5 Common Nonprofit CRM Implementation Mistakes


When it comes to rolling out a new nonprofit CRM, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

Selecting the right nonprofit CRM is just one piece of the puzzle. Just as important as the what (the solution you choose) is the how (the process you use to implement the application). If you forego a properly planned and executed implementation strategy, and instead go about things in a haphazard way, then you might not get the full benefit of the software. And that would lead to a waste of time and money that no organization, let alone a nonprofit, can afford to shoulder.

So what follows are some common implementation pitfalls that you need to be mindful of, so you can avoid them!

1. Lack of Strategy

Lack of vision and strategy is the most common mistake not only in the case of CRM implementation but also in the implementation of any project. So, before implementing a CRM system, analyze your objectives and define what exactly you want to accomplish by implementing a CRM system. While choosing the CRM vendor, ensure that it meets both your short term and long term goals.

2. User Input

It’s safe to assume that most of the people who will be engaging with the database will be internal users, which means that their feedback, concerns and issues need to be sought out in the beginning stages of choosing the software, and at various intervals of the roll out so that you ultimately end up with something that users will want to use day in and day out. Even the best applications will be next to useless if they’re either not being used, or not being used enough.

3. Scope Creep

When implementing a new database, resist the urge to do too much too soon. Trying to change how you manage everything at once can lead to an onerous implementation process that triggers lengthy delays and frustration as users struggle to get up to speed.

So what you really need to do from the get go is to prioritize – What is the most important? Take care of that first, and then tackle the rest once your staff has settled into the new application and processes. If you go in with a plan, you’ll be able to steer clear of scope creep and stay on course.

4. Dirty Data

Before you import your data, make sure to clean it up! All entries should be standardized and any discrepancies should be dealt with (e.g. double entries, missing fields). Remember, a CRM is only as good as the data that’s fed into it. Garbage in = Garbage out.

5. Training and Policies

You also have to make sure your staff is trained on the new system and that you have policies in place for how to enter data and use the CRM solution. Many organizations fail to do this, and it leads to all kinds of problems down the road.

Sumac offers a Data Migration service that helps you get all of this right!

4 Proven Ways to Use Data to Woo Donors


When it comes to using data, you don’t want to simply start flinging numbers around and hope something sticks. You want your data to pack a punch. In this article, we cover four key ways to use data to woo your donors.

1. Teach them about your organization

Infographics capture complex data in one picture so that donors can quickly learn about your organization: maybe about the problem you address or how much good you have done to address it. Eye-tracking studies have shown that people pay attention the most to images, as we talked about in this post on selling your cause with infographics, so infographics are a great way to teach donors about your organization.

2. Show donors how they can make a difference right now

People naturally procrastinate, and what we can do tomorrow, we do tomorrow. When your appeal lacks urgency, it’s too easy for donors to put it on the someday pile.

But what if your nonprofit doesn’t work in emergency disaster relief? Another way to instill urgency is to create a sense of importance. How important is your cause to preventing pain or suffering? What would happen tomorrow if you weren’t there?

In the book Impact & Excellence, which delves into data-driven strategies for nonprofits, Sheri Chaney Jones suggests how a Medicaid-related organization could use data to show importance: cuts to the program would result in unemployment, a hit to local businesses would hurt the economy, and an increase in welfare costs would mean less tax money to go around. The facts paint a very concrete picture of why people need to give now to make sure the negative outcome doesn’t happen.

3. Turn your donors into insiders

Generally speaking, when you make a donor an insider, he or she will have a greater stake in the success of the institution, and a greater willingness to contribute to that success. People love the feeling that they know your organization behind the scenes, and this exclusivity drives action.

What data do you have that the world doesn’t know about? Share specifics with donors to make them feel special and more connected to your cause. The Money for Good 2015 report found that sharing data is particularly good for engaging people who fall under the “Contented Benefactor,” “Busy Idealist” and “Unengaged Critic” profiles.

4. Show the impact of donating

People give to nonprofits because they sincerely believe in the cause. They want to leave the planet in better shape, relieve suffering, or solve problems that governments can’t. On The Life You Can Save Why Donate page, they use data, graphs, and charts to let donors know that they can indeed change the world, even with just a small donation.

