Generally, not-for-profits need at least one, and in some cases more than one, of the following:
1. A client and case management system to help provide services to people in need and report to funders. These systems were generally developed for non-profits and have specific functionality for processes like:
- client intake
- case management (case notes, assessments, reviews, etc)
- outcomes management
- reporting to funders and government
2. A customer relationship management (CRM) system to track communications with stakeholders, fundraising activity, donors and/or membership status (important for peak bodies and organisations that have members). CRMs
- were originally developed for ‘for-profit’ businesses to manage the sales process
- manage customer communications and sales process
- usually have good email integration
- can be customised for non-profits.
3. Another more specialised (and unique) system to track and manage specific items – flora, fauna, historical artifacts, environmental conditions, etc. These systems don’t generally exist ‘off the shelf’ and often need to be built (or heavily customised).
The importance of getting it right
Infoxchange’s Digital Technologies in the not-for-profit sector 2020 report identified that:
- 67% of organisations reported their primary system enables staff to work effectively in the office and remotely.
- 71% of organisations reported their primary system allows valuable information about clients and services to be captured.
- Only 44% of organisations reported their primary system allows them to understand the impact of services and outcomes.
When choosing a system, it's important to find a system that:
- is intuitive and works well for clients/members, staff and management while being flexible enough to adapt to future needs
- lets members and clients access the information they need online
- allows staff to access information in the field, at home and ni the office
- captures all the information required to understand the services and effort delivered to each client/member over time
- provides you with the critical functions you need, without costing too much.
We recommend you consider the following principles to guide your selection of a new CRM or CMS:
- Input data once only to reduce waste and error
- Use the system as a single source of truth (don’t have secondary data systems or reports)
- Input data as close to the point of capture as possible
- Drive consistent processes to improve work practices and efficiency
- Easily support interface with government systems to simplify reporting
- Be flexible evolve with your organisation
- Provide timely and accurate information for quality, evidence based decision-making.
Choosing a CRM/CMS
When choosing a CRM/CMS, we recommend you:
- Identify your high-level core processes and system requirements, bearing in mind integration with other systems can be expensive
- Educate yourself about the software market and types of systems available
- Identify a shortlist of possible systems
- Assess system fit with requirements, finding the right balance of:
- vendor fit
- Implement, remembering to train and resource your project team appropriately.
This process usually takes 6-18 months depending on your size, process maturity and service complexity.
Read next: About Client & Case Management Systems