Paypal vs Integrated Donation form

How a Nonprofit CRM can Solve 3 Big Challenges

This article is for you if your story sounds a little bit like this…

You devote your time to a non-profit that has a simple, but ambitious mission. Somewhere along the way, you’ve been surprised by the amount of administrative work that comes with your time at the organization.  The time you have available for the mission starts to slip out of your fingers and into administrative tasks. In fact, it may start to feel like the mission of doing good has morphed into a mission of maintaining spreadsheets and filing systems. You may even feel like you spend more time trying to sort out the paperwork and find information than you do actually impacting your community.

Did that hit close to home? You’re not alone!  Fortunately, drowning in a sea of paperwork doesn’t have to define your time at your organization. A nonprofit CRM can change how your organization runs so that you can better use your time for good. non-profit-crm-software

First, let’s consider the three major challenges you’re facing:

Challenge 1: Workload

Chances are that most of your administrative tasks are completed manually. For example, you likely have a document with a list of donor contact information, or timesheets for volunteers to fill out after each shift.  These disjointed methods of tracking information end up putting more work on your desk at the end of each day. Quite simply, your workload outpaces the amount of time that you have to complete it.

Challenge 2: Data

You know that the key to making great decisions is to look back at your past experiences. You’d love to use evidence-based decision making at your organization, but you are unable to leverage the data you collect to inform your organization.

Challenge 3: Growth

You want to grow your organization in both donations and outreach ability, but you’ve reached a plateau. Your lack of time and data means you’re not able to focus on growing your organization and expanding your outreach.

The Solution: Nonprofit CRM

A Nonprofit CRM is software specifically built for the types of functions nonprofits commonly perform. For example, in a CRM you can enter and track donor contact information, donation amounts, or campaigns You can also streamline the processes of getting that information, and are able to leverage the data afterwards.

Simply put, nonprofit CRMs simplify the work you’re already doing, and allow you to do more good by solving the three major challenges by reducing workload, tracking data, and fostering growth.

To explore how a nonprofit CRM does this, we’ll look at each in the context of one common task: donation management.


The first and most obvious way that implementing a nonprofit CRM helps your organization is by saving you time. Imagine if instead of scrolling through endless spreadsheets you could just type a donor’s name in order to log a donation under their account. Better yet, imagine if you didn’t have to record their donation manually at all?

Consider the steps involved in receiving and entering a donation. The chart below compares your current manual process against your potential nonprofit CRM-driven process.

Manual Process CRM + Webpage
A donor contacts your organization to inquire about donating to your cause.    You accept and process payment in either a cheque, cash, or card format. If this is a cheque, it means you’re taking a trip to the bank too! Now we find the spreadsheet to record the donation manually. Time to create a tax receipt for your donor. This involves locating the template for tax receipts, finding the correct receipt number, and re-entering the donor information to the tax receipt template. Send the receipt to the donor by either writing it in person, mailing it or emailing it manually. Record that the donation has been receipted, again on your spreadsheet. Potentially even save a version of the tax receipt for future records. The donor goes to your organization’s website and clicks the Donate Now button. The donor enters their own contact information and payment details. This information is seamlessly synced to your database behind the scenes. The donation is processed by the CRM, your donor automatically receives their receipt in an email, and all administrative follow-up automatically completed.  

Notice the difference between the two processes? Without nonprofit CRM software or nonprofit membership management software, your donors are limited in when and how they can donate. The manual entry process requires more time and effort from both you and the donor. When the challenge is big enough to the donor, this may even dissuade them from contributing to your cause!

In this case, it is clear that having a CRM outperforms the case of manual data entry. How about the other aspects? When thinking about the data that you collect, how can using a CRM specifically in the donation process improve your experience?


In many ways, the most valuable aspect of using a CRM for your non-profit is the insight you gain into your data. The better your data, the better analysis you conduct. Was the last donation drive as successful as you felt it was? With a nonprofit CRM, that answer is at your fingertips.

However, your reports are only as powerful as your data entry process. This means that if the data you collect is flawed in any way, the reports that you pull from it will also be flawed.

Turning back to the donation process example, Let’s compare the information you gather from a manually entered against the information collected in a nonprofit CRM during the donation process.