4 Ways to Set Your Non-profit Apart From the Competition


Every business or non-profit generally has one USP (Unique Selling Proposition). This is the most compelling reason why the target audience should consider you over your competition.

The most successful campaigns, ads, commercials or direct mail campaigns focus on highlighting what makes them unique — different from the competition. For example: Walmart’s USP is price, while IKEA’s is their showroom experience.

Sadly, many non-profits don’t even know what their USP is. When a non-profit doesn’t give donors solid facts about how it is special and why they should donate, they don’t.

Here are four distinctive ways non-profit have set themselves apart by doing things differently, and what you can learn from them:

1. Allocate Funding Differently

Charity: water explains clearly on their homepage the three things that make them different from other non-profits: their 100% model, their emphasis on proving where donations go with GPS tracking, and their collaborations with local partners in the countries to which they supply clean water.

charity: water

How can your non-profit apply this? Before deciding on a value proposition, get to know your donors and talk to them about what’s most important to them.

Once you’re confident you’ve nailed a unique value proposition that both sets you apart from your competition and represents what your target market wants, make sure to include it on the most important pages of your website, in your headline on your homepage and in every communication piece.

2. Build Support Differently

Movember Prostate Cancer Foundation came up with the campaign called Movember: Changing the face of men’s health through the power of the moustache.

Movember encourages people to fundraise on behalf of Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The campaign works for Prostate Cancer Foundation? because the most loyal donors are willing to urge another donor to sign up for your cause.

When you succeed at convincing someone to ‘recruit’ for you, you not only get the value of the new donor they acquire, you also roughly double the value of the current customer.

Similarly, in England, an organization called ‘London Dogs Rescue’ raises about half its income from individual supporters recruited through friend-get-a-friend initiatives.

How can your company apply this? Think of creative ways to encourage donors to link important personal experiences or events to your cause.

3. Share Your Message Differently

Special Olympics campaigns have succeeded by telling personal stories of their athletes—their trials and tribulations and the extreme hurdles and challenges they have faced and overcome.

A letter from their 2014 campaign is a great example of how the non-profit uses storytelling to communicate its message and inspire donors. It not only got a huge response but donors actually mailed back letters of encouragement as below:

How can your company apply this? Make storytelling a central part of your marketing efforts. Tell your company’s or your founder’s stories, or tell your donors’ stories through testimonials and case studies. Use photos or video to complement each narrative as much as possible.

You also can weave storytelling into your educational content. Ask one of your community volunteers to write about why he or she got involved with your organization.

4. Campaign Differently

Earth Hour Earth Hour is a worldwide movement of the planet organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The event is held worldwide annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the last Saturday in March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet.

It was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and took off from there.

How can your charity apply this? Sometimes you need to think outside the box in terms of how you campaign for your cause. Stick to one message that highlights what makes you unique.

5 Brilliant Examples of Ambient Marketing for Nonprofits


Steuart Henderson Britt, an advertising consultant once famously said, “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”

One of the best media channels helping charities around the world gain publicity and recognition is ambient marketing.

Ambient marketing is an unconventional way of marketing that relies on time, energy, volunteers, creativity, and imagination rather than on big marketing budgets. Typically, it relies on the unconventional, often targeting people in unexpected places and ways.

The objective is to tell the story about the product or cause in a unique, engaging and thought-provoking way.

Here are some excellent examples of how even small charities have used ambient marketing very effectively:

1. Anti Drinking & Driving Awareness Campaign (Thailand)

Anti Drinking & Driving Awareness Campaign

Drinking and driving is a serious problem among youth. The charity called ‘HELP’ wanted to change that by demonstrating one of the consequences.

They took a car that was involved in a car accident and painstakingly converted it into a wheelchair. It was then displayed at college campuses along with the door with the message, “Drink and drive and you might live to suffer the consequences.” They also put up a pledge boards for students. The Result: In the first month over 10,000 students signed the pledge not to drink and drive.

2. Refugee Game Show (Belgium)

Refugee Game Show

‘Refugee Aid Belgium’ was concerned about the arbitrary criteria the Belgian government had passed into legislation, that allowed immigration authorities to determine which immigrants could stay and which should be expelled based purely on appearances.

To expose the absurdity of this new law, the charity placed 5 real refugees in a glasshouse in the centre of Brussels.

