Nonprofit CRM Checklist: 5 Best Features to Look For

This is a guest author post.

Choosing a new nonprofit CRM is a major decision. After all, your organization’s constituent relationship management (CRM) system houses all of your most important supporter data and serves as a central hub for your nonprofit’s staff workflows. Using your CRM will be an integral part of your day-to-day operations, so it’s vital that you choose a system that’s secure, intuitive, and scalable for your organization’s needs.

Before you make the commitment to migrate to a new CRM, research its features and ensure that it has a few nonprofit essentials. In this guide, we’ll cover the five best features you should look for:

A checklist of the five best CRM features to look for, which are explored in this article

1. Donor Profiles

According to Double the Donation’s guide to nonprofit CRMs, comprehensive supporter profiles are the number one feature to look for. The main purpose of your nonprofit’s CRM is to manage relationships with donors, so it’s vital that your software enables you to effectively record, track, and find information about each supporter.

In one place, your donor profiles should allow you to track an individual’s:

  • Contact information
  • Demographic data
  • Past donations
  • Past involvement with your nonprofit
  • Relationships with other donors, board members, or partner organizations
  • Communication preferences
  • Charitable interests
  • Custom attributes for your nonprofit

Seeing all of this information about a supporter in one convenient location provides your team with a holistic view of each individual your organization interacts with. In doing so, you’ll be able to easily glean insights from donor data that help you tailor your communications, fundraising appeals, and engagement strategies to the interests of each person.

2. Donation Tracking

In addition to tracking your organization’s interactions with donors, your CRM should be able to simplify donation and fundraising campaign tracking so staff members don’t have to manually input donations or calculate progress toward your goals. Look for features like gift entry, payment processing, and fundraising campaign management tools to meet these needs.

If the CRM you’re considering doesn’t have built-in donation processing features, ensure that it can integrate with the payment processor your organization uses. This way, you’ll be able to automatically record gifts made on your online donation page and add them to existing donor profiles.

Tracking each donor’s giving history in their donor profile helps you accurately segment supporters by giving level, easily recognize donors for their exact contributions, and effectively identify prospects for increased giving. For instance, if you notice that a donor has been giving at the same level for years but recently increased their engagement with your organization, you might craft a stewardship plan to encourage them to increase the size of their next donation.

3. Reporting and Analytics

A robust nonprofit CRM will enable you to easily report on your organization’s progress toward fundraising, engagement, and program goals. These features help you better understand your goals, visualize your successes, and identify areas for improvement within your campaigns and programs.

In particular, top CRMs will provide you with dashboards and reporting capabilities to analyze the following data:

  • Fundraising metrics: Fundraising dashboards automatically calculate and monitor metrics like funds raised online, average gift size, and campaign return on investment (ROI).
  • Marketing analytics: Determine how successful your marketing efforts are by reporting on your messages’ click-through rates, conversion rates, and opt-out rates.
  • Donor behavior: Find patterns in donors’ engagement levels, giving habits, volunteer participation rates, and more to craft more effective outreach campaigns and fundraising appeals.
  • Impact reporting: CRMs with case management or program management features can help you measure your nonprofit’s program outcomes and generate impact reports to share with grantmakers, donors, and the public.

Your CRM’s reporting features should include standard reports and dashboards along with the ability to create custom reports based on your organization’s unique needs.

4. Marketing Automation

Some CRMs do more than just automate data tracking and reporting—they also allow you to automate marketing communications to save your team’s valuable time and energy.

With text and email marketing automation features, you can create templated messages that your CRM automatically populates with details from donor profiles to enhance the personalization and relevance of your messages. You can also set up triggered messages that your CRM will send only when supporters take a specific action.

Let’s take a look at how this works in practice by exploring the example of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud for nonprofits. For Salesforce CRM users, this solution allows you to create custom Email Journeys triggered by actions like donating for the first time or signing up for your newsletter. When a supporter takes the specified action, they’ll be sent a series of personalized emails welcoming them to your donor community—all without your team having to lift a finger.

5. Integration Options

Integrating your new CRM with other nonprofit tools helps you centralize your technology and avoid siloed data. By connecting your most important systems, your team will be able to seamlessly flow data between them and increase your organization’s overall efficiency.

To verify that you can access these benefits, check that the CRMs you’re researching integrate with all of the other tools you use regularly, such as your:

  • Accounting software
  • Event management tools
  • Matching gift software
  • Payment processor
  • Volunteer management platform
  • Prospect research tools
  • Analytics tool, such as Google Analytics 4
  • Website forms

CRMs with plenty of integration options help you ensure that you can maximize all of your nonprofit’s technology. Plus, these options give you more opportunities to customize and scale your CRM as your organization grows.

For instance, Redpath’s Raiser’s Edge vs Salesforce breakdown explains that Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud has many more integration options than other CRMs, in addition to the wealth of native and third-party apps available in the Salesforce AppExchange. These options make it easier for nonprofits using Salesforce to connect their CRM with their other software and invest in more tools as needed.

Once you have these basics covered, you can look into any more specialized features that your nonprofit might benefit from. For instance, you may want to prioritize CRMs with predictive AI tools or grant management features depending on your organization’s priorities. If you’re ever unsure about how a specific feature or capability works, explore reviews, training resources, and live demos with the provider to ensure the CRM you choose meets all of your nonprofit’s needs.