CRM software is a daily aide to marketers, salespeople, and customer service representatives alike. Yet businesses that do more than sell products or services can also rely on CRM to meet their own goals. For instance, nonprofits may be interested in using CRM for a donor management system, volunteer management, tracking a fundraising event, or more.

In such an instance, CRM is not known as customer relationship management software, but rather, constituent relationship management, a small but key difference between nonprofits and other for-profit organizations.

Nonprofit organizations, also referred to as not-for-profits and not-business entities, are considered charitable or tax-exempt, so any money donated to their organization does not get income taxed. These nonprofit groups exist in all sorts of niches, industries, and interests, among them education, research, science, religion, and more.

If the marriage between nonprofits and CRM software is something you’re new to, we recommend you continue reading. In this detailed guide, we will share the best free CRM for nonprofits, delve into the benefits of nonprofits using CRM, discuss how to create a fundraising plan via the software, and introduce some steps for implementing CRM today.

What Is a CRM Nonprofit?

In the intro, we defined a nonprofit, but how exactly would you explain a CRM nonprofit? As we said, CRM in this instance means constituent relationship management. A constituent in the world of nonprofits is someone who belongs to the organization and can vote, elect, and appoint someone else into a role.

Since nonprofits are well, not-for-profit, they don’t deal with customers, but more these constituents instead. A constituent, by the way, is also another word for donors and sponsors, or those who provide the funding necessary to keep the nonprofit progressing.

Whether a CRM manages customers or constituents, there are still many software options out there that a nonprofit could choose from. Later in this guide, we’ll share some pointers on how a nonprofit can narrow down their CRM options, but for now, just know that those options are indeed quite plentiful.

How a CRM Can Help Nonprofits

  • Data Reporting
  • Email Automation
  • List Segmentation
  • Donation Processing
  • Follow up Quickly
  • Manage and Track More Than One Event

Nonprofits may have more or less cashflow depending on your donors or sponsors, which means you often limit your spending. While you try to avoid extraneous spending, know that CRM software is anything but.

CRM for small nonprofits and large ones alike can benefit your organization in a multitude of ways, including the following.

>> Operational CRM: A Complete Guide With our Favourite Examples

Data Reporting

Instead of marketing or sales campaigns, nonprofits have events and fundraisers used to bring on new donors and generate interest in the cause. Data reporting through your CRM lets your organization know if you’re meeting goals, and, if you fell short, just how short it was.

Some of the trackable metrics to study are email open rates, campaign responses, peak donation times, overall fiscal activity, financial transactions and amounts, and donor demographics. In having this information handy, your nonprofit can focus efforts on more profitable donors and events that are more advantageous to the organization.

Email Automation

Emails can invite attendees to your nonprofit’s upcoming event, allow you to stay in touch with current and former donors, and present information about the organization via a regular newsletter. Given the important role email plays then, if a CRM software can automate any part of the email process, this is ideal. Now, no member of the nonprofit is stuck in front of the computer, waiting for just the right time to hit send.

The degree of email customization offered through a nonprofit CRM also makes automation an appealing option. From personalized headlines and email bodies and more, your organization can still send out emails people want to read yet put less effort into it.

List Segmentation

Rather than separating customers into buckets, nonprofits do this with their constituents or donors. Each of these constituents has their own preferences, interests, and needs or pain points, and in understanding those, you can reach out to the ones whose visions most closely align with your nonprofit.

List segmentation via the CRM keeps the constituent list organized and easily accessible, and even better, you get to choose the fields in which segmentation occurs. Whether you separate your constituents based on their age, gender, location, job title, income, donation history, or more, it’s all up to you, and then the CRM software makes it happen.

Donation Processing

Here’s where constituent relationship management really defines itself, in its donation processing capabilities. While you hope to process funds and donations often, the method you may currently use for doing so now is perhaps sort of clunky and slow. You wish there was a way to make the process smoother and simpler, and with a nonprofit CRM, you may have your wish granted.

By automating certain parts of processing donations and simplifying others, your staff can take a breather, as it’s no longer their responsibility to go through each donation and manually process it. This saves your organization time, something all of us want to have more of, and it reduces the rate of human error, which is all but inevitable when juggling numbers all the time.

