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What is a CRM for Nonprofits?

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Many nonprofits rely on CRM technology to manage relationships with donors, volunteers, and supporters. Here's how it works.

What you’ll learn:

Strong relationships are everything for nonprofits. These organizations rely heavily on building and maintaining relationships with donors, volunteers, and supporters to achieve their missions. That’s why many nonprofits rely on customer relationship management (CRM) technology to manage those relationships. Let’s explore what nonprofit CRM software is, why it’s valuable for nonprofits, key features to look for in a CRM for nonprofits, how to choose the best nonprofit CRM, and why Salesforce CRM is ideal for nonprofits.

What is nonprofit CRM software? 

A CRM is customer relationship management technology that helps nonprofits, educational institutions, and businesses manage their relationships with current and prospective stakeholders like donors, program participants or clients, board members, partners and volunteers.

A CRM gives organizations the tools to streamline their operations, keep track of stakeholder interactions, and unify data or team silos into a single source of truth. The best CRM software offers one integrated platform that provides all your departments a single shared view of every customer or in nonprofits’ case, stakeholder. (Back to top)

Who is a nonprofit CRM for? 

Don’t let the name fool you! Although it sounds like CRMs are specific to customers, robust CRM platforms like Salesforce encompass nearly every aspect of an  organization’s operations — from marketing and communications to analytics, and fundraising to grants management, program and service delivery and outcomes. 

Many CRMs offer a solution for just about every critical component of any successful nonprofit organization. (Back to top)

How does a CRM for nonprofits work?

CRM provides a single unified platform for every type of organization regardless of your size, cause area, or sophistication., And in every department, from your fundraising team to your marketing team to your programs and evaluation teams.

CRM can help you manage mission-critical functions for your nonprofit, such as: 

  • managing marketing campaigns
  • Engaging your stakeholders
  • identifying prospective donors
  • storing stakeholder information 
  • progressing a program participant towards their goals

A CRM system works by collecting stakeholder information. This information includes things like name, email, phone number, and social media handles, from across multiple sources and channels. Other information, such as recent news about a contact’s company, may also be automatically pulled into the account record. You can also add personalized information, like what time the person prefers communication or where you left off in your last conversation. 

The benefits of a CRM that gathers this wealth and depth of information includes allowing you to store critical information in one single database to give you and your team a better understanding of this relationship over time.

Having this important information in one place is just the beginning. From there, you can manage daily interactions and communicate with your contacts in the right place, at the right time, and with the right message. 

For example, if you are a nonprofit with a prospective donor who has engaged with your organization on social media or on your website, you have a wealth of backend information that informs your engagement and outreach efforts. Perhaps this means that you start with an email that explains more about your programs or an upcoming event before jumping straight to a donation ask, which can be off-putting.

Or for your programs, you may have a prospective client who’s engaged with your services but recently dropped out of a workshop for example. You know exactly where she is in the process and can see where she dropped off, which will better inform and personalize your services in getting her back on track to progress towards her goals should she choose to continue in the program.

Knowing when, where, and how to communicate with your donors or other stakeholders is critical for building strong relationships and maximizing long-term growth — and a CRM can be your best tool in doing that. (Back to top)

Learn more about Salesforce for Nonprofits

Why use a CRM?

If the COVID-19 pandemic proved one thing, it’s that organizations with a strong digital infrastructure are not only better equipped to overcome challenges, they’re also better positioned for long-term growth. 

Having an end-to-end technology solution that can help teams drive growth is especially important for nonprofits where teams are often asked to do more with less. 

A CRM can streamline manual processes while also CRM increasing the productivity of your team. A CRM enables your service providers to spend more time with clients and your development team to focus on creating an excellent donor experience. 

By investing in a CRM now, you’re setting your team and your organization up for a long-term return on your investment and sustained growth. (Back to top)

What are the advantages of a nonprofit CRM?

Given that CRM is the fastest-growing enterprise application software category, more nonprofits are making the decision to digitize and unify their operations everyday. For growth-minded organizations, CRMs offer the digital infrastructure, the data-driven culture, and the stakeholder support that are key to creating long-term success. 

Online CRMs, like Salesforce, combine the power of a CRM with the revolutionary convenience of cloud computing. By moving a CRM from on-premise software into the cloud, you’re storing all your information remotely and accessing it via the internet on any device instead of through a desktop application that needs to be installed. 

Online CRMs mean that you don’t need to worry about installing software on countless computers, tablets, or mobile devices. On top of not having to worry about installing software on every device you own, there’s added benefits having everything online in a secure environment, such as increased ability to: 

  • build stronger relationships and unite people behind your mission
  • Manage, protect and unlock data that provides the insights needed to deliver impact 
  • Adapt, sustain and grow their operations, despite changes or times of uncertainty

Over the past few years, organizations across all industries have seen the benefit in prioritizing digital transformation and relying on data-driven decision making. This sea change has provided digitally-minded organizations the ability to impact every level of their business – from reliably forecasting fundraising, to optimizing marketing and communications efforts, and ultimately delivering more impact. One of the biggest advantages of a CRM is that you can do all of this in one central location. (Back to top)

How do you choose the best nonprofit CRM?

When choosing the best nonprofit CRM, consider the following factors:

  • Scalability: Ensure the CRM can grow with your organization and accommodate increasing data and user needs over time.
  • Ease of Use: Look for a user-friendly interface and intuitive features that minimize training time and maximize staff productivity.
  • Customization: Seek a CRM that allows for customization to adapt to your organization’s unique workflows, terminology, and data requirements.
  • Integration: Choose a CRM that integrates seamlessly with other software solutions your nonprofit uses, such as accounting, marketing, program management, and fundraising platforms.
  • Support and Training: Select a CRM provider that offers robust customer support, training resources, and a vibrant user community to help you maximize the value of the CRM. (Back to top)

Benefits of a CRM for nonprofits 

A CRM for nonprofits is the same as a CRM for for-profits — but with a focus on donors, fundraising, grantmaking, and program management. Nonprofit-centric CRMs, like Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud, which was built with and for our trailblazing nonprofit community, are the embodiment of using tech for good

Nonprofit Cloud is a single integrated solution that helps nonprofits connect every integral aspect of an organization. By unifying fundraising, program management, marketing and grantmaking, Nonprofit Cloud enables teams to fund, deliver, and measure your impact.

For the social sector in particular, using digital tools like CRMs is essential for connecting effectively with stakeholders and prospective donors. Recent reports show that organizations that rely on a strong digital infrastructure and are savvy, data-driven decision makers are not only more effective at pivoting operations at the onset of a crisis, they are also more likely to have won grant increases, and are more positive about the future.

Nonprofit organizations are using CRM technology in countless impactful ways to make meaningful change and create lasting impact. (Back to top)

Learn more about Nonprofit Cloud or watch a demo

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