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Overcoming Nonprofit Enterprise CRM Challenges

By June 21, 2017

By: Keith Heller, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Heller Consulting

Enterprise nonprofits have unique challenges when selecting and implementing any technology, let alone a complete CRM solution. In theory, it’s easy to understand the vision of a 360° view of our constituents. We’d all love to easily see the constituent experiences and interactions that are part of us delivering on our organization’s mission. In practice, there are a lot of details and decisions to be worked out to achieve this view. Even when there were only a few solution options on the market, it was difficult to determine the actual steps that would allow an entire organization to connect with, contribute to, and benefit from the knowledge and insights locked in the data within their CRM system. Now that there are more solution options with advanced features and functionality available, the challenge of driving a CRM initiative forward has only gotten more complex.

The good news is the process doesn’t have to be as difficult as it appears. The key to staying on the track to success relies primarily on one thing: Define your strategy and goals first, and then implement a solution that serves your strategy. That’s it. Simple, right? Of course, there are a few steps in the middle that we’ll summarize in a moment, but the core truth is if you implement a CRM that is configured to execute your strategies, you will achieve success. In fact, at Heller we define the success of a CRM initiative by two criteria:

  • Supporting Strategic Objectives – The CRM initiative helps the nonprofit meet defined strategic goals that further the strategic objectives of the organization whether they are raising more money, increasing constituent engagement, delivering more services more efficiently, or other specific and measurable goals.
  • User Adoption – The organization’s staff actually use the system in their day-to-day work in a manner that supports the strategic objectives.

So how do we move from the vision to the reality? In our 20 years of helping nonprofits select and implement technology solutions, we’ve found there are some important factors that help overcome the challenges of an enterprise CRM initiative. Here’s a high-level list:

Understand your big picture

Take a long hard look at your organization and decide what you want to achieve. It’s essential to clearly define the goals and the strategies your organization plans to use to advance your mission. Think not only what you need to achieve today, but what you will need in the future. How can your team work together more effectively now, and how do you envision your team 3, 5, even 10 years from now? None of us have an infallible crystal ball to see the future, so understand where your solution needs to be flexible for inevitable changes in tactics. For example, did anyone plan for social media integration 10 years ago?

Understand your organization

Consider how your organization feels about technology. Are you all super excited about new systems and processes and ready to dive in to new things? Or will they dig in their heels and say “We’ve always done it this way and we don’t ever need to change.”? Chances are you are somewhere in the middle. Understanding exactly where, even down to department and individual levels, will make a difference in the choices you make.

Understand your options

Nonprofit CRM solutions have evolved dramatically in the last several years. Learn about the features and benefits they offer, and always consider them in the context of your strategies and goals. Be sure to understand the impact of selecting a product versus a platform. Which is more aligned with your goals? Pay attention to the descriptions and even the buzz words, but verify that those capabilities match your needs.

Understand your timeline

For enterprise nonprofits, a CRM system implementation can be a complex undertaking that impacts every department and staff member. Consider the important seasons and initiatives in your organization’s calendar, and plan your implementation accordingly. You don’t want to be revamping your fundraising system during your biggest fundraising campaign of the year. If you plan your major milestones in sensible phases you can avoid disruptions during critical times. Fortunately, modern solutions are designed to bring together a combination of modules, so strategic project phases aren’t difficult to plan.

A Closer Look at Nonprofit Success Pack

Salesforce Nonprofit Success PackWith all the above considerations in mind, we’ve found the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) to be a powerful solution that enterprise nonprofits should investigate. Designed by and for the nonprofit community, NPSP is a flexible and customizable solution that enables organizations to engage with their constituents and achieve their mission effectively and efficiently. Built on the Salesforce platform, it allows organizations to configure a CRM system to serve the goals, strategies, and processes that work best for them. This is essential for the unique needs of enterprise nonprofits, needs that have evolved through years of meeting challenges and developing an understanding of how to best serve your constituents.

To learn more about NPSP and how to select a CRM to suit your organization’s needs, please join and Heller Consulting June 27 in a free webinar, Nonprofit Success Pack: CRM Options for Enterprise Nonprofits. will highlight the features and benefits of NPSP and demonstrate how this advanced solution can serve the complex needs of enterprise nonprofit organizations. Heller Consulting’s Founder and Chief Strategist Keith Heller will also share insights on CRM best practices for enterprise nonprofits based on his 20 years of advising and leading organizations on their CRM journey.

Register for the webinar