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Does Switching the “C” in CRM to Constituent Matter?

CRM Systems for Fundraising

Does switching the “C” for customer to constituent in CRM tools for nonprofits matter? Donor relationship management as a concept is an honorable one–without donors, nonprofits close their doors. Creating, maintaining, and strengthening donor relationships with constituents has always been the keystone of a viable nonprofit’s existence. In this article, I discuss the subtle difference in CRM solutions for for-profit organizations and nonprofits.

The Term Customer Relationship vs. Constituent Relationship  

Let me start out with putting a frame around CRM. In the for-profit world, there is a decades-long history of software aimed at for-profit customer relationship management. In the for-profit world, CRM (customer relationship management) includes all aspects of interactions that a company has with its customers, whether it is sales or service-related. While the phrase customer relationship management is most commonly used to describe a business-customer relationship (B2C), CRM is also used to manage business to business (B2B) relationships. Information tracked in a CRM system includes contacts, accounts, clients, history, opportunity management, contract wins, sales leads and more.

It’s interesting to note that using the term customer vs. constituent somehow makes a difference. To some in the nonprofit world, just changing out nomenclature or references to things rings true to them. As one of my professors would say, it brings verisimilitude. For many nonprofit executives, terms such as sales, opportunity management, & leads is too harsh to reference for donations, moves management, or donors.

The Subtle Difference in Terminology

Thinking about the software as “constituent relationship management,” seems to help move the concepts to the nonprofit lexicon. Think about the following concepts we use in the nonprofit world and the corresponding equivalents in the for-profit sector:

  1. Moves Management = Conversion of Prospects

  2. Sales=Donations or Dues

  3. Membership or Donor Development Officer= Sales Adviser or Account Executive

  4. Contribution Reporting of Donors = Financial Sales Management

  5. Demographic Management = Profile

In my mind, it should not matter if we call it “Customer” vs. “Constituent”. So, if we can get past the nuances of CRM vs. Constituent Relationship for fundraising why should you explore a relationship managment system. In other words, what are some compelling reasons your nonprofit may consider making the move to CRM tool (Or, whatever you want to call it).

Here are some market reasons your nonprofit may consider CRM tools for donor or member relationship management:

The Competition for a Constituent:

It seems that this is something a lot of nonprofits don’t want to talk about today. Every government cut contributes to the growing set of nonprofits who are competing for a shrinking set of donor dollars. Further, in the membership sector of nonprofits, every association is vying for the attention of their members and competing with a multitude of for-profit entities and even public social networking sites. It doesn’t matter which sector you are in today, competition is fierce. CRM tools help you be more competitive.

Social Intelligence Insight of Constituents:

Finding new donors means going where they are and finding out what they do so that you can appear in the places where they live online. For instance, millennials say they want to give, and they have the disposable income, but mailing campaigns are not enough anymore. Many CRM tools today incorporate the profile of various social channels your donors are participating in. And, you can easily determine which channels of spending time on and understanding what’s important to your constituents with these features.

Lower technology risk:

If a for-profit executive has been around for a while, they heard an earful in the early days about CRM failures. Today, CRM software has been in the market long enough to eliminate the risk of buying a CRM tool that simply doesn’t work for your organization. Even new CRM Software designed for nonprofits just entering the market have a plethora of features and functionality which are able to benefit your goals of developing strong relationships. To a degree, I believe that both the for-profit sector and nonprofit sector are apprehensive about spending money on CRM. But, shouldn’t be with the success found today.

Application Revolution:

Making donations easy through apps has become the next need for any nonprofit. If a potential donor can become an actual donor through an app on their phone, the amount of data gathered can become as valuable as the dollars they give. If you can connect your nonprofit to a forward-thinking, community-invested for-profit’s app, even better. This is one area where CRM tools may differ in terms of use case. But, still prevalent scenario in both sectors.

Does switching the “C” in CRM to constituent matter? I think it may be summed up with the old saying “You stay tomato, I say tomato!” Certainly, not every horizontal CRM tool (those designed for a generic organization) will have the key ingredients your nonprofit needs to take the next step. A vertical CRM system designed for your particular needs may be more appropriate.

What is the best fit for you? Contact us today for advice and consultation to help you make the smart software decision for your organization.

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