Refugee Game Show

Passers-by were then asked to participate in “The Refugee Game Show” and vote for their favourite refugee just by looking at them.

Like government officials, the passers-by had to make the decision based on just a few simple facts: name, age, place of birth and most important of all, looks.

The result: People were outraged, and soon the government was flooded with angry emails.
The image of the glasshouse appeared in every news broadcast, every newspaper, and on hundreds of blog-sites.

The media pressure was so strong that during the formation of the new Belgian Parliament, the first policy all parties agreed on was the urgent reform of the Belgian immigration policy.

3. Help Me Read Initiative (India)

Sadly, millions of children in India don’t go to school because they must work in order to earn a living. The non-profit organization ‘Children of the World’ wanted to find a solution to help these children learn to read and write in the city of Mumbai (Bombay).

Help Me Read Initiative

Many of these children who are illiterate, ironically also spend their time selling magazines to commuters at traffic signals in Mumbai.

The charity used the magazines the children were selling as the medium to help them get an education. In each of the magazines the children sold on the street, a stamped envelope with the message “HELP ME READ THIS” was attached to the cover. Inside this envelope was information on how to contribute.

Help Me Read Initiative

The result: Inquiries and donations poured in and over 300 individuals volunteered their time to help children learn to read and write. The donations they received helped the non-profit group set up a makeshift school in the city.

4. Acid Rain (USA)

Acid rain litmus campaign

Here is billboard from ‘Friends of the Earth’, an environmental group in the USA. It needs no explanation. The poster won a BBC design award in 1994.

5. The American Red Cross

Acid rain litmus campaign

All this charity did, was simply hand out hundreds of these free balloons to little children.

4 Mistakes Non-profits Make When Crafting Their Own Fundraising Appeals


1. They make it all about them

It’s logical to believe that donors will give if they think well of your non-profit, so staff writers try and educate their donors about what the organization does, how well it does it and how great it is.

Imagine being introduced to someone new and all they talk about is themselves. Chances are you would walk away as soon as you could and consider the person you just met as a huge bore.

Direct marketing is a two-way conversation and if the message is only about you, then it’s boring too. You may be the biggest cancer charity and may be tempted to proclaim: “We have saved more lives than anyone else!” But fundraising is really not all about you. It’s about your donors.

So here’s what you should really be saying: “Donors like you have helped us save more lives from cancer than anyone else.”

2. They forget that donors give because of emotions, not reason

Fundraising is not about asking for funds, it’s about inspiring others to embrace a good cause, and emotions, not reason control this decision.

Like falling in love, the decision to give to a particular non-profit usually comes from the heart, not the head. People don’t usually give to a non-profit because you have rationally presented a flawless argument, but rather because they are moved.

3. They use numbers, instead of stories

Being so close to the organization makes one eager to tell the facts whether it is 22,000 children who are starving or that AIDS kills 1.2 million people in Africa each year.

These big numbers and statistics, however, usually don’t have the intended effect—they are lousy fundraising motivators and incomprehensible to the average Jane or John Doe. If you want people to donate, you have to tell them a story about one individual.

Talk about how a donor can save that one child who has not eaten since yesterday. Or tell how their donation today will get medication to that one farmer who is stricken with AIDS and will enable him to feed his family. That’s what motivates people!

4. They pack too much into an appeal

Staff members tend to pack more than one issue into the appeal. While it might be tempting to talk about legacy giving, or your planned giving program in your appeal, remember that it takes away from your main message and is confusing to the reader. When you need to communicate with your donors about giving for one specific issue, stick to it.

The 6 Most Annoying Things About Donor CRM


Over the years, we’ve heard from all kinds of non-profits about what frustrates them most about the software they used in the part, and here are the top six things we’ve heard:

1. Having to Re-enter Data

Many non-profit organizations complain that they would have to enter important donor information twice because the CRM software doesn’t integrate with other software they use like email, and accounting programs.

2. Dealing With Duplicates

Lots of non-profits also complain that their CRM solution had no mechanism for preventing duplicates, so contacts would end up in their database 3 or 4 times. On top of this, there are no tools for finding and merging duplicates.

