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Tech Insights 5 min read

What is a CRM for non-profit organizations?

You may have heard of CRMs – in other words, Customer Relationship Management systems – in the context of other companies, but what is it really? And why is it relevant for a non-profit, especially if your non-profit organization doesn’t technically have “customers”?

A CRM is a software solution that brings all customer interactions across all channels into one place to help organizations manage data centrally to improve customer experience, satisfaction, retention and service.

CRMs were originally designed for sales, marketing and service. But more and more, CRMs can integrate with all aspects of an organization’s operations and business to manage relationships and projects between team members, vendors, partners and collaborators.

Why should your non-profit use a CRM software?

While non-profit organizations don’t have customers per se, they do have donors, who have the same needs as customers in a for-profit company. Donors need:

  • Engagement through relevant and timely communication
  • Relationship nurturing to keep them informed and make sure they continue to care about your cause
  • Efficient and personalized service to show them that they matter

And just like a for-profit company, your non-profit shares the same needs of:

  • Structuring your data in one centralized place for ease of access and transparency
  • Reporting capabilities that allow you to analyze your data and uncover insights
  • Automation of repetitive, time-consuming tasks
  • Event planning (maybe even more than for-profit organizations!)
  • And integrations with your other software systems

Don’t be fooled by the name, the CRM for non-profit organizations is the donor management solution all non-profits need.

What features should you look for in a CRM for non-profits?

Based on the elements that most non-profit organizations have in common, we have identified certain key features that you should seek out when you are choosing a CRM for your non-profit organization.

Donor profiles

The most important feature a CRM should offer non-profit organizations is the ability to create and manage donor profiles with a 360-degree data overview. By centralizing all data about your donors in one place, you’ll ensure that everyone in your organization who needs it has that donor information at their fingertips.

No more information kept on paper, sticky notes, files on individual computers, or in people’s heads. Everyone will have access to a complete profile and history of each and every donor when they need it. That means that when you hire new people, or people get shifted from one team to another, or one fundraising project to another in your organization, it’s easy for a new member of your staff to step in and provide top-notch service because they’ll have access to a fully developed donor profile.

By keeping better, centralized donor records, you’ll gain a better understanding of your donors. Sometimes it can be easy to build a relationship with a donor but hard to track it. A CRM for non-profits will let you keep track of where donors are in their donor journey: for instance, when did your relationship with them begin, how many communications they have received from you and via which channels, what is their level of engagement, their past involvement and their future commitments? You’ll also track everything you need to know about them as individuals so that the next time one of your representatives speaks with them, they’ll be able to give them the personalized service they deserve.

Marketing strategy

Your CRM should be your own personal marketing assistant, there to help you with all marketing-related objectives. A CRM strives to help you:

  • Better understand your audience
  • Increase donor retention
  • Establish or optimize your omnichannel presence
  • Communicate effectively
  • List your market segmentation
  • Target your campaigns
  • Send our smart emails and webforms
  • Provide template design to reinforce your brand

Analyze your data

The CRM not only gives you a centralized place to store donor profiles and information, it makes sure that you are using that information to its full capacity. The CRM uses artificial intelligence to help you analyze copious amounts of data so that you can make data-driven marketing decisions.

It should come with prebuilt dashboards and marketing analyzers, and give you the ability to use built-in A/B testing that allows you to test both your content and donor behavior.

Build marketing campaigns

Use the CRM for non-profits to identify, target and build campaigns around different types of donors. Create campaign assets quickly with marketing automation features such as configurable branded templates, reusable content blocks and design tools.

Simplify event-planning

The CRM will also let you simplify event management – be they in-person events or online webinars. The right CRM for non-profits will provide attendee-facing web portals and registration, and features that allow you to manage sessions, speakers and venue logistics, including integration with webinar providers.

Save time on emails

The CRM for non-profits can save you a huge investment in time when it comes to writing emails and making sure they are sent to the right person at the right times. The CRM provides templates and also lets you preset a delivery time thanks to a smart scheduler. Sending the right email at the right moment can make the difference between a low and a high open rate. The CRM will help you keep track and improve open rates.

The automation features of the CRM also mean that you can send automatic reminder emails or follow-up emails. No need for you to remember when you sent what and to whom – the CRM does it for you and makes sure donors receive the appropriate email at the time you intended.

Landing pages

Your CRM for non-profits will let you build easy landing pages with automated forms that send information directly back into the CRM. You’ll know who opened the email and followed through by engaging with your non-profit. A donor’s interaction with the landing page will also trigger an automatic email thanking them for their generosity on behalf of your organization.

Manage more than just donors

There are many other players involved in your day-to-day activities than just your donors. You have volunteers, employees and staff members, partners, board members and potential donors. The CRM can be used to manage the relationships with all of these groups of people.

While it’s called a Customer Relationship Management tool, a CRM for non-profits is so much more than that. In both business and the non-profit world, everything boils down to relationships and loyalty. The CRM is a critical tool to make sure that you have the best possible relationships with everybody that you interact with, serve, and rely on.

Which is the best CRM for non-profit organizations?

How to choose the best CRM for non-profit organizations in the market? Although every organization and every field is different, our analysis of the top CRMs on the market lead us to believe that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the best CRM out there for non-profit organizations.


Microsoft Dynamics offers all of the features that matter most to non-profits, namely donor management, marketing strategy support, event planning, email automation and data analysis to name only a few. It is also unparalleled in its ability to offer a complete ecosystem of solutions that connects with other platforms you may already be using or plan to use in the future. Its CRM is always in evolution, meaning that you will never be left behind on the latest developments. And its solutions is highly customizable.

For more information on what a CRM for non-profits can do for your organization and to get the big picture on which software is right for you, speak to one of our CRM consultants.

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August 18, 2020 by Frédéric Charest VP of Marketing

Data-driven Growth Marketer with a Passion for SEO - Driving Results through Analytics and Optimization