3 Key Takeaways from How to Choose the Right CRM for You

June 23, 2022 | Grace Duginski
How to Choose the Right CRM for You

“How do I choose the right constituent relationship management (CRM) platform for my organization?” is a big question—one many organizations don’t know where to begin answering! Big questions like this one deserve big answers, and one great new resource for getting those answers is the latest webinar from our partners Maureen Wallbeoff, Sally Heaven (one half of Raise HECK,) and Rachel Muir: How to Choose the Right CRM for You.

These three powerhouses shared so much good advice, it was hard to choose just a few of our favorites, but these takeaways caught our eye the most:

  1. Thoroughly document your needs and identify future goals your CRM could help you meet.
  2. Get the most out of your purchase and migration process.
  3. Be a champ at change management by making sure your team is on board (not just at the very beginning, but every step of the way!)

1. Identify both your current needs and your future goals

Although many nonprofit staffers are told that a new platform can solve all their problems, it’s important to acknowledge that making the right choice can be stressful—and to know that it takes some human effort to choose the right system for your organization. Maureen, Sally, and Rachel recognized that many organizations want to avoid picking the wrong tools since it can affect your organization’s ability to meet your goals. These tips can help you identify what you need now and how to choose something that will help you for years to come.

Take an inventory of your tech stack

Draw it out! Something as simple as pen and paper can help you identify where data is stored; where your data is flowing and whether it flows in one direction or back and forth; and where you’ll need your tools to talk to one another.

Think about your strategic goals

As you consider where you need your data to be accessible and which tools need to connect or integrate with one another, this is an ideal time to reimagine your current processes with more efficiency. If one of your current processes requires ten steps, do you really need it to take ten steps? Or can you actually get some time back in your day by finding a platform that cuts your workflow down with functionalities like integrations and workflow automation?

Choosing the right platform is also important when it comes to finding something to support goals or programs that may still be just a twinkle in your eye. For example, did you set a goal of launching an advocacy program within the next couple of years? Does your strategic plan include growing your recurring donor base? Picking a new CRM could be the right time to make sure you can support that goal.

What makes a must-have?

With your current-day workflow needs and your future goals in hand, you’re ready to define what your must-haves are. A quick way to know what makes a must-have is to ask yourself: “do we have a plan for this functionality?” if the answer is yes, it might be a must-have! If the answer is no, you might decide that feature is a nice-to-have or a purely aspirational item instead. Being really clear internally on what constitutes a ‘must-have’ will help you make an informed, transparent, and timely decision, which makes the whole process run more smoothly!

Define your “year one” budget

When you’re moving systems, that first year when you make the switch is likely going to be a more expensive year, so budget wisely! Organizations should expect to pay more in year one because you’ll pay for your current tools while selecting your new toolset and migrating into it, and you’ll need to allocate budget for help from experts (like our partners!) when you’re loading up your data into the metaphorical moving van and making the switch.

2. Get the most out of your purchase and migration process

Your purchase process is just that—yours. Nonprofits should feel empowered to speak up and assert their wants and needs during the process of selecting, touring products and seeing demos, purchasing, and migrating into a new set of tools. (After all, you’ll be the ones logging in and using it every day!) There’s a lot you can do to make sure the purchasing process works for you, especially with these strategies Maureen, Sally, and Rachel shared from their years of expertise.

Share information with the sales staff you’re working with

Some nonprofits worry it’s risky to share information like strategic goals, requirements, current data flows and pain points, and so on with sales teams, but the truth is that it’s actually riskier not to share that information! If you don’t share what your needs are, you could end up with a product that’s not a good fit. Be sure to let your sales staff know what you’re looking for in a platform, so they can direct you to the right tools.

Get the right people to attend demos

Make sure to invite all the right people (like staff who’ll use it every day, and final decision-makers) into your purchasing process. Encourage them to prepare beforehand and come with questions, since this will help staff get on board with the process and prevent you from losing momentum or getting stuck in the project midway through.

Ask for detailed information in writing

Fundraisers know this all too well: if it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen! Make sure you get the most out of your demo by asking questions about integrations and other functionality-related details, capturing answers in writing, and redirecting the conversation as necessary so it’s relevant to your needs.

Check references

You can and should ask a software company for references, but there’s no need to stop there. For a holistic look at a long list of tools, some good places to start looking for real users and candid reviews are TrustRadius, Software Advice, G2, and Capterra.

3. Helping your team manage change

Switching CRMs is a big project, and it means nonprofits need to proactively manage all the changes that come with it. These four essential steps can make this process go smoothly.

Make time for training and documentation

Don’t skip this step! It’s important to budget time and resources for training staff on how to use the new tools and creating documentation they can refer back to as they learn.

Prepare folks for lots of change

Your best bet is to approach a change of this magnitude with compassion and understanding—don’t take a my-way-or-the-highway approach right off the bat. Create clear expectations for what will happen and when, and give your staff opportunities to come to you with questions or concerns so that they feel heard and supported.

Expect things to be a little slow going at first

Understand that it might temporarily take folks longer to accomplish familiar tasks in the new system—those first six-ish weeks can be challenging! It’s important to have plenty of patience and acknowledge that learning a new system can take some time.

Ask for feedback and provide support if people are struggling

Ideally, staff will feel empowered to speak up with questions, objections, or ideas, but that isn’t always the case. Look out for the quiet folks: sometimes quietness can obscure some really great insights and understanding, and you want to tap into their smarts even if they’re not loud about it! That said, quietness can also mask some sadness, confusion, or frustration, and it can signal that staff are dropping out of the process and shutting down. Be sure to proactively check in and see how your staff are doing.

Want even more expertise from our partners? Learn more about Maureen Wallbeoff, Raise HECK, and Rachel Muir and watch the replay of the workshop so you can get your hands on all their resources!