Integrating Your Nonprofit Beyond Donor Management Using CRM

CRM nonprofit donor

Managing donors and fundraising is no simple task. Integrating your nonprofit beyond donor management using CRM (Constituent Relationship Management ) systems can make the work easier by providing a robust set of tools for staying in touch with donors. But that’s not the only thing that CRM can offer an organization.

CRM offers powerful opportunities to integrate an organization around mission management. Likewise, there is a lot that needs to be done internally to keep the lights on in your nonprofit: CRM can be used to integrate operations, too. So, how do you get started?

Deciding What CRM Means to Your Organization

To use CRM beyond donor management, you must first decide what CRM means to your organization. Idealware wrote an article about Relationship-Centric Organizations that sums it up nicely:

“Start by identifying the functions that a CRM strategy must address, such as fundraising, communications, partnership management, staff recruitment, or alumni relations. Understand core processes: What does your organization do when you first receive someone’s contact information? How does your nonprofit respond to inquiries? Mobilize support? Report outcomes to funders?”

All of these questions address how your organization works (or does not work) in service of your fundraising goals and to accomplish overall business goals. It’s important to keep in mind that implementing CRM requires having conversations about the organization. CRM forces you to think strategically about the needs of the business to make good, informed decisions about how best to make use of your time, money and data — together.

At Heller Consulting, we approach CRM implementation for our clients with an emphasis on organizational change management. This starts with creating a baseline of the state of a nonprofit’s operations. This could come in the form of workflow analysis to see how staff members use their systems, or an assessment of the systems that constitute the organizational architecture. Understanding the operational model also helps clarify the nonprofit’s business objectives.  From there, we assess the organization’s strengths, challenges and opportunities for improvement. We also align business objectives with a CRM roadmap so that the nonprofit has a clear path for planning the implementation and can prepare for the internal change that comes with it.

Using CRM Workflows to Improve Operations

When it comes to improving efficiency, many organizations cite the problem of using hardcopy forms for approvals, or spreadsheets that arise due to having no centralized (or reliable) system in which to track all data — not just constituent information. Most people don’t need to be convinced that there are benefits to automating forms, they just don’t know how to get there. Many of the best CRM products solve this by enabling workflows that not only replace paper forms, but connect the business units that participate in jointly executed business processes to keep work moving at a brisk pace.

Integrating Information for New Insights Across the Organization

Another opportunity with CRM lies in the amount of information we keep for ourselves when systems are not designed to provide us with the intelligence we need to get our work done. This is a surefire way to seed siloed business processes.

It may start innocently with a spreadsheet on someone’s hard drive.  Perhaps this person has a special list of board members, past and present, as well as other VIPs that do not fit neatly into the donor database. Soon, it’s an entire computer, a desktop database server, hidden underneath the person’s desk. It’s the kind of situation that gives your IT administrators a good laugh and an eye roll. Aside from the obvious inefficiency of maintaining these types of “shadow” databases, there’s a good chance that other staff members throughout the organization need this information, too. A CRM system can help bring all of this, and other information together in one place giving staff members access to a powerful business analytics tool.


CRM truly can help integrate your organization beyond donor management. On top of the tangible benefits that a well-designed CRM system can offer, the process of defining a CRM strategy can lead to a path of unifying an organization. I’ve included just a few examples to get you started. A good assessment of your operational model as it supports your mission-driven work will likely yield more insights into how you further develop into a high-performance organization.

Has your organization moved beyond donor management with your CRM system? Share your experience in the comments section below.


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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