What not-for-profits need to know about CRM

In June 2020, our research found that 60% of successful not-for-profits have increased their investment in digital. One key investment they’ve made is in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. If you’re considering investing in a CRM, and don’t know where to start, this article will give you the fundamentals you need to know to kick off your journey.


Some examples of CRMs are Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and HubSpot CRM.  There are also CRMs made specifically for charities, like Blackbaud, Bloomerang and DonorPerfect. A CRM gives you the chance to better understand your donors and the best way to connect with them by collecting donor information like: 

  • Names
  • Phone numbers and email addresses
  • Average donation value
  • Time since last donation
  • Campaigns they’ve donated to

This is called “first-party data”, because it’s information we have collected directly from donors and potential donors.

Using this data, we can then create a “donor profile” that helps us better understand who they are, how to reach them, and what motivates them to donate.


Use CRM to segment your donors and personalise your messaging

When we gather information in a CRM, we can use that information to personalise  emails and other donor communications. For example, we can use the donor’s name, the campaign they last gave to, and even the amount they contributed to our last fundraiser. 

We can also segment our donors so each group receives a slightly different message. For example, lapsed donors (those who haven’t donated to our last few campaigns) should receive different messages than active donors (those who donated recently).

Lapsed donor messaging


"Joanne, your past support has driven vital progress..."



Active donor messaging


"Progress in [blank] wouldn't be possible without your support"


Beyond messaging, donors should receive different types of communications based on their level of giving.

For example, active donors and regular givers should receive ongoing impact reporting communications via email and social, so they are reminded of the good they’re doing. Lapsed donors, who won’t want to engage with us that regularly, can be brought in around key campaign moments, or through reactivation campaigns.

Implementing a CRM will let you understand your donors’ status and how it changes, so that you can target your communication to them.


When choosing a CRM, start with how it can best help your team


The first step to choosing a CRM is to understand how it will fit into your organisation’s strategy. This means writing a list of the key things the platform can provide to help grow your organisation.

Some things you might consider when choosing a CRM include:

  • Your budget,  including initial set-up costs, licensing fees, for training your staff, and for ongoing maintenance. 
  • Whether the platform can integrate into technology your organisation is already using. For example, check whether the CRM can link with your email platform to bring the donor on an automated email journey, or whether you’ll need to move to a new integrated platform. 
  • Making sure the platform is built for today and tomorrow: CRMs that cater to small charities, or that are very new to market, may not be able to support your growth. 
  • Ease of use: will your team be able to manage the CRM, or will you need to bring on an external contractor?

Separate the key decision variables into a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘nice to have’ in a requirement gathering process.


Then, narrow down possible vendors


There are dozens of CRM platforms out there, each with their own unique offering. With your requirements in hand,  work with your team to shortlist vendors. If you haven’t selected a CRM before, it may be helpful to bring in outside expertise to help you select the right candidate. Choose a consultant who can help select from a range of platforms, not one who works exclusively with one vendor. 

Make sure the vendor can tick all of the ‘need to haves’ and as many ‘nice to haves’ as they can. Don’t get distracted by sales ploys of promising you the world. Stay focused on your requirements.

If you need help with CRM vendor selection, reach out to our tech team at ntegrity. We’ve helped dozens of not-for-profits, like the Salvation Army and AFL Players’ Association, with their technology strategy.


Remember, a CRM is a long-term investment


Don’t expect immediate returns on your investment into CRM. The goal in investing is to build relationships with your donors over months and years, on a platform that supports your ongoing growth. 

With 75% of first-time digital organisations opting to continue their online fundraising efforts, investing in CRM is one of the smartest moves you can make. 

For a more detailed look at how best to implement a CRM, read this article on the key elements of successful marketing technology implementation, and what marketing technology has in common with burgers.

Download our research to find out more about what successful not-for-profits are doing right now.

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