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6 ways that CRM can revolutionise the way your charity works

Chris Houghton
June 24, 2021

Find out what CRM really means and learn how best to use it in your organisation.

There are two ways to look at the acronym “CRM”.

On the one hand, it refers to a piece of software; a tool to help manage your organisation’s data. In this definition, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Manager. It is a tool that manages your stakeholder comms and relationships.

On the other hand, CRM is short for Customer Relationship Management, which is a wider definition that encompasses more than just software - it’s a philosophy.

In this article, we are going to zoom out from the software to get a bird’s eye view on CRM. There’s plenty of information out there about CRM software already: which to buy, how much they cost, how to integrate and so on. But today, we’re more interested in exploring what a Customer Relationship Management ethos can do for your charity.

The qualities of a CRM-oriented team

CRM has the potential to seriously improve the way you handle stakeholder data. It helps you make smarter decisions and automate repetitive, labour-intensive tasks.

Teams that use CRM most effectively do so as part of their everyday philosophy. It is baked into their culture. The good news is that every team has the potential to make a shift toward a CRM mindset, because the problems that CRM solves are so deep and widespread across the sector that most teams have already encountered them.

Let’s take a look at some of the common problems, and respective qualities, needed to adopt a CRM culture in your charity.

Your team wants to do away with repetitive tasks

Many small charities are stretched thin on time, not through the complexities of their work, but by the monotony of repetition. It’s common for non-CRM organisations to struggle with duplicated documents, manual data entry and a sense of continually firefighting tasks that should be handled by automated processes. Your team intuitively knows that things shouldn’t be this way.

Your team knows they can deliver a better donor experience

As your supporter base expands, it gets more challenging to deal with the sheer volume of data. Without a doubt, records go missing, information becomes outdated, and over time the majority of the data you hold degrades to an unusable state. Effective teams are always striving for ways to better manage their data so they can ensure a solid donor experience.

Your team needs a single-supporter view

One of the biggest headaches for charity staff is sifting through donor data to try to stitch it together to form a single picture of each donor. Savvy teams know that this is a counterproductive way of working, and are seeking ways to solve the problem more efficiently.

The truth is that most teams recognise the necessity to improve, but don’t have the headspace to get stuck into a solution. The willingness is apparent, but the strategic direction is lacking. As a changemaker in your organisation, starting the CRM conversation could open the floodgates to an entirely new, and better, way of working. It could energise your team and provide a more positive experience for all who come into contact with your charity.

6 ways CRM can revolutionise how your charity operates

Now that we have a clearer idea of what is needed in order to implement a CRM mindset effectively, let’s dig into the ways in which CRM could benefit your small charity on the ground.

1) It will save time by reducing your admin burden

Many small charities rely on part-time staff who spend much of their limited time doing things that, frankly, software should do. Data entry, emailing donors and managing tasks can all be made simpler with a CRM configured to the needs of your organisation.

2) It will provide a collaborative space

A CRM database offers a centralised platform that handles all your charity’s data. This, by its nature, fosters a culture of collaboration and transparency. If your team is prone to working in silos, and let’s face it - most teams are - a CRM will get them working together more effectively.

3) It will make your team will feel more organised

Most teams will tell you that their organisation sometimes feels like it is held together with string, always on the cusp of unraveling. The sense of responsibility to keep things in order can place a heavy burden and cause work-related stress. Implementing a centralised CRM database will create an impression of tidiness, and that order has been brought to chaos. This feeling is hard to measure, but your team will thank you for it!

4) It will bring you insights you didn’t know existed

Processing large volumes of data is best left to machines. There’s only so long a human can browse through spreadsheets, trying to tally up one record with another to draw conclusions. CRM software is designed to make reporting simple, and will make visible the trends, opportunities and outliers that you might not have spotted. This lets you make smarter, more informed decisions.

5) It will help you to scale

In the olden days if an organisation grew its impact, generally speaking its team would need to expand in tandem. More paperwork, more people, more money coming through the door; these are all things that need managing. The best CRMs, along with their support staff, enable organisations to scale in size (both up and down) easily.

6) It will enable you to track everything

CRMs are best known for managing contact data, but specialist CRMs (such as Beacon) enable teams to track every aspect of their organisation. Animal rehoming charities can keep detailed records against animals in their care, international aid charities can track the movement of their supplies and social supermarkets can track and report on their most popular products. The best CRMs offer clarity and transparency, empowering even small teams to get more sophisticated with their data.

How to get started implementing CRM

As we have seen, to effectively make use of CRM, your team should recognise the benefits it can bring. It begins by holding a conversation to uncover the sticking points in relation to data and comms. There will undoubtedly be problems and opportunities in the way that your organisation operates that CRM can fix. You can start by asking the following questions of your team:

  • Which tasks do you find yourself repeating frequently?
  • How much time do you feel is spent on these tasks?
  • How do you feel about completing these tasks?
  • What comms issues have we faced in the past?
  • How might we avoid such issues from occurring again?
  • What does a good donor journey look like?
  • How might we facilitate a better donor experience?

By exploring these questions the subject of data management will come up on its own. You might be surprised by how much your team is already willing to talk CRM! Conversations like this will begin to foster a more CRM-oriented mindset, enabling you to take steps to integrate software that will tune-up how your charity works.

Our ebook can support any CRM conversations you have with your team, download it here.

The time is now

The third sector is growing rapidly, with some 170,000 charities in England and Wales alone, but the barrier to get online has never been lower. This means there is a great opportunity for forward-thinking charities to really make the best use of their data, to create an impact much deeper than their physical size might betray.

CRM as a piece of software enables your team to do great things with ease. CRM as a mindset gives them the ability to think strategically and leverage resources effectively. Start your team’s CRM journey by requesting a no-obligation Beacon demo today.