7 Questions To Ask During Your Nonprofit CRM Demo

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Investing in new technology for your organization is always a big decision, especially when you’re considering a tool like a CRM, which will affect multiple departments and aspects of your work.

Seeing a software demonstration, or CRM demo is a traditional part of the technology evaluation and purchase process and is one of your best opportunities to interview potential vendors about what you can expect from their platform.

With many nonprofit CRM options available, the best way to make sure you find the right software for your organization is to ask the right questions.

While most of your CRM demo will be spent getting into the nitty gritty details of how the CRM works and the specific functionality it can provide for your organization, it is critically important to also ask bigger-picture questions to uncover how aligned the tool is with your long-term goals.

As you’re preparing for your next CRM demo, here are seven example questions to get you started:

1. Is this platform built to facilitate interactions or transactions?

When CRM technology was originally developed for the corporate world, its purpose was to enable businesses to manage the data they collected regarding customers and purchase transactions. While there are some similarities between the needs of corporate sales teams and nonprofit Development teams, anyone who has spent time working at a nonprofit organization knows that there are significant differences as well.

Nonprofit fundraising work relies heavily on building emotional connections to a cause and long-term personal relationships with supporters, which requires a much more interactive approach. Relying on technology primarily built to process transactions can leave your supporters feeling like glorified ATMs, despite your best efforts otherwise.

Conversely, technology built to facilitate interactions should make it easy for your team to instill a sense of trust and mutual respect between supporters and the organization.

2. Is the platform able to show a supporter’s holistic involvement with the organization?

While we often use labels like “donors,” “volunteers,” or “members” to denote various groups of people who may interact with a nonprofit organization, this siloed framework often doesn’t reflect the way that these supporters see themselves.

More often than not, your biggest supporters will fall into several of these categories and see themselves as holistic champions of your cause and partners in your success.

A thank-you note that acknowledges the donations a supporter has given over the course of the year but doesn’t mention the hours of volunteer time that they contributed or the several contacts from their network that they introduced to your organization can give the impression that they are only appreciated for monetary gifts.

Technology that helps you and your team store holistic information will help you steward your supporters in a way that reflects how they see themselves and their contributions. 

3. Does the platform highlight supporters’ relationships and connections?

The ability to effectively track supporters’ relationships is a unique need for nonprofit CRMs. Does the platform make it easy for your team to keep track of spouses who give both individually and together as a household? What about interacting with a parent and child who are both involved in administering gifts through their family foundation?

Tracking non-familial relationships, such as those between a supporter and a business, organization, or foundation can also be important for nonprofit work.

Knowing where a donor works could open up doors for new corporate matching or sponsorship opportunities, and tracking other organizations or associations that your supporter is a member of can give you increased insight into their passions and giving priorities.

The infrastructure to be able to store this type of data and effectively use it to send correct acknowledgments and personalized appeals is a must-have for any effective nonprofit CRM.

4. How does the platform help our organization prioritize diversity and inclusion?

Your efforts to build strong relationships with diverse supporters can easily be sidetracked by inadequate data infrastructure.

Ensuring that your CRM has the ability to record important information such as a supporter’s pronouns and preferred name (which may be different than the name on their credit card), the language in which they prefer to receive outreach from your organization, or their accessibility needs are crucial to showing diverse supporters the respect and acknowledgment that will form the foundation of a strong relationship.

5. What intelligence and insights does the platform offer?

Collecting supporter data will offer limited benefits to your organization without the ability to analyze it and use it to inform your campaigns.

Will the platform help you easily evaluate and improve metrics such as donor retention, volunteer engagement, and more? Intelligent platforms will offer clear, visual reporting to not only help you gauge your current progress and organizational health but make data-informed decisions about the future.

6. When was the platform built, and has it been updated for a mobile-first world?

The past 20 years have seen rapid evolution in the technology sphere, shifting both the way that we do our work and the expectations that supporters have for the outreach they receive.

Older technology will often receive cosmetic updates through the years, but under the surface, it may not meet your expectations for modern tools.

For instance, it’s important to ensure that your CRM is built for mobile devices, so that you can access your data anywhere you might interact with a supporter, not just while you’re at the computer. 

7. What can we expect from the migration, training, and onboarding process?

The process of actually implementing a new CRM is where many organizations run into unexpected challenges, including extended delays and hidden fees. Do most new customers need to hire external consultants to help with data hygiene or customization of the platform?

What type of training can your team expect from the vendor at the beginning of your contract and throughout your use of the platform? Asking these questions will help you get an accurate idea of the full budget and timeline that you’ll need to plan for.

Asking the right questions during your CRM demo helps ensure that your software evaluation team has all of the information that they need to make an informed decision for the organization, making the process less stressful for everyone involved and guaranteeing that your nonprofit will find its true best fit.

If you’re looking for a new nonprofit CRM built to harness the power of modern technology to supercharge your relationship and community-building efforts, schedule a call with Instil and give these questions a try!

About Instil: Instil is a nonprofit platform built to leverage the power of modern technology to help nonprofits do their best work. Instil holistically manages supporters including donors, members, and volunteers to deepen nonprofit connections with their community, increase revenue, and maximize impact. To learn more, check them out here


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