Nonprofit CRM Software: Developing Your Email Marketing Strategy

January 24, 2016
5 minutes

As you may already be aware as a nonprofit, customer or constituent relationship management (CRM) software may be in use within your organization. It may already be in use and integrated with your accounting application or another program. The benefits from a nonprofit CRM are many and the impact of using the CRM is significant.

More than just integrations and tracking donor and supporter information, your nonprofit CRM can also support more effective marketing. Look at your CRM as more of a data collection tool rather than a means to simplify routine tasks. Good nonprofit CRMs will reliably track donor contribution patterns. Over time, these findings can help organizations establish meaningful insights, for example, how much a donor contributes and how often they do.

By knowing what and how often your donors want to hear from your organization gives you the ability to engage more strategically with many donors across various media channels.

Keeping this train of thought in mind, let's look at how your nonprofit CRM can help develop your marketing strategy.

Choose your CRM wisely. Ensure it works for your nonprofit.

After implementing your CRM, the wealth of data collected will address any of the pain points you've had previously. Ensure that your new CRM at the very least addresses the following:

  • Team members being tasked with too much manual data to enter.
  • You or your team members managing far too many disconnected systems.
  • You or your team members noticing donors slipping through the cracks.

While no one CRM will ever solve every issue you are facing, nor integrate with every application out there, they should best tackle the major concerns your organization has with tools in place to assist. Over time, you will build an integrated CRM ecosystem, driving future strategic marketing and campaign plans.

With an accounting-integrated solution, for example, your nonprofit CRM will allow you access to generate thank you letters and tax receipts, perhaps with wording based on the amount donated.

Another excellent feature to identify as you search for a nonprofit CRM would be having the ability to segment the donor data. Filtering and grouping donors into various segments that are relevant to your organization is a great option to have. Segmentation can be based on patterns of giving, geolocation, or virtually any other criteria. You can then create lists specific to the donor profile or group. This can be a general profile preference such as who has donated over $100 per year to a more granular list of donors who responded to a specific campaign to those donors who have been supporting your nonprofit with less funding year-over-year.

With the incredible drill-down features in your nonprofit CRM searches, you would then be able to send out personalized mass emails to each segment, thereby targeting your donor base specific to their patterns or preferences.

Using the nonprofit CRM to establish a retention strategy

Once the nonprofit CRM is up and running, training the team on how to locate and interpret the donation data in the application becomes critical. Seeing what marketing campaigns are most effective with existing donors is crucial and the nonprofit CRM will help to separate any major events (economic slowdown, public crisis, etc.) out of the equation.

It should be noted that it is vitally important to be strategic when looking at your marketing campaigns. Because of staff sizes and many hats worn by each staff or volunteer, there is a tendency with nonprofit organizations to downplay organized marketing altogether. They assume instead that all loyal donors will keep returning because of their belief in the organization’s mission. 

Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. More than ever, today, nonprofits need to stay laser-focused on a marketing strategy to engage, retain, and sustain donors with that strategy being data-driven.

Your nonprofit CRM offers very valuable insights into how you should be marketing to your donors. Let's look at one instance where this strategy can help. Perhaps you have a list of year-over-year donors giving less and less annually. This would be a great time to email that segment of donors a personalized email showing the positive impact of their donation. You can raise donation support in a way today that you would not have been able to target previously.

Inbound marketing: your nonprofit CRM can help here as well

As we've noted earlier, many hats worn by a few staff can sometimes make other marketing strategies seem like it would not be worth the effort. Inbound marketing campaigns are one example. You may see running social media or maintaining the website as a waste of time and valuable resources.

The truth here though, is that as a nonprofit, you will always need to be recruiting new supporters believing in your organization’s mission. This means spending time creating content online and sharing it to spread the message in an effort to attract new donors. Proven techniques like strong branding development and images that would resonate with donors helps.

The nonprofit CRM would help with knowing if the strategy you've used will help. With your CRM linked to the donation's webpage online, giving patterns will begin to show. You can identify the rate of donation submissions based on what messaging was sent out at what time. If you've received a bunch of donations right after releasing your latest messaging campaign, odds are high this was a direct result of the campaign.

Cross-referencing with your websites data analytics is important. You can use your CRM to see new donors picked up after a campaign while also reviewing the website’s analytics to see how much traffic was generated and of that number, how many stayed on to complete the donation page request. This is also beneficial when comparing page donation page activity against traffic referrals from social media posts as well.

Final thoughts

More than just a database for tracking donors, a CRM for nonprofits is a critical component today when used for email marketing campaigns and effective campaigns in general. After all, it is definitely worth its cost compared to the new donors to be collected and in retaining your current constituent base.

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