CRM for Nonprofits

Nonprofits use a CRM as a central database to manage their contacts, donors, and other supporters. A nonprofit CRM is a type of donor management software that helps organizations understand and maximize their relationships with donors.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

What Is A CRM For Nonprofits?

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A Nonprofit CRM is a platform that helps organizations understand and maximize their relationships with their donors. Also known as a “Constituent Relationship Management” system, the software is synonymous with a nonprofit database or a donor management system that organizes donor data, identifies donor trends, and makes recommendations to increase the likelihood of receiving future donations.

In the for-profit world, a CRM refers to a “Customer Relationship Management” system. It is used in the same way as a nonprofit CRM, but to manage customer relationships instead of donor relationships. Some CRMs can serve both nonprofits and for-profits, but a dedicated system for your org type is always best.

Though there are some alternatives to using a CRM, it’s widely considered to be the best way for organizations to bring together all their data.

How Do Nonprofits Use A CRM?

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Nonprofits use a CRM to manage their contacts, donors, and other supporters. It’s a central location for their data that can be used to help understand and maximize relationships with donors. Not only can you track the donations that come in, but you can also get information about the donors themselves. A nonprofit CRM compiles all of this in one place: a single platform that streamlines vital information.

What’s The Value Of Investing In A Nonprofit CRM?

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Organizations without a CRM can suffer from an “aggravation factor” when it comes to their donor data; that means it’s difficult to find the information they need when they need it. The right CRM can help nonprofits reduce the aggravation factor, saving time and resources. All of that energy can then be invested more in an organization’s mission.

Here are some of the ways that a nonprofit CRM has helped nonprofits reduce frustration and focus more on their mission:

Task automation

Laura is a donor relations professional who uses her nonprofit CRM to functionally gain an extra work day at Oasis For Orphans. By using her nonprofit CRM, she was able to save 8 hours every week with task automation.

What would normally take her eight hours only takes a fraction of the time because she’s using a CRM with automated reporting, donor groups, and an integration with her email marketing platform. Now she can create a personalized donor experience and spend those extra eight hours on more pressing concerns.

Read Laura’s Story

Easy-to-access donor information

No one knows more about the aggravation factor than Jennifer, the Communications Director at a nonprofit that supports a New Jersey charter school. It’s a small organization that’s making world-class education accessible for children from unprivileged backgrounds. With only one full-time staff member, Jennifer couldn’t afford to not have a CRM. By moving to an intuitive nonprofit CRM, Jennifer says the aggravation factor was reduced “by 100%.”

“It makes my job so much easier, and I can spend my energy on doing the things I want to do for the students that we serve,” says Jennifer.

With her CRM, Jennifer says she’s able to find the information she needs in two clicks because it’s accessible and in one place.

Read Jennifer’s Story

Contact records and task reminders

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Increasing your donor base is a good thing, right? Well it is if you’re able to keep up with all these donors as they grow. And did we mention the supporters you have that haven’t donated yet? Those relationships are important to manage too.

A good CRM has features that make relationship management easier and ensure your stress levels don’t rise with every new contact. For example, contact profiles give you a detailed record of every interaction you have. You can see when your donors last gave and how much they gave. You can also see what emails you’ve sent them and what you talked about on your last phone call or in-person meeting. You can even set reminders to set up a thank you phone call with your major donors so no one falls through the cracks.

Actionable analytics and reporting

Your nonprofit has a lot of data. But without a CRM, where does it live? It’s likely it will be spread out in several different platforms—email data in your email service provider, fundraising data in your online fundraising platform, transaction data in your payment processor. But with a CRM, you’ll be able to keep all your valuable data in one location so you can gain actionable insights about your donors.

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Your nonprofit CRM should be able to run reports like a LYBUNT report to help you see your lost donors or a first-time givers report so you can add them to a welcome email series. Plus, a nonprofit CRM can give you high-level insights on your organization, showing visuals like a donor pyramid or donor lifecycle. This makes it easy for you to see the health of your organization at a glance.

How Does A Nonprofit CRM Help With Fundraising?

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A CRM for nonprofits is designed to help you manage all of your donor data in one place. It’s a great alternative for organizations who have outgrown spreadsheets or are looking to really understand and utilize their data to maximize their impact.

A nonprofit CRM is also capable of helping with fundraising by predicting which donors are the most likely to give larger amounts of money, showing if and how donors are connected to each other, and offering insight on what their giving habits are. For instance, with CRM tools, you can track when donors give and how often they give and predict when and how much they are likely to donate in the future.

CRM tools also improve efficiency by organizing donations by giving levels and managing all donations in one location, even if they are obtained across social networking platforms, email campaigns, and organization events.