Concern Manual Entry CRM
Consistency Allows inconsistent data entry formats. For example, dates (10/01/2019 vs. Oct 1, 2019 or January 10th, 2019), and names (John Smith vs Smith, John) are commonly varied formats. A standardized format is enforced by the CRM. Either the data entry is automatically generated in the proper format (a calendar style date picker), or the CRM validates the format before saving it.
Clarity Having a variety of spreadsheets and formats can lead to redundant or unclear data entry fields. For example, a ‘Charitable Gift’ column can either require a text answer (yes/no) or a numeric answer ($50.00 donation). Data entry fields in software are consistent with each user interaction. There is no ambiguity over the purpose of the fields.
Source of Truth Tracking data on paper or spreadsheets can result in multiple redundant files. You may have a recent spreadsheet of donations for 2019, but your colleague may have the same spreadsheet, but with the additional donations from the gala last week. There is no way to know if you are looking at the most recent data. The majority of databases are cloud enabled. This means that you can work on the information from anywhere and it will always be updated for everyone. You can register donations for a Gala and instantly, a person who is back at the office can log in and track the success!
Completion With manual data entry, users are not required to fill all of the required fields. In this way, there is no control over the minimum amount of information required to record a donation. In a nonprofit CRM, you are able to set mandatory fields that require the user to complete certain pieces of information before being able to complete the donation.
Loss Protection What if you spill water on the only computer that has all the spreadsheets?! Worse yet, what if there is a flood in the office with all the filing cabinets? I don’t think we need to say more… CRMs have the ability to store redundant backups of your data. Your data can also be stored in a remote location that is not in danger of an errant water spill. With a CRM, if you spill a coffee on your computer, you’ll still have a really bad day, but it won’t ruin your data. 
Security Spreadsheets and filing cabinets are open for anyone to access. Anyone working with your data can perform all actions. This means everyone has the ability to add, delete or edit any and all information Each user of a CRM has their own profile or user login. This means that you can restrict who can do what, where. No more prying eyes looking at data that is confidential.

It is easy to see how much a nonprofit CRM can help enforce proper data entry and protect that data from further concerns like corruption or loss. As we know, a clean data entry process opens the way for great and powerful reporting! Now let’s take a look at how a CRM helps with reporting and growth.


You’ve put a lot of work into collecting donations and tracking data. Now it’s time to put that hard work to good use. Let’s leverage the data to help grow and improve your organization.

First, consider reporting on the data collected during the donation process. Chances are that data analysis is not one of your core passions. Since that is the case, you’d be able to generate simple reports like, average donation per donor, or total donations per quarter, but more complex reports may be out of reach.

By this point, you’re probably thinking that a nonprofit CRM would be really nice to have, but maybe not a need to have.

This article from NonProfitPRO titled 5 Small Tips for Big Non-profit Growth, says there are a few key elements to consider when growing your non-profit. Let’s take their lead look at the 5 tips through the lens of using a CRM for your organization.

  1. Learn to do more with less: A CRM does this by allowing you to investigate your inefficiencies with reporting. Post-mortem reporting on events and expenditures helps you review where you overspent your time or resources (hint: people and their time are resources too!).
  2. Focus on your mission: Software helps automate processes such as receiving donations, allowing you to focus on what really matters.
  3. Build trust: Providing reliable, repeatable interactions with your donors is where you can really build trust. If your donor can rely on getting a professionally formatted and prompt donation receipts, they’re more likely to trust your organization moving forward. Building trust with your constituents and members is aided by a CRM in other ways as well. With a CRM you are more easily able to show tangible data about your mission, your progress and remaining milestones.
  4. Show impact: This can be done with a monthly newsletter sent to your mailing list from your CRM or with the annual report that you generate showing your impact. Remember that a CRM can track information about the communities you help as well as the people helping by donating. For example, how excited are you to pull reports on how many stray animals were adopted this month!
  5. Stick to fundamentals: Use your CRM as the constant, reliable source of information and organization for your non-profit. Simplify the work that you do with your data, and let it work for you.

Sounds like a no brainer, not only can you leverage your data into better reports with a nonprofit CRM, but you can also work on growing your organization and maximizing your impact!

What Now?

Together, we’ve reviewed three pain points of running a non-profit and explored ways that the pain points can be eliminated. We’ve learned that nonprofit membership management software or CRM software can help you reduce your workload, improve the quality of your data, and allows you to grow your non-profit.

The benefits of a CRM extend past just the three pain points though. Whether it’s managing outreach campaigns, or planning your next donor appreciation event, a nonprofit CRM helps drive improvement exponentially.

You now know there is a solution to the obstacles your non-profit faces. It’s time to make the move away from spreadsheets and filing cabinets, and toward a tool that will make you more efficient and effective.

Before you go, here are a few more posts that can help:

Reduce your workload, leverage your data and grow your non-profit and book a nonprofit CRM demo today!

Download Your Free Guide on Choosing CRM Software for Your Nonprofit!

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