To CRM or Not to CRM: How a Nonprofit Can Decide
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Ever feel like managing your donors and volunteers has become a full-time job in itself? As a nonprofit leader, keeping track of all your relationships and interactions can seem impossible without some help. A customer relationship management or CRM system may be just the solution you need. But how do you know if investing in a CRM is really the right move for your organization?

What Is a Nonprofit CRM?

A nonprofit CRM, or customer relationship management system, is software that helps organizations manage relationships and interactions with their donors, volunteers, and other supporters. For nonprofits, a CRM can be an invaluable tool to build more meaningful connections and gain insights to better achieve your mission.

What can a nonprofit CRM do?

A good CRM will let you store donor and supporter contact info, communication preferences, and giving history in one place. You'll have a 360-degree view of your relationships and be able to:

  • Track donations, pledges, and grants to see your funding sources at a glance.
  • Send targeted communications based on interests and giving levels.
  • Create automated nurture campaigns to steward new and repeat donors.
  • Gain data-driven insights into your fundraising performance and set goals.
  • Manage event registrations, ticket sales, and day-of logistics.

Is it worth the investment?

While CRM software does require a financial investment, for most nonprofits the benefits outweigh the costs. Stronger donor relationships mean higher lifetime giving and more funding for your mission. A CRM also reduces manual effort so your team can spend less time on administration and more time on high-impact work.

Many affordable CRM options exist for nonprofits. Some are built specifically for nonprofits while mainstream tools like Salesforce also cater to the social good sector. With the right CRM partner, your nonprofit can work smarter, build deeper connections, and ultimately create more change.

- Click here for the best tools for nonprofits!

The Benefits of Using a CRM for Your Nonprofit

Using a CRM (customer relationship management) system for your nonprofit can provide some major benefits. As a nonprofit leader, you want to focus on your mission, not wasting time keeping donor records straight. A CRM helps simplify things.

Increase donor engagement

With a CRM, you have a complete view of your donors in one place. You can see their full history of gifts and engagements with your organization. This means you can personalize communications and stewardship. Reach out on their birthday or send an update on a program they funded. Donors will feel more connected to your cause.

Improve fundraising efficiency

Trying to keep donor info in spreadsheets or on paper is tedious and error-prone. A CRM centralizes everything, from contact info to giving history to notes from phone calls. This makes planning appeals, events and campaigns much easier. You can segment your donors, track metrics and make data-driven decisions to optimize your efforts.

Save time and money

Manually tracking donors and gifts requires huge amounts of staff time and resources. CRMs automate and streamline processes like gift entry, acknowledgment letters, and reporting. This frees up your team to spend more time building relationships and less time pushing paper.

While choosing a CRM is an investment, the right system can save you money in the long run through increased efficiency and productivity. For nonprofits, every dollar and minute counts, so putting the proper tools in place to make the most of them is key. A CRM helps ensure your donors feel valued, your fundraising hits the mark, and your staff stays focused on what really matters.

Potential Drawbacks of Nonprofit CRMs to Consider

While CRMs offer many benefits for nonprofits, there are some potential downsides to consider before investing in a new system.


CRMs often come with ongoing costs like monthly subscription or licensing fees, training, and additional customization charges. For cash-strapped nonprofits, these recurring costs can strain budgets and divert funds away from programs and services. Some lower-cost and open-source options are available but may require more staff time and resources to implement and maintain.

Learning Curve

Any new software requires an investment of time to learn. CRMs can have a steep learning curve, especially for non-technical staff. Team members will need time to get up to speed on the system, how to enter and manage data, generate reports, and more. This can lead to frustration, reduced productivity, and pushback if not properly addressed through training and support.

Data Integrity Issues

With multiple people entering and accessing information in one centralized system, there are more opportunities for data to become outdated, inconsistent, or duplicated. Strict data entry rules and management policies need to be established and enforced to ensure high quality, reliable information. If data integrity suffers, the CRM loses much of its value.

Privacy Concerns

Some donors and constituents may have concerns about how their personal information is collected and used in a CRM. Transparency and the ability to opt-out of specific types of communications are important to address privacy concerns. Strict data security measures also need to be in place to prevent unauthorized access. Breaches of sensitive donor data can damage trust and support.

While CRMs have revolutionized how nonprofits manage relationships and fundraising, they are not a magic bullet. Carefully evaluating the pros and cons for your specific organization can help determine if a CRM is the right choice and set the right expectations for successful implementation. With the proper investment of time and resources, nonprofits can reap the many benefits of a CRM and avoid potential pitfalls.

