The Best Nonprofit CRM is Virtuous


What is Nonprofit CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Charities use Nonprofit CRM to capture, track, and manage key information about their givers. We like to think of nonprofit CRM in terms of “donor” relationship management instead of “customer” relationship management. You’ll often see this type of software referred to as Donor Management Software or Fundraising Software as well.

These days, your supporters are more skeptical than ever of traditional, impersonal institutions. They want to support organizations they have a personal connection to, nonprofits that won’t just treat them like ATM machines.

Nonprofit CRM software can help you build truly sustainable, authentic relationships with donors. You want this. Your donors want this. Win-win.

Why Your Nonprofit CRM Decision Is Critical

Over the last 15 years nonprofits have become increasingly disconnected from the donors they serve. From the donor’s perspective, nonprofits are facing the following problem:

  1. Modern nonprofits are telling their story using traditional marketing practices in a world saturated with data and competing choices
  2. Modern donors are receiving incredibly personalized and relevant communication from Amazon, Facebook, and even their favorite local pizza spot
  3. In order to succeed, nonprofits need to tell their story and build personal relationships with more than just their top 100 donors – nonprofits need to personalize communication with their entire database
  4. A good nonprofit CRM and marketing platform can be the difference between a nonprofit dying or flourishing. But most nonprofits are stuck on legacy platforms that leverage traditional, institutional one-to-many communication strategies

Who Should Choose Your Nonprofit CRM

The most common mistake we see when charities make their CRM purchases is designating WHO is responsible for the decision. For organizations to be successful the person making the Nonprofit CRM choice must fully understand the generosity goals of the organization. We find that the following principles are helpful in understanding who should make your CRM decision:

  • Your fundraising software is NOT a Finance Department decision!
  • Your fundraising software is NOT an IT Department decision!
  • The owner of your Nonprofit CRM decision should be in marketing or advancement with support from your CEO or Chief Strategy Office (if you have one)
  • The staff members who own the fundraising goals should choose the tools to achieve those goals. This is an ROI-based decision!
  • Everyone should have access to CRM data… but the decision SHOULD NOT be everyone’s to make

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Why Donors Give

Think about the last five times you gave to a charity. Seriously, take a minute to make a mental list.

In all likelihood, in each of those cases, you can point to some personal connection to the cause. You gave to a fundraiser at your son’s school. You gave to the church you attend. You gave to the local homeless shelter. You gave to the international charity because you have a friend who volunteers there.

And most likely, your decision to give to these causes was about more than just money. Perhaps you sought out ways to volunteer. Maybe you shared a link to the cause on Facebook, hoping to get your friends and family hooked as well.

As humans, we want to be part of a movement bigger than ourselves. This is true for all of us, but it’s especially the case among Millennials – those born between 1980 and the mid-2000s – who happen to represent the largest generation in the United States today.

Studies show that many Millennials derive their core identity and purpose from the causes they embrace. These demographic shifts make it more imperative than ever for nonprofits to build personal relationships with their givers. After all, if the values and giving habits of Millennials are any indication, the future of charitable giving is unabashedly personal and relational.

The old ways of doing things don’t work anymore. Charitable giving hasn’t increased as a percentage of the GDP for four decades. Each year, more and more marketing messages compete for our mindshare and generosity is stifled.

You and everyone else in your position get this existentially: it’s harder than ever to connect givers to your cause. You need to better understand your constituents and their passions in order to inspire generosity. And that’s not easy to do.

That’s why this ebook is for you. In the pages that follow, we’ll help you understand how to better connect with your supporters, assuming a posture we like to call “relational generosity.”

The Importance of Relational Generosity

“Practically all the existing books (and fundraising software) are strictly transactional in their orientation… The goal: to close the deal… and get a check from the donor. True generosity is rooted in relatedness… So resources will tend to flow naturally toward you when you focus on the most important aspect of the fund-raising process: creating human connections.”

-The Generosity Network (italics added)

Charitable giving is fundamentally emotional and relational. Your donors give based on their passions – and they give where their friends and family are giving. Nonetheless, many donors are made to feel like nameless, faceless transactions when they hear from their favorite charities.