3. Running Queries

Every non-profit needs to perform queries to monitor campaign progress, analyze fundraising effectiveness, uncover trends, and refine your processes, but why does it have to be so difficult and time consuming?! This is something that really seems to annoy non-profits. If these are searches you run all time, it should not be as complex as performing brain surgery. It should be easy!

4. Dealing With Support

Often times we hear from non-profits who complain that they would have to wait a week or two to get a response to their email about a support question. How can this be? They also complain that phone support isn’t an option at all, or if it is, it costs a bundle!

5. Cost of License, Upgrades and Users

Non-profits also complain that the software license is really expensive for non-profit organizations, and they have to pay extra for new releases, and users. Maybe when they buy the software, two users is fine, but a year later they need three, and later they need five. Having to pay for additional users is frustrating because it means the cost can go up quite significantly, and this is not something they would have been able to budget for when they first bought the program. We know organizations that trye to juggle two user licences among five people because it is just too expensive to add more users.

6. Still Having to Use Other Programs

Non-profits almost always tell us that the software they used to use didn’t do everything they needed. Even though they invested a lot of money into a CRM solution, they still had to buy additional tools to manage volunteers, events, emails, and donation processing. Not only does this cause problems with managing data, but it really adds up: maybe an extra $30/month for a volunteer system, $20 for EventBrite, $20 for Constant Contact, plus a per transaction fee for online donations – all on top of the price of the donor CRM.

How to Win Back Lapsed Donors


On average charities lose 15-20% of their donors each year from deaths, old age, retirement or change in financial status. Another 14% move each year but few bother to notify their charity. Finally, 10-15% stop responding due to disinterest, annoyance at the charity or at someone in the charity.

Some may have outgrown their current relationship with the charity and found another charity they feel is more worthy. Others stop due to a job loss or change of circumstances or simply because someone misspelled their name or address.

These are “lapsed donors”—people who made a gift at one time but after repeated solicitations, simply don’t give again.

Pick Up The Phone

Now, let’s look at positive ways to handle this. If a long-time or high-dollar donor stops their support, the person responsible for fundraising should immediately pick up the phone and find out why. Perhaps there is something going on in the donor’s world that has created this interruption in their support or they may have become disillusioned by a miscommunication.

However, if the person responsible for fundraising, or others directly involved with the charity, do not have a personal or close relationship with these donors then the question becomes: How do you win these important donors back?

Send a Specially Crafted Direct Mail

Here are some suggestions that have worked well:

1. First of all, keep in mind that it costs less to reactivate lapsed donors than to recruit new donors. Think in terms of Return on Investment and lifetime customer value lost. Review your donors and gift histories, identifying the best donors for recapture, such as multiple or consecutive year givers

2. Donors whose last gift was under $10 or who only gave one gift in 60+ months should be avoided, they will likely draw a low response.

3. Select only those high value donors who have not given for 2, 3 or 4 years and send them direct mail specifically created for them.

4. You could even send them a survey to try and find out why they have stopped responding.

Any specially created piece should:

  • Tell them why you miss them and invite them back: Voice your concern in the letter and show them how important they are to your charity. Do something different to involve the donor and make them take action.
  • Be very customized: Ask for a gift toward a particular project they gave to before. Mention their last gift amount and the occasion. For example: “The last time we heard from you, you generously responded to the humanitarian crisis in Honduras. You sent us a gift of $XXX that helped us get through that emergency. Today, I am writing to you because you can help us overcome another crisis in Haiti.”
  • Examples of approaches that have worked

    The Royal Conservatory of Music
    Their house membership list of 50,000 had been dormant for several years. After scrubbing (cleaning up the list) a membership appeal was sent to 5,586 members in the $100 to $999 range and 203 members in the $1,000 to $25,000 range. It resulted in a renewal win-back rate of 70%. One of the key strategic points was an option to become a member whenever they chose to do so.
    Lapsed donors

    The Audubon Society of Rhode Island
    They used a “forgiveness” appeal with their members and generated a 50% renewal win-back rate. To view, click on link featured on SOFII here.

