CRM for Nonprofits: Past, Present and Future

The Past, Present, and Future of CRM

The nonprofit sector is really buzzing about Constituent Relationship Management (CRM). But, how did we get here? Why is NOW the time for CRM? And, what do we have to look forward to next in the world of CRM for nonprofits?

The Past

Let’s start waaaaay back in the 1990s. Many nonprofits were putting in place donor databases and adding on systems for event management, volunteer management, and other specific functions. The result: multiple databases with disparate and often overlapping data.

In the early-to-mid 00’s, we then started really seeing the rise of the Internet and email, and many nonprofits began adding even more data silos as they collected online data and managed processes via email. As nonprofits began to see the challenges of disparate data, and the success of Customer Relationship Management in the for-profit space, CRM seemed to be the answer to this growing data problem.

And then… the economic downturn of 2008. Organizations put their CRM plans and projects on hold.

The Present

Now CRM is back on nonprofits’ radar, and it’s needed more than ever. During the downturn, organizations embraced and committed to online communication to an unprecedented degree. We’ve also seen the rise of social media and Software-as-a-Service solutions for communication, fundraising and mission management. All of this has created more data silos and generated even more constituent data. In a nutshell, here’s how I see where we are now:

  • The bad news: Organizations have many technology systems that barely talk to each other and have aged poorly over the years.
  • The good news: Many organizations now have more time, resources and support to make things better.
  • The great news: Technology has made substantive improvements. The competition among providers of CRM systems for nonprofits is evolving, and costs have lowered. Organizations can get further down the CRM path, faster.

The Future

Constituents’ expectations are on the rise. As their consumer experience with the for-profit world becomes more and more personalized, they will expect you to know more and more about them: who they are, what interests them, and how they’ve supported your organization in the past. Competition for gaining and keeping their support by treating them the way they want to be treated will only become stronger. By moving toward CRM now and developing a proactive strategy to guide you, you can ensure that your organization won’t be outpaced.

How to Get CRMready

To get more information about what CRM is and what it means to your nonprofit, view the Get CRMready Workshop presented by Heller Consulting, Idealist Consulting, and Idealware. This series discusses CRM from the beginning, and helps organizations create a functional plan to bring a CRM initiative to life.

Click here to view Webinar 1




The Connected Cause is a place for experts in the nonprofit online space to share perspective, offer guidance and promote best practices for using today’s technology effectively. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive source of collaborative thought leadership for the nonprofit industry.

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