10 Tips for CRM User Adoption

10 tips for CRM User Adoption

After all the hard work of implementing a new CRM it may be tempting to put your feet up, kick back, and take a well-earned break, but getting the system up and running is just the beginning! Now that you have this powerful new system to support your nonprofit operations, you have to make sure that your team is actually using the tool, which is can be challenging but critical to your organizations success.

Here are 10 tips for ensuring CRM user adoption and getting your team actively engaged with your new system:

Involve team members in the implementation.

It is important to get your team engaged and excited about your CRM early, and including them in the decision making and project work during the implementation is a great way to prepare them for the new system can instill a sense of ownership from the get go.

Train people well and train them often.

Effective training of all users is incredibly important as you go live in a new CRM. It is also important to continue to train your users as time goes on, highlighting new features and providing a refresher on core functionality and processes.

Keep documentation accessible and up to date.

Creating detailed process documentation is essential to ensuring your users are using the system effectively. It is important to keep your documentation up to date with changes to internal processes and CRM feature updates, and to make sure the documentation is readily accessible via an intranet site or shared drive.

Focus on reports and outputs.

For your CRM users the system is only as good as the detail that you can get out of it. Even if you have the most user-friendly, streamlined CRM in the history of CRMs, if your users can’t get reports, dashboards, and other outputs that are easy to generate and accurate they will soon stop trusting the system, and eventually “rogue” spreadsheets and outside database will appear. Avoid this scenario by carefully listening to your users’ output needs and keeping a special focus on these outputs.

Establish a plan for managing issues

As you step forward in the CRM, there are going to be bumps along the road. Even with the best planning, there will be gaps in your processes, hiccups in functionality, and regular tweaks to configuration. The important thing is that you proactively manage these issues and keep up user morale and confidence in the system as they are resolved. Establishing an issue or case management system that allows users to identify problems and stay informed as you fix them will go a long way toward keeping users engaged.

Keep an eye out for improvements.

The nonprofit technology ecosystem is constantly changing, and new tools and concepts are born every day. It is important that you keep an ear to the ground and pay attention to updated releases to your CRM platform. Many vendors release regular updates throughout the year, and these changes could impact your processes or provide new solutions for your team. Keeping fresh with this functionality and keeping your team up to date will keep them engaged as the system evolves.

Engage leadership.

People pay attention to what is important to leadership, and if your leadership is active in the CRM and expresses excitement about the system, your team will follow. It is important to actively engage senior leadership to gauge their needs in the CRM and ensure that they are acting as advocates for the system.

Identify a CRM “champion.”

Along with your leadership advocates, it can be very beneficial to have a person or group of people from the user pool to act as cheerleaders and experts on the new system. This could fall to the CRM administrator, power users, or basic users.

Establish a CRM committee.

Establishing a committee to keep your CRM up to date with organizational needs and guide related decisions not only helps to improve the systems usefulness over time, it also increases the pool of people actively engaged in “owning” the CRM’s success.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

At Heller Consulting we are big fans of regular communication. Keeping an ongoing dialog with your users can be extremely useful in keeping them engaged. Send an ongoing newsletter, create an internal blog, or establish a Wiki. Just make sure your entire user base knows what you are up to in your system, and make sure to highlight your successes as you work to maintain and improve the CRM over time.

Any CRM system is simply a tool within an organization. How you use, maintain, and share information about that tool will have a huge impact on how effective it is. Congratulate yourself and your team once your system is in place, but make sure you follow through with the tips above. Your team will be in touch with your information, and be able to deliver on your mission better than ever.

Do you have any suggestions on how to keep teams engaged with a new CRM system? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

About Joel Mulder

Before joining the Heller Consulting team, Joel had more than 10 years of experience in the development field. He has worked as a tele-fundraiser, data entry person, Raiser's Edge database manager, and development operations manager. He has implemented Raiser’s Edge databases as well as unified business practices and coding systems across development departments. At Heller Consulting, Joel has served as project lead on large, complex implementation projects, and has focused on coordinating work, managing resources, and ensuring deliverables on projects with clients. Additionally, Joel manages a team of consultants similarly focused on Heller Consulting’s largest and most complex projects.


  1. Susan Kenna Wright

    I love the point about focusing on reports and outputs. Accessing reports and outputs is the reward for using the database. Without those rewards, it is very challenging to get high measures of user adoption.

  2. Kim Kupferman

    I think the CRM Committee concept is a very important one in helping an organization achieve long term goals, as well as assist with user adoption. When the Committee is comprised of the right people (Management-level as well as Administrator-level) It helps continuously identify areas where the CRM will need to shift to support a change in strategy, allowing the organization to be much more proactive instead of reactive in the management of the CRM.

    Instead of cobbling together a short term solution when a staff member needs a new way to track an additional fundraising goal (as an example), you’re able to take some time to plan and think about the best way to implement an update to your system or processes that supports this new strategy. The Committee can figure out the right solution in the context of everything else going on with your organization’s goals and objectives to ensure that new process doesn’t create conflicts for the long term. That can ultimately increase user adoption because the staff feel like the CRM is supporting their needs and they don’t have to create their own, external systems to get what they want.

  3. I’ve been through several big software and system change-overs in my career, and am always amazed at the amount of information we all need to absorb in those first few days of training. “Here’s the entire system to memorize. GO!”

    I’m glad you mentioned continuing the training, and having refreshers over time. It may have made sense to everyone when you did it, but 3 months down the road, everything gets blurry. Recording online trainings is a great idea, and make sure the people who need them can go through the videos at any time.

  4. Great tips Joel!

    Communication is definitely key when it comes to implementing a CRM system, but I like that you also mentioned to look out for software improvements.

    Things are always changing and improving and it is definitely helpful to stay on top of those updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *