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Thinking of a new CRM system? Keep these tips in mind!


Jessica Walker Jessica Walker

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools are supposed to make life easier and simpler across the board, right? Organizations (like GuideStar) use CRM software to manage interactions with past, current, and future contacts. Using the system allows people and organizations to organize information, automate our sales and touch points, market efficiently, and provide the customer service and technical support essential for gaining and keeping donors. The CRM tool is a library of contacts and interactions and we use it to remember all the small details that relationships are made of as we meet, discuss, and, most importantly, ask for money. As the development coordinator for GuideStar, I’ve spent a lot of time in our current system, which was recently updated, and while it is light years ahead of the limited platforms I’ve used in the past, no program is without its quirks.

After getting to know these quirks, I’ve come up with a few tips to keep in mind when changing, upgrading, or building a CRM tool:

  1. Ask what your people need.

It’s important to know what exactly people will need from the CRM tool so it can actually make life easier and more streamlined. Ask everyone, too, not just the people that will be in the CRM software daily. The more people that your CRM tool helps, the more people will use it. Build or choose with the present usage and the future in mind.

  1. Let your CRM software chat with other systems.

When all of your software converses, duplicate tasks are limited; everyone can focus on building the organization’s impact and increasing the scale of their work rather than on moving information from one location to another. At GuideStar, we’re committed to reducing duplication of efforts and we’ve begun the herculean task of getting all of our platforms to work together – but as you can imagine, it is taking time. The first step was identifying all the systems and what was required to make them communicate. Now we’re in the process of integrating all of our tools.

  1. Have standards!

Since the CRM tool is going to be a reference in the future, everyone should be able to understand what it says. Have a set of rules for entering information and introduce every new person to them. Make sure everyone follows the rules – even those people that can remember all 800 initial contacts’ first names, last names, and birthdays. Their notes are just as essential as the next person’s. Five years from now when a team is looking through the CRM records, you want them to have full understanding when prepping for the million dollar ask!

Using CRM software should be painless for all day-to-day tasks. If you talk to the people using it, research your options, and ensure all your needs are filled, the tool should guide you to bigger and better relationship management and fundraising!

What are your rules of thumb when working with CRM tools? How has CRM software benefited your nonprofit?

Jessica Walker is development coordinator for GuideStar. This is the second post in our monthly Development Corner series. To read the first post, "Beth Suarez on 'The Great Debate'", click here.

Topics: Fundraising