How to Choose the Best Nonprofit CRM | The Beginner’s Guide

Find out how to choose the best nonprofit CRM with our donor database guide.

Finding the right donor database for your nonprofit can be a major challenge. Not only is it tough to figure out what CRM (constituent relationship management database) you’ll need to best manage your community, but it can also be difficult to navigate implementing your new software once you choose it.

There’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to donor database platforms, nonprofit CRMs, and fundraising software in general.

Whether you’re unsure of what features these tools offer, how those features can impact your nonprofit, and how you can leverage this software to the best of your abilities, we’ve got you covered.

Ready to choose the best nonprofit CRM for your organization? In this article, we’ll address the most talked-about subjects surrounding donor database software:

  1. What is a nonprofit CRM — and why do you need one?
  2. Why the Best Nonprofit CRMs are Donor-Centric
  3. Choosing the Best Nonprofit CRM for Your Organization
  4. How to make the most of your CRM

Your nonprofit’s CRM will be the most influential software in your tech arsenal, so your team should be experts in how to pick the right platform as well as how to make it work once you have it. Let’s dive in!

1. What is a nonprofit CRM — and why do you need one?

First, let’s start with the basics: although the terms are thrown around pretty frequently, donor databases and nonprofit CRMs are both the same kind of software.

A donor database is a software platform that houses everything you know and love about your nonprofit’s supporters. When an individual interacts with your cause (as a donor, a volunteer, an event attendee, etc.), you can create a profile in your CRM that’s dedicated to that single person.

You’ll use this profile to manage your relationship with that donor (or prospective donor). Not only that, but your CRM should analyze data across all of your donor profiles to see how supporters are interacting with your cause. You can use this information to:

  • Tailor your fundraising strategy to your nonprofit’s community.
  • Personalize donation asks and event invites to unique supporters.
  • Identify opportunities for giving using wealth screening tools.
  • And much, much more!

With Bloomerang, you can quickly get at-a-glance summaries of your relationships with supporters.

Bloomerang's nonprofit CRM donor profiles give your team an up-close look at your relationships with donors.

Above all, having a robust donor database in place helps your nonprofit better manage your entire constituent ecosystem. When you know more about who your supporters are, you’ll be better prepared to serve them well in the future.

2. Why the Best Nonprofit CRMs are Donor-Centric

Think of it this way: your nonprofit CRM should be the nexus of all knowledge you have about your donors.

This means that it’s not enough for the database to simply record names, contact information, and giving history. Rather, you want your CRM to offer proactive ways to improve donor relationships.

Let’s take a look at some donor-centric areas your nonprofit’s next CRM should help improve.

Donor Retention

One of the most common reasons nonprofits cite as to why they’re ready to invest in a donor database is that they’re looking to improve donor retention. This is the metric used to measure how many people are giving to your cause and then returning to donate again down the line.

Look for a nonprofit CRM that takes donor retention seriously! It should offer features like:

  • A constituent interaction timeline to see when supporters have repeatedly donated to your cause.
  • Giving history summaries to find out how many gifts a person has given and the total amount of their fundraising impact.
  • An interactive dashboard to easily identify your nonprofit’s organization-wide donor retention rate.

Check out Bloomerang’s customizable fundraising dashboard interface for an idea of what this system can do for your cause.

Bloomerang's nonprofit CRM offers customizable fundraising dashboards.

The bottom line? Keeping your donors campaign after campaign is one of the most crucial challenges your nonprofit will face. Be sure to pick a CRM that makes this easier, not harder!

Donor Engagement

Another way your nonprofit CRM can be donor-centric is by giving your team the tools it needs to better manage engagement opportunities. With features to drive effective engagement, your nonprofit can start making smarter decisions about how you engage constituents.

Choose a donor database that offers powerful engagement features like:

  • Reporting and analytics tools to track the success of different engagement efforts over time.
  • List segmentation so your team can sort donor groups by different identifiers (age, region, donor type, etc.).
  • At-a-glance engagement measurement features to quickly show your team how well certain constituents are being engaged.

The bottom line? The better engaged your supporters are, the more likely it is they’ll donate to your cause time and time again. Choose a donor database that gives you the engagement features you need.

Donor Communications

You’ll want to invest in a nonprofit CRM that empowers your team to better manage donor communications. By connecting communication tools with your donor database, you’ll be able to implement a data-driven communication strategy.

Pick a nonprofit CRM platform that helps you connect with donors through:

  • Email automation software that lets you draft email messages and flow information like donor names into templates.
  • Direct mail design features that similarly empower your team to create and print paper mailings for your community.
  • Social listening tools to monitor who in your donor community is talking about your cause and find new supporters on social sites.