    They used the following strategy:

  • An envelope and note that was handwritten and personally addressed with a real stamp.
  • A photo of a bird, a business card from the person sending the mail and one-year free membership to past loyal donors.
  • Lapsed donors

    The United Way in Montreal
    They reached out to all the people who had not given for 5 years or more. The survey renewal win-back rate was just 1% but, more important, those who could no longer give responded candidly, giving reasons why they could no longer afford to donate.
    And that is valuable as it saves you the expense of mailing to them.
    Front of survey/letter
    Lapsed donors
    Back of Survey
    Lapsed donors

    If you decide to include a survey, here are some suggestions:

  • Remember a survey should be like a conversation: Treat it like a face-to-face or telephone conversation.
  • Spend some time thinking about what you’d like to know. Try to balance curiosity with respect for your donors’ privacy.
  • Keep it focused. Keep it short. Use multiple choice or yes/no questions but no more than 11 questions.
  • Leave room for honest opinion: You’ll be surprised at what you hear back. People appreciate being asked for their thoughts and opinion. And while not everyone will return a gift or a pledge, many people will. Also ask donors for permission to use their comments. Once again you would be surprised to see a spike in responses.
  • Don’t forget to personalize the package where possible.
  • And don’t forget to include a business reply envelope.
  • Consider the survey as doing double duty. It does not hurt to appeal for funds but make sure to tell them that this is not compulsory.
  • Finally, don’t forget to thank them for completing the survey. This last step is important: every donor who returns a survey – with a gift or not – should be thanked.
  • Creative Acquisition Copywriting Techniques: Part 2


    When it comes to mailing your donors, they know about your charity or organization and support you. But how do you get them to donate more and be more loyal?

    Here again are two techniques to consider:

    1. Show donors what the situation would be like without their donation

    In an article entitled Build Loyalty like George Bailey, author Roger Dooley uses the movie It’s a Wonderful Life to show how businessman George Bailey shifts from despair to intense motivation when an angel intervenes to show him how much worse off his town would have been without him.
    nonprofit copywriting
    Most of us don’t have a guardian angel named Clarence to show us alternative histories, but it turns out that imagining a “what if” works for nonprofits, because bad news raises more funds than good news. This is evident from the incredibly generous responses to disasters from hurricanes, tsunamis, and train wrecks. Bad news stirs deeper emotional feelings, which results in greater sympathy, more funds and increased loyalty.

    Donors feel a stronger connection to a charity when they can clearly “see” what the world would be like without their gift. Neuromarketers call this “counterfactual reflection” – visualizing a “what if” scenario. If you can help them do this, they will be more inclined to give and to give generously.

    Splash does a good job at this, but showing pictures like this on their website that make it easy to imagine what thee children will have to drink if you don’t give.

    2. Tell stories to engage potential donors

    Storytelling has always been the most powerful way to capture your readers. Children love stories and so do we. We want to know exactly what happened and then what happened next. How did it all end?

    One of the most famous direct mail appeals, written by Tom Gaffney, generated thousands of dollars in donations for Covenant House. It’s a long 4-page letter that tells the true story of a girl who came to Covenant House with an aluminum paint can.

    It’s a remarkable piece of storytelling that holds you spellbound because you want to know what’s in the can—which is only revealed in the end. Great storytelling is full of dialogue, just like a novel. Here is the first page.
    Covenant House
    In our clinically and technologically driven world, we place too much emphasis on logic and reason. We believe that what sets us apart from other species is our ability to work our way through problems intellectually, and logic helps us do that. Yet ironically that’s not what comes into play when we make many of our most important decisions. Emotions, not reason, control tell us what to do.

    6 Ways to Foster Online Donations


    Online donations are growing. In order for your organization to benefit from this trend, it’s important to spend some time to make sure donors can give easily online and feel appreciated when they do. Here are some tips to do just that:

    1. Send Them Personal Acknowledgements

    You probably acknowledge and thank your off-line donors in personal ways, but what about your online donors? Sending an auto-responder thank you email for a donation made online is fundamental, but taking the time to produce a personalized or handwritten thank you that is mailed to your higher-end donors is something that would really have an impact.

    2. Highlight Your Donors in Your Newsletter and Other Promotional Material

    Collateral material, such as your newsletter, can be used to highlight stories about your online donors, and the difference they’ve made. Stories like this not only make the online donors feel appreciated, but also encourage others, who may be inspired by the story, to give.