What a missed opportunity. Of course, this happens so often precisely because it’s so difficult for charities to build truly personal relationships with givers at scale. And one of the key barriers to authentic relationships is the archaic, inflexible nature of most Nonprofit CRM software solutions.

In their book The Generosity Network, philanthropist Jeff Walker and fundraising expert Jennifer McCrea show that the prevailing school of thought in the field of fundraising is “strictly transactional.” Too many charities, Walker and McCrea write, focus on “closing deals” rather than pursuing what really matters, the slow but far more meaningful work of “creating human connections.”

Why Relational Intelligence Matters

At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Human connections, donor relationships, social networks, nonprofit crm, blah, blah, blah – this is all well and good. But I need to raise money, and I need to raise it now!

Indeed you do. And that’s exactly why this matters now more than ever. Take, for example, our imaginary friend Tom and his imaginary favorite charity.

Tom is 65. Like many people his age, he accumulated most of his wealth in his forties. His wife, Cindy, is a cancer survivor. Somewhere along the way, Tom got connected to a charity that provides counseling services to the families of cancer survivors. Right away it became his favorite charity.

Tom’s retired and doesn’t receive a weekly paycheck anymore. Instead, he earns yearly investment dividends. So it makes sense that when it comes to charitable contributions, Tom prefers to give year-end gifts based on how his personal investment portfolio performed. At this stage of his life, he loves being generous.

But here’s the crazy thing: despite the fact that Tom has millions of dollars in net worth, he will likely continue to receive mass-produced pieces of mail asking for a measly $30 a month!

Let’s pause for a moment to consider what a missed opportunity this is. Can you imagine the impact if Tom’s favorite charity were to use its nonprofit CRM to cultivate a real relationship with him, helping him discover how to best connect his long-term wealth strategy to his passion to help other families of cancer survivors? Even more, what if Tom had the tools he needed to share the vision for this cause with his friends?

We’ll never know, because Tom’s favorite charity doesn’t know who he is. He’s just another nameless, faceless donor.

How Can a Modern CRM for Nonprofits Solve this Problem?

The number one rule for major gift officers is “know your donor.”

Of course, the best donor development professionals already get this. They take time to learn about the personal passions of their givers, in order to best connect them to the aspects of the cause that match their passions.

Major gift officers recognize that cultivating givers requires understanding a person’s passions, even being willing to refer the giver to another organization if that’s what’s in her best interests.

After all, generosity is about caring for givers and building trust over the long-term – not just closing a deal as if it were a sell.

Remember that the ideal donor contributes more than just money. She is a partner in the mission, willing to leverage time, talent, and money – as well as relational networks and social capital – for the good of the cause.

Again, most charities cultivate relationships with major donors with these principles in mind. But imagine being able to treat MORE of your givers as if they were major donors. You want to treat them that way. They deserve to be treated that way.


Download Full CRM Checklist

The Harsh Reality of Personalized Fundraising

Most modern nonprofit fundraisers would whole heartedly agree with this approach BUT, maintaining these types of personal relationships at scale is difficult to do for a number of reasons.

  1. You have limited staff! Most executive directors or major gift officers can only maintain personal relationships with 80 to 100 people. With this model, the only way to grow is to hire more people to manage more people.
  2. Additionally, mid-level donors often have high relational capacity that goes untapped, as it takes too much time to identify and cultivate them.
  3. Finally, many supporters – with various giving capacities – never get personalized communication or treatment at all, simply because data is unavailable or unreliable.

Here’s where a whole new kind of Nonprofit CRM comes in

  • What if executive directors and major gift officers could maintain more relationships at a high level while developing deeper relationships with those they are already connected to?
  • What if personalized communication were possible with everyone in your network based on their interests and preferences, regardless of how much they give?
  • What if you could mobilize an army of advocates over time who are energized, equipped, and ready to fight for your cause – effectively turning your fans into fundraisers?

That’s the world of fundraising we are trying to re-imagine. And that’s why we created Virtuous Nonprofit CRM.

