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Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

  • 1.  Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 30, 2018 14:48
    We are a small non-profit organization running several software platforms concurrently, and we're looking to integrate as much as possible into one CRM platform. We are also way over capacity already, so we need the integration process to be as efficient as possible. We have two main questions:
    1. Is there a specific CRM that most small businesses/NPO's prefer? (e.g. Salesforce, fmyi, Apptivo, Zoho)
    2. What's the best way to manage the integration for efficiency? Have one admin handle everything, or make it a team effort?

    *Note: The software for small biz and the software for membership needs to have different functionality. When we started in Feb 2017, our very first admin was very small biz focused, and she found a tool that was great for small biz but as we got into it a few months later, it was apparent that it wasn't the right fit.

    Thanks to all for your advice on this important issue for our org!

    Ashley Henry
    Business For A Better Portland
    Portland, OR

  • 2.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 30, 2018 15:01
    What are the list of software platforms you are running concurrently? The idea of integrating everything into one CRM may be more efficient theoretically but at same time may not be practical based upon your needs.

    K. Howard Enterprise Solutions LLC
    Kyle O'Donnell

  • 3.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 30, 2018 15:12
    Thanks Kyle--we are currently running Monday.com, Memberspace, Slack, Stripe, and Zapier (a lot, I know)

    Ashley Henry
    Business For A Better Portland
    Portland, OR

  • 4.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 30, 2018 15:04
    Hey Ashley,

    There are a ton of options out there - and picking one should depend on your specific needs. Have worked with many of them and they each of have something to recommend them - but they fit a specific situation/type of client. Even those built for "membership" or "nonprofits" don't necessarily fit all membership or nonprofit. Working with a good partner can help you ferret out best fit.

    For managing the process, it's great to have a point person - and get the input from a variety of users for the needs assessment. Again, exactly how to approach for you will depend on your organization and needs.

    If you want to discuss in more details, feel free to reach out. Have worked with more CRMs in both nonprofit and business settings than I can count (ok, I could, but I'd have to admit that it also makes me sound old, lol).

    Have a great day!


    Cassie Dennis
    Director | Monday Loves You
    Office: 312-973-1112
    Mobile: 650-773-7680

    We rebranded: here's why. 

  • 5.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 30, 2018 15:14
    Thanks so much for your advice, Cassie! We may be in touch to get some more:)

    Ashley Henry
    Business For A Better Portland
    Portland, OR

  • 6.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 31, 2018 08:50

    Hi Ashley,

    Another good one to consider is CiviCRM. It's open source and built in the States, and has very strong website integration. It has its drawbacks too, like any other system. If you'd like any details about that platform just let me know.


    As Kyle says you may not be able to get all the way down to just 1 system, but trying to reduce the number is definitely a good approach. :)


    Some of the systems you listed I wouldn't really consider in the CRM space, I'd see them more as internal productivity tools for example. Rather than focusing just on the CRM choice, I'd suggest looking at your overall needs and thinking about what combination of tools could meet those needs and fit well together. You might end up with a few tools like:

    Office 365


    CRM + public website








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    PeaceWorks™ Technology Solutions
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    Mission driven technology solutions





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  • 7.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 03, 2018 09:49
    Another +1 for CiviCRM. I'll happily chat with you about our experiences with it if you have questions, and may even be able to spin up your own copy of our setup for you to play with.

    Jonathan Leistiko
    The TexVet Initative
    Round Rock, TX

  • 8.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 31, 2018 11:10
    Edited by Medha Nanal Aug 31, 2018 11:12
    Hi Ashley,

    I agree that what will be suitable for you will depend on your needs, and in my view, medium-to-long term goals as well. I am a strategic tech consultant and I help nonprofits with needs assessment and CRM selection, among other things. In your original question, you mentioned Zoho as a potential CRM. I would like to mention that although Zoho is a great system for small-med businesses, they do not have much exposure to nonprofit space, and for this reason I typically recommend that nonprofits get a CRM that is more entrenched in nonprofit space. A number of successful and very well-designed commercial CRM systems do not work for nonprofits.

    Also, a lot of CRM's that are available in the Marketplace are not exactly the same, and do not offer same features as other, therefore comparison is not exactly Apples to Apples.  Each product brings its own pros/cons or strengths/weaknesses.

    Feel free to get in touch if you wish to discuss more, using my information below.

    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)

  • 9.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Aug 31, 2018 11:36
    Hi Ashley,
    I'm going to make a strong recommendation for Salesforce. We started working with it here at the Scholarship Foundation about a year and a half ago and I'm absolutely thrilled with it so far. You can set up an account with Salesforce and their non-profit success pack (NPSP) and 10 free licenses at no cost until or unless you decide you need more than 10 licenses and even then it's about $36/month per additional user. The platform does require that someone on your staff invest the time to learn how to configure and manage it, but it's incredibly powerful and a lot of bang for the buck.  It's backed by a large number of Saleforce employees focused on non-profit success at Salesforce.org, and a huge community of people at non-profits across the country doing using the platform to do what we do, sharing their experiences and collaborating on how to solve their problems. Happy to discuss more if you'd like.

