Building a Non-Profit’s CRM

Challenge:

Simplify and automate the process for users to register, donate and join the organization, and provide the organization with a comprehensive view of their constituents and global view of their income flow.

Solution:

Build a CRM Database that consolidates admin workflows, meets the users needs, and stays within the company’s budget

How I Helped:

• Researched and implemented the best-fit software package
• Customized the package to meet specific company and department needs
• Onboarded the different teams and departments to the new solution
• Map existing customer data and translate existing data-flows to the new solution

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CHALLENGE

• Simplify and automate the process for users to register, donate and join the organization
• Provide the organization with a comprehensive view of their constituents and global view of their income flow.

I needed to build a database for a small mission-oriented non-profit whose primary income was through donations and dedicated long-term members. They were still processing credit card entries manually, using QuickBooks as their customer database, and tracking event participation, membership, and donations through online forms and disconnected spreadsheets.

We needed something that would simplify the customer journey, support our donors, reward our members, and give us a robust event management platform- all for as little money as possible. We also needed to update our payment system, enhance security measures, and convince the small and overworked staff that a new system would help them and then train them how to use it. 

OBJECTIVE

The main objective was twofold- to improve the experience of users and increase the efficiency of the organization. 

For users, the goal was to simplify and automate event registration, online donations and membership subscriptions. For the organization, the aim was to provide staff with a comprehensive view of their constituents and global view of their income flow. And to do all of this for as little money as possible.

However, the road to achieving this involved nothing less than overhauling both the processes and mechanics of the entire organization.

SOLUTION

Build a CRM Database that consolidates admin workflows, meets the users needs, and stays within the company’s budget

—Understanding the Current Landscape

I started by interviewing key staff members about what they do, and what would make their work easier. This included everyone from the Executive Director, to the Finance Director, Bookkeepers, Communication Director and Event Team, as well as a number of donors, participants, volunteers and other constituents. I gathered all of their perspectives on what works for them, what doesn’t work and any areas that work but need improvement, what they need from the database.

I also needed to understand the current financial and administrative landscape of the company- from their chart of accounts, to how they processed financial transactions, mailing lists, constituent demographics, and their membership levels- at local, national and international levels. 

—Researching Potential Database Solutions

Next I researched various CRM database packages to find which would be the closest fit to the needs of the company and its constituents. Because of it’s wide use in the Non-Profit sector, its price (free to license), and its native support for Donations, Memberships, and Events, we selected CiviCRM, an open-source CRM software package with a robust support community. 

—Collecting & Mapping the Data

The next challenge was to map out our current administrative system, while keeping an eye out for anything that might be antiquated, redundant or no longer necessary. This began the long process of researching and exposing all the data stored in our current systems- financial, marketing, donor-base, event planning and registration. Many things had been stored in spreadsheets or saved on personal computers. This required a comprehensive cross-organizational team effort to dig up information and make all the data visible. Most importantly, it also was the beginning of supporting the team to think differently about their data, which would make successful adoption of the new CRM much easier once we finally crossed that bridge.

—Building and Activating the New CRM

Once the plan was in place, I began building the new CRM and importing select data from the various sources. For example, specific aspects of the chart of accounts pertaining to transactions processed in the CRM were mapped over so that financial reports produced by the CRM would support the bookkeepers in reconciling their accounts with quickbooks each month. 

We also created a structure for membership payments that could accommodate fees for local, national, and international branches of the organization. 

Also, to move our payment system out of the stone age, I created a merchant services account and payment gateway, moving the company from manual credit card payments to automated online payments and PCI compliance. 

I added components systematically so that the team could get used to working with one area before they had to learn a new one. Starting with events, then adding donations, and finally integrating our membership system.

— Customizing the CRM for our Specific Needs

Many of our events require very specific information to be collected and a unique flow for the registration process. I customized our templates through writing javascript and jQuery functions to fit the needs of the organization and to make the screen and the user flow easier for the customer, hiding the more complex back-end needs. 

For example, for our different membership levels, there was a local, national, and international fee the bookkeepers had to account for. But to make it easier for users, I created registration screens that showed one membership type and yet filled the appropriate amount behind the scenes for the bookkeepers. 

Also, by working closely with the volunteer coordinator, I knew to build a simple, intuitive interface for volunteers to support them in checking in participants at retreats and events and ensuring that the appropriate information was collected, and that various levels of permissions were set to protect privacy.

The main event for this organization required a significant amount of information to be collected during online registration. I needed to have the fields available to the user, but hidden depending on where they were in the registration process. This kept the registration screen clean and easy to use. This took a lot of modifications to the registration page with CSS and jQuery.

— How I Helped

• Project Manager
• Researched and implemented the best-fit software package
• Customized the package to meet specific company and department needs
• Onboarded the different teams and departments to the new solution
• Mapped existing customer data and translated existing data-flows to the new solution

RESULTS

An unexpected outcome was that staff, by being involved with this process, developed a more global understanding and appreciation of how the different areas of the organization work together and support one another. They were all able to see that what they did was just a piece of the whole picture of how we function as an organization. In this way we could start to spot redundancies and duplicated efforts across departments and adapt our work flow as the new CRM started to be used. As a global picture of our constituents, their data, and our own internal process emerged, we were able to show people how the new system could make their lives easier.