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Why nonprofits need a CRM—and what to look for when buying one

All nonprofits need a CRM. The fact is, they are just as important for nonprofits as they are for any other organizations. With these essential platforms, nonprofits can better centralize and manage their data, keeping their contacts, donors, and other moving parts properly organized. 

If you work in a nonprofit and are thinking about investing in a CRM, this is what you need to know. 

Reducing stress in your nonprofit processes

A woman in front of a laptop who looks stressed

Donations arriving from numerous sources. Volunteers coming and going on a non-stop basis. Making sure life-saving resources reach the right people.

Nonprofits have a lot to contend with and remaining properly organized is often a challenge. When information isn’t easily accessible and communication breaks down, frustration naturally blooms. 

For nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteer support (and often have to make do with fewer resources), this can cause unnecessary stress.

Automating tasks

How much time do you spend creating reports on donor groups, creating email marketing campaigns, or finding the right people to help in specific situations? 

Everything that goes on on a daily basis at a nonprofit takes time—and that is exactly what CRMs are specialized in providing more of. By automating mundane tasks, you can save a lot of unnecessary leg work.

This is especially important when it comes to providing a personalized experience for donors. The fact of the matter is that people want to know where their money is going. 

Through task automation, you can reduce how much time you spend developing organization-wide donor communications, while dedicating more time to individuals who need it.

A centralized database

Nonprofits naturally gain a lot of data by working with so many different individuals and solidarity organizations. However, most of them don’t put that data to good use. 

In fact, around half of the nonprofit organizations that collect data fail to properly leverage its power. A lot of this has to do with lack of expertise; after all finding helpers with data visualization skills is challenging. 

However, a well-organized CRM database can empower better data management and use without having a professional. If it’s more accessible and easier to understand, you are more likely to be able to find insights and apply them. 

As it is, a large number of nonprofits have their data spread out over many different platforms, making it simply impossible to properly use it. Some could be in your email service provider, other data in your payment provider, and even more could be in your online fundraising platform. 

The act of centralizing all this data—and using it—can have so many positive outcomes for your organization. 

Getting more donors

A cartoon woman sitting on coins beside a piggy bank

Donors are a vital part of the nonprofit business model and people are becoming more generous overall. But having many donors can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing if they aren’t properly managed. 

Building strong relationships with donors is the lifeblood of a nonprofit organization and you simply cannot afford to let this slide.

CRMs are built specifically for this, allowing you to keep detailed profiles on every donor. You can have information on how much they give, any communication between donors and the nonprofit, and any other details that will ensure anyone in your organization can be instantly informed about the situation. 

For particularly important donors, you can even set up reminders to give them personal calls or emails occasionally! 

Using your CRM for nonprofit fundraising

Getting out there and getting seen is important for securing more donations. But that’s not the only way you can increase your income.

CRMs provide insights which can actually help you to understand what donors are more likely to give larger amounts of money. What’s more, it allows you to better predict when and how much they’re likely to donate. 

Having an accurate financial forecast is almost as important as the money itself because knowing what cash you’re likely to receive is essential for good planning. 

What to look out for when choosing a CRM

Choosing a CRM is an important step for any nonprofit organization. For many, it will be the first foray away from using spreadsheets and simple tools to working with a powerful platform that offers many more capabilities.

At, we’ve developed a simple two-step process to help our clients (nonprofits or otherwise) find the best CRM for their organization. 

N.B. You can easily carry this out using an excel, table, or even a pen and paper. However, we have accompanying materials for your convenience which you are welcome to download.

Step 1: Discover Which CRM You Need for Today

A man sitting in thought considering something

The first step is to analyze your current tech stack. Make a list of every single piece of technology that you use in your organization and the associated price. If you’re on the free version, just mark it as 0. 

What’s important is to write down everything, whether you think it’s relevant or not. If it’s a tool and you use it on a regular basis, make a note. 

While every organization uses a different number of tools, every single one we’ve ever worked with has been surprised at how many they have and how many they are currently paying for. 

Once you’ve made this list, order it based on how important you believe it is to your organization’s daily running. 

By the end of this, you will have a clear understanding not only of how much you’re currently investing in tools and platforms but what you actually need. If you choose the right platform, you should be able to stop paying for the majority of these tools.

Step 2: Discover Which CRM You Need for Tomorrow

Ask yourself: If you were making ten times the impact on your nonprofit’s target, what would change with regard to your technological needs?

One of the biggest changes is to do with internal departmental growth. Say for example you get many more donors, how would you organize them? Or if you have more budget, what other outreach efforts would you undertake? Would you buy ads? Create videos?

In short, think of the best-case scenario for your nonprofit. If it happens, you’ll need a system that is able to cope with the increased strain.

So, now we’re going to rewrite your list. This time, you should also sort it by department. EG: 

  • Governance
  • Administration
  • Programs/projects
  • Marketing
  • IT

In a column to the left, write Tool/Feature. In a list under that, copy all the tools and features that you wrote out before. At the bottom of that list, add new tools that you think you would need if each of those departments has been fully established. 

This may be a chatbot for customer service, an easy way to process donor payments, or other issues that arrive when operating at scale. 

Now, go down your list and give each tool or feature a ranking based on how necessary it would be for that department. You can base it on 1–5 or grade it as “not useful,” “useful,” “indispensable.” 

The table in front of you is now the perfect resource for shopping around as you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Extra CRM Tips

Even if you now know exactly what you need from a CRM, there are a few things you should keep in mind when looking into providers: 

  1. Ask about training and implementation. CRMs are powerful tools that can perform countless functions beyond automation—if you know how to leverage it properly. The main reason a CRM fails in a nonprofit is due to poor training and implementation. When shopping around, also inquire about their after-sales support as access to a robust training course could also be useful for when you have new volunteers!
  2. Know your CRM goals. Above we spoke about different features, but you should also take some time to set some S.M.A.R.T goals before investing. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve and how could a CRM help you reach that goal?
  3. Consult your team. Obviously, the more stakeholders there are, the more important this is. Find out what is valuable to them as this will influence how successful it is after purchase. In our experience, how easy the platform is to use is a key consideration for team members! 

Purchasing a new CRM is a big decision, but it’s vital in order to manage all the moving parts of a nonprofit organization. 

If you are interested in finding more out about how can help nonprofits to make a greater impact, reach out to us today!


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