Once you’ve made the decision to search for a new CRM for your nonprofit, the task can seem daunting. A new solution will need to offer all of the unique features that you require, taking the specifics of your organization’s size, structure, and mission into account.
While this may be an intimidating proposition, the process can be made easier by keeping a larger value framework in mind and making sure to ask a few key questions. For environmental organizations, these are three questions that should be asked about any potential new CRM.
(This is the second post in our series addressing the unique needs of Environmental organizations when it comes to shopping for a CRM. Don’t miss the first post, 5 Features Environmental Organizations Need from Their CRM.)
1. How does it help with advocacy as well as fundraising?
In a post-2016 world, even traditionally non-political issues and people are being drawn into the political sphere. Nowhere is this more true than the Environmental world, where conservationists and other environmentalists have been increasingly political active in light of the Trump administration’s actions to decrease climate change efforts, decimate National Parks, and more. Whether you’re already doing political advocacy but want to scale up your efforts, or newly looking to engage supporters that want to take political action, it is extremely important for Environmental organizations to be equipped with the tools to do effective political work.
There are multiple forms that political advocacy can take, and before shopping for a CRM, you should decide what types fit best into your strategic plan. The first big question is whether you intend to do online advocacy, offline actions, or both. For instance, if your organization has a history of engaging activist members through email, but wants to move toward having staff dedicated to in-person political organizing (such as postcard writing, lobbying elected officials, protesting and rallying, etc.), it will be important that your CRM is capable of tracking volunteer engagement, managing volunteer events, and doing member recruitment outreach. For organizations that are interested in integrating more digital advocacy into their programs, be sure to ask how well a CRM’s digital tools integrate with political actions (such as emailing, calling, or tweeting at an elected official).
It is important to think of a CRM as not just a tool, but as part of your long-term strategy. In the current political climate, advocacy is becoming an important part of strategic plans for more and more environmental nonprofits, and will continue to grow as an important factor of the CRM search.
2. How is it keeping up with new technology and trends?
As technology rapidly changes the way that humans interact with the world around them, it is imperative that nonprofits are able to not only keep up, but are able to harness that technology for good. You’ll have the CRM that you choose for several years (at least), so it is important to be forward-thinking in your approach to evaluating vendors.
As a nonprofit, you have a strategic plan that guides you into the future based on your goals and principles - your organization isn't stagnant, and the strategic tools that you rely on shouldn't be either. When you are evaluating a potential new CRM, look for a technology partner whose vision complements yours and who will keep up with your organization as it moves into the future, keeping you up-to-date on the latest trends and developments. Relevant questions to ask potential CRM vendors regarding this principle include:
- What trends do you see in the fundraising/digital/advocacy world, and how is the software adapting to meet them?
- How has the software been adapted to help nonprofits navigate an increasingly technological landscape, and what future plans exist to continue innovating?
- How often are product updates released and what do they typically include?
- What other tools does the software integrate with?
3. How does it help engage diverse, modern donors?
Millennials and Baby Boomers make up an increasing size of donor universes, especially for issues with broad appeal such as the environment, and it is no secret that they have a different mindset and approach to charitable giving than their predecessors. Younger, modern donors are much more active in driving the giving process and expect a multi-channel approach to interaction, increasingly favoring online channels. Whereas donors were previously more inclined to favor outbound methods such as direct mail, in which they take on a passive role in the donation process, today's donors are much more likely to initiate the process and rely on their own research or the recommendation of their personal networks, rather than direct communication from the nonprofit recipient.
What does this mean for nonprofit CRMs?
Your software will need to power both traditional fundraising methods like direct mail and telemarketing, as well as modern online and multi-channel approaches. As donors shift toward interacting with your website and social media profiles, it is important that you are able to engage donors through that avenue. Features like one-click online donations, mobile responsive digital forms, and social media matching and integration are a must-have for effective and fundraising engagement of modern donors. Detailed list segmentation is increasingly necessary to provide a impactful and personalized communication, requiring a database that makes it easy to collect, store, and query based on demographic and other characteristics.
For environmental organizations shopping for a new solution to track and manage their supporter and donor data, it is particularly important to look for a system that aligns with your strategic goals. In addition to asking technical questions about the system's ability to meet your needs, ask these three strategy-driven questions and you will be on your way to finding a technology partner that maximizes your impact in every sphere.