Choosing the right customer relationship management system

Make sure you know what you need before you select a system.
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The process for choosing and implementing a customer relationship management system (CRM) is much the same as it would be for any new software.

  1. Collect your functional and non-functional requirements and understand your business processes (including how you currently handle donations, banking, finance reporting, collecting donor data etc).
  2. Research potential providers – do online searches, ask other organisations for recommendations.
  3. Check which software best matches your requirements – make sure they can do all your ‘must haves’ at least.
  4. Make a shortlist of providers, ask them for more information if you have unanswered questions, ask for references from users similar to you. Look at existing charities on the site you’re interested in using – have a chat to them about their experience.
  5. Have a plan and budget for your implementation and cutover – try to have one staff member dedicated to the job of making sure the implementation goes smoothly.
  6. Set up a process for feedback and improvement so you can continually improve your use of the system.
  7. Document processes for using the system and train staff.


Whatever system you choose, it will need to work with your existing systems and workflows. A new system can potentially affect systems across your organisation, including IT, marketing and finance.
  • IT – is the new system compatible with your existing website? Does the new system produce reports and data in a format your existing systems can handle?
  • Marketing – if the system includes building campaign sites and social media integration, will that fit with current marketing strategies?
  • Finance – will the payments received be recorded appropriately against income and expenditure; will data be exported in a format your finance team can work with?

On-going fees, costs and money handling

 Before you decide on the system, make sure you aware of the new payment methods and how this new system manages money handling – check the following:
  • What fees, credit card charges etc are attached to each transaction (e.g. donation)?
  • What is their payment method (e.g. per record, per user or per transaction)?
  • How do the various fees and deductions stack up against the money you will be saving?
  • How secure is their payment system - Do you trust it?
  • How long will it take for payments to be delivered to you?
  • Are there restrictions on the kinds of bank accounts you can use with your chosen solution, and can you meet those requirements?
  • Has this been considered in your budgeting

Data and security

Before deciding on a system, have a strong understanding of your existing data and what you require to support and protect your donors.
  • Where is your data currently saved? Will you need to migrate data into the new system?
  • What kind of donor data will the new system give you access to and will you be able to incorporate this into your existing donor management systems?
  • Are donors given the option to opt-out of further communication (and can you be sure you’re only getting data for those who have opted in?)
  • Do they have good security? Are their privacy agreements acceptable? Are you happy with how the business running the site handles any donor data provided to it? 


Most systems are relatively simple to use, but it’s important you find one that matches the skill level of your staff, or is easy to learn.
  • How much time and what skills will you need to manage your online presence on the system? Will the site need to be regularly updated? Do you have the necessary skills and time?
  • Does the system come with customer support and training – either in person or via webinar or in an easy-to-use help system?
  • Is the site easy enough to use from the donor perspective? Is there a clear and simple way for queries, disputes etc to be handled if your donors are having problems with the site?
  • Does the system have added functionality like a ‘donate now’ button you can easily add to your site? Is it relatively simple to integrate the system with any social media marketing you do?

Now that you have taken the time to consider your needs, you will be able to investigate potential systems and suppliers that meet your organisations needs. Connecting Up offers a number of customer management systems and specialised CRM consultants for the non-profit sector.