future success.

Step 1: Preparing to evaluate your CRM

The first step in our guide is about defining goals and organising internal stakeholders. What specific technology challenges face your organisation? Who will need day-to-day access to the system, who will be accountable for any solution and who is involved in any purchasing decision? Assembling an effective project team, understanding internal approval processes, and preparing an organisation for cultural change remains a vital first step.

Typically, this will mean gaining buy-in from trustees who often play a key role in the final sign off of a large project, while decision-making and implementation processes are led by users of the system and your Executive Team.

When reviewing functionality, high priorities are often top-class reporting tools and the ability to integrate with other systems. The automation of business processes and reducing the need for manual data entry is also universally important. In almost all cases, the ambition is to create a ‘single supporter view’, with integrations playing a particularly important role for larger organisations combining data from several ‘best of breed’ solutions.

Step 2: Identifying software partners

Once a project team has been created and functional priorities defined, organisations are ready to begin identifying potential software partners. Our guide to Choosing a Fundraising CRM outlines the key questions we are typically asked, as well as exploring how to get the most from any software demonstrations.

Many organisations look for a partner that understands the needs of their organisation in terms of both sector-specific expertise around fundraising and supporter engagement, but also in terms of the cause they serve — whether that organisation is a hospice, cultural institution like a museum or gallery, or school or university.

One of the immediate impacts of COVID-19 is the increased scrutiny on the stability of any software partner. You’ll want to know whether your technology partner can support you in both the long and near term with a CRM project, from requirement scoping through implementation and with ongoing support in years to come. This can be particularly important if one of the impacts of coronavirus has been to accelerate timescales, for example where remote access to cloud-based donor data has become a critical priority.

Step 3: Realising return on investment

A new CRM project could be driven by a number of factors; from moving away from unstable technology, a need to move to the cloud or the requirement of new technology to drive a new phase of fundraising or donor stewardship.

Regardless of the motivation, smooth and efficient implementation of the system needs to be partnered with organisational change. And it’s why cultural change management remains a key consideration in step one. This might involve ensuring that data silos are broken down by integrating systems across your organisation with a new fundraising solution, defining and ensuring the levels of access required for your different teams, to investing in ongoing training for both new and existing staff to drive adoption.

Increased automation and integration are also likely to continue to be a trend for software development in the near future. So, having a wider vision for the role of your CRM as a central part of your technology infrastructure will allow you to take full advantage of new functionality as it is released, and so realise the full value of your investment.  

This content has been supplied by a commercial partner.

Civil Society Media’s next Fundraising First Thing takes place on 30 June 2020 and is exploring storytelling through social. From social media to campaigns and websites - engaging content is key to getting your message across and driving support. This session will look at how three charities have redeveloped their content strategies and the lessons they have learned along the way. View the programme and book online here.



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