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Looking to save time? Make sure your new CRM automates these 5 things.

Chris Houghton
November 24, 2020

Choosing a CRM is the perfect time to think about automating your manual processes.

At Beacon, we work hard every day to help organisations of all shapes & sizes achieve more. This always starts by bringing all of the data into once place so you can get a single view of your supporters, but it goes beyond that to focus on process.

First and foremost, your CRM database is just a place where data lives. But it's vital for smooth & efficient processes.

One of the big areas we've always focused on is automation. Data wrangling is often quite labour intensive, and can be a big distraction from focusing on what matters - your cause.

In this article, I'll cover 5 different areas where we've seen automation add the most value to nonprofit organisations. Let's jump right in!

1. Website payments

When someone makes a payment (e.g. donation, membership fee) through your website, there's a lot that needs to happen behind the scenes:

  1. Process the payment (via card, direct debit)
  2. Send email acknowledgements
  3. Notify internal staff members
  4. Create the payer, payment, the (optional) Gift Aid declaration, and any other relevant data in your CRM

Most website donation systems do steps 1-3 wonderfully, but fall down on step 4.

If your system for taking donations is different to your CRM, you might be manually entering donations into your database one-by-one. This takes ages, and is hardly an enviable task!

Alternatively, you can import a CSV of all payments once per month. This is far less work (particularly once you've set up an "import template"), but the data will never be as up-to-date as a real-time automated system.

Solution: an automatic, real-time import of website payments into your CRM. Your CRM provider should offer it out of the box, but if you're using a third-party provider like JustGiving, then an API integration to auto-import data will be needed. (Some CRM providers like Beacon also offer this)

2. Recurring payments

This is very related to the above, but is worth it's own section.

If you're like many organisations, you probably have recurring donations set up with a variety of different sources:

  • Website - via Direct Debit
  • Website - via card
  • JustGiving
  • Standing orders

When new recurring payments are made, ideally they should automatically flow into your CRM: from month 1 to infinity, and beyond!

Gift Aid should also be automatically applied to recurring payments. (More in the next section)

For website payments via Direct Debit or card, the integration between your website and CRM should automatically import new payments as they come in. Likewise for JustGiving.

Standing orders (while inferior to Direct Debits) should be automated as much as possible too. Different CRM providers offer different solutions here - from automatic creation of payments in the CRM, to CSV importing of a bank statement.

Solution: where possible, recurring payments should be imported automatically. When that's not possible, it should be easy to add them quickly (via CSV import or otherwise) to make sure your payments are up-to-date.

3. Gift Aid

Unclaimed Gift Aid might be the single biggest source of unclaimed income at your organisation. One third of all UK Gift Aid goes unclaimed by charities - that's £560m every year.

HMRC have specific rules, which start out simple, and get complicated quickly.

In particular, one of the manual tasks that's almost impossible to do with a spreadsheet is a "4 years look back" on Gift Aid. Many declarations allow you to claim Gift Aid on any donations the donor has made in the last 4 years:

Gift Aid 4 years declaration

When declarations are made, do you have a process for checking to see if any of the donor's previous unclaimed donations are eligible? If not, you've probably got a big sum of unclaimed Gift Aid.

I can't tell you the number of times I've seen automation "find" an additional £20k in unclaimed Gift Aid.

Solution: your new CRM database should automatically check the eligibility of all of your donations when contacts, payments, and Gift Aid declarations are logged in your database. This should also work for historical donations.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 11.56.57

4. Email newsletter signups


If you have an email newsletter that you use a provider like Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor or Dotmailer for, it's important to think about how it should communicate with your CRM.

The ideal integration will depend on your preference, but typically the key points include:

  • When someone subscribes, auto-create them into the CRM, with "Email" as a contact preference
  • When someone unsubscribes, auto-remove "Email" as a contact preference in the CRM.
  • One-click export directly from your CRM.
  • When someone donates via your website, auto-subscribe them into your mailing list if they opt-in to email.

What you absolutely don't want is to have to manually keep the two systems up-to-date, either one-by-one or via CSV import/exports between the systems. This is really challenging to do - as the two systems can quickly become "out of sync".

Solution: a real-time integration between your CRM and your email service provider. Beacon's Mailchimp app is a good example of this.

5. Removing duplicates

Drizzle, congested traffic, and One Direction are all unfortunate facts of life. Duplicates are the same in a CRM world - you have to deal with them from time to time.

On larger databases in particular, this can become a big problem, as they make it difficult to get a full picture of how someone relates to your organisation.

Here are some common reasons for duplicates:

  • Different contacts having the same email address
  • Different contacts having the same name + address
  • Different contacts having similar name + phone number

Solution: potential duplicate records should be flagged up in your CRM automatically for you to take action. You should not need to go hunting for them manually.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 12.12.15

That's it for today, folks! If you have any further questions about automation, please do feel free to drop us a message. We spend a lot of time thinking about it!

Stay safe.