This guest post comes to us from Monika McMahon, Community Manager for Heller Consulting, a national nonprofit technology firm. Find more from Heller Consulting and other nonprofit technology and strategy experts at TheConnectedCause.com, a place for experts in the nonprofit online space to share perspective, offer guidance and promote best practices for using today’s technology effectively.

You’ve been hearing about CRM (a Constituent Relationship Management system) and want more information on the benefits of using one for your nonprofit organization. First of all, a CRM is generally not just one piece of software but ends up being multiple pieces of software working in coordination with business practices to manage information and meet key business needs. Below are just a few of the many benefits your organization may encounter with the introduction of a CRM.

Engaging for Constituents

360 Degree View – A CRM helps you treat each of your constituents as a whole person by allowing you to see how they’ve engaged with you in the past while also showing the many ways they relate to your organization. When you have all of their data in the same place, you can clearly see who this person is, thank them for their previous donations, and facilitate a deeper relationship between your organization and your constituent.

Communications – The phrase used to be “Reach the right people, with the right message at the right address.” These days it’s become “Reach the right people, with the right message, through the right channel”. CRM’s allow you to track where people tend to interact, whether that is via social, email, phone etc. allowing your organization to mirror your communication to them using the channel they prefer. This makes you more responsive to the constituent as well as more cost effective and efficient to the organization.

Information

More Complete Picture – The more information you gather, the more complete of a picture of your individual constituents you will have. This information can show you who they are and how they are engaged with not only you, but your entire organization. Then you can start to identify trends of which groups of people are engaging with you and in which ways so you can appropriately plan out your next message.

Democratizing the Database – When you are operating in a siloed environment, only certain people will have access to certain systems. Bringing them together in a unified environment, allows your entire organization access to the same information in the same format and location. This freedom of information spurs better conversation with your constituents and throughout your organization, which leads to further innovation and improved relationships.

Organizational Efficiency

Fewer Silos and Databases – Let’s look at the people side of things. A CRM allows you organizational efficiency by decreasing the number of systems employees have to learn and manage. One of the biggest complaints we hear is that people do not understand the 3 or 4 systems that their organization uses to store information. With a unified system, this number drops: staff only needs to be trained on one consolidated system, saving time and effort. This also leads to better business practices. With a unified system you can standardize complex processes like how your organization handles the different forms of revenue.

Working Together – This leads to one of the biggest changes we’ve seen, which is also the most impactful. People in your organization start to get on the same page, thinking similarly about business practices, using the same tools and building relationships with the same constituents.

All of the benefits of a CRM mentioned above will help support your future by helping you build better relationships, allowing for greater innovation and by growing with you and your organizations needs. It is important to note that there are many shades and sizes of CRM’s and some have been specifically designed to work for nonprofits. Some systems tailor to membership organizations, others are for student enrollment and others were built for general nonprofits to assist with fundraising. Selecting a solution that is meant for the mission you are trying to push, will result in a larger boost in productivity.

To get a wider perspective on CRM and how it works in an organization, Heller Consulting interviewed the executives of 30 nonprofits to find out how they view CRM systems and how they apply the concepts to their strategies. The results of these interviews are available in the free report “Insights into CRM for Nonprofits,” available for download from TheConnectedCause.com.