In many ways, charities are run like businesses; they interact with the public in much the same way as a business would with its clients, and they both aim to deliver services or products efficiently and effectively.
And like a business, a charity needs appropriate information technology to make the most out of the resources it has, the services it delivers, and to keep in touch with and understand how it is interacting.
That’s why having in place a good, efficient and appropriate customer relations management (CRM) system is as vital to a charity as any other business
But it is thought more than a quarter of charities do not use a CRM system. So why is this?
There are many reasons, but one is that data usually needs to be cleaned before a CRM system can be implemented. With data in different areas across different charitable organisations, the extent of this job could explain why a high proportion of charities choose to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to implementing an affect CRM system.
And while we would all agree that many not-for-profits are good at capturing the heart of a person who decides to run a marathon for them and raise funds in memory of their mum – how do they keep the heart of that person five years down the line?
The answer is, making sure they are a constant reminder to them as to their motivations for putting on trainers in the first place – an example message that could go out each year is “Well done for taking part in the marathon for us – why not challenge yourself again or take on a new challenge?”
But to be this constant reminder, you need a good CRM system in place to retain supporter details, without it, they may turn to another charity.
So, it is clear what the danger of not having a CRM system is, but specifying, choosing and implementing one is a difficulty for charities.
This is due to many departments across the organisation using the data in silos and possibly a large numbers of diverse stakeholders, which can make decision-making an arduous and time-consuming task.
So how can this change?
Charities need to make sure they have internal buy in for the new system from the workers who will be using it. The quality of the data that goes in to the CRM system is key to what comes out, so staff need to know why they are being told they need to input data, what it means for them, the organisations and very importantly to those members of staff working on the ground, in say a support worker role, how it will help Mr B, who is living with dementia, and their family.
It is different reasons for different members of staff and the powers that be who will be implementing the CRM system need to make sure they have staff on board all of the way – they need to understand their staff so they in turn can understand the importance of the system.
What systems are available?
There are hundreds of CRM systems available, so it can be a daunting task to choose one. There are a smaller number aimed at specifically meeting the needs of not-for-profit organisations but it is not essential to go for one of these packages. CRM systems can offer a wide variety of functions, so it is vital for the provider to understand what the specific charity needs.
Some charities are primarily focussed on raising funds and ensuring donations are correctly processed, and donators receive thanks and information. Other charities will want to be able to produce reports and analyses statistics to demonstrate the effectiveness of their organisations for, funders, trustees, management committees, and those who use and support the charity. Some will want to do both.
How do you choose the right system?
With so many systems on offer, it is important to set out a budget and don’t just do something because another charity did it – it has to work for the individual organisation.
Thought needs to be given to, how many people within the organisation are going to use the system, and how the organisation will grow in the future. Charities need clarification of purpose and need in order to make the right choice and navigate their way through the large number of systems available.
And just like when anyone visits a car sales forecourt, they would not leave with their purchase before a demonstration and test drive, charities should do the same with their CRM system. Many companies will be able to offer a demonstration or trial of how their system works.
It is at this stage, the vision of the charity, its mission statement, its growth and future needs, as well as the flexibility of the system and its ease of use will assist in decision making.
But unlike its supporters – the charity should not make the purchase with their heart – it should be a considered process, so the benefits of its use will be reflected throughout the organisation – ultimately helping those in need.
For more information on Leviosa and how they could help your charity go to www.leviosa.co.uk
"Having a good, efficient and appropriate CRM system in place is as vital to a charity as any other business, to continue relationships for years to come with supporters."
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