    Rob Foley
    IT Director - The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis

  • 10.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 01, 2018 07:24
      |   view attached
    I actually just did a presentation on this topic.  There probably isn't a perfect fit but hopefully the attached slides help you narrow it down to see what might work for you.

    Michelle Reagan
    Information and Operations Manager
    Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country
    Franconia NH


  • 11.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 07, 2018 06:55
      |   view attached
    Please find a revised powerpoint.  I noted which slides I received from the Making Wise Decisions toolkit.  I highly recommend using this toolkit and the other resources in helping you determine which software as they definitely help you narrow your choices.

    Michelle Reagan
    Information and Operations Manager
    Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country
    Franconia NH


  • 12.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 04, 2018 08:56
    Hi Ashley,

    Deciding what CRM is best for you is like deciding what suit to buy...it depends.  The most important step in the process is engaging stakeholders and writing down your requirements.  It doesn't have to be an overwhelming project, but a little rigor will make a tremendous difference.  Not just in selecting the right tool, but setting you up for an effective implementation.

    I wrote a short paper about the subject if you're interested.https://goo.gl/mXwVWa


    - Steve

    Steve Beshuk
    Vice President
    Benefactor Group
    Columbus, OH

  • 13.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 05, 2018 06:14
    One of the best handbooks for technology selection, which lays out the entire process, is "The Right Way to Select Technology by Tony Byrne and Jarrod Gingras (Rosenfeld Media).  Before you dive into creating requirements spreadsheets, check out the section on creating a business case and building a selection team.  These "foundations" are critical to the overall selection process.  Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of "try before you buy" which goes beyond the demos and includes sessions to actually use the software (they call it a "bake-off").  There should be no surprises once you begin using the software.  Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

    Joe Keenan
    Hudson, NY

  • 14.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 05, 2018 08:11

    Inasmuch as your organization is new, small and growing it might be best for you to consider one system that can manage most of your needs, one database, one vendor to manage like iMIS 20-200 from Advanced Solutions International.  Take a look at what we offer at iMIS by ASI: Non-Profit, Association, and Membership Software.

    Glad to talk about our products and services.  Please feel free to call me at 703-739-3100 x2352

    Nathan Slovin
    Director of Client Excellence Programs
    Advanced Solutions International

  • 15.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 05, 2018 11:19
    Hi Ashley, you have been given some terrific advice here.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Joe, Steve, and Medha. And, must say that Steve's article and insights are terrific!

    And, Medha makes a good point. There are so many proprietary software options today designed for nonprofits. As a nonprofit executive seeking a solution, we are all blessed with many good options today. So, looking at a generic CRM (not specific to the nonprofit industry) for your small nonprofit may be a drain in your time and resources.

    I have spent the last 15 years focused on software advisement services. And, my advice beyond the sage advice shared by others here is too focus on your specific business workflows/use case processes or programs which may make your organization unique (or will in the future). In my humble opinion, that is a key element to success in finding your best software fit.

    In order to find your "best" software fit, it's critical to take a step back before looking immediately at to software products. While it may feel like a little more time in the process, if you focus first on your organization's goals, strategy, and long term dynamics you will be in a better position to make a good decision in the end. Then, document your findings!

    The challenge is not finding software options to explore. Your peers here will be able to help in finding countless options. For most, the toughest part of the software selection process is making a choice between the final two or three which seem so closely alike.

    The last few inches of the software search can be excruciating if you don't follow a process agreed to by all parties involved.

    And, I always say that expectations need to be realistic. There is no perfect software option for everyone. Why? Because every nonprofit is unique. But, there is a perfect software fit for you!

    I wish you much success in your search and more importantly value in the rewards of it long term.

    What is the best software for my nonprofit!?

    Chad Stewart

  • 16.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Sep 05, 2018 14:52

    You are certainly getting loads of insight!  In terms of process, we can offer up the Making Wise Decisions toolkit as a resource for you.  This gives you some templates for pretty much every step all these great advisers have suggested.  The toolkit doesn't make specific system recommendations, but it will help you build that portfolio to get you through the selection process including team/budget/workflows/data mapping/etc.

    You can either take the (very short) quiz, or follow to the bottom of the page and use the consultants link to access the toolkit.

    I am also happy to share some time to give you a sense of things.

    All my best,

    Betsy Block
    B3 Consults
    Oakland, CA

  • 17.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Nov 25, 2018 13:55
    Hi Ashley,

    Here is a comparison chart that compares features, pricing, cloud vs. on prem options, and integration options of several different CRM tools including Salesforce, Kintone, CivicCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics. Hopefully this is helpful to you!

