crm systems

A Modern Approach to CRM Systems

2018 Guide to CRM Software for Nonprofits

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crm systems

What is a CRM

A CRM traditionally known as “Customer Relationship Management”, is a software built to help business track and understanding their relationships with their clients. This technology is not  exclusive to business, in the nonprofit world the CRM stands for “Constituent Relationship Management”. You may also hear this referred to as “Donor Management Software” as the main focus is to help manage the relationships nonprofits have with their donors.

The CRM houses a database of important information relating to each donor. With this data you can create and manage campaigns more effectively by selecting the right message for the right donors. Some important data points are:

  • Giving history
  • Donation frequency
  • Event attendance
  • Profession
  • Age and more

CRM Landscape for Nonprofit

Sadly, when we first began researching the nonprofit space we quickly discovered the abundance of outdated tech. Nonprofits either have to pick from software that’s a few years behind the rest of the world or try to make a business oriented CRM work for philanthropy.

At first look, some nonprofit CRMs we found mention  a more modern approach  like peer-to-peer fundraising, social integration, and mobile first, but in the end the software was not up to par when compared with their business counterparts.

The challenge with using a business CRM (like Hubspot or Salesforce) for nonprofit is having tools, and marketing channels that were not designed for raising funds but instead pushing sales. You are then forced to think of donors as transactions and leads. While this may be fine to deal with at the beginning, each new feature on the platform will continue to cater business over nonprofit.

Why it matters.

The nonprofit sector received $390 billion dollars in 2016 according to the 2017 Giving USA report. Around 72% of all those donations were made by individuals. This means you can’t focus all your efforts with just a few donors, you must actively be engaged with multiple individuals and be able to manage each connection.

The world is moving at a much different pace than previous years. Not only have the means by which we communicate changed, but our behaviours have as well. Mobile responsiveness, and the ability to easily donate from your phone  is no longer a nice feature, but a requirement for any type of communication or fundraising efforts. We have been spoiled by companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon. They have made sharing videos, communicating, and making purchases painless, with instant gratification. With so much of the world using these technologies it’s not hard to see why having a difficult system to manage donors and fundraising can have a negative effect on your efforts.

Features of  a Modern CRM

There are a few key features that you will find in a good CRM for nonprofits. These are often found in business solutions but aren't often found in existing nonprofit solutions. We believe these are essential when picking a  solid platform for your organization.

Flexible data that is easy to search and segment

A modern CRM needs to have an easy way to input the data you need and then easily filter and segment the data in any way you see fit. Not every organization uses data the same way, some may need information on donors interest relating to your cause, while others focus more on recurring actions like donation frequency or event attendance. The platform you choose should give you the flexibility to customize their system to your needs.

Predictive Analytics

The data available is not limited to just being analyzed by you and your staff. Computers with the help of algorithms can help display valuable insights about your data. Using communication logs as well as donation history you can ensure you are communicating at the right frequency with each donor.

Easy to use Dashboard & Tools

One of the most overlooked parts of nonprofit CRMs is the dashboard experience. The dashboard should be clutter free and intuitive to use. Having easy or even automatic import and export tools can save a great deal of time. Other tools such as duplicate data merge will help keep your database clean with a click of button. These feature don’t just make life easier — they save valuable time that is being spent on needless data entry.


Not everything can be handled by a single platform. Nonprofits will usually use a handful of tools to help solve their issues, from bookkeeping software, newsletter management, to event ticketing. You don’t want the burden of having to manually transfer data between these platforms, a modern CRM will have open integration with multiple platforms, which will extend your capabilities and ensure your actions are based on data from all of your tools.

Choosing one Today

The hope we have is that the entire industry will shift and more software will begin to adopt modern practices in their offerings. Until that day comes we have found a few platforms that offer a good set of features: NeonCRM, Kindful, and Virtuous. These platforms utilize many of the modern features discussed above, and they work for nonprofits  and budgets of varying size and budgets too.