Donor Management Software: Leveraging Your Nonprofit CRM

January 24, 2016
5 minutes

In its most basic terms, a donor management system or Nonprofit CRM is an application that organizes, analyzes, and strategically implements communication strategies with nonprofit supporters (donors) to maintain and grow those relationships.

It is common for profit-oriented companies to use an application known as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This program is used to build and strengthen their network of customers. This can also be applied to the nonprofit space as the need to grow and maintain relationships with donors is equally important. This is where the Donor Management System or Nonprofit Constituent Relationship Management (nonprofit CRM) came to fruition

Why use a CRM for Nonprofits?

With roughly thirty percent of total funding for not-for-profit organizations coming from donations, there is a need to maximize the gifts received from these donors. To do this, nonprofits will be required to build and maintain the relationships they have to encourage continued giving and leverage any personal connections in order to grow their donor networks.

Today, the best way to do this is by effectively using an online (automated) system created exclusively for the nonprofit space. This system, if set up properly, will take away much of the guesswork regarding your outreach.

Stewardship as Relationship Management

Creating meaningful interactions with supporters, nurturing long-term relationships and maintaining them over time are all components of stewardship. Once your base is growing with donors and volunteers, how you will proceed with timely and bespoke engagement with them will determine if you will see continued support or not.

The use of a “Supporter Management System” makes this process easier as it collects and organizes information about all contacts in one repository with the ability to reach out to a select few or all, directly from the software. For example, knowing your donor’s history of donations allows you to segment accordingly into various groups and formulate personalized campaigns to seek a variety of donations, be it money or items or services.

What exactly can good data from a nonprofit CRM help with?

Tracking the data would be pointless without the ability to extract meaningful information and analyze it. 

Look for things like giving trends or donor behavior patterns over time. You may also find that there are common interests between subsets of donors. Using this knowledge can help with your strategy for fundraising, thus allowing your nonprofit to target better when engaging with your donor base.

Let’s look at an example. The data you examine shows some donors contributing in the spring, yet the majority of contributions are coming in quite reliably in the summer. It may be better to launch your annual peer-to-peer fundraising campaign in July instead of April as you have normally done.

Data findings can help connect with donors

It is suggested to use data findings to group donors through segmenting, targeting, and moves management as well as bespoke engagement (personalization).

Segmenting your donors helps by:

  • Allowing you to deliver your message to specific people who may be open to them

  • Avoiding redundancy. When sending emails, you can target new prospects with “Join us today as a volunteer” that would not show up on existing contacts’ email messages.

  • Changing the tone of the messaging is important as you can adjust the tone to appeal to varying groups or donor personalities.

Targeting and Moves Management

Knowing what your donors’ gifts are over time will help you know what specifically you would like to request. For example, if you have a donor who contributes $100 annually, you may be able to send a request for $125, whereas if you have a donor who donates $20 over a couple of years, they are probably not a good prospect to ask for $100.

It is difficult to implement moves management without well-kept data on-hand. Moves management involves moving key donors through a strategic path toward other paths, such as varied gifts, board memberships or other deeper commitments to your nonprofit organization. Nonprofit CRM software supports this process to help identify prospects and their movement along the path, ensuring consistency across the nonprofit.


Donor management software is designed to help you remember all donors and not to let any donor feel left out. Good record keeping allows you to respect donors’ preferences. As an example, the donor may only want to be solicited annually as they do not open any emails and only give online. The document management solution will allow these customizations to be built into a donor profile so email marketing can reflect the donor’s specific preferences.

Features to look for

Without hesitation, steer clear from any application that is not specifically designed for nonprofit organizations. While it may seem tempting to use a “nonprofit” module of a larger scaled corporate software program, it will likely cost more and contain many features that you will never use.

Some primary features to look for are:

  • Detailed contact information – This would include supporter history

  • Ability to create custom notes when keeping track of specific contact details

  • Individual Campaign Metrics – Traffic sources of donors, gift sizes, and more

  • Supporter engagement history – Frequency and details

  • Offline Donations – Accounting for donations made by hard currency (check or cash)

  • Contact Segmentation – Choose various criteria to group your supporters

  • Customizable labeling or tags to better understand your supporters

  • Create tasks and reminders to keep all on the same track.

Final Thoughts

Integration is important and would be suggested as you scale your nonprofit organization. Any application would benefit from integration with online fundraising, supporter engagement, opportunities for volunteers, and marketing functionalities, to name a few.

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