The State of Nonprofit CRM

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Facilitated by Aspiration and CRM Practitioners

Session Description

CRM is arguably "The Great Unsolved Problem" of nonprofit technology. In the session, both users and developer from various CRM platforms will compare notes on the state of the field in nonprofit CRM and discuss what's still missing and needed. Participants are encouraged to bring their wish lists and b*tch lists to this animated, interactive sessions.

Session Notes

CRMs / Platforms



  • Event Attendees
  • Food Service/Diets
  • Sharing Contacts - breaking silos
  • improving adoption issues.

Enterprise CRM


  • cloud based
  • contacts
  • accounts
  • donations
  • limited grants management
  • affiliations
  • relationships
  • available for free for first 10 users, large discount for 10+ users
  • very flexible.

Jason w/ Project Flux

Interface is #1 priority


  • server based
  • grants management and integration with crm workflows.
  • easy interface.

Progressive Technology Project: PowerBase


  • server based
  • based on Civi Crm, made customizations and market it as PowerBase.
  • primarily intended for community organizers
  • compatible with all civiCRM upgrades



  • server based
  • fundraising
  • events management
  • donor management
  • mail blasting
  • works inside drupal or joomla.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM


  • Server based or cloud based
  • available through tech soup
  • integrates well with entire microsoft suite



  • record keeping
  • CRM for case management
  • fund raising.

Community Needs / Problems

what is the “C” in crm?

The system is a “RM,” and who is the “C”? How do you build a system that can change as your organization changes. Possible values of “C”:

  • end users, low income users.
  • individual donors
  • corporate donors
  • partners

takes a lot of time to organize all types of constituents.

their solution was to tailor for one type of person.

categorizing who they track

what are we tracking and why? why do we pull reports and why? ED has ideas, but no idea about how stuff works. Having difficulty with needs assessment.

Vendor Selection

‘sending our donor database system to the farm’ vendor selection is really hard when they don’t know the needs of the non-profit, communicating to those who need it. coming back to “who the ‘c’ is”

Managing relationships between orgs and people.

How to manage complex relationships, how do you model them. affiliations. hierarchy relationships. Relationships to the grant (sales process).

Relationships around certain givings

not just store them, but have them be visible to the end user. Seems complicated. transactional is easy, but breadth is difficult?

Adding complexity / keeping flexible.

Setting limits and saying no.

Different tools - how do they communicate?

Many different tasks, which create silos of data. Different views of data.

Complexity of problem set, "UNIQUE BUTTERFLY PROBLEM"

Everything needs to be a perfect solution, pre-configured out of the box, and is free. (as in butterflies). Should be simple.

Getting caught up in future possibilities (80/20)

can we distill down to the basic and get 80 percent easy. then make a decision on what 20% is going to require. Can we only target 80% and give up on 20% for now? Does the 80/20 rule apply here?

user stories and workflow

start with gathering stories and workflow, and show them what is possible and what is not. 80/20. be very clear with what can be done and what cannot be done. paper trail on implementation.

rewrite them [the stories] to include the system. tell the stories back, after making the system.

Need for a data steward

competing data internally. multiple engagement channels with an organization (ceo to ceo, grants to program, staff to staff) gives you more than one phone number, and then the question is whose data wins?


A fundraising ethic is that donors can request their donor record. How much data can you show? How do you show relationships?

Phased deployments

finish and then come back to review in 6 months.

Closing notes

  • If we can’t solve them [problems], and a big organization can’t solve them, then why should we spend the money? Or are we just not sure what the problem is?
  • different levels of interactions (board member who is a trainer)
  • software is a lot like quantum mechanics. observing the process changes the process.