Key Tools and Features for Nonprofit CRM

The remainder of this guide outlines common features that you should expect when evaluating a new nonprofit CRM. Not every feature is necessary for EVERY organization – but this list is helpful in establishing a baseline for your donor software decision. We have divided this guide into three sections:

  1. Core Donor Management – traditional features for data management
  2. Donor Management 2.0 – modern CRM to server modern donors
  3. Exponentially Multiply Giving – Beyond CRM

Download the Full CRM Checklist PDF

Core Donor Management Features

This list includes the nonnegotiables for a nonprofit. At a baseline a nonprofit needs the following features to effectively manage operations and day-to-day fundraising activities.

  • Contact management with multiple individuals in a household/organization
  • Manage contact methods (phone, email, social, seasonal addresses, birthdays, kids, etc)
  • Relate givers to one another and see value of giving “networks”
  • Create custom fields at the household/individual level to custom tailor CRM
  • Tag donors by their passions, persona, group or communication preferences
  • Fund/project-based giving with the ability to split a single gift between multiple projects
  • Manage products, gift attribution, batch data, receipts, “soft credits”, etc
  • Manage pledges and recurring gifts. Report on aging pledges.
  • Track non-cash gifts entry including stock, cars, etc
  • Track planned giving, including wills & bequests
  • Track gift proposals for major donors
  • Manage donor notes along with picture/document attachments
  • Track direct marketing and communication history in an activity log
  • Tie notes to completed tasks and see past actions associated with each giver
  • Create one-time or recurring tasks and assign tasks to any user
  • View duplicate giver accounts and merge into a single record
  • Fast gift and donor batching, import and reconciliation
  • Assign groups and read/write/view permissions to users based on role
  • Easily search data including summarized giving metrics
  • Save searches for custom reporting, share searches, or duplicate popular searches
  • Build marketing segmentations for direct marketing and then attach segmentation data to donors
  • Export query results with a full set of data to CSV
  • Design custom receipts – then generate receipts based on customer searches or segments
  • Canned reports based on nonprofit best practices
  • Reports should include giving by segment/campaign/solicitor/batch/fund – they should also include activity reports, file health reports and other key fundraising metrics
  • Each user should have access to a dashboard with key metrics based on their role
  • Assign donors to a staff member or chapters and restrict visibility based on donors (e.g. major donor reps, federations, etc)
  • Restrict gift visibility based on donations to funds
  • Create and monitor fundraising and marketing campaigns
  • Manage channels (radio, mail, web, email, etc) for each campaign
  • Manage grant proposals year over year
  • Manage projects/funds (e.g. staff members, children, wells, etc)
  • Volunteer features to manage opportunities and volunteer hours

Modern Nonprofit CRM: Donor Management 2.0

In today’s world we believe every nonprofit should have an integrated cloud system. 2.0 features focus on taking your data out of a silo and integrating with other modern fundraising activities.

  • Integrated online giving
  • Open API and web integration
  • Social media integration
  • Full email marketing and segmentation features
  • Integrated with Gmail, Outlook, etc
  • Open and click tracking
  • List/group syncing
  • Mobile apps for fundraisers
  • Push notifications to prompt real-time
BEYOND NONPROFIT CRM: Tools to Multiply Giving

Personal Connections with Nonprofit Marketing Automation

Marketing automation allows nonprofits to automate and measure marketing activities and workflows. Key automation actions include emails, calls, thank yous, direct mail etc.

With marketing automation your constituents get the right call or email – at the right time – based on their individual preferences or behavior. A greater level of personal touch translates to dramatically increased giving.

The end result is increased personalization, operational efficiency and revenue growth.

  • Clicks/opens tracked at donor level
  • Behavior driven actions (gifts, form fills, etc)
  • Multi-channel (email, phone, call, etc)
  • Automate data updates
  • Integrated email builder with merge fields
  • Email versioning and testing
  • Donor Journey mapping (Moves Management)
  • Workflow branching
BEYOND NONPROFIT CRM: Tools to Multiply Giving

Lead Scoring and Predictive Analytics

Lead scoring allows nonprofits to rank donors and prospects based on their relational or financial value to the organization. The lead score is used to determine how and when to engage with each individual. Cutting edge nonprofits using lead scoring have seen 3-5x increases in campaign results.

  • Giving data
  • Wealth data
  • Relational/family data
  • Social media data
  • Website/email activity

The lead score is used to determine how and when to engage with each individual. The leading edge nonprofits using lead scoring have seen 3-5x increases in campaign results.

