How smaller nonprofits can use a CRM

This is part two of Keela's CRM blog series. If you missed part one, Do You Have a CRM?, be sure to check it out!

By: Phil Manzano, Head of Marketing and Communications at Keela

One of the most common objections to adopting a CRM is the size of the organization. There’s a common misconception that a CRM is only suitable for a bigger organization. I would argue, however, that it is only unsuitable if the organization is looking to remain small.

Last time, we looked at the basics of a CRM. Today, let’s take a look at how different people within your organization would benefit from a CRM.

Executive Director:

As an Executive Director, you have a lot on your plate. Leading the organization, you are responsible for managing the overall health of the nonprofit. You’re interested in tracking impact, and seeing which program areas are resonating with donors. And here’s the best part – you’re also responsible to a board who is eager to here about progress.
With a CRM, you are able to pull reports about all the data that matters to you. You are able to see data and analyze it – helping to shape strategies and priorities moving forward.

In short – having all of your organization’s information in one, reliable spot will keep you sane.

Development Director:

As a Development Director, you have an important role at the nonprofit. You’re responsible for making sure donations are coming through the door.  Using a CRM, you are able to look through all of your data and easily find out:

  • Who is donating to me?
  • Who do I need to steward to make a big gift?
  • What impact areas are trending?

A CRM makes it easy to pull this type of information and make strategic decisions to your processes. For example, you can take a look at who your recurring donors are. Based off of their similarities and interests, you might be able to create a special appeal that is specifically for them. Without the CRM, this opportunity would still exist, but it would be hidden.
Another cool thing you could do is start attaching birthdates to each of your contacts. You will be able to see the overall demographic of your donor-base, which also helps to guide your strategic conversations: do you need a millennial strategy, or should you focus on legacy gifts?

Marketing and Communications:

If your small nonprofit is lucky enough to have someone dedicated to Marketing and Communications, they would benefit greatly from a CRM. By having a deeper understanding of your donors, you are able to market smarter. It’s called smarketing!

For example, if you take a look within your database and notice that you have a lot of donors who have donated in the past but have not contributed in the last little bit, then you can segment this group and develop messaging targeted directly at them. This is smart because you are not wasting efforts. This message would not resonate with everyone – and even has the potential of turning some people off. When you have a CRM, you can make these decisions and create these segments easily.

Program Director:

As a Program Director, you get to see a lot of the impact your nonprofit is having, first hand. You are connected to your organization’s mission in a very real way. And this is specifically why you’d be interested in having a CRM.

One of the biggest things that you’d want to know is: are people actually donating to my program? Answering this one question helps you create a better understanding of what your donors actually want to support, and if your organization is aligned to their work.

Beyond answering this question, you are able to do plenty of things within a CRM to push your work forward. This is a place that can house all the interactions you have with your contacts, share impact reports, and communicate directly with advocates who can help you do even more.

Another great thing to track with the CRM would be the attributes that you need to track that are unique to your organization. For example, if it’s super important to your organization to know how many trees that contact planted within the last week – then you have a place to track that and you can easily pull that information whenever you need it. Keep on planting those trees! The world needs it!


As an Admin, you are likely the person that everyone goes to for everything (sound familiar?) – You are the go-to for every person. With a CRM, your job is made much easier! You are already pressed for time, which is why time-saving and ease of use becomes so important for any piece of technology that you use.

Within a CRM, you are able to do things much more efficiently. On top of all of the other tasks that everyone can do, as an admin, you can fully support your ED in all of their deliverables, you can pull reports quicky, and and you can input data in one place, knowing that it will update in all the relevant places that people will look.

It’s quick. It’s easy. And it all updates in real time.

Trusted Volunteer:

Even trusted volunteers can get in on the fun of a CRM. In fact, it helps you get even more out of them.

Whether it is helping with a special event, supporting the team with data entry, or even helping with campaigns, volunteers can have as much or as little access as you’d like. At the end of the day, it’s all about how much you want to empower them to make an impact in the community. A CRM will propel that empowerment forward.

These are some of the most common roles within a nonprofit setting, and a dedicated CRM system can help all of them do their job a bit better. The real value is in the fact that it helps people make better, data driven decisions. Every organization has data – no matter the size. They all have donors or constituents that are part of the work. CRMs allow orgs to access opportunities that would otherwise be missed, simply by consolidating everything and making it digestible.

It seems very simple, and that’s because it can be. It all depends on what your organization is comfortable with, and the willingness of your team to actually use the technology.

We’ll check in next time to explore the costs of NOT having a CRM. See you soon!


About the Author

Phil is the Head of Marketing and Communications at Keela. He has worked as a communications professional within the sector at many levels: grassroots, local, regional and national. Now, he spends his time telling powerful stories of impact and is devoted to helping nonprofits do good, better.

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