As your nonprofit expands, you will need more advanced tools and technology to manage supporter relationships, streamline operations, and measure impact. One such tool is a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

A CRM allows you to track, store, and analyze data related to your supporters and day-to-day operations. However, not all CRMs are created equal, and finding one that aligns with your nonprofit’s evolving needs can be a challenge.

In this guide, we’ll explore five essential features that growing organizations should look for in a CRM. Whether you’re new to CRMs or looking for an upgrade, these insights will help you choose the right solution for your nonprofit.

1. Scalability

An effective CRM will scale alongside your nonprofit, handling increases in data demands and allowing you to make upgrades that improve performance. To meet these criteria, your system needs to accommodate:

  • Donor data: As a nonprofit’s donor base expands, more data will be generated and will need to be stored in an organized system. Choose a CRM that allows you to create a high, or even unlimited, number of donor records.
  • Activities: As you grow, your nonprofit will engage in more large-scale campaigns and program initiatives. For example, you may launch a more advanced digital strategy in which you host virtual events attended by guests all over the country or launch a series of new online classes as a sales offering. A scalable CRM will help you maintain data accuracy and responsiveness during these activities.
  • User accounts: Nonprofit growth often means more team members will need access to the CRM. A scalable CRM allows multiple users to work within the system at the same time.

To determine if a new CRM will be able to grow alongside your nonprofit, reach out to your prospective CRM’s customer support team and inquire about how the platform’s data storage practices and limitations. Scalable CRMs often use cloud-based architecture to allocate resources based on demand, providing flexibility as your needs grow.

2. Customization

As your nonprofit evolves, a static CRM could hinder your ability to manage data, analyze trends, and make informed decisions for continued growth. To ensure your CRM remains a relevant and effective tool over time, invest in a system that allows you to customize:

  • Data fields: Your CRM should allow you to add, modify, and remove your donor profiles’ data fields to capture and manage information relevant to your donors. Choose a system with custom tagging and reporting options, enabling you to create highly specific donor segments and identify unique trends among your supporters.
  • Workflows: Every nonprofit has its own workflow, and your CRM should help you complete this workflow rather than imposing a new one. A fully customizable CRM can be completely built out to facilitate your unique internal processes.
  • User access: The CRM should offer granular control over user access, allowing you to determine who can view, edit, or delete specific data according to their role at your organization.

Work with developers to align the entire CRM interface with your specific needs and processes. For example, if your organization decides to branch into the education sector to provide disadvantaged students with scholarships, you would require custom fields to track detailed applicant information, workflows for application processing, and a means to link donors with scholarship recipients for personalized updates.

3. Robust Reporting

Although reporting is a standard feature in most CRMs, the more report options you have, the better. Your prospective CRM should have robust reporting capabilities that, at the very least, allow you to create:

  • Donor behavior reports: Generate a report on specific donor behaviors, such as giving trends over time, to identify when is an appropriate time for an upsell or if there are moments in the donor journey where supporters tend to lapse.
  • Compliance reporting: Some CRMs adapted for specific industries come with pre-built reports that allow you to prove your legal compliance. This is crucial for maintaining tax-exempt status and ensuring proper governance.
  • Grant performance evaluation: If your nonprofit receives grant funding, use your CRM to monitor the progress and outcomes of funded projects. Then, when it is time to check in with the grantmaker, you can generate detailed financial reports to demonstrate how you responsibly allocated your grant funding to achieve specific goals, helping maintain positive relationships with grantors and secure future funding.
  • Program impact reports: Track program participation rates, outcomes achieved, and feedback from constituents to optimize your offerings and showcase the positive impact of your work to donors, partners, and the public.

Since these reports contain sensitive information, having cybersecurity measures in place is essential. Make sure the CRM has certifications, such as ISO 27001, SOC 2, or GDPR, that protect against unauthorized access, data breaches, and potential misuse of information.

4. Integration Capabilities

Integration allows for real-time data synchronization, enabling your nonprofit to manage data in one organized system. Ensure your CRM is compatible with the rest of your technology, including your:

  • Fundraising software: Integrating your CRM and fundraising technology helps your nonprofit manage donations, track donor activity, and create targeted fundraising campaigns.
  • Content Management System (CMS): Automatically update your CRM with website activity, such as donations, event registrations, and inquiries. A CMS integration like this will directly benefit site visitors, as they will be able to see real-time updates to your website based on the data in your CRM.
  • Marketing platforms: Auto-populate marketing messages with data from donor profiles to promote higher levels of personalization.
  • Matching gift database: Streamline the process of identifying matching gift opportunities by funneling information directly from your corporate gift matching database to your CRM.

To facilitate a smooth exchange of information between these systems, collaborate with experienced developers to design an intermediary software layer known as middleware. Middleware expedites the integration process and prevents errors.

Next Steps: Work with a Nonprofit Technology Consultant

Choosing the right CRM for your growing nonprofit requires careful consideration. If you’re struggling to find a solution with these essential features, consider working with a nonprofit technology consulting firm. CRM consultants specialize in understanding different systems and how they can be tailored to meet your organization’s specific needs. With professional support, you can ensure that you are investing in a CRM that supports your nonprofit’s growth and success in the long term.