10_Questions_CRM_Solution_roundCorner

by Sarah Botes

Congratulations. You have determined that the best business strategy for the upcoming year is to adopt a new CRM solution. As a constituent-centered nonprofit, this is a big step–and a decision made often for various reasons. Some of these reasons include:

  • Users are unhappy with an age-old system and want better ease of use
  • Disparate systems have made it challenging to manage your data
  • The organization is growing and needs a flexible system to accommodate change
  • Contracts with the current vendor are expiring soon and it is worthwhile to see what else is available

10 Questions to Ask

Regardless of why you’re shopping, the selection process may seem overwhelming for most organizations. It is true that adopting a new CRM system is going to take a lot of time and effort. You will need buy-in from your staff, a clear understanding of your core requirements, and some grit for those long days of migrating data.

As you begin searching for the best CRM solution to meet your organization’s needs, here are some key questions you should be asking yourself before making any purchasing decisions:

1. Was this solution developed with industry standard best practices for nonprofits in mind?

Nonprofit organizations have unique business processes and engage with their constituents differently than businesses do. Accordingly, be sure to find a CRM solution that has industry best practices incorporated into the product. This will result in less custom development to meet your needs.

2. What is the current state of our data?

If you’re part of the small percentage of nonprofits that have perfect data hygiene, we applaud you. However, it is likely that your data needs some remediation work before you’re prepared to migrate it to a new system. Are the email addresses valid? Are the meeting notes all stored in the same object? Do duplicates exist for each organization?

The state of your data can expand the scope of your project significantly. We suggest being very transparent about the state of your data with proposed vendors. In addition, you can try addressing some of your data issues in your legacy system before the project begins, or consider reducing the scope of data you plan to migrate.

3. Is it user friendly?

Change is hard; find a solution that excites your end users so that they’ll want to use it. To this end, consider the following: Is it a mobile-friendly solution? Will the interface serve users that are more technologically challenged? Will it take significantly more steps to complete the same task as your old system? What new features can your users take advantage of on day one? What kind of training is offered?

4. Is it secure?

What kind of security protocols and measures has the software provider put in place to protect your data? If you are processing gifts in the system, is the system PCI compliant?

5. Will it integrate with our outside systems?

Consider your future state solution architecture and how the new CRM system will integrate with the tools already working for your organization. Does the new system come with an API? Will certain integrations require custom development?

6. What can it do?

One way to start thinking about this question is to consider the essentials of your business operation today. Furthermore, determine the benefits and the pain points of your current CRM.

CRM solutions come with a core set of features; find one that matches your user requirements so that you can get most of what you need out-of-the-box. If you find you’ll need a considerable amount of customization just to bring parity to your legacy system…keep looking! You may find more capabilities out-of-the-box with another CRM system.

7. What else will we need?

If you do need additional functionality beyond the CRM, have no fear–there are many options for third party applications that can integrate to your solution. For example, you may want a tool for wealth screening, advocacy, or document generation, to name a few. The Salesforce AppExchange has a lot to offer nonprofit organizations.

8. How much does it cost to implement?

Annual subscriptions are only a part of the overall cost of ownership. When shopping for a solution, be upfront with vendors and ask about services costs from the start. Do they invoice by fixed fee, or by time and materials? Is there an option to phase out the implementation?

9. How will we be supported after go-live?

When you adopt a new CRM solution, you establish a long-term partnership with the solution provider. How will they hold up that end of the partnership? Consider their support model, software upgrades, and their responsiveness to new requests for functionality. What does their future roadmap look like? What direction is the vendor going from a product perspective? Does that align with your organization’s technology goals? Your success is their success, so find a vendor that is 100% committed to you.

10. What is our resource availability to contribute to this project?

Each member of your team will need to participate in the implementation project in some way, shape, or form. Whether your team needs to share user stories during discovery sessions, provide approval during user acceptance testing, or learn how to use the system prior to go-live–you’ll need everyone’s commitment to the project.

Taking the Next Step

Once you consider these questions within your organization, you will be ready to ask the harder questions during the evaluation process.

The good news is that when you’re ready to explore the CRM possibilities that exist today, there are many vendors willing to share their expertise. Selecting a new solution is an important decision for your organization, and the transition of implementing and adopting is a process in and of itself. Find a valuable partner to guide you and provide sound advice throughout the journey.

If you would like more assistance finding the right CRM solution for your nonprofit, contact us.


Sarah Botes is a Senior Business Development Manager for NGO Connect at roundCorner. Sarah guides nonprofits in finding solutions and services that will transform the way they achieve their mission.

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