From pledges to gifs in honorarium, gifts in memoriam, gifts-in-kind, and regular donations, accepting and processing there is no headache anymore. Since you shortened your donations processing time, you also won’t have to wait as long for funds to finalize, which is a relief.

Follow up Quickly

A potential donor just got back to you, but you’re slammed today. If you forget to respond to them soon enough, then you might miss out on their donation. Your CRM can keep you up to date on who needs to hear back from you or a fellow staff member quickly via notifications and alerts, keeping you on the ball.

Further, automated follow-up tasks put less onus on you to always be available to respond, as the CRM lets you schedule replies. The relationships you build with your constituents now can pay back dividends later, so it’s important to do all you can to nurture and engage those relationships when you can. Your nonprofit CRM makes it possible, preventing any potential lead from being missed.

Manage and Track More Than One Event

Have you gotten a slew of events lined up on your nonprofit’s calendar? Not only can you rely on your CRM in creating these events successfully, but when you get busy, you can also use the software to track each event. From sending advertisements and event schedules to boost attendance, tracking those who agree to attend and those who turn down the request, and processing and issuing tickets, this is a lot to do while managing a nonprofit at the same time.

Also, when more than one event is going on at once, you could accidentally get your wires crossed. Issuing a ticket to your constituent for the wrong event could cause a blemish in your professional relationship. Your CRM keeps all your events tidy and organized so you can avoid these embarrassing gaffes.

How to Use a CRM to Fundraise

You can see now how a CRM software for nonprofits can aide you in creating events or campaigns, tracking these when they’re ongoing, narrowing down the best possible donors, and keeping up with your communications. When it comes to fundraising, would your CRM still be the right software to use?

Absolutely, and we think you’ll soon agree once you see the ways that nonprofit CRM can supercharge your fundraising efforts.

Create Constituent Profiles

You already segmented your list of constituents per the advice in the last section, so now you should do something more with them. In making constituent profiles, you can get brief but effective snapshots into each of the constituents who could become potential donors.

The profile should include such information as:

  • The constituent’s contact information, such as their full name, phone number, email address, work address, home address, and social media handles
  • Their level of online engagement
  • Their advocacy activities
  • The channels in which they give the most often
  • Which events they attend and how many
  • Their resume of volunteer work
  • Their history of donations
  • The means of communication they prefer most
  • Their interests and hobbies
  • Any related relationships on an organizational level, as well as those on a corporate and familial level
  • A brief biography

In having this information compiled into a handy profile, you can quickly and easily access it if you want to learn more about a potential donor. It’s also much easier to qualify and disqualify donors based on this information, so if they’re not a fit, you’ll know that much sooner.

Also, by reading up on your donor, when you have an initial meeting with them about the event or donations, your knowledge might impress them. That could make them more likely to agree to do business with you, adding to your growing roster of long-term donors and sponsors you can rely on.

Matching Gifts

Another interesting option for making the most of your nonprofit CRM on a fundraising level is using the software for matching gifts. If you’re not aware of what matching gifts are, this is a type of corporate program where if a company donates a certain amount, that amount could be doubled.

Let’s say an employee of a donor company decided to give to your nonprofit, and the company wanted to engage in matching gifts. The employer would then donate the same amount of money, meaning your nonprofit earns twice the donation than they would in a normal donating scenario.

That’s great, but what does it have to do with CRM, you may be asking? Well, there already exists software out there to introduce the chance for donors to match gifts; you may even use such software yourself. By integrating your CRM with a matching gift software, you can take the latter software much further.

Now, you have the capability of tracking how eligible any donor is to matching gifts. You can also customize your donation forms, adding a field to increase the chances of donations being doubled.

Once you start obtaining more donors who do match gifts, you can then segment them into their own unique list. This list might receive unique email communications separate from the rest of your donors. Whether you highlight specific gift matching donors in a newsletter-style or just send a thank-you, it’s important to acknowledge the donating efforts of your sponsors or donors. Besides, in doing so, more of your donors will see that others have matched gifts, which just may inspire them to do so themselves.

