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Toronto Net Tuesday Recap - Managing Your Relationships

Databases & Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)

By: Alice Wong, TechSoup Canada Volunteer

Whether it be pen and paper, spreadsheets, databases or more sophisticated CRM software, it was clear that when it comes to managing relationships with your constituents, determining what is appropriate for your nonprofit or charity is not an easy task. Luckily, we had some insightful speakers and panellists for our May Toronto Net Tuesday event that shared their experiences - the good, bad and the ugly - with developing the CRMs within their organizations.

Intro to CRM: Jane Zhang - TechSoup Canada

First of all, Jane, the Program Director at TechSoup Canada, gave an incredible overview of CRMs and why they are essential to the existence of your organization. Nonprofits count on the time and resources of volunteers, donors and other constituents, and time spent tracking these assets (i.e. volunteer hours, finding out if someone on your list is a donor/volunteer/member or all of the above, etc.) means time away from engaging with your community of supporters. CRMs should really help to integrate and simplify your organization’s processes, but given certain restraints such as time, budget and IT resources, these factors will most definitely affect what CRM you choose (if any!). In your consideration process, even if an in-house solution is developed, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. So, it is essential to evaluate the present and future needs of your organization, as the costs associated with switching from one CRM to another are high.

Check out Jane’s presentation for a list of commonly used CRMs. You can also watch the video of her presentation.

CRM Case Study: Brian Cugelman - AlterSpark Consulting

The next speaker, Brian from AlterSpark Consulting, worked with a nonprofit called LEAF to tie in a new CRM with a new website. There was a heavy investment of time upfront before they came to the decision of choosing Salesforce as their CRM, and it involved many iterations of what he described as “spaghetti diagrams”. From afar they might have looked like spaghetti, but these diagrams mapped out LEAF’s staff, processes and relationships and that helped narrow down what they would eventually need from a CRM. From there they were able to tie in their CRM with their new website taxonomies and their use of social media.

Check out the video of this section and Brian's presentation.

AlterSpark Consulting has also made their CRM Evaluation Criteria Worksheet (that they developed with LEAF) available to help organizations leverage technology for social good. 

CRM Nonprofit Panel

Nonprofit Panel

Lastly, there was a discussion with our panel, which included Jaime from Schools Without Borders (using Salesforce), Eugene from Free Geek Toronto (using SugarCRM) and Bradley from Dancemakers (using Sumac). Some of the challenges they faced that might be useful to keep in mind were:

  • Dealing with information that might not fit into a CRM in the first place
  • Fine tuning needs ahead of time as to not waste budget on customizing your CRM
  • Learning your CRM and getting everyone in the organization to actively use it
  • Keeping data relevant and correct

Since implementation, members of our panel have been able to use the CRM to:

  • Create custom campaigns for the organization’s different supporters which increased donations
  • Concentrate on a multi-year plan for donor stewardship
  • Sync to other software programs to simplify other activities (i.e. letter sending)
  • “Eliminate the things that suck” (e.g. counting volunteer hours)

To hear all of our panelist's advice, see the video of the discussion.

Hopefully this event was helpful in at least prompting a bit more dialog within your organizations about CRMs. If your organization is registered with TechSoup Canada, feel free to check out our suite of donated software applications, some of which include CRMs. 

If you weren't able to attend, we are running a free webinar on CRM on May 19 - sign up here.

See you at next month’s event!