Sector Focus: Getting the most from your new CRM system

Customer Relationship Management in hand

01 September 2023

Animal and environmental charities are usually reliant on the generosity of individual donors to fund their ongoing charitable work, with little funding usually available from institutional donors or from service based activities.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a number of our clients embark on ambitious projects to replace their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. These have been delivered with mixed results. We outline our thoughts on this subject matter below.

Firstly, what is CRM? CRM is a software application that helps organisations to manage and track their interactions with donors and customers. For fundraising charities, a CRM system is a valuable tool for improving fundraising performance, as it allows the charity to track the success or otherwise of specific campaigns, and enables them to tailor and target communications across their donor base.

Most organisations have transitioned from ‘off the shelf’ packages to bespoke engineered packages with an upfront development cost and then ongoing Software as A Service (SaaS) based annual fees.

Why upgrade your CRM software?

When considering why you might want to upgrade your CRM, there are a few improvements you will ultimately want to get out of the process:

  1. Improved donor management –ability to bring all donor data together into one system. This will allow you to better understand your donor base and more effectively tailor and target your communications to them.
  2. Automated communications –save staff time and cost by automating certain communications, for example sending thank you notes, invitations and reminders on an automated basis.
  3. Better reporting – as well storing all the donor data in one place, CRM software is better able to report on data and design reporting specific to both your charity and your donor base. Secondly, the performance of campaigns and KPI’s can be generated to measure performance.
  4. Streamline processes – potential to streamline processes, such as linking through to donor onboarding, event management and even link through to grant-management.
  5. Improve compliance – be better placed to ensure compliance with the Fundraising Regulator’s guidance and the laws around data protection.

From the outset of the project, you will need your team to be on board, as teams are often resistant to change, therefore it is important to take people on the journey with you. Inevitably there will be pressures and issues that arise during the process, however there must be a focus on the final result and the benefits it will bring. It is vital to ensure that this  assent stretches across the organisation, as you will need input from multiple stakeholders to ensure the system can be scoped to meet everyone’s needs and expectations. Additionally, you need to do your research.  Speak to your advisors for insight about what their other clients have done, speak to contacts at other similar charities and spend an adequate amount of time in the scoping phase.

In our experience, there are common pitfalls to be aware of when working on a project of this nature are:

  1. Not involving all stakeholders from the outset – we have seen examples of CRM systems that work brilliantly for the fundraising team, but created issues for the finance team. The main reason for this was that key stakeholders were not engaged on the project until too late in the process and were therefore left out of key decision making.
  2. Keep an eye on the budget – we have had many instances where the spend on these projects has gone over budget. Typically, this is because of inadequate scoping, which then meant that functionality and direction changes were introduced late into the build.
  3. Have a clear implementation plan – ensure you have mapped out key milestones and tested how the transition of data from old to new systems will occur.
  4. Training – it is vital that adequate and timely training is given to staff. The key to success for any system is that the data inputs are correct, such that the reporting is being driven by timely accurate data. The key to staff commitment to the new system is ensuring that they know how to use it and can quickly see the benefits it brings over any existing system.

Any system change is difficult, but with good planning and proper implantation, a new CRM system for your charity can drive numerous benefits over the short, medium and longer term.

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