Customer relationship management (CRM) has proven useful to so many industries that it’s often perceived as a kind of universal business operating system. With cloud-based installations and feature integrations growing exponentially every year, there are few things left that CRM software can’t do. But bigger isn’t always better, especially for niche markets that require specialization rather than large feature sets. In this Buyer’s Guide, we’ll take a detailed look at the best non profit CRM software on the market today.
With profit-model businesses, CRM focuses primarily on leveraging relationships to increase revenue (directly or indirectly). The subjects, typically, are thought of as leads, contacts, or customers. Nonprofits maintain relationships with a more diverse support base, referred to as “constituents.” This is why, in the nonprofit sector, CRM has come to mean “constituent relationship management.” Constituents typically include:
The diversity of constituents means that goals vary greatly depending on the relationship - you want donors to continue donating; you want volunteers to give their time and be productive; and you want media outlets to run positive stories about your organization. That means a one-size-fits-all approach is destined to leave certain groups unserved or uncultivated.
Nonprofits also face unique challenges like stringent regulatory constraints and tight budgets. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are 817,379 nonprofits with less than $100,000 in total revenue. That’s a significant figure, because it accounts for more than half of the 1.4 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S.
Nonprofits are organized around a variety of different front-end missions, such as service, activism, advocacy, religious beliefs, and so on. But since they rely on charitable contributions for funding, the operational mission of nonprofits revolves around managing donors. Non profit CRM software - sometimes called “donor management software” - are uniquely suited to help nonprofits run operations on both sides of the desk.
Successful organizations understand this.
There is a strong association between using data-driven technology to managing constituents and succeeding as a nonprofit organization. About a third of top performers reported last year that using CRM technology correlated with donor contribution growth of 20 percent or more. Seventy percent of those organizations (compared to only 48 percent of everyone else) reported they were “very or somewhat satisfied” with their current donor management technology.
One of the biggest hitches for nonprofits is dealing with donor attrition. Attracting new donors is an involved but established process. Retaining current donors and capitalizing on their relationships, on the other hand, can be an uphill battle. Your organization must continually court them for renewed memberships, additional pledges, event attendance, community advocacy, and volunteer activities.
2012 research by fundraising agency Pursuant shows how statistically precipitous these retention endeavors can be:
For every $100 given to nonprofit organizations, $96 was lost through attrition
69 percent of fundraisers have no formal strategy for donor retention.
Non profit CRM software platforms provide valuable retention tools such as marketing automation, pledge management, and social media engagement—which, if used correctly, will give your organization the right amount of influence on the right constituents.
Using CRM software gives every nonprofit an upper hand when it comes to boosting donations, improving retention, and executing mission operations. But if you’re in the market for a CRM system, you should familiarize yourself with some of the more specific software features. Start by deciding which vendors offer what you need, and build a shortlist of products. We’ve compiled some primary feature categories to get you started.
Constituent management is the traditional CRM equivalent of contact management. The difference, of course, is that constituent management can include donors, vendors, foundations, volunteers, alumni, students, and other groups. It also includes tools ranging from basic contact records to type classification, donation history, memberships, and social media engagement.
Not all nonprofit CRMs offer event planning and management tools, but if your organization frequently plans charity dinners, auctions, conferences, etc., this feature is a must-have. The more competitive CRMs will let you schedule events, send invitations, track RSVPs, create seating charts, and let your team members check in and access this data from their mobile devices.
Marketing campaigns are the primary means for a non-profit organization to keep its constituents informed and solicit donations from new prospects. As sales are to profit-model businesses, so fundraising campaigns are to nonprofits. Luckily, you don’t need to spend hours designing pamphlets in Microsoft Office or adding email recipients to a newsletter one-at-a-time. Most nonprofit CRMs have helpful marketing automation features for multiple types of campaigns (email, direct mail, SMS, etc.).
Getting down to the nuts and bolts of fundraising, you’ll need a way to process donations when they happen. In the interest of seamless customer experience, it’s important to keep your organization’s payment options flexible so you can take donations in more than one channel. Choose software with integrated payment processing (credit/debit card, ACH) and check-scanning to win here. Some CRMs also offer integrated accounting and budgeting features or the ability to export data to external accounting software.
Analytics and Reports
Traditional CRMs are notorious for collecting vast amounts of data, but not as well known for making good use of it, and nonprofit CRMs are no less vulnerable to this pitfall. Make sure you choose a product designed to make analysis easy, which means a platform that helps you segment constituents and take a targeted approach to relationship management. Easy analysis means predictive intelligence that lets you plan ahead, and that clarifies your perspective by displaying data in clean, customizable dashboards.
Salesforce1 for Nonprofits is exactly what it sounds like: a nonprofit option made by the world’s leading CRM software provider. The company’s traditional CRM offering has a reputation for being expensive and complicated, but this version is intended to bring some of the same best-in-class functionality to nonprofit organizations (and thanks to the Power of Us program, at a price you can afford). The first 10 user subscriptions are free for qualified customers, and additional subscriptions are sold at a deep discount of 50-75 percent off traditional rates. Without the Power of Us discount, you’re looking at enterprise-league pricing.
Much like its enterprise cousin, the nonprofit Salesforce platform aims to be innovative and comprehensive, focusing on social media, mobile compatibility, and workplace collaboration. The only thing Salesforce1 Nonprofit doesn’t offer, it seems, is an on-premise installation option (meaning you can’t install it on company owned servers).
