The state of CRM Systems for Not For Profits

I like working with Not For Profit organisations, especially since they usually have old technology and outdated systems so there is so much that I can help your NFP with, that can revolutionise the way you work. The basis of most NFP data requirements is based around a CRM or Customer Relationship Management system.

Each NFP is different, but there are some common features that most NFPs need to have when looking at a CRM system:

  • Contact details for all your supporters, vendors, donors, stakeholders etc – anyone the organisation deals with needs to be recorded. In a lot of cases NFPs deal with individuals rather than businesses for donations, then deal with business vendors, so the system needs to accommodate both. Then there is the need to deal with family groups, personal relationships and all those key bits of information that make it easier to help people.
  • Income – Income is just as important for NFPs as regular businesses, but there is many ways that NFPs get income. Eg:
    • Donations
    • Subscriptions
    • Product Sales
    • Fundraising – eg from sites like GoFundraise
    • Grants
  • Donor levels – for each donor, you need to know how much they have donated per month, per year, over their lifetime and per specific campaign. Rewarding donors based on donation amounts is also a nice feature.
  • Managing Grants – grants are a big part of the life of an NFP, there is always a grant to submit, or follow up, so some form of grant management is important.
  • Integration with your website and other websites – as soon as the button is clicked on your website or the GoFundraise website, that money needs to be handled by your banking / accounting systems and automatically entered into the CRM system.
  • Email Marketing – communication with supporters is vital so the integration of the CRM with a good, reliable email marketing system is crucial. There should be no double handling of lists or unsubscribes between the email marketing platform and the CRM system.
  • Volunteer management – keeping track of who can volunteer and when they are available and what skills they have is critical.
  • Events – managing all events, especially events that raise money, is critical. This should have integration with an events management app like Eventbrite or similar.

There are numerous CRM systems designed for NFPs on the market and one that a number of NFPs used was Common Ground, owned by Blackbaud. I can’t link to Common Ground’s website, because it doesn’t exist anymore. Common Ground hit the right note with many NFPs because it was a good price and it was on great technology – it was built on Salesforce.

Recently a NFP contact me to see what the options were that was not The Raiser’s Edge (also by Blackbaud, and sometimes perceived as being a bit outdated and difficult to use).  So as it was over 12 months since I last looked at what was in the market place, and wow,  I was really shocked to see what had happened. Common Ground has been ditched, with no real solution for users to migrate to anything except Blackbaud’s enterprise offerings, which are way more than most small Australian NFPs ever need. So, your options with Blackbaud are Raiser’s Edge, which is getting on a bit, or their high end enterprise products that may be overkill.
What Blackbaud have done to their clients is the worst case scenario for many organisations deciding if a cloud based system is the way to go for their organisation – a company shutting down and leaving them in the lurch or, in this case a potentially expensive migration to a new system. It is really not good for the software industry as a whole – those cloud naysayers now get to say “I told you cloud was not reliable”. If you want to get more info on the whole saga, this post is a really good one – and read all the comments too
I still believe that cloud is the way to go for any NFP. You are in the businesses of providing your service offering, not running servers in the back room. So, in my opinion, for any NFP, Salesforce is still the number 1 option. There are a few ways you can tackle Salesforce for NFP’s:
  • Start with Salesforce’s NFP Starter Pack (which “fixes” the majority of issues that NFPs have with using a “sales” oriented system like Salesforce) and then customise it from there. Customisations include things like integrating into the website so when people register to volunteer or make a donation, the details come directly into Salesforce. You will probably want to hire me to customise Salesforce for your requirements and train your users.
  • Start with the NFP Starter pack and add in apps from the app exchange that do only the things that your organisation needs to do. This solution needs a consultant, like me, to help choose which apps are going to be necessary and how to integrate it into your Salesforce.
  • Go with one of the pre-build NFP solutions built on the Salesforce platform – these are very comprehensive but can also be expensive, may have more features than you need, and may not be tailored for Australian requirements. Salesforce has a good list of them here and there is at least one Australian offering – Supporter360 from appiChar.
So, it all really depends on your requirements, but with the 10 donated enterprise licences from the Salesforce Foundation it is hard to beat Salesforce as the basis for your NFP CRM solution.


  1. says

    Did you know Nimble (www.nimble) has NFP pricing?

    We’re not specifically designed for NFPs but considerably easier to use than many of the systems mentioned. I’d be happy to work with people on how it could be best used for NFPs.