Fundraising Databases General

How to review your CRM System

Now you are back in the swing of things, the January blues have faded and you are looking forward to your new goals for 2015, it is the perfect time to think about checking that your CRM system is in good shape to help you achieve your targets.

CRM systems need love, care and attention, if you are going to get the best from them and keep them accurate. This is essential to make it easy for all your staff to use, update and understand the data.

databasecartoonWhen I visit charities as part of my consultancy work I often find that their CRM systems are organic beasts.  With changes in staff or business processes or sometimes both, over time, what used to be a lean and relevant system with clear procedures has become increasingly a long winded process that doesn’t easily meet the needs of the organisation’s current objectives.

Some examples of the issues I encounter and you may recognise in your own system include:

  • categories used to segment contacts have grown to unmanageable numbers making it difficult to find the one most relevant
  • obsolete campaign codes from many years ago are clogging up the system
  • manual processes have to be put in place to reconcile the CRM system to financial accounts if they are reconciled at all
  • staff are storing “do not mail” instructions in lots of different places so mistakes are often made when excluding people from communications

If this sounds familiar, don’t despair…a review can help fix some or all of these issues going forward without any need for new technology or software investment.

Where do you start

Here then, briefly, are the key areas which I would suggest you look to review. I have tried to keep these as generic as possible to reflect as many of the CRM systems out there as possible.

  • Stakeholder groups – Constituent Codes / Primary Categories / Classification.
    Are these the people that we are talking to regularly?
  • How you classify income – Campaigns / Funds / Appeals / Source Codes / Destination Codes / Application Codes
    Does this tie in with your management accounts?
  • Other data points – Constituent Attributes / Profiles / Other drop down lists
    How do I find people interested in for example, Campaigning or Swimming?
  • Legislative requirements – where do you store your compliance questions like DO NOT CONTACT or don’t send me appeals or email opt in preferences
    How do I exclude people correctly from mailings?Reviewing these areas and checking they meet the current needs for mailing selections, reporting or financial monitoring can be invaluable in getting the most from your CRM system.

What help is available?

  • One of the things that a lot of users don’t realise is that there are a fair few “canned” reports – these are reports that are already created in your CRM system to help you count these records and also some in built tools that can help tidy up the data. If you don’t know about these tools/reports speak to your CRM support team in the first instance.
  • There are also some administration tools within the database, now these go with a health warning, because you can do disastrous things with these if you don’t do it correctly. I still get nervous every time I push the magic button but with backups it normally goes smoothly. Always check with your CRM support before touching them just to be on the safe side.
  • Online resources either via other CRM users on social media or support forums provided by the vendors themselves. For example I’ve seen a rise in Linkedin threads of charity folk asking and sharing what they believe to be best practice, so if you’re not a member of those groups, spend some time to have a look through. They are a great free resource and as a sector we love to share and get ideas from our peers on best practice which is great.
  • You could also ask a consultant (like me – shameless plug) to help and come in and review your system. A fresh impartial pair of eyes can give you guidance on what needs to be done and the easiest way to tackle it. Remembering that it doesn’t all have to be done in one go.

And remember….

Once a review like this has been done and any changes successfully implemented it is essential to make sure that the new process, codes etc are properly documented. This will not only act as a reminder to current staff but will be useful for any new staff going forward. It will also help to keep your CRM system focussed in the future and make it far easier to undertake a review when the time comes around again.