Technology & Operations
BWF Services: Systems Selection and Implementation

Developing a robust and sustainable operational infrastructure is a critical aspect of fundraising operations and represents an important opportunity for an organization to intentionally shape its technology ecosystem in alignment with its mission, values, and organizational goals.

The fundraising CRM is the heart of this infrastructure. The donor database an organization chooses can have a profound impact on the success and health of its fundraising initiatives, yet so often, organizations find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water when attempting to navigate the murky depths of a platform that may have been hastily or poorly selected.

Oftentimes a lack of adequate planning or forethought when selecting a fundraising CRM may lead to significant problems downstream that can impact everything from end-user satisfaction and adoption to necessitating time-consuming and cumbersome manual workarounds that can prove to be costly, while also undermining effectiveness and efficiency for the impacted teams and programs.

It is true that selecting a CRM system for your nonprofit is a complex process that is likely to come with some bumps in the road and a certain degree of the unexpected; however, careful attention and planning to several key areas can help ensure the process is as painless as possible.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when selecting a fundraising CRM system for your organization: 
  • Requirements: Start by identifying your organization’s specific needs and requirements. What types of data do you need to collect and manage? What functionality do you need the system to have? For example, do you need the ability to create custom reports or dashboards? Do you need the system to integrate with other tools or platforms you use, such as fundraising software or social media platforms? What role do you need automation to play in various workflows and processes?
  • Key Stakeholders: Generate buy-in for the project early and create space for meaningful conversations that will help build cohesion and collaboration to realize a comprehensive solution that adequately meets the needs of the organization. Consider all the internal and external constituencies that will be served by the CRM, including operations staff, fundraisers, volunteers, and donors.
  • User Adoption: The success of a CRM system largely depends on user adoption, so it’s important to choose a system that is user-friendly and intuitive. Consider both how your staff and volunteers will use the system and whether it will fit into their workflow and how it may facilitate process improvements.
  • Vendor Reputation and Support: Conduct your research on potential vendors and check their reputation in the nonprofit community. Look for vendors with experience working with nonprofits and with a track record of providing excellent support and customer service. Consider the training and education needs of your organization against the resources the vendor will provide.
  • Cost: Fundraising databases can vary widely in price, so it’s important to consider the total cost and whether it fits within your organization’s budget. Keep in mind that some vendors may offer discounts or special pricing for nonprofits.
  • Security and Data Privacy: Since a CRM system will contain sensitive data about your donors and stakeholders, it’s important to choose a system that has strong security and data privacy measures in place. Make sure the vendor is transparent about their security practices and that they comply with data privacy regulations.
  • Customization: Consider whether the system can be customized to meet your organization’s specific needs. This may include custom fields, workflows, and reporting. A system should be nimble and responsive to an organization’s needs, without the need for overhaul or extensive customization.
Selecting a fundraising database requires careful consideration and research.

By taking the time to identify your organization’s specific needs and requirements and to consider user adoption, vendor reputation, cost, security and data privacy, and customization options, you can choose a fundraising CRM system that successfully meets your needs.

For many nonprofits, a fundraising CRM may be the only tool they need for collecting and managing data on donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders, while other organizations may choose to add further flexibility and support by incorporating other options.

Some examples of additional data collection and management tools you may want to consider include survey tools, content management systems, and social media management tools.

  • Survey Tools: Survey tools like SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, and Google Forms allow nonprofits to gather feedback from donors and other stakeholders, which can be used to inform fundraising and marketing efforts.
  • Content Management Systems: Content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla can help nonprofits manage and publish content, such as blog posts, news articles, and event listings, which can help drive engagement and increase visibility. Measuring the performance of these tools is useful to informing future strategies.
  • Social Media Management Tools: Social media management tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer can help nonprofits manage and schedule social media posts across multiple platforms, track engagement, and analyze social media data.

For nonprofits that require more advanced data management tools, Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) software and data warehousing can provide significant benefits. OLAP software allows nonprofits to analyze large datasets quickly and easily, while data warehousing provides a centralized repository for storing and managing data from various sources. Exploring such options can provide additional opportunities to develop your organization’s technology ecosystem and curate a robust and sustainable technology environment.

While there is no way to guarantee that selecting a fundraising CRM will ever be completely painless, following the considerations outlined above will help set your organization on the right track while working to avoid common pitfalls and managing the challenges that will inevitably arise when undertaking such a complex project. Ensuring that adequate foresight and planning are at the forefront of your organization’s CRM selection will help ensure the health and success of the project, while paving the way for a solid system foundation that will support fundraising success and program growth for many years to come.

At BWF, we stand ready to assist you with all your fundraising CRM selection needs. Please reach out to our team. It’s a privilege to help.