Maximize your Nonprofit CRM in 2023

Outlook CRM Integration

Nonprofit CRMs help organize donor data, increase staff productivity, and drive toward your fundraising goals. Without one system of record, many organizations would not function effectively. In this blog post, we define what is a CRM, why it is important, how to implement a CRM strategy, and best practices, so you can maximize your CRM usage. 

What is a CRM and Why is it Important for Nonprofits?

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a software that helps nonprofits manage their donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. It is important for nonprofits because it helps track constituents and organize data in a way that is easy to understand. One system of record provides a 360-degree view of your donors and maintains data integrity.

Beyond organizing data, a CRM operationalizes fundraising and donor engagement strategies. With a defined set of business applications, fundraisers can utilize a set of processes to research, cultivate, ask, and steward their donors. These processes allow development officers to act upon their internal and external data sources including donor demographic information, wealth, and engagement scoring. Deep donor insights coupled with business automation empower fundraisers to reach their goals.

Lastly, without a core nonprofit CRM, it is nearly impossible to scale your fundraising efforts. With donor data hidden in spreadsheets or separate platforms, your organization lacks one cohesive donor view. You cannot intentionally utilize your data nor can you develop new strategies or tweak current strategies for a holistic approach.

A nonprofit CRM allows your fundraising staff to do what they do best – develop donor relationships which in turn will increase your fundraising and help you better serve your constituents.

How to Implement a Successful CRM Strategy in Your Organization

A CRM is not just a technology system but also a comprehensive strategy to engage your constituents while you work toward fundraising goals. Nonprofits that develop this strategy have higher utilization rates and a better return on their technology investment. Beyond internal benefits, your donors will feel valued and appreciated for their contributions and involvement. 

To help frame your strategy development, it’s important to view your CRM system as more than a transaction-based tool but a system that allows you to view your constituents’ activities holistically. Although your nonprofit may have different departments (finance, major gifts, planned giving, corporate giving), your donor is still one individual. Your CRM strategy must speak to this donor’s holistic interests. The workflows, processes, or procedures present within the technology must reinforce this donor-centric approach to fundraising. 

A great first step in implementing a CRM strategy is to speak with all potential system users to ensure their voices are heard in the selection process. What are their day-to-day activities? How will the system support them in meeting their goals? 

These conversations will help your organization identify your intended outcomes for implementing a CRM system. Here are several design objectives you may consider:

•    Increase internal efficiencies 
•    Improve data integrity
•    Provide personalized, compelling experiences to your donors
•    Increase your fundraising revenue

With these objectives in mind, you can more clearly define your requirements, guarantee better user adoption, and determine your key KPIs that will help keep your team on track and motivated. 

What are the Best Practices for Using a Nonprofit CRM?

There are several best practices for nonprofits using a CRM to maximize your technology investment.

  1. Develop data standards.

Data standards provide clarity into how data should be entered and updated within the system. These standards ensure that all CRM users can effectively utilize, trust, and make informed decisions based upon this data.

Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so that users have written guidelines. Some processes to consider adding include:

  • Account and contact name change guidelines
  • Account and contact deletion guidelines
  • Duplicate account and contact guidelines
  • Naming and number conventions
  1. Clean your data.

A clean donor base is a healthy donor base. Development officers and marketing managers will not be successful if data is inaccurate, old, or formatted improperly. A database cleanup is a daunting task if tackled all at once. Break this project into phases, so that your teams do not feel overwhelmed.

First, decide which segment of the database you want to clean first (views, workflows, lists, or constituent records). Delete views, workflows, or lists that are no longer used. Evaluate constituent records for data anomalies and adjust based upon your SOPs. (Read more about database cleanups here).

  1. Define user roles.

User roles should be defined based upon the job functions of the individual. These roles will ensure data consistency and prevent any unwanted errors. Furthermore, it helps protect your donor’s information. For example, an events manager may not necessarily need access to financial pay-outs which may contain a donor’s personal information.

  1. Automate tasks.

Task automation within a nonprofit CRM will free your staff’s time to focus on more value-added tasks. Speak with your team about their current manual processes. Can you set up workflows within your nonprofit CRM that will expedite these processes? For example, set up an in-app notification that will notify a Major Gift Officer if a donor contributes over a certain threshold. This will then shorten the time between gift acceptance and gift acknowledgment and recognition. Your donor will appreciate your responsiveness. 

  1. Develop consistent training.

A nonprofit CRM is a living, breathing database. The more your team members use it, the better the data and outcomes will be. Offer opportunities for your team members to learn new or underutilized features. These trainings will empower your staff to drive better decision making and will ensure your technology investment is well-utilized.


A nonprofit CRM is a critical piece of technology that allows organizations to operationalize their fundraising strategies and meet their goals. Those organizations that accompany their CRM utilization along with a donor-centric approach to fundraising find success. By creating a CRM strategy and following these best practices for using a CRM, your organization will maximize your technology. 

Are you ready to partner with a technology vendor that has industry-leading technology and a proven team with nonprofit experience? StratusLIVE offers a purpose-built nonprofit CRM built upon the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform. Leverage familiar tools and interfaces all within one powerful platform. 

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Posted by Kelly Perry

Kelly Perry is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Nonprofit Solutions at StratusLIVE. She has over ten years marketing and communications experience within nonprofit technology and the publishing industries.