- Here's what we recommend for nonprofit finance! (QUICKBOOKS)

Evaluating Your Nonprofit's Specific Needs

Before investing in a CRM, evaluate how it can specifically support your nonprofit’s operations and goals. Some key things to consider:

Your nonprofit’s size and structure

Smaller nonprofits may find basic CRM features sufficient, while larger organizations typically require more advanced functionality to manage complex donor relationships and fundraising campaigns. Determine how many users need access and what level of access they require. Cloud-based CRMs are ideal for nonprofits of any size since they don’t require an IT infrastructure to maintain.

Your fundraising and donor management needs

If donor management and fundraising are high priorities, look for a CRM with tools for managing donor contacts, tracking donation history, and facilitating fundraising outreach. Features like online donation forms, email marketing, and event management can streamline fundraising efforts. For grant management, look for custom reporting, workflow automation and grant tracking tools.

Your nonprofit’s budget

CRMs are available at a range of price points. Nonprofits with limited budgets can find basic, affordable options, while larger organizations may benefit from enterprise-level systems with more functionality. Some CRMs offer nonprofit discounts and pricing tiers based on the number of users and available features. Cloud-based systems typically charge a monthly subscription fee rather than an upfront software cost.

Ease of use

Look for an intuitive system that won’t require extensive training to get up and running. Consider how tech-savvy your staff is and how much time can be allocated to learning a new system. Systems with drag-and-drop features, pre-built templates and workflows may have a shorter learning curve. Look for free trials to test different options.


Choose a CRM that integrates with other key systems you already use like email marketing, accounting, social media and website platforms. Integrations allow data to flow between systems automatically, reducing duplicate data entry and providing a more comprehensive view of your organization’s information in one place.

ForGranted Media aims to provide nonprofits resources to make well-informed decisions that strengthen your organization. Evaluating your specific needs and priorities will help determine if a CRM is right for you, and if so, which solution is the best fit.

Top Nonprofit CRM Systems to Explore

When it comes to choosing a CRM for your nonprofit, you have several solid options to consider. Here are a few of the top systems currently available:

Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack

Salesforce is the world’s #1 CRM and offers a specialized Nonprofit Success Pack with prebuilt nonprofit processes and 10 free licenses. It handles fundraising, programs, and marketing so you get a 360-degree view of constituents. However, the learning curve can be steep, and additional licenses are pricey.

Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge

A popular choice for mid-size nonprofits, Raiser’s Edge is a fundraising and donor management powerhouse. It has robust reporting and segmentation features, integrates with Blackbaud’s Luminate marketing and online fundraising tools. Pricing is based on a percentage of your annual fundraising revenue. For smaller groups, the cost may be prohibitive.


An affordable, easy-to-use CRM for small to mid-size nonprofits. DonorPerfect handles the essentials like fundraising, email marketing, reporting and integrates with popular nonprofit tools. Support and training resources abound to help you get up and running quickly. The interface can feel dated, and more complex operations may outgrow its capabilities.


Bloomerang is a cloud-based donor management solution focused on small shops. It’s highly intuitive, with built-in reports, dashboards and automation to streamline your efforts. Pricing is reasonable, starting at $99/month. Integrations are limited, so you’ll need other tools for online fundraising and marketing. Larger nonprofits may miss some functionality.


For micro nonprofits, Donately provides a simple, affordable CRM to manage donors and donations. At $49/month, it handles the basics but lacks the depth of larger systems. Donately is extremely easy to learn and use but may quickly become limiting. Integrations are minimal. Still, for getting started with a CRM, Donately is an option to consider.

In the end, determining the right CRM match depends on your nonprofit's size, technical skills, and functionality needs. Focus on solutions that balance power and ease of use, and you'll be well on your way to better donor relationships. The investment in a solid CRM can pay off through increased giving over the long run.


CRMs can be powerful tools for nonprofits, but they also require investment in time and resources to implement effectively. As with any technology, CRMs are not magic bullets and they won’t solve all your problems overnight. But if you go in with realistic expectations, choose a system that fits your needs, and commit to continuous improvement, a CRM could help your nonprofit work smarter, build better donor relationships, and ultimately drive more impact. The choice is yours. If you’re ready to take your nonprofit to the next level, a CRM could be the key to unlocking your true potential. But if you’re still hesitant, don’t feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon. Focus on the fundamentals, listen to your donors, and keep doing the great work you’re already doing. The time will come when you’re ready to take that next step into new frontiers of relationship-building and nonprofit success.

About ForGranted: ForGranted Media specializes in all facets of emerging technological advancements, finance, fundraising and marketing for your nonprofit. Our sole mission is to provide with resources to become a stronger organization!

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