Checklist to drive results
Fundraising Published Date, 2023

The Ultimate Checklist: 8 Must-Have Capabilities For Every Fundraising CRM

Created By: Abby Carlson and Janine Hansen
April 12, 2023

Choosing a customer relationship management tool (CRM) is like choosing a new car. Each one has different features, models, capabilities, and pricing. There are hundreds of CRMs out there to help drive fundraising, so where do you even begin?

As embedded partners to nonprofit organizations, we often work with development teams to ensure effective and scalable fundraising systems, including CRMs. When looking for the right CRM for your organization, we recommend finding a system where you can:

1. Track philanthropic research and relationship management.

An effective fundraising CRM should go beyond simply tracking the names and contact information of your constituents. It should also have robust capabilities to capture and analyze a wide range of data points that can help you build stronger relationships with donors and prospects. These might include funding priorities, wealth screening information, and grant application history. In addition to tracking these important philanthropic research data points, it’s crucial that your CRM allows you to evaluate connections and relationships between donors, prospects, board members, volunteers, and other stakeholders. By understanding who has existing relationships with your constituents, your team can better coordinate cultivation efforts and engage with donors in a more targeted and effective manner. The ability to track and analyze these vital relationships is a key feature that any fundraising CRM worth its salt should provide.

2. Record vital activity and moves management.

From cold outreach to scheduling that first donor prospect meeting and eventually soliciting funds, there are multiple important touchpoints that should be recorded seamlessly in your CRM. This will allow your team to have a full 360° view of your prospects’ engagement journeys and assist new development team members in getting familiar with your constituents. Your CRM should have the capabilities to track activity such as emails, phone calls, meetings, and any other communications between your fundraisers and their prospects. Additionally, the CRM should be able to track and delegate tasks for different users to ensure timely outreach and follow-up to your donors and prospects at every stage of the relationship. Tracking activity is an important factor in measuring your organization’s fundraising efforts and can be the key to identifying any obstacles or opportunities to drive fundraising strategy improvements.

3. Integrate or utilize an email marketing system.

In today’s digital age, email marketing has become a crucial component of nonprofit fundraising and outreach. Fortunately, there are many powerful mass email marketing tools available that can help you streamline your efforts and maximize your impact. Whether they’re built directly into your CRM or can be seamlessly integrated, these tools offer a range of benefits. First and foremost, they allow you to effortlessly add new donors to your newsletter listserv and keep them informed about important updates and exciting announcements. Additionally, you can use segmentation tools to target specific groups of constituents and tailor your messaging to their unique interests and preferences. For example, you might send targeted emails to major donors, first-time donors, or volunteers to keep them engaged and invested in your cause.

With an intuitive marketing function, you can also track the effectiveness of your email campaigns and donor appeals, including metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Armed with this data, you can make data-driven decisions and continuously optimize your strategy to achieve better results. Ultimately, by leveraging mass email marketing tools as part of your CRM, you can build stronger relationships with your supporters and achieve your fundraising and advocacy goals more effectively.

4. Manage pipelines for major gifts and grants.

To ensure effective fundraising, your nonprofit’s CRM must do more than just manage donor relationships. It should also track critical pipeline information that holds your teams accountable for cultivating and soliciting gifts. This information includes specific ask amounts, targeted solicitation dates, the probability of receiving the gift, application deadlines, and key activities that move prospects through the fundraising process. With this data at your fingertips, your team can stay organized and focused on the most promising opportunities, avoiding missed deadlines or uncoordinated outreach. By recording and tracking pipeline information within your CRM, your nonprofit can streamline the fundraising process and increase the likelihood of securing major gifts and donations from your valued supporters.

5. Benefit from automations and workflows.

CRMs can automate tasks and workflows to engage donors and save time. Automations can send personalized emails to donors, invite low-level donors to become monthly givers, and remind team members to follow up with lapsed donors. CRMs also provide customizable workflows to help with project management. By leveraging the full capabilities of your CRM, you can transform the way you engage your supporters and achieve your fundraising and advocacy goals more efficiently.

6. Create customized reports and dashboards.

Most CRMs will give you the ability to pull reports and dashboards, however, it’s important that these reports can be customized by users to best track your organization’s unique KPIs and goals. Ensure that your CRM can pull the data that is tracked in the system, including donations, donors or prospects, pipeline information, activity, and tasks. Your users should have the ability to save reports and dashboards, create templates, and export materials to share outside of the system.

7. Integrate other important systems to create one source of truth.

In addition to your email marketing system, one of the most crucial integrations (if not already native to your CRM) is your online donation platform. By connecting your donation platform to your CRM, you can ensure that all donations are seamlessly recorded and processed in real-time, eliminating the need for manual updates and reducing the risk of errors. Beyond donations, there are other systems that you may want to consider integrating, such as your accounting platform, prospect research tools, wealth screening tool, volunteer management system, event management platform, calendars, or email inboxes. By integrating all your important platforms into your CRM, you can consolidate your data sources and create a unified view of your operations. This will improve transparency, save time, and enable your team to make more informed decisions based on a single source of truth.

8. Provide training and guidance.

CRMs can be complex and may come with a learning curve. To fully optimize your system, your users need to become the experts of your CRM. Ensure that your CRM comes with helpful resources and materials to better learn the system, such as user manuals, videos, one-on-one trainings with a representative, customer support by phone or email, modules, courses, or even community groups that can share helpful tips and tricks. When onboarding new employees into your system, these materials will help your new users be prepared and more comfortable with the technology.

By leveraging these 8 capabilities, your nonprofit will have the power to drive development operations in a strategic and efficient manner, enabling you to achieve your fundraising goals and advance your mission with greater impact and ease. From managing donor relationships and pipeline information to automating key tasks and workflows, a robust CRM can help your team be the most productive fundraisers they can be.

Need help in choosing or managing the right CRM? Get in touch with Orr Group to learn more about our database management services and how our team can help you find the right CRM for your nonprofit.

Abby Carlson is a Director and Head of Data Analytics and Management at Orr Group. She specializes in CRM management and assists Orr Group’s partners to implement, customize, and optimize fundraising database platforms to establish efficiency in systems and maximize donor pipeline potential. 

Janine Hansen is an Associate Director at Orr Group. She brings nearly ten years of experience working in development with a focus on data management and integrity to support our partners in coordinating CRM administration and recommendations.

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