This cloud-based solution offers a host of fundraising tools, along with management features for cases, call centers, hotlines, and social media engagement. Not only that, but you’ll have access to nonprofit apps from over 50 Salesforce partners via the AppExchange, which means you aren’t limited to out of the box functionality.
Case Study: Pencils of Promise
Pencils of Promise is a “for purpose” organization focused on building schools, training teachers, and raising scholarship funds for rural communities in Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos. They also provide water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) education to keep young students healthy.
Before they came to Salesforce, PoP had a data problem—too much of it in too many places. CEO Adam Braun chose Salesforce because of its adaptability, centralized approach to data, and the Power of Us discount program. Since then, Pencils of Promise has successfully implemented a multi-step drip campaign (that achieved 25 to 38 percent open rates during the first week) to onboard new subscribers and introduce them to the brand.
Using Salesforce for Nonprofits, PoP has been able to:
DonorPerfect comes in a cloud-based or installed version and is a great option for smaller organizations seeking growth through the use of donor management software. It offers some fairly impressive features for the price, such as built-in tools for planning special events and predictive prospect analysis that calculates donor giving-capacity based on a set of 27 variables. DonorPerfect uses Weblink to create and manage online forms for a variety of nonprofit needs like donations, gifts, memberships, volunteer and event sign-ups, auction sales, and information requests. Other features include PCI-compliant payment processing, Quickbooks and MS Office integration, over 100 built-in reports, along with a custom report writer.
Though it emphasizes nonprofit fundraising, DonorPerfect also enables you to manage relationships with other constituents such as volunteers, board members, and event attendees in one database that’s accessible through an iPhone and Android compatible web interface as well as in the office.
Though it’s a comprehensive product, DonorPerfect does lack inventory management abilities, which could be a deal breaker for nonprofits that frequently deal in quantifiable goods and services.
Case Study: French Camp Academy
French Camp Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides stable living quarters for K-12 children from broken homes, along with mentorship and access to a world-renowned equestrian program. Lance Ragsdale, Vice President of Development, said they were using Sage for accounting and fundraising as part of a $24 million renovation campaign for the residences. Sage unfortunately didn’t offer the flexible functionality and reporting they needed, so they switched to DonorPerfect for their fundraising software needs and saw dramatically improved results.
With DonorPerfect, a small group of French Camp Academy’s fundraisers were able to:
Luminate CRM is owned by Blackbaud, a nonprofit software solutions company, and is built on the Salesforce platform. Though that may be confusing, it’s important to know, because it means that Luminate is designed by a company already devoted to helping nonprofits, and it taps into the formidable power of Salesforce.
Luminate is cloud-based and takes a three-pronged approach, focusing on unified data management, innovative technology (mobile access, AppExchange, custom user-access), and integrated marketing features. Within these categories, Luminate draws from a complete kit of essential nonprofit functions, such as constituent metrics, web forms, email marketing, market segmentation analytics, document sharing, and predesigned integrations for Outlook, Office, and Google Apps. Since Luminate is built on the Salesforce platform, if the out-of-the-box features aren’t enough, you can purchase more specialized features from the AppExchange store.
The possible downsides to this CRM are the lack of grant management and inventory management features.
Case Study: Room to Read
Room to Read is a nonprofit advocacy organization that focuses on developing literacy skills among primary school children in Asia and Africa and battling educational gender inequality. Though they were experiencing significant growth, Room to Read was still using spreadsheets to manually enter donor and gift information, which made answering questions and pulling reports difficult. They turned to Blackbaud’s solution, which let them quickly locate all data in a centralized system and improve overall efficiency. Other gains they experienced included:
DonorPro offers an array of cloud based and on-premise solutions for nonprofits, including this integrated product suite for fundraising, CRM, marketing automation, web, and mobile functions.
The suite is built around core CRM functions, which include donor and volunteer management, event planning, integrated marketing, inventory management, and analytics. The fundraising functionality is just as robust, supplying users with the ability to process payments, create web content and forms, host online auctions, create emergency appeals, and conduct peer-to-peer fundraising.
You might pay a little more for the integrated fundraising suite, but with an all-inclusive price point that locks in the rate and future upgrades, regardless of how many users you have, it’s worth the expense. DonorPro doesn’t offer much in the way of API access though, which could be a stumbling block if you’re IT savvy and looking to customize the program beyond the basic offering.
Case Study: River Valley Riders
River Valley Riders is a therapeutic horse-riding program based in Woodbury, MN that provides equine-assisted activities and therapy to special needs children and adults. Using DonorPro, they were able to reenergize their 10-year-old Annual Round-Up Dinner and Auction. DonorPro empowered them to be creative with their marketing, accomplish broader outreach, and conduct more efficient event planning. This resulted in:
If you identify with any of these case studies or common features, your nonprofit could probably benefit from CRM software. But don’t spend hours on the Internet researching vendors and solutions on your own. TechnologyAdvice has already done that for you.
When you access our Product Selection Tool, you’ll find organized information and reviews of CRM solutions of every size and shape. We’ll connect you with the right vendors for your organization based on the features you value most, as well as other criteria including budget. Call one of our in-house product advisors or use the Product Selection Tool on our site to get a personalized recommendation.
Best of all, our services are completely free because we want you to grow and succeed. We’re just nice like that.