BEYOND NONPROFIT CRM: Tools to Multiply Giving

Social Scraping and Geo-Location Analytics

Automatically pull in publicly available social media data, location data and wealth indicators to a provide holistic picture of your donors and prospects.

  • Grab social profiles based on email address
  • Scrape demographic and employment data
  • Scrape pictures of the donor from public sources
  • Map donors based on address
  • See nearby donors based on distance and giving capacity
  • Find density of donors in an area for event planning
  • Overlay wealth/giving data with location data

Top 7 Features of a Modern CRM for Nonprofits

Now that you have a good sense for the nonprofit CRM landscape, we wanted to provide a summary of the top 7 features to look for in any new donor management software purchasing decision. If you can check these boxes with your CRM you’re well on the way to growing giving!

1. Built Specifically to Grow Giving

People contribute to your organization in many ways. They give their time, money, talent and social capital to further your cause. So your nonprofit CRM should enable you to encourage and track the many ways people give – from volunteering, advocacy, and hosting events to planned giving, gifts in kind, corporate giving, and fundraising for you.

A system that’s built from the ground up to maximize generosity by focusing on the WHOLE giver can provide you with the information you need to maximize the full potential of your donor base. A giver-centric system can also provide a more tailored experience, with more care and attention to a giver’s unique needs.

The best nonprofit CRMs not only help you keep up with your data needs, but they also expose best practices for the latest and best ways to raise the funds and inspire action.

You don’t want a sales CRM that needs to be specially customized for fundraising. What you want is fundraising software and nonprofit marketing tools that are tailored to do what you – and your donors – need.

2. Big Data to Drive Personalized Donor Experiences

Have you ever received one of those vague “dear friend” charity letters? Let’s face it: despite their friendly tone, they’re generic and canned. But fundraising is inherently relational, and a key aspect of building relationships is knowing who people are and what they value. At the very least, you refer to them by name. More than capturing the basic level of information used for vague letters, a good nonprofit CRM should be able to provide you with key insights you can actually use in order to tailor your messaging.

Those insights should include:

  • The financial and relational value of givers
  • The optimal messages and timing of those messages for specific givers
  • The best people to contact today to save time and focus your energy
  • How supporters are related and connected to one another – beyond family lines and households – to better connect with them and them to one another
  • Predictions and forecasts on donations and engagement to help you build plans and strategies on real data from real people
  • The giving capacity and community influence of a giver

By using a wide variety of data points and signals – combining what you enter with what the CRM itself captures – information can be turned into insights, and these insights can then be converted into actions that effectively drive your cause forward.

3. Social Media and Social Connections

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are ubiquitous today. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine promoting your charity without them, isn’t it? But keep in mind that social media didn’t exist when many of the current CRMs were created. At best, they have some updates, patches, and plugins. A modern CRM, on the other hand, is fully integrated with social. After all, that’s where people are and it’s how they choose to connect.

Without spending hours manually culling your social media connections for insights, it is easier than ever to gather social data, enabling you to determine a number of helpful insights about your givers including:

  • Occupation and co-workers
  • Interests and passions
  • Friends and social connections
  • Other organizations and networks relevant to your cause
  • How supporters are related and connected to one another

The best tools don’t only depend on data within their respective systems – they look at the entire universe of available data to create insights and cultivate networks of givers. Dynamically leveraging social media and other online sources can help charities create personal connections at scale like never before.

4. Integration with Best-in-Breed Tools

When you sit down to eat, you know that spoons and napkins come in very handy. And afterwards, you’re grateful for a good toothbrush. But say you see an ad for a Spookinbrush, a “revolutionary” all-in-one product that blends the spoon, napkin, and toothbrush into a single, nifty device. You probably wouldn’t fall for it. But why not? Wouldn’t it make your eating life easier to have all you need in one product?

You may see where we’re going with this. The imaginary Spookinbrush is to eating what a single software solution is to your charity’s giver management. Managing giver contact information, sending marketing emails, managing website content, and accounting services are all very different things, and they require distinct tools. Fortunately, a range of helpful and affordable solutions for these needs exist.

The modern CRM software, for its part, is designed for a specific purpose – to track, manage, and connect vital pieces of giver information.

