Let go of your donor spreadsheet for a donor CRM

January 10, 2021
8 minutes

Spreadsheets vs. CRM

First, we gotta acknowledge that spreadsheets have a place in the workplace and in our hearts. And if you’re still using spreadsheets to keep track of your donors and their corresponding donations, we want to let you know that we get it—we really do. It can be hard to move on to new technology, especially if spreadsheets have been good to you through the years.

But there’s a better option. You don’t have to keep all of your donor and donation information in spreadsheets anymore. You can try using—drumroll please!—a donor CRM.  

Baby Steps to Digital Fluency

As Jamie McDonald, Chief Strategy Officer for GivingTuesday.org, noted on the Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast, getting your nonprofit from a place of digital confusion to the promised land of digital fluency can feel like visiting a country where you don’t speak the local language.

But just like it’s worth learning a few words of German or French, it’s worth becoming digitally fluent. Digital fundraising is the way of the future, especially in a post-coronavirus world—and there are certain core fundraising tools you’re going to need if your nonprofit is going to successfully fundraise online. A donor CRM is one of them.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: According to the Global NGO Technology Report 2019, 85% of U.S. and Canadian nonprofits accept online donations, while only 64% use Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) to track donations and manage donor communications. That means that 21% accept online donations, but don't have a program to track and manage them. Yikes.

What’s a Donor CRM?

At this point, you might be wondering what a donor CRM is in the first place. Let’s back up a little bit.

A CRM (short for “customer relationship management”) tool helps businesses keep track of customers, the data associated with individual customers, and their customers’ past orders and current needs.

Right now, you might be keeping track of your donors and their donations in a spreadsheet. And if you are, we laud you for at least keeping track of that data—that's no small task.

But there’s a way to make it easier on your nonprofit.

Donor CRMS are designed to automate, streamline, and clarify donor and donation records. They make it easy to find the data you need to find, to input the data you need, and to spot trends that’ll help you figure out which direction your fundraising should take in the future.  

While the benefits to using a donor CRM go beyond those below, in our professional opinions, here are the three biggest.

Benefit 1: Automation

If you’re using an all-in-one digital fundraising platform like Funraise, you can nearly automate the entire record-keeping process.

Let’s imagine a high-stakes, superpopular digital fundraising event like Giving Tuesday. This is an opportunity to collect lots of donations through your website. You might be dreading keeping track of all of these donations, needed as they may be.

Fear not! You can integrate your donation forms with your donor CRM to automatically update your donor CRM whenever you receive a new donation.

This eliminates the need to type in donations one by one into your donor CRM. It reduces the risk of an exhausted intern typing in the wrong number (or putting the decimal in the wrong place making a $100.00 donation into $10.000 according to your records). It eliminates the risk of misspelling a donor’s name, unless the donor misspells it themselves.

Of course, if someone decides to mail in a paper check with a handwritten note, you’ll still need to manually enter that. It’s technology, not magic.

Nonetheless, events like Giving Tuesday are wild, exhausting, and wildly exhausting. Don’t waste your staffers’ work hours on manually typing in donation details when you could integrate your website’s donation form with your donor CRM and watch all those donation details stream into your donor CRM. Like we said, it’s technology and not magic, but you’ll still feel like you’ve been charmed.

Benefit 2: More Data

With all of your data stored in one place, it’s easier to see historical trends. It’s easier to pull up all-time donor records. It’s easier to make decisions based on the data you have in front of you—now conveniently in one place.

Spreadsheets have their limitations. Sure, they have unlimited rows and columns, but at a certain point, it’s difficult for a human to navigate those endless gridlines. That leads to people starting different spreadsheets for every fundraising year—or even every fundraising month.

Once you separate the data, you hit on a different, more nonprofit-dangerous problem: you can't see trends when data from different time periods finds itself in different files. And should a donor ever need a record of every single donation they’ve ever made to your nonprofit, it’s going to be hard to track down that information if it’s spread across five different spreadsheets.

Keeping all of your data in a donor CRM makes it supereasy to grab data from years back should you ever need it. You can see how individual donors’ donations have waxed and waned over time. And—best of all—if you complete your donor CRM with smart reporting Funraise’s Fundraising Intelligence, you can configure advanced data reports based upon allllll your data... nearly instantly.

Benefit 3: Saved Time and Better Decisions, Backed by Data

The ultimate benefit of automating your data entry and keeping all of your donor data in one place happens to be twofold: you can save time and make better data-driven decisions. Heck, you can save time AT making better data-driven decisions.

Instead of having Marcia from Accounting enter every donation into this month’s spreadsheet manually, she can integrate your donation forms with your donor CRM and have most of that work done automatically. And when it comes time for Marcia to pull the LYBUNTY and SYBUNTY reports, she’s not going to have to traverse ten different spreadsheets from ten different years to get your fundraising team the information it needs to decide how to spend its budget next year.

All the information will be waiting for her there in your handy-dandy donor CRM.

When you’re sure the data is not only correct but thorough, you can make data-driven decisions that you can be certain are, in fact, data-driven—and not just “data from the spreadsheets we didn’t accidentally delete”-driven. You can figure out what’s working for your nonprofit and what’s not working faster than before. And when the data gets easier to parse, decision-making gets faster …which, of course, leaves more time for executing now that less time has to go to evaluating and debating.

Wrapping Up

Moving from spreadsheets to a donor CRM might seem like a big step—and if your nonprofit isn’t fully digitally fluent yet, it is a big step.

But it is so worth it!

Donor CRMs are a core fundraising tool in the digital fundraising world. If you’re not using one yet, you’re missing out on a tool that could make some of your busywork disappear. A nonprofit without a donor CRM is like a carpenter trying to build a skyscraper without a power drill. Sure, that old-school screwdriver is helpful, but at a certain point, you just need something with a little more strength behind it.

There’s so much you can do with a donor CRM integrated + digital fundraising platform that you just can’t do if you stick to manually entering donation details one by one into a spreadsheet. The learning curve might be steep, but the massive amount of hours you’ll get back once you’ve learned how it works will make it all worth it.

One last reason to switch: you can get a CRM for free. Funraise Free offers an intuitive, well-rounded donor CRM... for free. Free. Free.

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