OneTenth Consulting
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Thoughts & Musings

Is Your Fundraising CRM A Restaurant Kitchen?


More so than any other, I have referred my clients to Curtis Chang’s SSIR article, “Is Excel Making Your Nonprofit Mediocre?” the most.  Especially those nonprofits “on the fence” about making the move to a cloud-based CRM system.  Chang's analogy, where he likens Excel to a "grocery store" and a CRM system to the workings of a "restaurant kitchen" truly illustrates the shift that happens when nonprofits make the move.

Don't get me wrong...spreadsheets are powerful!  Despite all the available technology and alternatives out there, I use them religiously for a variety of things.  As Chang mentions, Excel spreadsheets are like grocery stores, with fixed rows and aisles.  "This fixedness allows spreadsheets to perform complex calculations and formulas", and users reap the benefits of this, as long as what's being tracked doesn't change much.  But "spreadsheets start breaking down when something changes and you need to track it."  Eventually, it starts "fracturing data and representing an incomplete picture of clients’ experiences over time.

For example, a donor's profile may seem like a static set of data, but the donor journey is not. In the case of a major donor prospect, once the constituent has been qualified as a prospective major donor, you may want to move them through a series high-touch activities (or a “moves management” cycle), getting them closer to the high-dollar ask.

A sample major giving "moves management" cycle

A sample major giving "moves management" cycle

Throughout this cycle, there may be many players, perhaps a team of resources at your organization that play a critical role each step of the way.  The process is dynamic and collaborative, like a restaurant kitchen with each chef playing their role in preparing the perfect meal, and this is where spreadsheets fall short.   

The most insightful point in Chang's article is, "how we store information shapes how we think."  I couldn't agree more.  Excel is good at tracking "donors.”  If that is how you view your constituents...Excel will work fine.  But CRM systems support the many facets of a constituent’s interaction with your nonprofit and reflect the stage in the journey they are on at any point in time.  Perhaps they are a sustainer who has made recurring gifts for years.  Maybe they have logged over one hundred volunteer hours.  Or maybe they have attended your galas in the past, or mentioned your organization through their social media channels, or influenced their friends to make regular gifts.  And what if your donor is also a planned giving prospect?  Or is also being solicited for a grant through their family foundation?  Your constituent is much more than just a "donor."  CRM brings this 360-degree of the constituent to your fingertips, allowing you to make each interaction with them personal and meaningful.

With many CRM systems in the market, (Salesforce, NeonCRM, DonorPerfect, Bloomerang etc. ) it’s imperative to find the one that's right for you.  Do you have a limited IT staff, or no IT staff at all?  Perhaps a “turnkey” solution that gets you and up running in a few hours might be the right fit.  Or do you have many disparate systems managing constituent data that need to be consolidated, maybe you should consider a more robust platform to manage your integrations?  Or does your nonprofit have a unique operating model, where you need to track project planning, execution and metrics?  A customizable open-source system may be right for you.

Confused?  Don’t worry, help is on the way!  Let OneTenth guide you through the process and ensure you have the right CRM to meet your organization’s needs (nothing more, nothing less). We offer a variety of services, with short and long term consulting engagements customized to what you need.  Whether it’s…

  • Helping you with your fundraising strategy, and aligning it to your organizational goals
  • Selecting a CRM and/or preparing an RFP
  • Implementing your CRM, migrating your data, or integrating with third-party systems
  • Performing on-going administrative tasks (gift entry, reports, dashboards, data uploads, system enhancements, etc.)
  • Being your interim “Director of Fundraising”, ensuring you're meeting your fundraising goals, while you focus on your amazing work!  We're here for you!

Let’s chat!  Contact us to schedule a free consultation.  Let OneTenth help your nonprofit reach its full potential!  Elevating You, Elevating Your Cause!