Specifically, a modern nonprofit CRM should provide open APIs and integration tools to:

  • Give you financial and relational data for online givers, integrating with whatever tool you use to process donations
  • Track touch points – both online and offline – integrating with whatever tools you use
  • Understand how people are visiting your website and their content preferences, regardless of your content management system
  • Easily issue tax receipts and track all revenues, and then integrate with any accounting software you like

And while we’re at it, we’d add that these capabilities should be accompanied by a clean, user-friendly interface whether you’re using a phone, tablet, or computer.

5. Mobile Optimized for Face-to-Face Relationships

There’s a good chance you are reading this on something other than your computer. With smartphones now passing traditional computers as the most popular devices in the world and with more people opening emails on mobile devices than on any other device, the times they are a-changin’.

Your CRM should be changing with them. The mobile revolution has created incredible opportunities for nonprofits to raise funds as well as awareness. Mobile devices follow us into the most intimate moments and conversations of our lives – including the moments when we take actions to support charities by giving or advocating.

A good Nonprofit CRM recognizes this and should:

  • Put mobile apps in the hands of nonprofit staff to help them manage relationships on-the-go
  • Have mobile features specifically designed to drive action and enhance conversations with your constituents
  • Use push notifications and other built-in features on the phone to help users manage tasks, view reports, and access key insights wherever they are
  • Leverage geo-location to identify how givers are connected geographically – then push this to your team based on where you are

Phones are essential to our lives, our jobs, and our relationships. A modern CRM should be designed with these realities in mind.

6. Focusing on Social Capital

One of the most cost-effective ways to scale your impact, build your funding base, and grow your organization is to turn existing fans and supporters into advocates, champions, and fundraisers. It starts with identifying those with social influence, gauging who has how much, and determining who is willing to use it to support your cause.

Your Nonprofit CRM should not only understand and track this “new” form of giving, but also provide tools and insights to help you. This is done by knowing your supporters’ personal passions and networks, then creating opportunities for them to tap into those passions and networks for you!

This not only provides meaningful engagement, but new sources of givers and funds as well. You can then spend more of your time building relationships instead of just closing that deal or getting that check

7. Reducing and Eliminating Administrative Headaches

Your time is a tremendous asset and a scarce resource. There’s only so much of you to go around. Which is why you need to constantly be on the lookout for new ways to streamline your administrative processes, freeing you up to do what you do best. Every minute you spend importing, managing, and scrubbing data is time you’re unable to give to more important tasks – those crucial things no one else can do but you.

A good Nonprofit CRM should be able to help you save time by:

  • Quickly importing gifts and data from multiple sources without creating duplicates or incomplete lists
  • Tying ROI to project impact, easily showing you results and successes in real-time
  • Easily creating elegant reports designed for fundraisers, executive directors, and nonprofits
  • Providing fundraising and nonprofit best practices and tips within the tool itself, keeping you on task
  • Making search and data segmentation easy and intuitive for all staff – not just for IT nerds

Here’s the bottom line: a good nonprofit CRM should set you free, not bog you down.

Parting Shots

Fundraising is a heavy responsibility. A good, modern CRM should make your load a little lighter. And by focusing more of your time and energy on generosity, you can build real connections with more people who can help fund and fuel your mission.

As your organization scales and evolves, having a solid CRM in place that can evolve and scale with you is irreplaceable. It will help you keep existing relationships strong, while uncovering further opportunities for engagement and growth.

And this CRM should take advantage of the best of mobile technology, social networks, and data sources to provide you and your organization with the information and insights you need, wherever you are, whatever you do.

Nonprofit CRM software that incorporates the critical features we’ve outlined can help you build truly sustainable, holistic relationships with givers. You want this. Your givers want this. Let Virtuous help you make this dream a reality.

Are you ready to see how Virtuous CRM can help you save time, raise more money & do more good?

“Virtuous is powerful yet simple, smart yet not intrusive. It is designed as a capable partner for today’s high touch fundraiser who works to build relationships across multiple channels and understands that networks are as important as gifts.” Otto Monroy Director of Advancement, Logos Academy

Ready to see how Virtuous can help you save time,
raise more money & do more good?

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