How to Choose the Best CRM for Your Nonprofit

You realize now that CRM for nonprofits can benefit your organization in more ways than you perhaps realized. This has sparked your interest in choosing a nonprofit CRM of your own, but you’re just not sure where to start.

As we talked about earlier in this guide, your options for CRM for nonprofits are nearly endless. Which are considered the best CRM software for nonprofits?

We’ve narrowed it down to five companies to focus on in your quest for an exemplary nonprofit CRM, be that a cloud-based CRM or not.

EngageBay

The first company we want to highlight as having a top CRM is EngageBay. Their CRM is always free, so even if your nonprofit finds it doesn’t need the other features catered more towards marketers and salespeople, you can always rely on EngageBay’s nonprofit CRM at no cost to you. That’s not on a trial or demo, either, but it’s always free.

With more than 15,000 customers choosing EngageBay for their daily business needs, you may find that it’s the right CRM for nonprofits like yours. One of the standout features is EngageBay CRM Telephony, which lends you contextual relevance and data based on constituents’ past interactions with your staff.

The Lead Scoring system is applicable to those constituents as well, allowing you to assign scores to donors who may be most willing and least willing to donate to your nonprofit’s cause. Through syncing email with your CRM, you can automate communications, track who’s talking to which constituent and then choose to follow up when necessary.

The reporting will also quite please your nonprofit, as EngageBay’s comprehensive reporting gives you all the data that matters most to furthering your organization. Their lead biographies, which you can use for donors, will not only tell you more about every constituent you may work with but clue you in on past communications with this person and how well those went. You can then streamline and smarten your next contact with the donor to keep the relationship moving smoothly.

Nutshell

Our next choice as a good CRM for nonprofits is Nutshell. Log in instantly anywhere that’s most convenient to you, such as your smartphone if you’re away from the office or on your computer. Then, you can create and track the business cards of constituents so you never have to guess how to reach someone in an instant. These business cards translate to CRM contacts you can edit, add to, and delete if the working relationship were to end.

The automation of Nutshell is a winning feature that has won this nonprofit CRM much-deserved acclaim. If you upgrade your membership to Nutshell Pro, then you can use automated email sequences among your staff that are sent gradually to generate a response. You also gain access to a sales automation suite designed for maintaining and nurturing all your donor relationships.

Nutshell is not a free CRM, and you’ll pay $19 monthly for the Nutshell Starter membership and $35 monthly for Nutshell Pro.

Keap

Keap, the former name of Infusionsoft, is a top-rated marketing automation CRM, so you could perhaps find use for its CRM for nonprofits as well. The company calls its automation “next-level,” as it has lead scoring, list segmentation via tags, campaign building for events, and templated landing pages for bringing in more leads or donors.

Most of Keap’s users, 90 percent, have had success with more follow-ups from leads after using the CRM, so that may convince you to give Keap a try as well. Their client management CRM includes access to Smart Forms for capturing pertinent information, as well as communication personalization, email and messaging automation, and syncing with Outlook, Gmail, and other email programs you likely already use and love.

Like Nutshell, you would have to pay if you wanted to use Keap for nonprofit CRM purposes. The basic Keap Gro plan costs $79 a month, the more advanced Keap Pro plan is $149 a month, and the most complete plan, called Infusionsoft, is priced at $199 a month.

ActiveCampaign

We also highly recommend ActiveCampaign for your nonprofit CRM needs. Their CRM software includes a slew of features any growing organization wants, among them assigning tasks to other staff members, notification emails when you need to follow up with a donor, and scoring leads/constituents. You can also segment incoming donors so you only target the ones most receptive to your organization.

The automation services ActiveCampaign offers are intended for nurturing and relationship-building as well as giving you a more hands-off approach to running your nonprofit. Detailed reporting lets you select the metrics you want to see more of in a neat, visually appealing report format.

If you decided to use ActiveCampaign as your CRM for nonprofits, you have four plans to select from. The Lite plan costs $9 a month, the Plus plan $49 a month, the Professional plan $129 a month, and the Enterprise plan $229 a month.

