CRMs for Nonprofits

September 23, 2013


info-908889_1280Recently, we have had several conversations with several nonprofit organizations in need of a new CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) system. One of the ways in which nonprofits are unique to businesses is that they rely on donors, and these donors are often times not the same people being served by the nonprofit. For this reason, a whole category of CRM software, known is Donor Management Systems (DMS), have evolved over time.

How an organization manages its contacts and interacts with them is arguably one of the most important jobs – for any organization, big or small, business or nonprofit.

Then why are CRM systems and DMS so confusing?

There are dozens of different software platforms that integrate with your contact management processes. In this post, I will try to briefly describe some of the different options in CRM and DMS technology.

But first, as my co-presenter in a recent workshop on “Data Management for Nonprofits” pointed out, CRM is a process that is not necessarily tied to technology. The technology should always support the CRM, and the technology a nonprofit organization choses should never come first!

CRM technology has evolved to the point where those charged with setting up a new system often become overwhelmed with the choices and complexity of it all. The problem many people face is that of too many choices to choose from (along with too much information), NOT that there are a lack of choices and documentation.

To help with this, NTEN and Idealware have teamed up and published a document entitled “A Consumer’s Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems.” This is a fantastic resource that we recommend constantly to nonprofit organizations seeking help in evaluating a new DMS or a broader CMS.

Below is our own list, in no particular order, of CRMs (including some that could be used as a DMS) with which we’ve worked, are familiar with, or have heard good things about.

  1. CiviCRM – CiviCRM is an Open Source, web-based software. As it is built to easily integrate with your website, your website hosting provider would likely need to “host” it for you.Supported website Content Management Systems include Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. 
  2. Salesforce – Salesforce has made their flagship product available to qualified 501c(3) nonprofits for free for up to 10 users (licenses). After that, if you need additional user logins, Salesforce heavily discounts the additional license(s).
  3. eTapestry – eTapestry is a product that was purchased by Blackbaud a few years ago. It is well known in the nonprofit industry and is better geared for small to mid-sized nonprofits. It is a cloud fundraising and Donor Management System.
  4. Raiser’s Edge – Raiser’s Edge is Blackbaud’s flagship product and like eTapestry, is also a fundraising and Donor Management System. It is commonly used by large nonprofit organizations, and is also more expensive than eTapestry.
  5. Apricot Case Management by Community Tech – Apricot is a CRM specifically designed for nonprofit organizations.
  6. Spero Software – Spero is a Case Management Software system that is mainly used by rescue missions and homeless shelters. It helps nonprofits track the clients who come through an organization’s doors.

There are several more, and I could continue to list dozens upon dozens of products. However, several of these listed are some of the most common software packages used by nonprofits for CRM, and I hope that this gives nonprofits a good place to start their CRM research.

If you need additional help in choosing and/or using a Constituent Relationship Manager (CRM) or Donor Management System (DMS), please contact us.

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