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Nonprofit CRM Features That Will Help Your Organization Thrive

8 min read
September 22, 2022
Neon One Staff
three young colleagues share a laugh as they work together on their laptops

For a lot of nonprofits, tech-forward business strategies seem out of reach. For example, you’ve probably heard about all the benefits of personalization, but creating customized messages for every constituent contact seems nearly impossible when you have limited resources and more mission-critical activities to fund. Luckily, nonprofit CRMs are specifically designed to support the kind of personalization that also drives your mission, and they can do it cost-effectively.

How CRMs Support Personalization at Scale for Nonprofits

One of the most time-consuming parts of being a nonprofit leader is donor recruitment and retention. To manage those, you have to be able to foster deep, personal connections that keep donors coming back. After all, the number one reason people give to charity is that they believe in the cause. You already have a connection through a common passion.

But you have to foster that connection. That means taking advantage of “personalization at scale.” When we use that phrase, we’re talking about going beyond simple messages that address constituents by name. If you’re personalizing your donor communications at scale, you’re using data to customize every interaction you have with your supporters. This is an ideal strategy for nonprofits because there’s already such an emotional connection between a donor and the cause they choose to support.

You know the people who support your cause. You likely have a good idea of their goals and values. Personalization reinforces their relationship with you, and it can help you drive engagement and retain your donors. McKinsey reports that for-profit organizations that take this approach can increase their sales while reducing the money they spend on marketing. Nonprofit organizations can reap many of the same benefits.

The best way to cost-effectively tackle this is to use a CRM specifically created for nonprofits. These will focus on the needs of members and constituents, rather than customers. That means there will be more built-in options for things like donor and event tracking, volunteer recruitment, and donation management. 

Of course, not all nonprofit CRMs are built the same. There are a few features of the best platforms that will help nonprofits manage costs and improve their outreach results.

8 Nonprofit CRM Features To Drive Personalization

Nonprofit CRMs run the gamut from simple workflow tracking programs to complex digital ecosystems that manage all phases of administration. While your needs will vary, just about all mission-driven organizations benefit from these eight nonprofit CRM features.

1. Workflow Automation

One study from UiPath reported that workers waste up to five business hours per week on tasks that could probably be automated. Automatable tasks are pretty much any that are predictable, repeatable, and high volume. 

Think of something like donor thank-yous after they’ve made a gift. Your organization may send every donor a follow-up email, along with an impact statement. For particularly large-dollar donors, you may even schedule a follow-up phone call. 

Every single one of those tasks takes time. Someone has to assign the work, write the email, follow up, schedule calls, and compile impact reports. They’ll likely want to keep track of these interactions so they know not to duplicate their efforts. 

All these tasks happen after every donation. They are predictable, repeatable, and high volume—meaning they can be automated. With a nonprofit CRM, you can automate that entire process from the second the donation is made. That eliminates all those little steps that take time away from your mission.

2. Customization

Customization is central to personalization. The more flexible a form or email template is, the more you can adapt it for that specific individual. 

This type of customization is also critical for database management. The ability to create fields that specifically represent your organization can go a long way toward future automation and reporting efforts.

For example, an animal welfare organization decides to keep track of the types of pets its supporters own. They add a field to their CRM for pet type, like whether they have a dog or cat. Later, because they have that information well organized, they can use that to send cat- and dog-focused email campaigns to the right people. The customization helps to support future personalization. 

3. Reporting

Nonprofits have their own compliance and reporting requirements, depending on their field, donor base, and size.

A strong nonprofit CRM will offer standard reports, as well as the ability to customize data specific to the organization. All those customizations from above can be used for things beyond donor engagement, like identifying the most effective fundraising campaigns or the most high-need candidates for services. 

The more flexible the reporting system, the better you are able to build reports that will help you evaluate your performance and guide your mission.

4. Scalability

Nonprofits are not static—they change and grow over time. CRMs that support them need to offer that same level of scalability; this applies to the technology itself and its ability to handle growing data volumes. 

One thing you have to think about is potential future costs. Some nonprofit CRMs use a records-based billing model, meaning you pay based on the number of records you have. That’s not ideal, as increased records don’t necessarily equate to increased revenue. You may be fine for the first 10,000 records, but then suddenly, your costs jump once you hit that benchmark. 

A revenue-based billing model is far more scalable, as it takes into account the actual financial resources of your organization. With it, your costs are going to be far more in line with your income and will remain predictable. 

5. Supporter Management Tools

An all-in-one system is an ideal solution for nonprofits that have to manage a wide range of events, volunteer recruitment, fundraising campaigns, membership applications and renewals, and other program administration tasks. Any single one of those can have hundreds of moving parts. 

Consider a fundraising campaign. It’s not just about taking payments from donors. You also have to manage marketing, send follow-up emails, and keep track of donations. If you’re using peer-to-peer fundraising, you’ll want to be able to attribute the funding to the right sources. With a segmented, siloed system, it’s going to be very hard to see how all those moving parts connect. 

These tools are also vital for your existing data. Very few nonprofits use a full-service CRM when they’re starting out. Instead, They usually move to adopt one after years of handling their supporter records through different programs. This can cause a ton of redundant data, leading to duplicate mailings, emails, and phone calls that can frustrate donors, members, and volunteers. The ability to quickly locate and merge duplicate records is an indispensable nonprofit CRM feature that keeps databases organized.

6. Simple, Optimized Templates

Nonprofits should not have to create a bunch of new donation page and email templates to work with their CRM. Ideally, the platform will offer a range of templates that can be customized with the organization’s own branded content and necessary fields. 

You also have to keep staff expertise in mind. Programs with drag-and-drop interfaces can make even the least experienced workers comfortable with creating customized emails, letters, and other templates.

7. Integrations

While it’s great to have an all-in-one solution, no nonprofit system can exist in a vacuum. There are hundreds of amazing tools that can be used in conjunction with CRMs to improve marketing, member management, prospect research, and more. Ideally, the CRM you choose will work with your favorite tools right out of the box. This way, the data flows between programs seamlessly. This eliminates the need for a lot of manual data entry and cuts error risks.

8. Email Communication

Email communication is the backbone of any good nonprofit campaign strategy. It’s how we connect with most of our members and provide continued support. Unfortunately, it’s also where we can lose them. When we send too many or poorly timed messages, our communication is less impactful. 

A strong nonprofit CRM allows you to send targeted, personalized emails based on the information you’ve tracked about your supporters. It can help you generate impact reports to show the progress you’ve made in your mission. All of this is made possible by combining the personalization, customizations, templates, and reporting options in the CRM. 

Choosing the Best CRM To Support Your Mission

Personalization at scale is not out of reach for organizations that use the right nonprofit CRM. With customizable, automated tools, every supporter contact is an opportunity to build a better relationship.

Neon CRM is an all-in-one donor management system with the tools, integrations, and built-in best practices to help your organization grow. Our tools are designed to be a scalable, long-term solution for nonprofits of all sizes—including yours! If you’d like to know more, connect with us for a demo. 

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