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Fundraising CRM software: What your nonprofit needs to know

May 12, 2020
These nonprofit professionals are looking at a computer screen and talking about fundraising software.

A fundraising constituent relationship management (CRM) software solution is an essential tool for maximizing your nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts. With this powerful technology, you can manage your donor database, engage supporters, and run successful fundraising campaigns all from one central location. But first, you have to find a solution that aligns with your nonprofit’s budget, goals, and fundraising needs.

This guide will walk through five must-have features to look for in a fundraising CRM and provide essential background information about these software solutions. 

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What is fundraising CRM software? 

A fundraising CRM is a digital platform that stores your donor data. It helps you compile important information about individual donors which you can use to tailor fundraising campaigns, personalize communications, and streamline operations.

Why is fundraising CRM software important?

Fundraising CRM software eases the administrative burdens of campaign planning, saving your organization time and energy. From gathering donor data to automating outreach, it helps your nonprofit:

  • Save time. Powered by automated and integrated processes, your fundraising CRM software will save your team time that would have otherwise been spent switching between systems and manually migrating data.
  • Enrich donor relationshipsThe more you know about your donors, the better able you’ll be to solicit and steward their support.
  • Raise more. With the right tools, you can increase your fundraisers’ efficiency and maximize results. Custom outreach templates and automated reporting features consolidate information so you can easily and quickly put it to use.

Plus, with a reliable and secure place to store information, you can make better-informed decisions about other initiatives, such as your marketing and event planning efforts.

5 must-have features for fundraising CRM software 

To be effective, your fundraising CRM software should automatically capture the information you need to craft and refine your fundraising strategy. In addition to data collection, here are a few other essential features to look for: 

1. Donor profiles

With your fundraising CRM software, you can automatically create donor profiles for supporters who contribute to or interact with your nonprofit organization. Customize these profiles to include relevant information based on your goals, such as contact information, interests, and engagement history.

Ensure that your technology allows you to save the following information to your donor profiles: 

  • Donor documents. Documents like volunteer applications, copies of correspondences, and donation forms and receipts can be stored directly in each donor profile. These files are also searchable, for easy, quick access to the information you need. 
  • Segmented donor groups. Donor segmentation is the process of sorting donors based on shared characteristics like giving history or demographics. Leverage these segments for more personalized marketing strategies. 
  • Relationships. Track the relationships your donors have with one another as well as their relationships with other organizations. For instance, you might discover that a group of donors all work for the same local employer, which could prompt you to reach out to that organization about creating an employee volunteer day or giving opportunity.
  • Notes. Fundraising CRMs allow you to add notes to a donor's profile anytime, anywhere. Categorize these notes according to their purpose, such as major gift appeals, interests in other engagement opportunities, or meeting notes.

Donor profiles take the guesswork out of your fundraising campaigns, helping to guide your strategy so that you can maximize results while minimizing effort. 

For example, if you’re hosting a silent auction event, you can search through your CRM software to find donors who are local business owners and request auction items from them. Then, if your donors are segmented by area, you can reach out to nearby supporters with targeted invitations.

2. Automated online fundraising 

When your online fundraising tools are integrated with your fundraising CRM, you can  automate more administrative tasks to ease your workload.

Ensure your fundraising CRM enables you to facilitate:

  • Online donation pages. When your online donation pages are hosted through the same software provider as your CRM, new donor information can be automatically saved to a new donor profile in your database. You'll no longer need to input new information into your database by hand; the software can do it for you!
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising enables your supporters to create fundraising pages and raise money on behalf of your organization through their own online networks. When a new donor gives to a supporter's fundraising page that integrates with your CRM, you can automatically store the connection between the two donors. 
  • Event registrations. With the right event software, you can easily create event landing pages, send invites, and sell tickets. Once donors register, their information will automatically sync to your CRM. 

Additionally, your CRM should have built-in  communication tools that allow you to create custom automated thank-you messages so donors receive acknowledgement right away whenever they interact with your nonprofit.

3. Direct mail outreach

When you set out to raise money through direct mail, start with a general fundraising letter template. This template should include information like the amount you want your donor to give, the campaign the donation will go towards, and other details specific to each recipient. Then, rely on your fundraising CRM to:

  • Save the customized fundraising template so you can easily access it during the campaign and use it to structure future solicitation letters. 
  • Auto-populate the donor's name into the fundraising letter template, allowing you to send a personalized greeting to each donor with ease.
  • Auto-generate mail labels from your donor lists. All you need to do is select the segment you want to send mail to, then let the software flow their personal information into the letter template and create personalized mail labels.

Leveraging a direct mail outreach tool makes stewardship simple. It eliminates the need to write out each individual's information and allows you to send personalized messages in seconds.

4. Data tracking

Your fundraising CRM is more than a simple database. Not only does it store donor data, but it can also track information about their contributions to help you understand how they support your campaign.

Find a fundraising CRM that tracks information from individual donations, such as: 

  • Donation amount
  • Donation contributor
  • Campaign the donation goes towards
  • Person the donation is in honor or memory of
  • Amount of the donation that is tax deductible
  • Giving method

In addition to your donations, you should also track your pledge campaigns. When you track promised gifts in your fundraising CRM, you can set up automatic reminders to send to those who pledged but may have forgotten about their gift. That way, your valuable pledges won’t fall by the wayside.  

5. Customized reporting

Look for a fundraising CRM that provides you with more than just a simple spreadsheet. Rather, it should have a performance dashboard with visuals and analytics that allow you to easily see trends in your fundraising campaigns.

Filter your reports to view relevant fundraising campaign information like:

  • Conversion rates
  • List growth and churn
  • Donor retention rates
  • Outstanding pledges
  • Revenue by channel or appeal

Use custom reporting to discover insights into your donors’ giving motivations. For example, you might notice you receive a significant amount of donations through one channel, but have a low retention rate. Information like this can help you focus your strategy and make targeted improvements to your online fundraising.

Choosing a fundraising CRM

With these essential features in mind, you can choose the fundraising CRM software best suited to meet your organization’s needs. Just remember to make the selection a collective effort with your team. When everyone is on the same page, you can implement the software more easily and be on your way to better fundraising! 

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