Bitrix24

Finally, we have to talk about Bitrix24, which is another (mostly) free CRM for nonprofits that we consider one of the best. While only 12 users can sign up for a free Bitrix24 membership at once, if you have a smaller nonprofit, then this shouldn’t pose much of an issue.

With the CRM up and running, you can take advantage of features like workflow automation for keeping tasks organized, email marketing and automation, invoicing and quotes, and contact management. If your nonprofit is on social media, you can even integrate with your most-used platforms to spread your social reach even further.

You can even rely on Bitrix24 for communications among your fellow nonprofit staff, chatting via instant messenger, group messaging, and file sharing. If you ever grow your organization to more than 12 people, you would have to pay $46.92 a month or more to continue using Bitrix24.

No matter which CRM for nonprofits caught your eye of the list above, you can only choose one. To that end, we recommend you explore each of the five nonprofit CRMs to see which you like the most. Then, you should get in touch with the company and request a demo to determine if the software gels with you and your staff.

Do make sure your CRM for nonprofits includes data reporting, email automation, list segmentation, donation processing, follow-up automation, and constituent profiles like we discussed before in the guide. If your CRM is lacking the above features or others you deem important, then you’ll want to keep looking.

Steps for Implementing a Nonprofit CRM Platform

  • Choosing a Project Team
  • Determining Your Methodology for the Project
  • Identifying CRM Needs
  • Software Implementation
  • Tracking Project Phases

You’ve chosen your nonprofit for CRM based on one of the choices above, and now you’re ready to begin implementing it. To do so, you need to follow five steps: choosing a project team and assembling them, determining the methodology for the project, identifying your CRM needs, implementing the software, and tracking project phases.

Choosing a Project Team

The first step is an important one, as you’ll be busy picking and assembling a team within your nonprofit who can take on various roles. You may have to hire professionals for the purposes of IT and project execution if these parties are not already a part of your nonprofit. Stakeholders like these may include a team of up to six people, but if your nonprofit is bigger, then the need to increase the size of your team is one you want to pay attention to.

Determining Your Methodology for the Project

Next, you can move on to the project methodology, with two popular ones the agile scrum model and the conventional waterfall model. With agile scrum, you have subtasks that may last between one and three weeks each. To prepare for each of these subtask phases, meetings are held with the above parties to assess how well the implementation of the software is going.

The conventional waterfall model has a more sequential stage of phases, whereupon one ending, the next occurs, and so on and so forth. Either model is workable for nonprofits, but it’s on you and your fellow team to select the one that’s most effective.

Identifying CRM Needs

Every nonprofit has some things they’ll need out of a CRM, and for identifying these, you may use a bottom-up or top-down model. A bottom-up model requires you to first track all systems and activities within your nonprofit that you use regularly. Next, you’d want to assess the management of these systems, the processes, and how much data you use to deduce whether the system is effective.

A top-down model calls for a review of your stakeholder communication goals and how these can be met, even if you don’t have a multitude of resources for doing so. The lack of resources may be something you aspire to close with a CRM, but you can’t do that without knowing where these gaps exist.

Software Implementation

With all that sorted, you can now begin implementing the nonprofit CRM using either consultants or in-house staff. There are benefits to both, as consultants are experts in CRM and can help you get over any learning curves or difficulties in the first days and weeks of usage. While going in-house saves you money compared to using consultants, some of that expertise may be lacking, so decide carefully.

Tracking Project Phases

The phases of choosing your CRM to implementing it are worth documenting, especially because there’s always a possibility you may change your nonprofit CRM in the future. If you do, then you’ll have a road map of what to expect that you can share with your fellow staff. You may also find you experience fewer hurdles the second or third time around, as you’re much more familiar with what to do.

Conclusion

Constituent relationship management software or CRM for nonprofits allows your organization to build upon your donors, keep up the relationships with your current donors, and plan for the future. Whether you prefer a nonprofit cloud or another means of using your CRM, there are plenty of nonprofit CRM solutions available to you.

We highlighted five of the best CRM for nonprofits, and using any of these can help you achieve your organizational goals. By having a plan for implementing the new software, you can ease your whole staff into the new changes without any major hiccups.