Blog posts

5 things a CRM can do that you might not have known about (and how they can help)

Chris Houghton
August 22, 2022

Let’s cut through the jargon to look at the more interesting aspects of CRM

The way that CRM systems are marketed often makes them seem really complicated. In truth, what goes on behind the scenes is pretty sophisticated, but simplifying the complex is hard. That’s why there’s often so much jargon out there, making shopping for a CRM a challenge.

But running a CRM is supposed to make your life easier, so in this article we’re going to shine a light on a few of the cool features that CRMs are capable of. We’re going to cut through the noise and tell you exactly how each feature can support your charity’s comms.

1) The “single view” donor profile

Most charities struggle to draw connections between donors, especially when those supporters engage with you in multiple different ways. A lot of manual work often needs to be done to “stitch together” the available data to form a picture of a single donor. A CRM database, when configured correctly, can make this a cinch.

How this can help

There are two very clear advantages to the idea of a “single donor view”; you will save time, and your data will be more accurate. Data veracity is paramount when using CRM software, because when you communicate with stakeholders it’s best to have up-to-date information on them. This prevents messages being sent in error and also helps to avoid neglecting your treasured donors. By getting a “single source of truth” on each donor individually, you can ensure that your whole database is well-maintained and robust.

2) Donation processing (with Gift Aid)

CRM databases are traditionally designed to hold and manage data. This does not usually extend to storing financial transactions, but some specialist CRMs (such as Beacon) have this feature built in.

If you’re a charity, linking donor details to payments that they have made can be a challenge. However, with a CRM that actually processes payments, the financial records are held right there against the donor profile.

How this can help

As a charity this will of course save you time, but it makes the experience more pleasant for the donor as well. No more having to enter their details twice or being passed over to some third party payment system like PayPal. And because payments are stored alongside the donor profile, you’ll have much more reliable data at your fingertips when it comes to communicating with them. This spares you from making embarrassing mistakes, such as asking for a donation even if they already made one recently. An all-in-one payment and CRM solution is a rarity in the CRM world, but for many small charities it could be just the ticket to give their online fundraising a boost.

3) Task management

Managing “todo” lists might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a CRM. But why not? A CRM is a database, and what better place to manage tasks than within the database that runs your whole organisation!

You might currently manage workloads through Trello or Asana, or even pen and paper, but a CRM that can handle your never-ending task list is going to benefit you in a number of ways.

How this can help

A decent todo list app will enable you to assign tasks to individuals, apply completion dates and act as a file library. When your whole team contributes to this workflow, a sense of clarity will emerge. You’ll become more efficient. A task management feature enables you to capture meeting notes, minutes and actions, and cleverly relate them to other entities within the system. For example, you could make a note to personally thank a large donor, and when you add this task to the system, it could be related to the record of the person who made the donation. As you can imagine, this becomes hugely powerful as your charity grows, and offers some wonderful insights from a reporting perspective. If you manage your todo list through your CRM, you’ll minimise the risk of things going missing, and finally start bringing some order to the chaos!

4) Custom record types

The secret to a truly bespoke CRM is that its data structures will be modelled on your own organisational needs. This requires custom record types.

A record is simply a piece of information stored within the database: a donor, for example. A donor record would include some basic details, such as their name and address. But custom records enable you to go much further than this. For example, your charity might collect and donate refurbished musical instruments to schools. In this scenario, your CRM would contain record types for the instruments and the schools. In seconds you could see which schools currently hold which instruments. Custom record types enable the CRM to truly reflect your organisation.

How this can help

This sophisticated method of record keeping not only saves time but ensures data veracity. It means that at any time, you’ll be able to delve into the data behind your organisation to pull up the information you need. By customising your records, you’ll also be able to form a more personalised relationship with stakeholders. You’ll be able to go beyond the basics and build up a more comprehensive profile of your donors, for example, by understanding their interests or keeping notes on why they contribute to your charity. If you feel there is some unique aspect to your charity, custom record types will be used to meet the challenge.

5) Integrations into other systems

Most CRM systems enable your data to be securely shared with other software via something called an API. This means that you can link directly into other systems to perform specific tasks.

How this can help

It’s quite likely that you’ll need to utilise other software to accomplish specialist jobs. For example, you might want to share your financial records with your accounting software (such as Xero). This means that the CRM passes the data records over to another system that is more specialised in processing it. In practice, your CRM might not be well-equipped to display detailed financial data on charts, or make financial predictions, but another piece of software might be designed specifically for this purpose. This is how integrations can seriously level-up the way your organisation uses data to make better, more informed decisions.

Check out Beacon's integrations

Data management might pleasantly surprise you(!)

A CRM project can be dry and boring, or it can be exciting! Too often, teams get dragged down by the idea of data management and all the small print hoops they need to jump through. But beyond this lies great opportunity, and a sense that finally, everything is coming together. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to the possibilities of CRM, and how it might transform your charity.

If so, we’d love to have a chat with you to help you work out your next steps. Arrange your free Beacon demo here or download our amazing guide to choosing a CRM.