    A Guide to the Top CRM and Donor Management Systems

    Sima Thakkar

  • 18.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Nov 26, 2018 01:15
    Full disclosure: I'm a Salesforce Certified Administrator who provides Salesforce consulting services both in the States and internationally. I have been dismayed recently to hear repeatedly that Salesforce is too complicated to do for your organization yourself. In 2009, I installed Salesforce as a VISTA volunteer at the nonprofit I was serving and sat down and taught myself how to use it. It's true that I had previous database experience, using Microsoft Access, but actually Salesforce was so much easier to use than that, it was not an issue.

    Nowadays, Salesforce has a free training program that consists of a series of graduated lessons, starting with the absolute basics and running right up to sophisticated coding. But one of the tenets of my work is to show people that, while Salesforce CAN be highly complex and complicated, it doesn't have to be at all. The Nonprofit Success Pack, Salesforce's nonprofit fundraising application, does NOT require a consultant to set up, run and produce reports.

    I looked over the comparison chart listed here. Frankly, other than an off-the-cuff comment that you need a consultant to set it up, I don't see anything that puts Salesforce behind those listed. You get ten free licenses, you connect with a community where all the very best consultants in the business show up regularly to answer your questions right online for free. And there's the free training.

    I suggest you get a free trial-- you get 30 days to decide for yourself.

    Trish Perkins

    Trish Perkins, Certified Salesforce Administrator, Salesforce MVP
    High Point, NC

  • 19.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Nov 27, 2018 07:51
    Per Trish's post communicating that Salesforce is not too complicated for small organizations, this is absolutely true. As an organization in the business of implementing Salesforce for nonprofits, with special expertise in association / membership configurations, we have seen first hand how transformational implementing Salesforce can be. The whole point of Salesforce is its point-and-click configurability -- which includes configuring it to be as simple as the nonprofit wants / needs. Being able to invest in one system for all data management, consolidating your internal capacity in a system that you will never need to replace, that includes all interactions with all constituents -- this has been a dream come true for our hundreds of clients. Out of the box configurations specifically for nonprofits / associations cover fundraising, event management, volunteer management, CRM (ranked the #1 CRM in the world by independent market research like Gartner), grants management (give and get), membership, sponsorships, sales, marketing and communications, fellowships / internships, all kinds of surveys and applications, program management (food banks, homeless shelters, education / training -- any NTEE code), board portal / interactions, member / constituent portal / interactions -- the breadth of nonprofit business practices. There are a few good reasons we have seen where Salesforce is NOT the answer, but it should be considered any time a legacy system needs to be migrated to a new system. There is so much to say about this -- and I am delighted to talk one-on-one to anyone about the pros and cons. I'll close with "do your own research".

    Lisa Rau
    Co-Founder; Chairman
    Washington, DC

  • 20.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Nov 28, 2018 15:37
    It's amazing how many people have come forward to share their knowledge and expertise, and their products and services. I hope we haven't overwhelmed you! As for me, I'm an independent CRM assessment consultant who has been helping nonprofits, small and large, select CRMs for nearly a decade.

    To address the original questions:

    1) There is no consensus CRM for small nonprofits or for small businesses. The space is incredibly crowded, with literally hundreds of offerings. However, for small nonprofits, top choices in the marketplace today include Neon, Little Green Lights, and Bloomerang. Other great options also exist.

    2) Moving to a new CRM is a team effort. A single person should be empowered to manage the project, but everyone will be affected by the move, and should participate in the project to some extent.

    Most folks here know I'm strongly anti-Salesforce, or any platform-style, customizable offering (eg CiviCRM or Dynamics) for organizations that are small. In my experience it hasn't worked out especially well, and there are very strong offerings at this level of the market that I've seen succeed at a much higher rate. That's just me though, and others have gone on to do great things for their organizations  with those products, and some of them are telling those stories in this thread. I just wanted to be sure you heard a dissenting voice, and that you heard about great small-NPO products like Neon, Little Green Lights and Bloomerang too.

    Isaac Shalev
    Stamford CT

  • 21.  RE: Best CRM Software for a growing non-profit membership org.?

    Posted Nov 28, 2018 16:50
    "Customizable" and "configurations" are often simply terms that mean the CRM company gets to charge extra to add modules/extensions to actually make it work fully for an organization, and then consultants are paid a lot to "implement" (manage/run/fix) the CRM for small nonprofits lacking the staff skills to handle it all themselves. So of course Salesforce becomes their most recommended tool.

    Better for small organization is something that doesn't require all those add-on modules, extensions and consultant fees to get it moving for basic daily use. Many small orgs get sold on Salesforce then find the struggle in making it work, and that struggle - without the money to pay consultants to hover over them to manage basic tasks - means they end up using it in a sloppy manner, wasting time to figure out work arounds.

    Nicole Richards
    Development, Partnerships and Projects