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Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use Them

If you’re a part of the nonprofit world, you’ve heard a lot of talk about the importance of working with nonprofit CRM software. 

In a nutshell, CRM, or constituent relationship management, software plays a vital role in nonprofits’ overall fundraising and management strategies. 

It provides a key way for nonprofits to track their relationships with donors and other constituents through recording past involvement and basic donor data, helping plan tailored outreach strategies, and giving organizations insights with robust reporting. 

Not surprisingly, there are tons of different CRM providers out there, each with slightly different strengths. Regardless of whether your nonprofit’s needs require a more comprehensive or a simpler CRM software package, the most important thing is to choose a tool that can help you ensure that your organization runs smoothly. 

This article will take you through five essential nonprofit CRM software features and how to use them: 

  1. Comprehensive constituent profiles
  2. Donation processing
  3. List segmentation
  4. Email automation
  5. Data reporting 

Once you know that your chosen CRM can effectively perform these functions, you’ll be on track to ensuring the continued success of your organization. 

Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use Them

1. Comprehensive constituent profiles

What Is It? 

One of the biggest ways that nonprofit CRMs benefit an organization is by culling together detailed profiles of all its supporters. This is not just limited to a nonprofit’s donors! 

A good CRM will also keep track of: 

  • Your nonprofit’s staff members
  • People who have volunteered with your nonprofit
  • Event attendees
  • Recipients of your nonprofit’s aid or services
  • Nonprofit board members
  • Corporate and individual sponsors 

The software works to integrate information about your constituents across all data sources. It helps eliminate the need to constantly switch back and forth between complicated spreadsheets. 

Instead of staff members wasting time manually consolidating donor information, your CRM can do it for you! 

Let’s say you held a fundraising event that attracted a large number of attendees. Afterwards, as you’re looking over the list of everyone who attended, it occurs to you that it would be useful to know how many of those people have attended other events your organization has hosted, how many first-timers were present, and who among the attendees decided to make a donation during the event. 

If these tasks were performed manually, they would take forever! Luckily, a CRM’s member management tools are specifically designed with these needs in mind. 

CRMs gather and integrate a variety of key pieces of constituent information, including: 

  • Biographical information
  • Contact information
  • Familial, corporate, and organizational relationships
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Past and present channels of communication
  • Donation history
  • Volunteer work
  • Event attendance
  • Preferred giving channels
  • Advocacy activities
  • Online engagement

How Is It Used?

So what exactly does a CRM do with all of that information? 

As the saying goes, knowledge is power—and in this case, the more knowledge you can get about your supporters, the more customized and powerful your marketing and fundraising campaigns can become. 

For example, let’s say you learned that Jane Smith just donated to your capital campaign. 

Thanks to your CRM’s donor integration feature, you also know that Jane Smith works for a company that has an active corporate giving program, including employee gift matching. You can encourage Jane to apply to get her donation matched through the program, resulting in twice the donation without twice the work. 

See the power here? You were able to identify additional funding that you might never have found without the connections your CRM software allowed you to see. 

Developing such robust constituent profiles can also contribute to better donor stewardship and long-term relationship building (learn more from this NeonCRM resource). 

Because your CRM offers a 360° view of your supporters, you’re able to craft more targeted and appealing outreach strategies. Personalized outreach leads to more donor engagement, resulting in more enduring and valuable constituent relationships. 

Takeaway: A CRM’s ability to compile in-depth supporter profiles not only allows you to get to know your donor base better but also gives you the ability to leverage these relationships to further your fundraising and marketing goals. 

Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use Them

2. Donation processing

What Is It? 

Nonprofit CRM software enables you to build forms for collecting online and mobile donations—and for processing offline donations as well. 

Most CRMs come with numerous built-in templates for secure online donation forms—many of which can be customized to your organization’s unique brand and needs. Then, once a donation is made, the CRM will automatically store donor information and keep track of how many times the donor has given. 

CRM donation processing also applies to the following offline donation methods: 

  • Standard donations
  • Gifts-in-kind
  • Gifts in memoriam
  • Gifts in honorarium
  • Pledges 

Once offline donation information is collected, it can be entered into your CRM software and automatically stored within donor profiles, just like with online donations.

How Is It Used? 

By streamlining your donation processing through your CRM software, you can significantly speed up and automate the donation process. 

The burden no longer falls on you or your staff members to manually handle all donations. Instead, you simply use your CRM to set up your donation page, ensure it is properly funneling back into your database, and get ready to roll! 

This not only helps to free up staff time through processing automation but it also eliminates human errors that inevitably result from manual donation processing. 

Additionally, because your CRM is handling all donations, your nonprofit will get its money faster! 

Even better, allowing your CRM to handle donation processing can help you track donors’ behavior to learn more about how they give. In fact, many nonprofit CRMs offer basic prospect researching and major donor development tools to help you track who among your constituents might be poised to donate even more. 

Takeaway: Nonprofit CRMs have the capacity to process online and offline donations, greatly speeding up the procedure and giving you yet another way to gain insight into donors’ behaviors. 

Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use Them

3. List segmentation

What Is It? 

It’s often useful to separate constituents into categories based around similar attributes in order to better address their needs, interests, and preferences. 

Nonprofit CRMs can help you organize and categorize your supporters into groups through list segmentation features. 

Your software can easily sort constituents into lists based on any of the data fields you’ve recorded. You can then harness these lists to target different groups with personalized communications and appeals.

How Is It Used? 

As we’ve described above, it’s never a bad idea to get personal with your supporters. Mass or generic appeals will never get the same amount of interest or engagement as more individualized approaches. 

List segmentation allows you to customize your outreach efforts to each particular group, leading donors to feel cared for and respected. They will be much more likely to engage as a result because you are meeting them on their level! 

Some of the ways you choose to divide up your donors could be based on: 

  • Age
  • Profession
  • Geographical location
  • Interests
  • Giving history
  • Donation frequency
  • Event attendance 

Additionally, divvying up your supporters allows you to more efficiently send out category-specific messages or notifications. You no longer have to go through your entire roster of constituents to see who should receive a particular update—your CRM’s list segmentation feature can do this for you! 

Takeaway: CRMs can divide your supporter base into specific categories to help you better tailor your outreach efforts. 

Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use Them

4. Email automation

What Is It? 

Another major way that CRM software can help streamline organizational efficiency is through email automation. 

Just as its name suggests, this feature allows you to schedule emails and generate automatic email responses to donor activities. CRM software also provides customization tools to ensure that your email communications adhere to your organization’s brand and needs. 

This feature is not just limited to your donors! A CRM’s ability to automate emails can be harnessed to help manage your staff members, volunteers, sponsors, and board members.

How Is It Used? 

First and foremost, this powerful automation tool offers a huge productivity boost to your organization. Your staff members will no longer have to spend hours crafting and dispatching the myriad email communications your nonprofit sends each week. 

Plus, the software can save previous email templates or messages to use in the future, so you don’t have to start over from scratch. 

One great example of a way email automation saves time and energy is through automation of thank-you notes and donation receipts. Instead of relying on staff to individually send gift acknowledgments to each donor, you can set up your CRM to immediately generate a thank-you email that includes a tax-friendly proof of donation after donors have given. 

Email automation also gives you valuable insights into how your supporters are engaging and how your online marketing or donation campaigns are performing. 

CRM software can record when emails are sent, track open and click-through rates, and organize larger email campaigns. As a result, you’ll get a fuller picture of how your email efforts are contributing to your nonprofit’s broader outreach goals. 

As an added bonus, such automation can play a role in your larger donor stewardship efforts. Since emails can be scheduled right from your CRM, you can set up your software to send outreach at optimal times in the giving cycle. Your donors will appreciate reminders during the times they are most likely to give! 

Takeaway: CRM email automation features can further streamline organizational efficiency while also offering valuable ways to track campaign performance and improve donor stewardship. 

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5. Data reporting

What Is It? 

It’s clear from the discussion above just how much information a CRM intakes across your organization’s activities. Such data doesn’t simply sit within the software—your CRM can generate a variety of robust reports and give you valuable insights! 

Your software has the ability to compile information on numerous metrics, including: 

  • Donor demographics
  • Financial transactions
  • Broader fiscal activity
  • Peak donation times
  • Campaign responses
  • Email open rates 

More comprehensive CRM programs can also help you plan, organize, and manage fundraising events. From there, your software can amass valuable event-related data into reports for use in future event planning. 

The most powerful CRMs should even let you configure custom reports to receive organization-unique insights!

How Is It Used? 

Reports on all aspects of your organization’s activities are obviously crucial from a strategy and development standpoint. Having access to information on the strengths and weaknesses of your fundraising or marketing strategies can help inform plans for the future. 

However, these reports provide much more value than that! 

Because all transactions are recorded in the software, CRMs provide nonprofits with the most accurate and up-to-date financial reports, which can help your organization be more transparent about fund allocation and management to your key stakeholders. This helps build trust with the major financial backers of your nonprofit. 

Such data also makes reporting to the government or the IRS much easier. Your CRM is a big help here, since all fundraising transactions are housed in the same platform and are tracked in real time. 

Takeaway: Your CRM software includes reporting features that can turn all of the information it receives into actionable reports that can be used to inform future strategy, enable a greater degree of transparency, and notify the IRS of financial activities. 

Closing Thoughts

If your constituent relationship management software effectively performs these 5 main functions, you’ll have a strong, solid foundation to ensure the continued success of your organization. 

BONUS TIP! CRM software often requires a big financial investment—but there are other great options available. Take a look at @Pay’s guide to the best low-cost and free CRM options out there if you’re looking for a more affordable software package.

Five Top Nonprofit CRM Software Features and How to Use ThemThe preceding is a guest post by Adam Weinger, president, Double the Donation. Adam is blending his corporate experience with nonprofit fundraising. After speaking with a host of nonprofit organizations about the need to access matching gift funds in a cost-effective way, Double the Donation was born.

Topics: Fundraising CRM