CRM implementation – pedalling your way to success

What has two wheels and a saddle?

An extended metaphor in a blog post about CRM implementation might not have been the answer you were expecting.

This is another blog in our series for the Salesforce Foundation.  Our first focused on CRM procurement – selecting a CRM system for small non profits. This time, we focus on implementing CRM.

We share some of our tips and tricks for making the journey into a smooth adventure involving bicycles and planning.  Just because you need some kind of analogy  ….

We wrote this post for Salesforce Foundation, but the advice is valid whatever CRM system or donor database you are considering.

Our five top tips include:

  • Tip 1: Don’t start until you’ve clearly documented your project. At the minimum, you need terms of reference which includes the aims, scope and resources you need and will be using. Ideally you will also have identified what improvements the implementation will bring so you can evidence your success and measure return on investment. For those of us who like visual things, a timeline of what will happen, when and who will do it is also very helpful.
  • Tip 2: Make sure your CRM decision and planning includes all teams and departments, and that everyone is included and consulted about what is happening, why, when, and the impact it will have on them. It’s helpful to undertake a signposting exercise, which identifies the best tools to use with your CRM. The joy of Salesforce is that so many tools are compatible and configurable, but if you are moving from working without a CRM to adding a CRM, you may need to take this opportunity to undertake a strategic digital review as well as choosing your CRM.
  • Tip 3: Concentrate your time and resources on achieving the plan you agreed. Plan in regular review meetings with the key stakeholders from across the organisation. These meetings are a vital opportunity for everyone to share their progress (and any delays or potential hazards), and identify any changes that may need to be made as a result. Where opportunities to add new tasks, deliverables or developments exist, agree when, where and how they will be dealt with – perhaps a second phase when the primary project is finished? A single project leader is best to keep an overview of everyone’s different views, orchestrate the meetings and bring people into accord.
  • Tip 4: Allow plenty of time for User Acceptance Testing. Don’t save it all for the end, do it as you go to help build familiarity with the new system and iron out any niggles along the way. Testing is a skill in itself, so you may want to call on specialist help to manage this for you.
  • Tip 5: A clear project scope should lay out all your requirements and avoid underestimates. Regular project review meetings highlight risks like this ahead of time so you can manage them – and agree whether and how additional charges or time requirements can be accommodated. The scope should clearly layout what your training needs are – how many teams/days? You can’t skip this bit –it’s critical to your project being successful. A budget contingency will be vital if you are not entirely sure at the start what your exact requirements will be.

Of course, this doesn’t cover every step of the way (and you can extend a metaphor w-a-y too – so many puns waiting to be made), but we hope the top tips will help you think ahead a bit more and shape your plans.

CRM implementation is our ‘day job’, rather than a rather a challenging – sometimes scary – project that a smaller charity might be a bit reluctant to tackle alone and as a side focus of their main work.   There’s more to our blog than just a nice analogy, and more to our work than we share here.

So if you are left with questions after reading the blog, or have questions about your own project, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring (0845 458 0250) or drop us a note via our contact form.

 Other blogs you may be interested in:

Raiser’s Edge – Square Peg, Round Hole?

Square peg, round hole?

How do you know when your Raiser’s Edge system reaches the end of its ability to meet all your needs?  And what should you do then? Steve Thomas, Managing Director of Purple Vision shares his thoughts.

How do you know when your raiser’s edge system reaches the end of its ability to meet all your needs?  And what should you do then?

We see many clients attempting to extend the use of their RE systems – principally to store and organise data and synchronise points of contact from sources beyond the traditional boundaries of fundraising.  For example, communications, marketing, service delivery, advocacy and volunteering.

But there are many challenges to being able to achieve this including:

  • Ease of Use – limited or inflexible user experience
  • Lack of automation – manual data import/not automated or real time
  • Expensive – cost concerns in setup and/or ongoing use
  • Lack of choice – integration/use of few (or no) third party options
  • Remote/mobile access – limited availability on all platforms/ devices

We all want a single source of reliable data – the elusive 360 degree view – and we think it’s reasonable to expect some of these integrations to be possible with RE, especially if the other tools you use are open and work in a joined up way.

