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Many charities and not-for-profit’s take on fundraising CRM systems, but find they don’t deliver what they hoped, or worse, become a time-consuming hindrance.

Without a clear rationale for using a database, and the right kind of environment and support, staff may find themselves endlessly adding data without any clear sense of what they can get back from it, or how the system might better support their donor development and fundraising efforts.

Research shows that typically 50% of organisations fail to realise significant benefits from their CRM database. Here are some top tips that should help you avoid the pitfalls and make sure your database works for you.

1: Have a high-level strategy and vision

An understanding of the potential contribution your database will bring is crucial. A CRM strategy should be defined and driven right from the top of the organisation, ideally by the Chief Executive, along with the Board of Trustees.
Having a clear vision involves defining WHY the fundraising CRM system is important to your organisation, and the specific benefits you will gain. Setting expectations, defining what can be achieved, then monitoring success against this will be an important motivator.

2: Set aside resources, and create the right culture

Successful implementation of CRM databases takes time and investment. It means prioritising the right amount and seniority of resourcing to do the work involved, and not simply shoe-horning it into a corner of a busy junior role.

Putting in any new system will inevitably bring up some resistance. You can help new users deal with their fear of change by involving the team in defining the benefits they want to achieve. Be clear that the new system is not optional and is going to be part of benchmarking and measuring overall results in the future.

3: Support your users properly

Training will be a continuous need, not just a one-off classroom exercise at the start of your implementation. Pursue a strategy of continuous skills development. Allow for the time needed to familiarise with the system and develop new procedures.

Provide in-house support by building oversight or super-user responsibilities into key roles. Make sure you have a regular review process, with the opportunity to feed-back and adjust roles and processes accordingly.

4: Manage your data and keep it up-to-date

A good analogy is to think of your data in the same way you run your car. If you don’t maintain it, have regular servicing and MOTs, eventually it will seize up! Inevitably the quality of your data will deteriorate over time and becomes a waste of resource as you endlessly mail non-existent addresses.

Regularly check for simple errors like duplicates and periodically do a more thorough cleanse to ensure general accuracy of, for example, addresses, permissions and deceased contacts.

5: Invest in full integration

Charities can make the mistake of taking their database software a certain way, but then deciding not to invest in those extra integrations that require more funding and support to implement.

This is often a false economy, as the additional functionality can make all the difference to user satisfaction and overall performance of the system. Assess the benefits these extras can provide in terms of overall productivity, and make sure wherever possible you achieve the maximum automation and ease of use.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact me to find out when my next workshop session on: ‘Making your fundraising CRM work for your non-profit’, is.