Bloomerang’s social listening tools give your team the power to track conversations about your cause on Twitter.

Bloomerang's social listening tools let your team monitor social media conversations in your nonprofit's CRM.

The bottom line? Communicating with your donors well is one of the best ways to maintain a happy and healthy nonprofit community. Partner with a CRM platform that offers inbuilt communication software.

3. Choosing the Best Nonprofit CRM for Your Organization

On top of choosing a robust nonprofit CRM that provides your organization with the right features, there’s still a lot to consider when determining which platform is worth your investment.

In this section, we’ll consider the impact your organization’s size and budget should have on your purchase, as well as what stock to put into online software reviews when picking your platform.

The Best CRMs for Small Nonprofits

Is your nonprofit smaller than most? Perhaps your organization is relatively new and hasn’t grown its constituency yet. Or, your nonprofit might serve a smaller community and is limited in the number of supporters it can reasonably sustain.

No matter the reason, your small nonprofit should consider its size when choosing softwareSmaller nonprofits have unique needs and resources, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to buy the same solution as a much larger organization.

As you research nonprofit CRMs, be sure to ask:

  • Is the platform scalable? You can always start off with a streamlined solution and then graduate to a more robust plan as your organization grows.
  • Is the platform affordable? Smaller nonprofits tend to have smaller budgets. You can still find an affordable nonprofit CRM that includes the essentials without wasting money on an outsized solution.

Remember: just because your nonprofit is small now, it might not be that way in the future. Even if it doesn’t grow significantly, you may have “bigger” needs as your organization gains footing.

Don’t invest in a donor database solution that works for today without considering how it might work tomorrow.

Reading Nonprofit CRM Reviews

As you start thinking about investing in nonprofit CRM software, it’s likely you’ll turn to online reviews to help guide your search. However, these testimonials might not be as helpful as they appear on their face.

For one, many websites simply fake their online software reviews, or only show positive customer feedback. There’s really no way to know for sure which sites engage in bad practices like these, so it’s always beneficial to keep this in mind when searching reviews.

A better alternative? Do your research and then seek out real-world knowledge by viewing case studies and talking directly with a software company’s clients.

When you can connect with real people and real organizations who have used the software you’re considering, you’ll get a better idea of what platforms are worth your investment.

4. How to make the most of your CRM

Finally, let’s talk about actually implementing your nonprofit CRM once you have it. This is an important consideration to keep in mind even when you’re still not sure of what platform you’ll pick.

Ultimately, how you roll out this software at your nonprofit and how it interacts with your existing tools should be front of mind when your team makes decisions about which platform to pick.

Consider some of the following best practices to make the most of your CRM after you’ve purchased it.

Ask for Support

For software customers, there’s often an unconscious tendency to self-blame when a particular platform or program doesn’t work quite as well for your cause as you would like.

Many customers approach providing feedback or asking questions as if doing so is bothersome to the software company, or even a sign that the customer themselves is doing something wrong.

However, if your new donor database isn’t performing as well as you would like, that’s an opportunity for your software provider to step in and help your team make the system work well for your cause.

Unless your team is trying to do something that the software isn’t designed for, it’s more than likely you can work out a solution with your provider that meets your needs.

In fact, at Bloomerang we consider customers who bring forward proactive questions or feedback about their software experiences as some of our best customers. These are the individuals who make Bloomerang more effective every day and help us better serve nonprofit organizations across the board.

As you consider donor databases, be sure to find a partner who takes the same perspective when it comes to offering best-in-class support.

Learn more about integration options

Your donor database probably won’t be the only nonprofit software you use, especially if your team already has solutions that you know and love.

Rather, a perfect-fit nonprofit CRM will integrate with all of your favorite nonprofit software while still offering new solutions to provide your organization with a well-rounded software strategy.

For example, Bloomerang doesn’t simply offer nonprofits a robust, affordable donor database software platform. We also go the extra mile by seamlessly integrating with all of the nonprofit software you already love, plus effective solutions that you’ve yet to discover.

Bloomerang’s offers integrations with:

When your nonprofit chooses Bloomerang as your CRM partner, you won’t just have access to our powerful donor management tools, but you’ll see those features become even more effective when paired with these great solutions.

There’s a lot to consider when your nonprofit chooses its next CRM investment. Now that you’ve taken a look at our guide, get started researching the donor database that’s right for your nonprofit.

Want to learn more about powerful nonprofit CRM solutions? Take a look at these additional resources to brush up on your knowledge:

The Buyer's Guide to Fundraising Software

Melissa Signorelli
Melissa Signorelli is a Co-Founder of Bloomerang.
Melissa Signorelli

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By |2018-08-31T11:57:06-04:00February 5th, 2013|Software|

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