So how are people managing to extend (stretch, eek out) their raiser’s edge system to be more than just a donor database?  Here are some examples of what people have achieved.

Squ Peg - LARGE

What’s stopping you from developing your Raiser’s Edge?

It is important to recognise the vital difference between a database and a CRM system.

Few traditional fundraising record systems are actually CRM systems.  That’s not surprising as most were invented before the era of CRM.  Donor databases like ThankQ, Donor Strategy and The Raiser’s Edge are essentially highly featured lists of donors and gifts, whereas CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce and Blackbaud CRM are technology platforms that enable you to work with a single set of data and ‘best of breed’ tools across your whole organisation.

Raiser’s Edge simply wasn’t designed in the same way as a modern cloud-based CRM platform.  However you can still integrate with RE, but you are limited in choice and it takes time and technical-know how (for which there is often a cost).  It also takes time for your teams to adopt and use the clunky way things need to be done to get your data in the right place.

You’re not alone

Customer-facing technology is often regarded as the domain of the communications or fundraising departments, but in fact you will find similar needs and frustrations in every part of an organisation. Your colleagues in finance and operations are almost certainly struggling with the same technology blockages: poor data quality, security issues, user unfriendliness, inadequate reporting.  And with numerous separate data systems across your organisation, these are compounded.

Why it matters

But these problems are of no interest to supporters and service users. They live in the real world and they expect their relationship with you to be as good as those they have come to expect from Amazon, John Lewis or Expedia. Only with a CRM platform and integrated tools can you deliver against these expectations.

Proven and affordable systems now exist that enable you to join up your whole organisation in one efficient way and avoid the limitations of old technologies.  Working with a single platform you can choose the best tools to manage volunteers, grants, retail, finance and even service delivery.  All secure, accessible and synchronised.  Saving time and money, empowering relationships in all places and at all times, and releasing more people to focus on your mission.

That may be true but it doesn’t take account of the real world.  You are unlikely to be upgrading your whole technology platform any time soon.  You’ve got what you’ve got and the RE system that you use now is a robust piece of kit that is fit for purpose as a fundraising database.  Vitally, it is also familiar to your team and, although it may not address all your needs, it is a solid base for your current fundraising operations.

Digital First …

So, if you are using RE now, keep on using it.  It works.  You know how it works.

Meanwhile, to address the future, we suggest you flip your challenge on its head and start to think though the ‘mind-set’ for CRM, digital and integration.  In order to make all your customer-facing technology tools work, your organisation has to be willing and able to adopt them.

“Digital first” describes an organisation with the skills and attitudes necessary to operate in the digital world – where we anticipate supporters or members interacting more through social media, by email, and through the web.  It also points to the commitment your organisation needs to make.

Is this right for you?  Is it where you should be heading?  Think about those who are already on the road to digital first – commercially as well as in the non-profit sector – such as Tate, National Trust, AgeUK, MacMillan, NHS Choices, and Christian Aid.  Fair enough these are big names.  But it is easier for a small agile organisation to make this change – how long before the nonprofits you share space with are on the road?  And where will that leave you?

Our four-point plan for Digital First

  1. Digital First isn’t just about developing a new digital strategy; it’s about re-developing all your strategies so that they are implicitly digital. And then carrying them out.
  2. Digital First means listening and responding to your stakeholders every day.
  3. Digital First requires investment in people more than IT.
  4. Digital First is where it is second nature for everyone in your organisation, from the chair of trustees to the newest recruit, to work together digitally.

If you start with this approach to thinking about digital first, you will answer the question for yourself about how far you can stretch your Raiser’s Edge.  It might suggest that you need to start thinking differently and look at new tools – but your strategy is as unique as your organisation, and so it might not.

None of this happens overnight, so while you are contemplating just how digital you want to be, Blackbaud are also making all kinds of plans for Raiser’s Edge that might help meet your needs too.  So keep calm and carry on – think first, then act!