Most nonprofits know firsthand the benefits of using a CRM system to manage their supporter data, and while every organization has common basic needs (reliable tracking for multi-channel campaigns, intuitive donor management, and clear reporting tools, for example), there is also much variation when it comes to the specific needs that arise across issues and missions. In this series, we’ll be exploring the unique concerns that organizations in different fields consider when searching for a CRM software.
This month we’re talking about an area near and dear to all of our earth-loving hearts: environmental organizations. While you spend your days protecting the natural places and resources that we love, it’s important to have the behind-the-scenes infrastructure to effectively manage all of the information you collect about your supporters. These are five features that are especially important for data and relationship management at environmental organizations.
Don't miss the second installment of this series: 3 Questions Environmental Organizations Should Ask When Shopping For a New CRM
1. Seamless Fundraising + Activism
Supporters of environmental organizations aren’t just philanthropic donors. Often, they are activists as well, who are tuned in to the political sphere and want to be acknowledged and addressed with this in mind. They want to know that they are making a difference through their membership; they know the power that their donation has, but they want to be engaged around more than just fundraising.
For environmental organizations, an effective CRM will seamlessly enable both fundraising and advocacy. Particularly in the digital realm, look for a CRM that provides easy, meaningful actions that you can supply to your supporters. They’ll be thrilled to get emails that don’t just ask for more money, but also provide them ways to get involved, such tools to contact their elected officials or share your content on social media. They will feel good about their involvement with your program, and your fundraising efforts will be buttressed by your ability to engage them around the causes that they care about.
2. Multi-Channel Engagement for Diverse Audiences
Environmentalist donors are a diverse group of people, who require multi-channel communication to reach effectively. Because the mission of environmental organizations appeals to such a broad group of supporters, you should look for a CRM that makes it easy to use a variety of methods to contact your constituents and allows fundraisers to see a 360 degree view of the different channels supporters are being contacted through and responding to.
To engage donors with a wide variety of communication preferences, look for a CRM that has capacity to manage the whole spectrum of contact possibilities. From major donors with long standing personal relationships to your Development team, to those long-time donors who are accustomed to regularly receiving your direct mail packages, to new supporters who are more at home on their smartphones using text messages or social media, having one database that enables you to easily reach them all will save you time, money, and headaches. And for any donor profile, fundraisers need the ability to see a unified steam of contact history across mediums to make informed plans and decisions.
3. Beautiful FormsDonors who support conservation efforts are keenly appreciative of the beauty found in the natural world around them, and they look for you to demonstrate that you understand this by providing an aesthetically pleasing user experience when interacting with your materials, such as donation forms. Too many websites feature inspiring images and design on the main pages, only to direct donors to a blocky and confusing page when they click on the donate button. Make sure that every online donor has an enjoyable experience by using simple forms, that can be customized to showcase the reason your supporters are donating.
In the example above, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, which works to preserve the Truckee-Tahoe region’s mountain character and natural environment showcases a beautiful photo of the mountains that their donors are working to protect. Their form also displays custom levels that donors can choose from, such as Conservationist, Forest Watcher, and Trail Blazer. Who wouldn’t want to give after looking at this form?
4. Green Solutions + Efficiency
No one will be surprised that supporters of environmental organizations are especially attuned to waste and inefficiency. These donors look to see that the nonprofits they support are staying true to their own values in the way that they conduct business. For donors that appreciate paperless systems, having high-quality digital tools is a must. The same principle applies to in-person activities like galas, dinners, and even volunteer events: having a registration and donation system that is completely digital communicates to donors that your organization can be trusted to use their money in a way that aligns with their values. This means looking for easy-to-use event attendee management tools, and donation forms that are optimized for desktop and mobile access. As an added perk, not using paper means that information is entered directly into your database, saving you the time and headache of decoding handwriting and spending hours entering data.
5. Offline Organizing Capability
Lastly, don’t forget that it’s not all about fundraising and digital engagement! Program staff also maintain relationships with many supporters through managing volunteer activities, and need a reliable system for tracking and increasing engagement. Whether volunteers are participating in a clean-up day at a local park or river, planting trees, helping with office work or staffing an event, or participating in a political action like lobbying, protesting, or canvassing, program staff succeed most when they can easily access the information that they need, such as who their most active volunteers are and which activities are the most popular. For an environmental organization that manages volunteers in any capacity, it is important that a CRM includes tools to maintain and grow your program.
Here’s an added bonus of using a unified CRM: at the end of the day, the work of each department benefits each other. With access to full information about your supporters, fundraisers can personalize their asks by thanking donors for their participation in a recent day of service, and program staff will know when they are interacting with a volunteer who also offers significant financial support to the organization. For organizations doing the urgent work of protecting our natural spaces and resources, having a full picture of your supporters available to all staff enables everyone to perform their best, to save more time, raise more money, and maximize the impact you’re making on the world.