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Leveraging Your CRM for Impact: 3 Tips for New Nonprofits

A woman works on a laptop in a nonprofit office.

CRMs can be powerful tools for setting new nonprofits up for success.


Investing in constituent relationship management (CRM) software is a pivotal step for new nonprofits. These comprehensive databases house donor information to help you maintain accurate records, engage supporters in your mission, and streamline internal processes. Further, a robust CRM gives your organization a strong technological foundation to build on in the future as your needs evolve.

However, learning to leverage a CRM effectively can be a challenge for new nonprofits, especially those without much technical expertise. Use these basic tips to get the most out of your organization’s CRM and to use it to create more impact for your cause.

1. Familiarize Yourself with Your CRM’s Features

Before your nonprofit’s staff can leverage your CRM effectively, everyone needs to have a thorough understanding of how the platform works and what it can do. Whether you’ve just implemented a new CRM or have been using your platform for months, ensure that you understand its key features and how your organization can leverage them.

Depending on the platform you choose, these features might include:

  • Donor profiles: Create a profile for each donor where you can track their contact information, donations, involvement history, online engagement, and anything else you know about them. These profiles will be invaluable for personalizing donor communications and cultivating relationships that last.
  • Marketing automation: If your CRM includes marketing automation features, such as the ability to create automated email streams, you can leverage these features to save staff time and increase the relevance of your marketing communications. For instance, you might have donations on your website automatically trigger a series of donor thank-you emails.
  • Reporting dashboards: Explore the reporting capabilities of your CRM to see what insights you can glean from its analysis. The right reports can help you determine the success of your fundraising campaigns, tailor your marketing approach, and more.
  • Artificial intelligence: Some CRMs come equipped with predictive AI capable of analyzing donor profiles to discover the best prospects for increased giving. You can use these predictions to guide your donor stewardship efforts, helping you focus your attention on the donors who are most likely to give more to your cause.

Once you understand your CRM’s features, provide thorough training for all relevant team members so they can use the system effectively. This training can take different forms depending on your resources and the number of staff who need to use your CRM. Redpath’s Salesforce for Nonprofits implementation guide suggests starting with free training resources or working with a tech consultant to determine the best approach to training.

2. Establish Clear Data Management Policies

While you’re in the process of training your team on how to navigate your CRM and leverage its features, it’s important to outline and communicate clear guidelines for how staff members should access and manage sensitive data.

Establishing straightforward policies and procedures for your staff to follow when using your CRM is important for:

  • Recordkeeping: Keeping accurate records of your nonprofit’s donations, activities, and spending is vital to maintain legal compliance and retain your organization’s tax-exempt status. Establishing guidelines for how donor data should be reported in your CRM will help you ensure the accuracy and organization of your records.
  • Donor data privacy: Your CRM houses sensitive donor data like contact information and financial records. To keep this information safe and retain your donors’ trust, your data management policies should include clear restrictions on who is allowed to access sensitive data and what the data can be used for.
  • Internal efficiency: When staff members don’t use consistent methods or formats to input data into your CRM, it can be difficult and time-consuming to track down the information you need. Boost efficiency by setting guidelines for how data should be consistently formatted and organized.

With clear policies in place, you’ll be able to easily find data points you need to create tailored fundraising appeals, file tax forms like Form 990, and more.

Additionally, establishing uniformity now can help you scale your technology as your organization grows. For instance, you may decide down the line that you need to move to a more robust CRM to meet your nonprofit’s expanding needs. Moving from one CRM to another involves migrating your nonprofit’s data, a process that goes much more smoothly when your data is already organized, clean, and consistent.

3. Use Your CRM to Personalize Donor Outreach

One of your top priorities when starting a new nonprofit is securing funding and cultivating a strong base of committed donors—and your CRM can be instrumental in this process.

Recipients will only engage with your messages if they feel highly relevant to them, so personalizing message content for specific supporter segments is crucial. By tracking prospects’ personal information and interests in a centralized location, you can easily leverage your CRM to personalize outreach for potential supporters and increase the chances that they’ll donate.

Double the Donation explains that you can use a wide variety of data from your CRM to personalize your messages and increase relevance, including:

  • Personal and charitable interests
  • Preferred communication methods
  • Giving and involvement history
  • Involvement with other organizations
  • Employer data

For example, say that a prospect’s donor profile indicates that they prefer email messages, attended a fundraising auction recently, and work for a major corporation like Disney. You might use this information to send the following personalized email:

[First Name], thank you so much for attending last month’s auction! With your help, we were able to raise $12,000 for local food banks to feed community members in need. But there’s still plenty of work left to do. Would you be interested in making a small gift to continue fighting against hunger? You can even double your impact by requesting a matching gift from your employer! Click here to learn more or make a donation now.


These tips should provide you with a good jumping-off point to start leveraging your CRM to create more impact for your cause. For more personalized advice, consider reaching out to a nonprofit technology consultant who can analyze your existing technology usage and pinpoint exactly what you can do to improve your CRM’s ability to power your operations. Technology is essential to any new nonprofit’s success, so the more confident you feel using it, the better.

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