Why Investing in CRM Will Mean the World to Your Supporters

Why Investing in CRM Will Mean the World to Your Supporters 550x300

Years ago, I worked with a client who was trying hard to use segmenting and conditional content to create a more relevant experience for their constituents via email. We looked at the data, we found the people who took action on a particular issue, and then we grouped them together so that we could better tailor their communications to that issue. It helped. We saw some lifts in core email marketing metrics. But we were always left with a few nagging problems: What happens when the organization needs to send out information unrelated to that action and what if they did something different between the last time we sent them something and the next time we were about to send them something?

It was an imperfect system. We could make content somewhat more relevant for a particular supporter, but we didn’t really know how else they might be engaging with that organization. This was compounded by the increasingly widespread use of social media. If we knew Julie took action on issue A via email data, we didn’t have a clue how she might be interacting with the organization on Facebook. And by creating segments, we were the ones determining for a supporter which issue was most important to them (and if they took action on multiple issues, then what?)

We’ve known, for a long time, that figuring out how to create relevant, meaningful and engaging content for a constituent is often the key to getting that first (or fifth) donation, to inspiring action or to building a lifelong relationship with a dedicated volunteer. But the technology to help us create this content has always fallen a little short.

In 2014, there’s one thing every marketing professional (nonprofit or otherwise) is scrambling toward: the creation and delivery of INDIVIDUALLY relevant content. Notice those two words – individually relevant. That’s not a segmented group. That’s content tailored for each individual that likes, follows or favorites your organization.

And here’s the thing…your constituent? They just want to feel like you are listening. Like you know them, like you have interesting things to say to them that they would find helpful or meaningful. They don’t know your agenda. They aren’t worried about your quarterly fundraising goals. They want to you engage with them as if they were coming over for dinner that night.

NO PRESSURE! Right? It is daunting to think about, but the good news is that there is a place to start. Investing in your CRM is your very first step. And when I say CRM I mean the constituent relationship management tool AND your overarching CRM strategy to help you connect in meaningful ways with your constituents.

You are going to need a plan – and a system – that can handle large amounts of data, that is flexible, that plays well with other applications, tools and technology. Also important are your team of staff or outside experts who will be able to help you leverage your CRM as you aim to build better relationships with your constituents and donors.

The commercial sector is headed fast toward a world where marketing relevant content in real-time to create the ultimate personalized customer service experience will become reality for all of us. Nonprofits who can invest early in the right technology and plan now for donor expectations that come along with this will be well-positioned to generate better loyalty and more dollars from supporters.

What are some ways your organization is prepared (or not prepared) to create a more personal connection with your constituents?

Jenn Smith

About Jenn Smith

As an executive for Donordigital and the Watershed Company, and a Senior Social Strategy Consultant for Adobe, Jenn has helped many organizations. A marketing and fundraising professional with 10+ years experience in lead generation, management and donor acquisition, Jenn’s in-depth strategic planning has developed creative communications and marketing campaigns for mission-driven organizations to help build relationships with clients, community partners, and diverse audiences.


  1. Dave Harris

    This is quite an insightful article. I have always loved the simplicity of CRM solutions and many SMEs and virtual businesses can benefit more from new players in the market. I believe that personalization and social CRM are the two of the most important trends for 2014. I have been doing some research for cloud apps for CRM and found a few with amazing features. As far as CRM vendors are concerned, I am liking Banckle.CRM (http://banckle.com/apps/crm.html) a lot because of its email integration feature as well as the really cool UI.

  2. Bryan Giese

    There’s been a lot of buzz about content marketing for a while, and it can be a great hook to get people in. Jenn touches on a really important point: the people that support our organizations aren’t just interested in a single topic. They are robust, complex people with a variety of interests, and an endless number of organizations they can choose to support. It is incredibly important to be able to learn about your constituents, create a relationship with them beyond simply what email blast to send, or what social network they like. CRM is much more than a technology choice, it’s an active decision on a strategy to speak with another person. Without a good strategy, even the best CRM technology is just a database of details, and I know I’ve gotten enough emails and postcards to understand that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  3. Great points to consider! The solutions exist, as long as the strategy is sound. The concept of individually relevant content is mind-blowing! Excited to see these concepts in action!

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