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Should You Switch Your Nonprofit CRM?

Devon Hopkins

We asked Joe Fuld, President of the Campaign Workshop, to take us through the process of determining whether a nonprofit organization should switch CRM tools. Here's what he had to say.

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Many nonprofits still have the same legacy CRM they’ve had since they set up shop. In cases like these, a CRM is like a really old shoe: you’re comfortable with it, it fits like a glove, and you’re emotionally connected to it (even to that hole in the sole!).

But would you run a marathon in those shoes, holes and all?

Probably not. Your feet would be wet, for starters, and you’d be limited by the worn-out tread and lack of support.

CRMs aren't always one size fits all. Depending on your nonprofits’ size and needs, you may need something different, and yes, just like your shoes, you will likely grow out of your CRM.

And just like your feet, your organization's needs have changed and grown since it was born. It could very well be that your CRM functionality hasn’t kept up with you.

So here's the next question: when is the right time to switch?

Deciding on a CRM is not a one-person job, but rather a cross-departmental decision. The complications that go along with communal decisions can also be a big reason some folks never switch, even if they’re really unhappy with their tools. It can be easier to avoid the internal political fight, especially if they think they may lose.

But if your organization is considering a switch in CRM tools, run through this checklist, and by the end, you should have an idea of whether it's a good idea (and even how to make the case for it.)

 

How does your staff interact with the CRM?

If your staff (the actual users of your CRM) often complain about it or, worse, have to spend a lot of time creating work-arounds just to use your current system, you should consider it a red flag.

Try to take emotion out of the discussion by collecting evidence.

My suggestion is to create an internal survey. You can find an example here that asks your staff five simple questions about your CRM. Send it to everyone who uses the tool and review your results. If most don't like it, or more importantly, if it’s costing you resources, then may be time to switch.

Taking these steps will not only help you decide whether switching is the right thing to do - it’ll gather some political capital and help build your case.

 

How would switching affect your long-term and short-term goals?

Integration with accounting, quality of metrics and reporting, and larger strategic questions related to long-term planning should all be weighed carefully. 

What will the strategic costs and benefits be? Will you have to abandon strategies, and what new tactics and strategies will be available with new and better tools?

It's important to make this decision with the big picture in mind so that your organization doesn't find itself unprepared or your staff stifled by the downtime between systems.

 

How much does staying cost?

Think beyond hard costs here.

Sure, there are fees to be paid, but there is an opportunity cost incurred by staying with tools that don't allow your organization to achieve its potential in all sorts of areas - list growth, fundraising potential, and so on.

 

How much does switching cost?

This can vary depending on your organization’s size. There can also be some hidden costs you’ll have to factor in, like for data migration.

Other items to consider are the aftercare and support are required for your migration. These are the sorts of things you’ll need to consider and discuss with prospective vendors, especially if your data is too complex for the basic (and often free) migrations that many offer.

There isn't one CRM solution out there that works for everyone - hard costs are a critical factor but so is ease-of-use and integration. A big decision like this is never easy, so it pays to do your homework. Once you’ve considered your staff, your goals and the costs of each option, hopefully you’ll have a direction to take!

 

Have other questions on whether you should switch your nonprofit CRM?  Are you hiding under your desk because you don't want to think about it? Ask more questions here.

 


About the author: 
Joe Fuld, President of The Campaign Workshop, has been fighting for causes and campaigns for the past 20 years. Joe has worked for a long list of clients, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the California Nurses Association, National Nurses United, LIUNA, Defenders of Wildlife, D.C. Vote, American Federation of Teachers, Fair Wisconsin, SEIU 1199, AFSCME , The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, The Human Rights Campaign Fund, The Pretrial Justice Institute, National Council on Crime and Delinquency as well as many other groups, candidates and ballot measures.  He sits on the boards of the CAIR Coalition and the International Dyslexia Association.

Topics: strategy, software