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More Than Just Software—How Your People and Processes are Key to Optimizing Your CRM

Kate Mead

Director, Professional Services

Kate brings a wealth of fundraising and operations expertise to her client projects at JCA. Her areas of specialty include system needs analysis, business process improvement, and overseeing large-scale CRM implementation projects.
May 10, 2022

What is CRM? People often think CRM is software, but It’s important to say that CRM is more than technology alone.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an enterprise-wide approach that supports the collection, analysis, and interpretation of market data that helps organizations understand, measure, change, and respond to constituent or customer behavior. We like to think of it as the combination of people, process, and platform (aka technology).

CRM creates a 360-degree view of the constituent, allowing you to see each constituent in all their roles, so you understand their multi-faceted relationship with your organization. Having a comprehensive view of a constituent’s history including donations, visits, communications, program participation, volunteer activities, and shop purchases, will allow you to make better decisions about how to interact with them. The focus shifts towards developing relationships with customers, rather than simply executing transactions.

And while many people think that CRM optimization is all about the tech, the reality is that many issues stem from the people and process side of things. So, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate all areas of CRM. Here are some areas to focus on, which we recently discussed in the webinar, More Than Just Software: What to Consider When Optimizing Your CRM.

The 5 C’s of Organizational Readiness

If you are having trouble getting your CRM to work well for you, consider an organizational readiness assessment. You can do this by focusing on the 5 C’s:

  • Case is the justification that a CRM system is warranted and worth the investment. If you are struggling to get leadership to understand the need to invest in making your CRM work, you may have issues in this area.
  • Capability refers to the skillset of the staff who are responsible for supporting the CRM. Do you have the right people in the right jobs? Would additional training help, or do you need to hire staff with additional skills?
  • Capacity refers to the organizational structure in place, the number of staff needed to support the CRM, and the expected workload of those staff. We all know that nonprofits can be chronically understaffed—if you’re struggling to stay on top of database maintenance, you may want to look at your staffing structure.
  • Change refers to your organization’s willingness to alter their roles, responsibilities, and workflows. If you have implemented a new CRM system but have poor user adoption, you may have some folks that are holding on to old ways of doing things.
  • Culture refers to the organizational characteristics that may affect optimization. This includes the support, both political and financial, that the Development office has within the organization and the level at which leadership will support the CRM.

Determine Your Knowledge Management Model

Another area of focus that is critical to your CRM success are your knowledge management and data governance procedures.

Adopting CRM as an enterprise-wide practice may mean a shift in expectations for knowledge management.  One of the first things to consider is whether you want to follow a centralized or decentralized model.

  • In a centralized model, you would have a relatively small team that handles all the data entry and system management.
  • On the other hand, you could spread the responsibility for data updates more broadly to multiple teams or departments in the organization, which decentralizes the work.
  • Or you could consider a combination of the two, depending on the data type.

Regardless of your model, you will need to make sure that data updates occur in a timely manner. The number one priority is getting all staff to understand that data is an organizational asset. Data belongs to the whole organization and you must set the expectation that if it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen.

If you want all staff to make use of your CRM and the important data within it, it’s vital that they understand it; this may require data education, in addition to software training.

Establish Your Data Governance Policies

The more data you want to include in your 360-degree view, the more need there is for data governance. Data governance is a system needed to effectively manage data and the corresponding policies, procedures, and practices surrounding that data.

You will need to establish a data governance committee to collaborate on data processes that are constantly evolving. The committee should include staff members from multiple functional areas who can collaborate on business rules and policies to protect this organizational asset–your data. The policies should determine what information is collected and how, as well as outline the roles, responsibilities, and permissions for data collection and entry. Your data governance policies should clearly define who has access to what information, and in what system.

The committee should:

  • Set data standards and make sure they are maintained.
  • Evaluate existing data and perform routine data cleansing practices.
  • Create processes for resolving data inconsistency and inaccuracy.
  • Ensure system integrity is continuously monitored.

As data governance policies and procedures are developed, the committee should be responsible for communicating with the rest of the staff, as well as monitoring any issues that may arise with execution or compliance.

CRM is a Company-Wide Undertaking

“[CRM] is no longer the responsibility of a single department – it is a company-wide undertaking that drives the company’s vision, mission, and strategic planning. It succeeds only when all departments work together to achieve customer goals.” (Kotler & Keller).

So when thinking about your CRM, remember to think beyond just the software, and focus on your people and processes, and you’ll be on your way to a truly optimized CRM.

If you’d like to learn more about CRM Optimization, view our webinar More Than Just Software: What to Consider When Optimizing Your CRM.

Do More With Your Data

When your CRM is optimized, your team is energized and working at peak efficiency. When it’s not, everyone struggles to access the accurate information they need. Let our experienced nonprofit CRM professionals bring your platform up to speed.

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