Any nonprofit who’s been through buying new CRM software can attest to the fact that it can be a long, overwhelming process. With so many choices and features to consider, finding the right software for your organization can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
But finding software that’s an excellent fit couldn’t be more important. With the wealth of benefits that CRM software affords, you can streamline your operations, better identify and cultivate prospects, and practice more successful fundraising all around.
So how do you parse through all of the options to find the software that both fits your needs and your budget?
In this article, we’ll clue you in on six of the most important considerations you should make when purchasing CRM software:
- Do your research.
- Work with a compatible vendor.
- Choose an integration-friendly platform.
- Make sure it’s scalable.
- Find out the true cost.
By knowing what essentials to look out for, your organization will be able to streamline your search and zero in on the perfect software sooner. Let’s get started!
1. Do your research
Before your nonprofit can really get down to the buying process, you’ll need to do a little internal research or soul-searching. After all, it will be impossible to find software that fully fits your needs if you don’t have a firm grasp on what those needs are.
You should consider both your needs (the current problems you’re facing and how the software can alleviate them) and the practical applications (how you engage donors and which efforts you’ll be managing with your software).
By doing your research in advance, you’ll be able to enter into the buying process with a greater sense of direction and purpose, and the search won’t seem quite so overwhelming.
Now that you have a list of must-haves, it’s time to start matching it up with some potential software solutions and begin your external research. There are plenty of product comparison pages and review forums online, so your organization should be able to get a good idea of which platforms are out there and what they have to offer.
As you’re searching, compare each potential software with your list of needs. Does the software you’re looking into fit a majority of your requirements? If yes, make a note to follow up with that vendor!
You’re ready to buy if: Your organization has compiled a list of requirements for your new CRM software that outlines both your needs and the software’s practical applications, and you’ve completed your research and have a shortlist of vendors whose products are compatible with your needs.
2. Work with a compatible vendor
When looking for a new nonprofit CRM, one thing that many organizations don’t realize is that they’re not only shopping for software; they’re also shopping for a vendor.
Your vendor will be providing you with multiple services related to your CRM, from the initial setup to any maintenance that needs to be done throughout the CRM’s lifetime. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a vendor who’s just as compatible with your organization as the software is.
We’ve compiled a short list of our favorite vendors to help narrow down your search.
Vendors to keep your eye on:
Salsa Labs offers large nonprofits a suite of fundraising software, their primary product being an incredibly expansive CRM.
Not only does Salsa’s CRM include robust donor profiles that can be customized with notes, documents, and organization-unique fields, but you’ll also have access to powerful built-in communications, form building tools, grant management features, and much more.
If you’re looking for even more features, you can easily build upon your CRM with Salsa’s advocacy and peer-to-peer software expansions. You’ll have a one-stop fundraising shop!
DonorPerfect is a flexible nonprofit CRM. Since the software comes in two models, both on-site and cloud-based, it has the potential to be the perfect fit for organizations with many different needs.
Along with the fact that DonorPerfect gives nonprofits the power of choice, the best feature of this software is that it can be finely tuned to your organization’s needs. While already stocked with plenty of useful features to address information management, event planning, online donations, and reporting, your nonprofit also has the option to add on a wide range of additional features and integrations if needed.
DonorPerfect’s expandable nature makes it a highly scalable solution that can grow with you for years to come!
Fundly is mainly known for its excellent crowdfunding platform, but what many nonprofits haven’t realized is that they offer a stellar CRM, too!
With Fundly, your organization can manage donor relationships, online giving, campaigns, events, membership programs, and much more, all from a singular piece of software.
And if you need more tools, Fundly’s integration-friendly nature and vendor add-ons will enable you to craft a solution that meets your ever-evolving needs.
Araize, Inc. offers a comprehensive set of cloud-based online nonprofit software which includes accounting, fundraising, and payroll. These can be purchased as a group or on a module-by-module basis.
Because Araize software is cloud-based, you can access it anywhere without paying for expensive network or technology upgrades. That means Araize’s advanced systems are always available to your nonprofit staff, regardless of whether they are using a computer or a mobile device.
Plus, with its low cost of entry (as low as $17/month!), Araize is one of the most affordable software options out there — making it the perfect solution for nonprofits of all sizes and experience levels.
3. Choose an integration-friendly platform
Nonprofit CRMs can be comprehensive pieces of software in and of themselves, but they often require integration with other platforms to fully address organizational needs (CRM software that has been integrated with other tools is called a CRM system!).
If your organization requires a more robust feature set in a certain area, you’ll likely need to integrate your nonprofit CRM software with a more specialized platform. While you can certainly get away with using various pieces of software separately, one of the main advantages of CRM software is the centralization it provides, making data management much simpler and giving you a deeper understanding of your constituents.
If you anticipate that you’ll need to integrate, make sure you choose a nonprofit CRM that’s integration-friendly. It should be compatible with other platforms that include the tools you need so that the integration process doesn’t eat up too many resources.
