CRM For Nonprofits, It’s a Strategy Not a Software
I spend a lot of time thinking about CRM. It’s kind of an obsession. It wasn’t always this way. But then again, until fairly recently, it really wasn’t worth thinking about because it really wasn’t possible for or available to the nonprofit sector.
But today, it’s the buzz in the nonprofit sector. Idealware recently posted an article about 10 Things to Consider in a CRM. In late March, NTEN offered an online session about implementing CRM to advance your mission. And a whole host of software vendors – including Blackbaud, Convio (now Blackbaud), and Salesforce.com – are promoting their CRM products for nonprofits.
So what is this “CRM”? You tech-heads out there probably have an idea. And, if you’ve been in the commercial sector, you’ve been pitched CRM for years.
If you’ll allow me a little latitude, I’ll take a swing at a working definition for us nonprofit folk. (Note: I consider this definition collaborative! It comes out of conversations with many nonprofit clients and colleagues and will only get better as others contribute.)
Let’s start with a basic definition from the commercial sector, where CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. In common parlance, it’s come to refer to a single software system that supports three areas:
- customer service/support
But according to Ye Olde Wikipedia, it starts with a strategy and includes business processes, not just software. The goal of this strategy is “to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service”. With a bit of simple copy/pasting we could begin to translate this to the nonprofit sector as follows:
The goal of a nonprofit’s CRM strategy is to find, attract, and win new [constituents], nurture and retain those the [organization] already has, entice former [constituents] back into the fold, and reduce the costs (and/or increase the efficiency and efficacy) of [communications] and providing service to their [constituents].
There… that’s a pretty good start. Nonprofit CRM starts with a strategy. It will enlist technology and business practices in the service of that strategy, but the starting point is a focus on the constituent — how can we best serve them?
This is an exciting point! This is how every nonprofit starts — with the vision, aspiration and drive to best serve its constituents. In fact, although the notion of CRM was started in the commercial sector, I think it’s even more applicable in the nonprofit sector. The goal of commercial CRM is to increase profits by selling more products and reducing costs. The goal for nonprofits is to increase the reach and impact of their missions, positively impacting more people more deeply.
And who are the constituents of a nonprofit? There are many…. And I’ll cover that in my next posting!
What do you think?