The True Benefit of a CRM for Nonprofits: Reducing your Administrative Burden

Ines Alvergne • Sep 10, 2019
save time with a CRM for nonprofits

If you have avoided using software to manage your nonprofit, you likely have a phone full of donor names, a spreadsheet of volunteer hours, and a few handwritten notes to track the weekly tasks of your team. This setup might be working for you, but you’re likely missing important information.

Juggling between spreadsheets, document tables, and sticky notes is slow and inefficient, and as you grow, this won’t scale. More importantly, this is time spent away from making an impact and achieving your goals. Fortunately, the recent digital transformation makes it possible to ease this burden; there are now a number of simple software options designed to manage this all for you.

Technology helps reduce the time spent on manual processes like updating donor information, keeping track of ongoing projects, and sending donation receipts. Using the right tools, you can free up your schedule to focus on the development of your team and grow your mission .

Investing in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) – or Donor Management System – is a great first step. A CRM is simply a database or “digital spreadsheet” that holds all of your contact information in one place. You can sort, search and add elaborate, custom notes for each contact, but that’s just the beginning, a CRM can do much more. It’s in these additional features that a CRM can truly make your life easier and your nonprofit grow more quickly. We will walk through these features in detail below.

1. Breaking free from spreadsheets

Excel may have done the job of managing your donor database. It is a great tool, quick and easy to use, but Excel is a spreadsheet and is really a flawed solution when you need to:

  • Keep track of hundreds (or thousands) of contacts amongst multiple staff
  • Easily and quickly access donor data
  • Duplicate and manipulate data to pull an accurate report
  • Organize, assign and prioritize tasks in real-time
  • Track team progress on an ongoing campaign

These critical limitations are holding your organization back. You and your team can’t access up-to-date information because you need multiple sheets to track different kinds of data. Spreadsheets are usually spread across devices and team members, and most operations have to be done manually.

Using spreadsheets is not only time-consuming, it is also inefficient because it holds your team back from getting the full picture of your data.

CRM software can remove these limitations as it makes it easy to look up donors and gifts, analyze trends, and manage fundraising campaigns.

2. Easily access and share important information

The core function of a CRM is to store information easily and securely. It allows your staff to access the latest developments of your organization – contact information, reports, ongoing campaigns, and tasks that need to be completed.

All the information you need is stored in one place

With a CRM platform, you don’t have to search for activity reports and email threads in multiple locations – everything you need is stored in one place. You can easily view emails, campaigns, and contact details seconds after logging into your CRM. Furthermore, data is secure and everyone with a login can view the same data, in real time, confident that it is up to date and accurate. .

Increase efficiency

Since everyone accesses, and refers to, the same tool, you can keep your staff on the same page. This will improve communication and streamline operations. Your staff will feel empowered as they will be able to do more, better, and in less time.

Picture this. You’re planning an email campaign to reach out to your major donors. You start by making a list of your strongest supporters, but you’re missing matching emails for some names and you can’t recall how long ago your team spoke with some of these donors.You have to ask everyone in the office to scratch their brains, check old email threads and review meeting notes. This is not sustainable in the long term, especially if your organization is growing. You might be missing opportunities simply because important information is lost along the way.

Now consider the alternative scenario, you spend an hour fine tuning the messaging for your email campaign, you have drafted the perfect email and know it will move the most committed donors on your list. Now you simply open your CRM, run a search for all donors who have donated more than $500 in the last year, a quick review of recent interaction notes for each will show you which ones to exclude. You then create an email list for these donors with the click of your mouse and hit send. Powerful, efficient and scalable, you are back to making an impact.

Increase team collaboration

A CRM platform allows you to share tasks and ongoing projects across your organization.For instance, you can check out team progress on the preparations for your end-of-year gala. You can add notes, assign tasks to one another, and set up reminders. This will improve collaboration amongst your staff.

By making the information accessible to everyone in real-time, you can spend less time planning and more time creating engaging campaigns . Ultimately this will transform your organization into an organized, effective, streamlined operation.

3. Boost your productivity

Automate everyday tasks

Everyday, there are hundreds of small tasks you must complete for your organization to function properly. Consider the time you spend sending thank you emails and donation receipts manually. These are vital aspects of donor management, and, thanks to automation, CRM software can take on the burden of these tasks.

With email automation tools, a workflow can be triggered, sending different email content based upon someone’s actions. You can start or continue conversations without lifting a finger. For instance, you can automatically send personalized thank you emails after receiving a gift. You can create templates and use tags to personalize your communications.

You can also automate donation receipts. Once a donation comes in through an online donation form, a receipt is automatically generated with Donation ID, Organization Information, and Signatures. The receipt is also automatically emailed to the donor. This is a time-saver, stress-saver, and ensures that you don’t make human errors while issuing receipts.

Pull reports easily

To manage the overall health of your nonprofit, you need effective tools to track impact and see which program areas are resonating with donors. When done manually, reporting can be time-consuming and stressful. On top of that, miscalculated data can keep your organization from success.

CRM reporting tools give you insight into what has been done, what remains to be done, what needs to be changed, in seconds . This helps you see information like:

  • Who is donating to your organization?
  • What’s your donor retention rate?
  • Where should you focus your fundraising efforts?
  • Where are you wasting time and money?

Some systems even integrate features to tell you who are your top donors. For instance, Keela’s Donor Scorecategorizes donors based on past giving history. When you spot the group of individuals who has the highest potential to give again, you can focus your time on planning the best way to cultivate these relationships.

4. Get the support you need

Implementing a CRM system will bring a lot of changes to your organization. To ensure a smooth transition, most software offers training and resources to help get you started and walk you through the basics. It can take the form of onboarding programs, help articles, blog posts, training videos, and/or email support. Support usually covers issues like “how to import data”, “how to pull reports”, or “how to customize emails to match your brand”. You won’t be on your own when moving from spreadsheets to new efficient tools.

As you think about your current workflows, consider the ways in which you could break free from manual processes and reduce wasted time by implementing a CRM tool. By centralizing and automating your tasks, you can spend more time on what matters the most – achieving your mission.