Here are some common nonprofit CRM software integrations you may need to consider.
Organizations often use wealth screening to identify donors with the capacity and willingness to give major contributions as well as pinpoint donors who could give more than they’re currently donating.
When your wealth screening tool integrates with your nonprofit CRM software, you’ll have access to all your donor data, which can provide deeper, more accurate insights into your supporters.
Our wealth screening and prospect research tools at DonorSearch integrate with several CRM tools such as Salsa Labs, OmegaFi, Donor Perfect, and Salesforce.
Matching gifts are a type of corporate philanthropy program that can double your donations if you can effectively promote them to eligible donors. Connect matching gift tools with your CRM to identify your donors’ employers so you can communicate relevant information.
Integrations with the top CRM and online fundraising tools make these two providers our top recommendations for matching gift software.
Of course, these are only a few of the many integrations that are available to you. You may need to integrate even more platforms like mobile giving, event management, or a more robust metrics tracking tool—the types of integrations are practically endless!
That’s why it’s so important for organizations to find a CRM that is compatible with other platforms, otherwise, you’ll need to find a tool that comes with all the capabilities you need.
Luckily there are robust nonprofit tools available that come with several additions to maximize your ROI. If you’re interested in learning more about these fully capable tools (that also work with integrations!), check out DNL OmniMedia’s list.
Remember that the first step to finding the right CRM is by determining what your nonprofit needs and figuring out which integrations are going to be the most important to your organization.
4. Make sure it’s scalable
One of the biggest mistakes that nonprofits make when shopping for new nonprofit CRM software is that they only consider the here and now.
But CRM software is a long-term investment. It’s absolutely critical to think about where your organization is heading…and how your software will get you there.
Whichever nonprofit CRM software you end up selecting should be scalable, a trait that applies to two major areas:
- Number of constituents. The number of supporter profiles you can fit into your nonprofit CRM is usually factored into the software’s price. Most vendors offer packages that support varying levels of constituents, but how this feature is handled can differ. While some vendors have a pre-set number of constituents built into the cost, others will charge a small fee per profile. Either make sure your organization buys a platform with a little extra space or one that can be expanded upon as your supporter base grows.
- Features. As your organization evolves, you’ll likely be taking on new efforts and engaging donors in different ways. In order for your software to last you a while, the feature set should be able to be expanded upon, either through bringing in outside tools or by adding on additional features from the same vendor. In either case, make sure you’re able to stock new features!
The bottom line is that, if your organization fails to plan ahead, you’ll only have to enter into the buying process again sooner. And you know what that means: more time, money, and hassle.
You’re ready to buy if: You’ve thought about where your organization will be in the next 3-5 years and have planned for how you can adjust your software to evolve with you.
5. Find out the true cost
One of the biggest concerns that nonprofits have when selecting new nonprofit CRM software is, inevitably, cost.
Unfortunately, even many organizations who have carefully calculated their software budgets still end up spending more than they bargained for, simply because they aren’t aware of the realities of CRM costs.
Nonprofit CRM software often has many hidden factors that can hike up the price. In other words, the cost listed on the vendor’s pricing page often doesn’t reflect what you’ll actually be spending.
Here are some common hidden costs that you’ll probably need to factor into your budget:
- Payment processing fees. Almost all payment processing services include fees of one type or another. Keep in mind that part of any online contribution you accept will need to be allocated toward these costs (and look for a payment processing service that keeps them low!).
- Vendor services. Setup, training, and maintenance services (discussed previously) can all come at a cost. If you need any of these services, don’t forget to set aside the money for them.
- Number of constituents. The more donor profiles you’ll need to house, the more expensive your CRM will be. Make sure you’re buying software that aligns with the size of your organization and your budget.
- Number of users. Likewise, the number of people using your CRM can influence the price. If you need to pay for additional access, consider this cost.
- Updates. Keep in mind that you may need to allocate more money to cover CRM updates in the future. It can be difficult to determine how much future needs will cost, but you should have a healthy maintenance budget set aside to ensure your software is in tip-top shape for years to come.
Before you sign the contract, ask your vendor to spell out costs. If hidden expenses surprise you down the line, your financial stability could be put in jeopardy.
You’re ready to buy if: You’re aware of all costs and are certain that your budget is large enough to cover them!
With these tips, we hope that your organization is well on its way to discovering the perfect nonprofit CRM software. Happy shopping!
- Prospect Research: The Ultimate Guide: With all of the donor data they collect and their ability to compile and analyze donor demographics and behavior, nonprofit CRMs are a crucial component in prospect research. Find out more about this important process with our ultimate guide.
- Top 10 Fundraising Consulting Firms for Better Fundraising: Nonprofit CRMs are a great first step in improving your organization’s fundraising efforts, but they don’t always cover everything! Check out our list of the best fundraising consulting firms to take your fundraising efforts to new heights.
- Nonprofit CRM Software: Still have questions about nonprofit CRM software? Read through Double the Donation’s detailed guide on the ins and outs of this essential nonprofit software.