What’s The Best Nonprofit CRM?

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Because each nonprofit is unique, the best nonprofit CRM is the one that has the features, integrations, and support that meet your organization’s needs. We also recommend that you consider the results that you can expect from your CRM. How long will it take for your team to go live with the CRM? How long will it take to see a return on investment? To see data from verified nonprofit users, check out our ranking of the best nonprofit CRMs based on which providers give the best results.

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Source: G2 Fall 2020 Nonprofit CRM Results Index

If you’re looking to invest in a nonprofit CRM, we recommend you talk with your team about what’s most important for your organization. To help move you in the right direction, we’ll provide some features and integrations to consider when making your list, plus some considerations when it comes to pricing, support, and training. We recommend using these considerations to compare nonprofit CRM software options.

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Compare Nonprofit CRMs


When it comes to nonprofit CRM features, we recommend considering your needs in four categories: fundraising tools, communication tools, donor management tools, and tracking and reporting tools. We’ll include specific examples for each category:

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Fundraising Tools

The fundraising tools within a nonprofit CRM should allow you to easily create beautiful online fundraising campaigns and add them to your website, social media, and email marketing campaigns. Fundraising tools should also give you a deeper understanding of how your donors are giving, whether it’s online, in person, or through other fundraising tools.

See More Fundraising Tools

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Donor Communications

Donor communications features give you the ability to automatically send fundraising receipts, create to-do’s for your team, and thank your donors when they give to your organization. Most tools will also allow you to segment your donors by specific filters and then easily add them to a group, print letters, send appeals, or sync them with your email marketing platform.

See More Communication Tools

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Donor Management

With donor management tools, you can easily track all of your fundraising efforts, communications, and other essential activities in one central location. You’ll also be able to know your donors better than ever before with key insights on big picture trends alongside day-to-day specifics.

See More Donor Management Tools

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Tracking & Reporting

Most donor management tools also offer tracking and reporting features, meaning you can quickly and clearly spot trends that you can immediately take action on to improve the health of your organization. You can also build, save, and schedule custom reports to easily access the information that matters most to your organization.

See More Tracking & Reporting Tools

Software Integrations

You’re likely already using software for online fundraising, payment processing, accounting, and communication. The good news is that you don’t have to give up the tools you’re already using when investing in a CRM if you choose one with robust integration options.

We recommend that you make sure that your new CRM can integrate with the software you’re using. This helps keep all your data in one place without having to learn how to use an “all-in-one” software. You can use a resource like this Data Audit Checklist to guide you through this information.

Download The Free Data Audit Checklist

Check to see which integrations are available for:

  • Email Marketing Providers like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Emma
  • Event & Auction Platforms like Eventbrite and myRollCall
  • Fundraising Tools like GoFundMe Charity
  • Payment Processors like Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Authorize.Net
  • Accounting Software like QuickBooks

See More Integrations

Pricing & Fees

While some nonprofit CRMs have straightforward pricing, others have several types of fees.

Here are some of the different types of fees to look for and ask about:

  • Platform fees are a percentage of each transaction that the platform keeps.
  • Transaction & Processing fees apply to credit card processing and take a percentage of each transaction.
  • Monthly/Yearly fees are the amount you pay regularly to have access to the platform.
  • Hidden fees are fees that are not explicitly mentioned in the pricing. Make sure you ask about extra fees for additional features, integrations, and support access.

Support & Training

Even the most tech-savvy users will likely need help with their CRM at some point. It’s important to make sure your CRM provider will be available to help when you need it.

Here are some types of support to ask about:

  • Onboarding & Data Migration – When you invest in a new CRM, you’ll need to migrate your donor data to the system. Does the CRM provide a service to help you get your data organized in their platform?
  • Customer Support – Does the CRM offer free email and phone support? Do they have a Help Center where you can find articles on the platform?
  • Ongoing Training – Does the CRM provide ongoing training to help you make the most of the platform?
  • Nonprofit & Fundraising Consulting – Does the CRM provide any fundraising consulting services?

Your CRM Is About Relationships

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At the end of the day, prioritizing your donor data is about prioritizing your donors. A CRM isn’t just a fancy spreadsheet; it’s a way to improve your relationships with your donors and ultimately maximize your impact in the world.

The best part? You might actually be like our friend David who made 6-7 times more than the cost of his nonprofit CRM just by investing in using one. If you want to eliminate aggravation, improve donor relationships, and generate more revenue for your organization, why not start looking today and find the nonprofit CRM to meet your needs?

Read David’s Story

Bottom Line

Nonprofits use a CRM as a central location to manage their contacts, donors, and other supporters. A nonprofit CRM helps organizations understand and maximize their relationships with donors.