May 19, 2020

CRM Strategies: 4 Tips to Better Use Your Nonprofit Software

Written by
Gerard Tonti

Your CRM is the center of your operations. It’s where you keep all of the invaluable information about your donors, your fundraising campaigns, your marketing strategies, and more. Actually, almost everything your organization does is probably somehow connected to your CRM.

Just as having the right CRM can stop customer churn for businesses, it can also prevent donor churn for nonprofits. When you effectively use the information stored in your CRM and the features of the software itself, you can improve your donor retention rate, reach a wider audience, and increase your fundraising revenue.

During a time when nonprofit fundraising is challenging and the economic climate is so turbulent, anything you can do to improve your fundraising strategy is welcomed.

Here are the tips we recommend for getting started:

  1. Create valuable donor segments.
  2. Automate marketing where you can.
  3. Actively track fundraising campaigns.
  4. Build relationships with your supporters.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the strategies your organization can use to make the most of your technology.

create valuable donor segments.

1. Create valuable donor segments

Personalized messages to supporters make a deeper impact than impersonal messages or mass communication. However, it’s not efficient to personally email each supporter every time you have something to communicate. That would take time away from the other aspects of your organization.

However, you can personalize each message to your supporters by segmenting your audience in your CRM into different, meaningful groups based on their commonalities.

Each of the segments should provide insights that help you personalize and optimize the messages that you send out. Some valuable donor segments that you might create for your organization include:

  • Engagement history. The engagement that your supporters have had with your organization can be a great indicator of how you should reach out to them. For example, if you have a group of supporters that attended your online auction, you may encourage them to stay involved by inviting them to your next in-person auction.
  • Donation history. Segment your donors based on donation history so that you can leverage their preferred platforms and giving amounts when reaching out to them. For example, you might create a segment of supporters who tend to give online in smaller quantities. In this situation, consider reaching out with a link to your donation page and an appeal for smaller donation amounts.
  • Mid and major donor prospects. By analyzing supporters’ engagement history, donation history, and prospect research data, you can develop donor segments of your mid-tier and major donor prospects. You may want to individually reach out to these people in order to secure their gifts.

If you’re a new nonprofit or recently invested in a CRM solution, you may not have an extensive history of past donations and engagement data to sift through. You may decide to create preliminary segments based on demographic information and then use those insights to estimate what your supporters’ preferences may be.

For instance, according to Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics, the Millennial and Gen X generations are most inspired to give by social media engagement (39% and 33% respectively find it to be the most inspirational platform). Therefore, you may decide to strengthen your social media presence to better target these donor segments.


2. Automate marketing where you can.

Marketing initiatives have the potential to take up a lot of your nonprofit’s time and energy. However, with an effective CRM solution that seamlessly integrates with your marketing platform, you can automate many aspects of the marketing process through the transfer of data from one system to another.

Automating various aspects of your marketing helps your organization save time that can be reinvested into your fundraising, programming, and more.

With the right CRM, you can automate marketing tasks such as:

  • Personal elements of messages. You can strengthen the personalization of your emails even further by optimizing the copy of the messages themselves. For example, in emails to your supporters, you can auto-populate information from your CRM platform such as names, contact information, and engagement details.
  • Email drip streams. With many CRMs, you can trigger email streams to be started when a supporter completes an action on your site. For example, you might set up a stream that’s triggered when someone subscribes to your blog. This stream could send one email per week every week. Then, you can set a “stop” trigger that stops this email stream when they complete an action such as submitting a donation.
  • Social media blasts. Use your nonprofit’s social media accounts to provide updates to your supporters and to remind them about opportunities at your organization. Send out email blasts to alert them of immediate opportunities, such as an action alert for your next advocacy campaign.

When you consider your marketing throughout these difficult times, make sure that you don’t completely ignore the pandemic and rocky economic times. Implement some empathic elements into your marketing strategy, such as asking your supporters how they’re handling everything and expressing what changes your nonprofit has made in response to the pandemic.

Actively Track donor campaigns.

3. Actively track fundraising campaigns.

Actively tracking your fundraising campaigns within your CRM allows your organization to see what aspects are going well and what needs to be improved upon as a part of your fundraising strategy.

For example, if your organization is focusing on donor acquisition and wants to see if peer-to-peer campaigns or direct appeal campaigns better capture a new supporting audience, you can track those aspects of your fundraising campaigns and use the data to make decisions later on about acquisition strategies.

In times like this, with an economic downturn underway, tracking fundraising campaigns is also necessary to help your organization keep an eye on incoming revenue. Doing this will help you better track the funding that you can use to maintain your current budget.

Don’t forget, tracking fundraising campaigns is unique to nonprofit CRM systems. While some standard CRM software options can track sales in a similar way, they employ a different mindset and a different software setup than tracking fundraising. For this reason, we recommend your organization looks for a CRM solution that caters specifically to the needs of nonprofits. Resources like this donor management guide from SalsaLabs can help you find a nonprofit-specific software solution.

Build relationships.

4. Build relationships with your supporters.

Nonprofits too frequently get so caught up in the idea of raising money that they forget one of the most important aspects of fundraising: building relationships. Relationships are especially important to engage mid-tier and major donors.

Your CRM software can help you track where you are in the relationship-building process with these vital supporters. For instance, you can track the different stages of acquiring major gifts as follows:

  • Prospect research. Conduct research about your supporters to determine who has the philanthropic and wealth indicators to potentially be a good mid-tier or major donor for your organization. Store prospect research details in each supporter’s profile.
  • Cultivation. Educate your supporters about the opportunities they have to make a difference by giving to your organization. This is the initial outreach and education that you use as a foundation for your relationship. In your CRM, record the cultivation conversations and notes you have from your discussions during this process.
  • Stewardship. Stewardship is the process of maintaining the positive relationship you have with supporters. You may get them involved in the decision-making process, invite them to an event where you don’t ask for money, or otherwise keep them engaged and show you care. Make note of which stewardship strategies your supporters tend to engage well with and keep them on hand for the future.

Right now, a major part of your relationship-building strategy should be checking in with your supporters about how they’re handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to let them know about any additional information, services, or opportunities you’re offering in response to the pandemic.

Make sure to track the different conversations you have with people in your CRM so that you don’t just ask for money every time on the same platform. Diversity in outreach and communication styles is key.

Use your resources

These are difficult times we’re living in. The first thing you should make sure to do is take care of your organization’s most immediate needs, like the health of your staff members and ensuring you have the tools you need to work from home. Many providers and companies are offering free COVID-19 resources to help guide nonprofits through this pandemic. Lean on these resources to help your organization keep the doors open during these challenging times.

Then, you should focus on ensuring your donor relationships and fundraising efforts will stay afloat so that you can continue generating revenue for your nonprofit and keep programming open (if possible). Your CRM is vital for this aspect of your strategy, so make sure to use it to its fullest potential.

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. 

Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.