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WaterAid executive says charities are too siloed and risk-averse. The solution is your CRM.

David Simpson
November 29, 2018

As reported by Rebecca Cooney in Third Sector on Monday, Johnty Gray has a stark warning about the need for charities to innovate.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising's individual giving conference on Monday, Gray warned that:

"we have to innovate more quickly in different ways, find different ways to do different things... And if we don't do that quickly, then we are doomed to catastrophic decline."

Serious stuff. What prompted this warning? Well, the big charities are already feeling the pain. More from Gray:

"If you plotted the income of every major charity in the UK earning more than £100m a year through individual giving, we're down the other side of that curve already... We're already down the side of catastrophic decline"

The curve he's talking about is the normal rise in a charity's growth followed by a plateau and a decline in growth if the charity doesn't innovate. Are things already so bad the situation could be described as a "catastrophe"? Hard to say. But innovation has never been more crucial.

Another issue Gray notes is the way in which charities tend to be organised. Often there are different teams and different technologies used across the organisation who would all benefit from sharing systems.

"In large numbers of charities, we separate out the digital team from the rest of the organisation, even to the point where we have several digital teams in the organisation... If digital is at the heart of what we do, then surely it has to be part of everything we do."

Right on, Johnty. We've spoken to lots of charities who are using one system to manage donations, another to store volunteers, and another to keep track of beneficiaries. Often these individuals are all the same people but are spread across different teams and different databases.

How do we solve these problems? Culture and attitude are a big part of this; It's hard to be innovative if nobody wants to try out new ways of doing things. But your CRM can be part of the solution, too:

1. Make sure you have the right tools to innovate

Make sure that your systems are flexible and customisable enough - starting with your CRM. You should be able to test out new ideas quickly, easily, and safely. Want to start storing the nicknames of your volunteers so that you can send more personalised emails to them? It should be really easy to add a new field to all volunteer records.

Shameless self-promotion: We've deliberately made this very easy in Beacon.

That's a simple example but it illustrates the point well. Innovation comes from listening to small ideas, trying them out, and making incremental improvements. If your technology doesn't allow for trying out the small ideas you'll struggle to implement the big ones.

2. Don't silo your data between departments

Keep all of your data about people in the same place. If a fundraiser runs the marathon for your charity and their daughter is a beneficiary of your work - that's important for you to know about. Understanding the journey from event attendee, to donor, to regular donor, to volunteer and fundraiser, is impossible if you use 4 separate systems to store details about this person. The important point is that one person should be stored in one place.

More shameless self-promotion: You can store data about these multiple types of people in Beacon - and customise them however you like!

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You can read the full Third Sector article here. And you should - it's very good.