    3. Solicit Feedback

    A great way to keep online donors engaged is to ask for their feedback. Donor polls, surveys or emails asking them to provide critical feedback lets them know their opinion is valued, and also provides you with valuable input about what you are doing right, and what you can improve.

    4. Go Mobile!

    In today’s world, donors are on the go all of the time and it’s likely they will be accessing your site via their mobile device instead of their desktop. In fact, globally this is the first year that people spent more time on their mobile devices than they did on their desktops. Therefore, having a site that is mobile friendly for online donors is a critically important.

    5. Make It Easy to Donate

    Making a donation is often a spur of the moment decision, and your website needs to be set up to make it as easy as possible to give. The less obstacles, the less clicks, the less clutter, the better. A cluttered page, asking for too much information, not having a seamlessly integrated donation page are all ways to have a donor quickly reconsider making a donation. See and example page here: 5 Donation Page Mistakes That will Destroy Your Online Fundraising

    6. Be Social and Interact

    Social media is a great way to share information and campaigns to promote online giving. It’s also a great way to engage with online donors. For example, you could send out a tweet thanking recent donors to your campaign, or share updates on the campaign’s success.

    10 Fundraising Tips

    10 Fundraising Tips


    1. Start a Blog

    If you do not have one yet, create a blog that is regularly updated with fresh and insightful information. This allows you to have donors and prospects coming back repeatedly to you for new information. Write fresh and relevant stories about your organization, but also topics related to your overall mission or work, which may be in the news.

    2. Make Your Donate Button Stand Out

    Online fundraising continues to increase. These days, people are looking for an easy way to support organizations they care about when they are motivated. Therefore, make your donate button very easy to find and make it stand out from the rest of your website. This alone will increase your donations.

    3. Ask for the Gift

    Don’t be shy. Sometimes fundraisers are afraid to ask. They may tell wonderful stories about the organization and the work it is doing, but they sometimes find it a challenge to close the loop and ask for the gift. Ask, plain and simple. Donors know that organizations need their financial support, and they are expecting to be asked. Make it a point to ask for the gift and remind donors why they got involved.

    4. Get On Social Media

    Many non-profits, particularly smaller organizations, do not have a Facebook Page. In order for your organization to be where your donors are, you need to have a Facebook page that is updated regularly. And while you’re at it, get your CEO familiar enough with social media that he or she is comfortable tweeting out messages and connecting with people.

    5. Leverage Your Board

    Oftentimes, organizations are also timid about asking their board to give or leverage their own contacts in support of the non-profit. Staff sometimes worry that they’re already asking too much of board members who are giving their time, but serving on a board is a responsibility. It is very difficult to ask for major gifts, for instance, if your board members are not leading the charge in fundraising.

    6. Get a Google Ad Grant

    In order to get more fundraising dollars, you need to continually be getting exposure. One of the ways to help you obtain that exposure is by applying for $10,000 per month worth of in-kind Google AdWords, which will help you promote your brand and work. Make sure to review eligibility before applying.

    7. Make Multiple Videos

    Most organizations invest in videos for their non-profit once a year. However, one of the easiest ways to increase your revenue is by continuously telling the story. Producing short videos that are promoted on your website, social media or in e-newsletters is a sure fire way to stay engaged with your donors and remind them why they support you. Tell the stories of those who are being served by your organization in order to have the greatest success.

    8. Have a Sense of Humor

    Yes, what you do in the non-profit sector is serious, but sometimes showing your lighter side will pay off in increased engagement and revenue. For example, having fun with campaigns, if done in a respectful and clever fashion can engage supporters and encourage them to ask others to join in the fun. A very recent example is the #IceBucketChallenge.

    9. Be Bold and Do Something Different

    Doing the same thing year in and year out gets boring. In order to break through, you need to be to do something bold and different sometimes. Figure out a new way to fundraise in addition to the tried and true methods. For example, have a dance-a-thon, a shoe fundraising drive, celebrity auction or a movie night for fundraising.

    10. Know Your Donors

    Invest in a robust CRM like Sumac that allows you to slice and dice information on your donors when you are preparing for different campaigns and appeals. And, always remember the old fundraising data adage, “garbage in, garbage out”. Make sure your data is regularly updated and “scrubbed” and establish good protocols for data entry.