Nonprofit CRM Software: Why You Should Look for These Specific Features

January 24, 2016
5 minutes

Being a part of the nonprofit world, you’ve most likely heard of the importance of a good nonprofit CRM application. 

The Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software is crucial to a nonprofit’s fundraising and strategic planning for management, communication, and event marketing.

Nonprofit CRMs assist with tracking donor relationships along with other constituents through their past involvement. Using this information in addition to donor profile data helps to plan personalized outreach strategies and in bringing robust reporting to an organization that they never had before.

As no two nonprofits are alike, it is not surprising to see a large number of different nonprofit CRM software packages on the market. Choosing the right tool to run your organization effectively and efficiently is more important than falling for any ‘bells and whistles’ or promises of software packages that you may never even use. 

Let’s look at the key features your decision should be based on.

Constituent Profile Features

Detailed profiles of all supporters are one of the best ways that nonprofit CRMs benefit an organization. Keep in mind this goes beyond just donor profiles.

A great nonprofit CRM package will help keep track of:

• Staff members

• Volunteers, former and current

• Attendees to events

• Those who receive your nonprofit's aid or services

• All board members

• Corporate and individual sponsors

A comprehensive repository of profiles and data related to your constituents eliminates any need to shuffle through various complicated spreadsheets in an attempt to glean even a small insight into any of the above.

Time-saving insights

In one example, you’ve held a fundraising event with good attendance. It suddenly occurs to you that you would like to know of the attendees who came, how many of them have attended other events previously. This is information that will help you in the future. Knowing who came before, who came for the first time, and who decided to make a donation at the event itself would be good data to have on hand.

Manually researching this scenario would be quite time-consuming. When a nonprofit CRM is used various data points are collected over time to support customized queries as noted above.

A few of the data points that can be included in the nonprofit CRM would be:

• Biographical information

• Contact info

• Corporate and organizational relationships

• Familial relationships

• Channels of communication and which work best

• History of donations

• History of volunteer work

• Event attendance

• Preference for giving channels

• Any advocacy activities

• Any engagement online

• Fields that you can customize within the CRM application

How the information is used

In short, the more information you can input regarding your supporters, the stronger and more customized your marketing and fundraising events can be.

When you develop your constituent profiles as detailed as possible, you will be able to design more bespoke and attractive outreach strategies. This will, of course, lead to more engagement with the donor with the result being a more robust and valuable constituent relationship.

Ultimately, these relationships can be leveraged as you plan your strategy in moves management, fundraising, and your marketing goals.

Donation Processing Features

Using your nonprofit CRM allows for ease of use on behalf of the donor who submits their donation, whether online on your webpage or via mobile app. Collecting donor information is crucial at this stage of the donation process.

The nonprofit CRM will also process the following offline methods:

• Standard donations

• Gifts in-kind

• Gifts that are in memoriam

• Gifts that are in honorarium

• Any pledges made

This information is input into the CRM once the collection of offline donor information is received. It will come up in reporting the same as an online donation record would.

Using the nonprofit CRM to manage the donation process allows for expedience and streamlining of the donation and profile data to be collected and channeled. Additionally, because your nonprofit CRM can handle donation processing, your organization will see the actual money much faster.

The bottom line with this process is that with the speed that a nonprofit CRM can manage both online and offline donations, you will have expedited payment and have received excellent donor profile data.

Segmentation Features

Segmentation is very useful to split up your constituents into various categories based on similar characteristics or attributes where their needs, preferences, interests, or another meta-data match.

In order to market using a more bespoke method, list segmentation allows your organization to create customized outreach campaigns. It goes without saying that this is a proven method to receive greater engagement from supporters and donors.

Suggested ways to divide donors can be:

• By age

• By profession

• Geolocation

• Similar Interests

• History of giving

• Frequency of donation

• Attendance to events historically

The goal remains to be able to tailor your marketing campaign to a specific event or donor profile, increasing your outreach efforts in the long run.

Reporting Features

Generating reports is one of the most critical aspects of using your nonprofit CRM. 

Numerous metrics giving you valuable insights can be used in the following reports:

• Donor Demographics

• Transactions (finance)

• Overall Fiscal Activity

• Donation times (peaks and lows)

• Responses to campaigns

• Open email rates

Depending on your nonprofit CRM, it may be able to help in managing fundraising events from planning to execution. This information will then be used in future events as well as in insights used in reporting.

Generating great reporting through your nonprofit CRM creates credibility for your organization as your reporting will be timely, meet any regulatory requirements, as well showing greater transparency about the allocation of funds with management and stakeholders alike.

Final Thoughts

You would be in an excellent position with a strong foundation to ensure continued success if you meet at a minimum, the key features noted above. Most CRMs come at a significant cost to the organization, appealing to the board, running a campaign, or through a corporate donation, so anything you can do to help will give you a tenfold return in your nonprofit’s productivity.

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