Handling Change in Your Nonprofit During a CRM Implementation

Handling Change in Your Nonprofit During a CRM Implementation

In my 16+ years working with nonprofits on CRM and technology implementations, one lesson has come through loud and clear: When it comes to implementing new software, most of the challenges are not technology-related, they’re people-related.

There are many reasons why “people issues” complicate a software implementation, but one major reason is that change is uncomfortable for us people-types. We may like the idea of a new system, but the idea of changing the way we operate — well, that’s OK for other folks, but not for us.

With that said, there are ways to successfully manage the change in your organization that a new system naturally brings about. I asked three of our consultants at Heller Consulting to share their top recommendations for handling change specifically when implementing a CRM system (since CRM systems often touch every department in an organization). Here’s what they said:

Bryan Malong, Project Manager/Senior Technical Consultant, Heller Consulting

When it comes to a CRM implementation, change management becomes a process of getting everyone on the same page from the start, integrating business processes and aligning everything in a way that supports the organization’s constituents.

The best way to address this challenge is to ensure that your organization has taken the time to define its CRM objectives. These objectives should be measurable and tell a story of how CRM will enable your organization to be successful. The story should include everyone in the organization so they are engaged from the very beginning. And, your organization needs to have committed sponsorship to see the CRM project through from start to finish — nothing kills a project faster than the lack of a strong executive sponsor.

Contact Bryan bryan@teamheller.com


Bruce (BJ) Cortis, Director of Enterprise Services, Heller Consulting

CRM projects often begin with a spirit of openness and sharing of data in the commitment to achieving a “360 degree view” of constituents. In practice, however, this can represent a significant change in the way an organization operates.

A common example is a major gifts officer in an organization’s chapter that has built a local relationship over many years and is now sharing that information with national fundraising teams. This kind of effort is an important part of leveraging a complete view of constituents to meet fundraising objectives. But, the major gifts officer might be, understandably, hesitant to share his hard-won information.

How do you manage and facilitate this type of data sharing? I think it has to occur on two levels:  leadership and business process. It is important for your organization’s leaders to be consistent and vocal in messaging the importance of sharing, bringing every change back to the broader goal of “achieving a 360 degree view of constituents to allow us to expand our efforts and to drive toward our objectives.” In parallel, it’s also important that a set of business processes and ground rules are put in place to ensure that sharing is done in a strategic, consistent way.

Contact BJ bj@teamheller.com


Smita Vadakekalam, Director of Core Services, Heller Consulting

Sometimes change is easier when you put it in the context of something familiar. Think about treating your implementation of a CRM system like a fundraising campaign.

For example, be strategic about your communication strategy, just as you would with a campaign strategy. Communicate consistently and in various forums about the CRM system. Use your staff meetings, internal newsletters, and other occasions to engage staff members and communicate about the project.

And, don’t forget to recognize milestones throughout the project: People like to be reminded about the end goal, but also want to see progress toward that goal. It makes change smoother and can even turn it into a reason to celebrate.

Contact Smita Smita@teamheller.com





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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