Top π Tips for Choosing a CRM System for Fundraising

Tips for Choosing a CRM System for Fundraising

The first rule of fundraising is this: It’s all about relationships. So, when you’re looking for a new fundraising system, keep that rule front-and-center. How will the system I’m considering help me better identify, cultivate and manage relationships? How will the system connect our big picture goals with our day-to-day operations?

Today, fundraisers can reap the benefits of constituent relationship management (CRM). The beauty of a incorporating a CRM system for fundraising is that it’s designed to help you identify, cultivate and manage important relationships. It’s not like the fundraising databases of yesterday — not just a place to toss in data. It’s not designed to torture you with arcane processes or challenge you to a wrestling match every time you want information. No, a good CRM system can actually reduce the time you spend in front of technology and increase the time you spend in front of people, so you can develop relationships (instead of carpal tunnel).

Sound tempting? If so, here are my top π tips for choosing a CRM system to meet your fundraising needs:

1. Make Sure it’s a “True CRM” System

Lots of fundraising systems claim to offer a mythological, unicorn-like “360-degree view” of your data. However, if they’re only storing fundraising data, they’re only showing you part of the picture. Your best prospects and donors may be involved in your mission as beneficiaries, clients, partners, advocates, online participants and more. Don’t you want to know that? Won’t that allow you to better identify prospects, and build stronger and deeper relationships? You bet it will! And, guess what – your constituents expect that the left- and right-hands of your organization talk to each other. Give them what they want!

2. Look for Social and Online Capabilities

The InterWeb. It’s where your constituents communicate and connect, with each other and with you. You want a CRM system that lets you meet your constituents on their “home turf” and supports them to spread the word about you through their networks. These days, that means choosing a cloud-based CRM system that was designed from the start to “play well” on the web. Anything else is just soooo dial-up. Yes, that’s a put down.

3. Make Sure it Works How You Work

Your desk is NOT where prospects turn into donors. You’re out meeting people – or, you should be! You need your fundraising information to travel with you (and not by printing out spreadsheets). Complete mobile access to your CRM system — via laptop, tablet, phone — is crucial. And, are you at your best sorting through reams of data, or thinking strategically and having crucial conversations? I bet it’s the latter. Your CRM system should allow you to easily surface your best relationship opportunities and provide clear, automated pathways for cultivating those relationships. In other words, your CRM should do the heavy lifting, so you can do the heavy relating.

.14159 Look for Innovation

Why did I put innovation last? Because, like Pi, it never ends (Really, it doesn’t. Check it out here.) How you fundraise today isn’t how you’ll fundraise in 10 years. For proof, just look at what we’ve seen take hold in the last decade: email, websites, social, mobile, peer-to-peer and more. You want a system — and a platform and a vendor – that will grow as the demands and opportunities of your fundraising grow. In fact, you’d ideally choose a system that leads rather than follows, innovates rather than rests on its laurels. Your prospects and donors will expect it (and you can bet your competitors will be doing it!).

This is a great time to be choosing a fundraising system. While the amount of information you’ve got to manage is expanding, CRM can help you harness it all and put it to work for you, so you can get out and build those relationships!

Do you have any other tips for choosing a CRM system for fundraising? Add them in the comments 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.

One comment

  1. If you’re considering Salesforce as your CRM for fundraising, this app comparison is really helpful.

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