10 Essential Questions to Ask Before Selecting a New eCRM System

This post is provided  courtesy of Engaging Networks Accredited Partner, Zuri Group

So, you’re ready to transition to a new nonprofit eCRM system. But how do you know which platform will fulfill your needs? An electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) system transition requires thoughtful consideration of your team’s immediate needs and future goals. Before deciding which eCRM to implement, it’s essential to determine how exactly your current system both benefits and hinders those goals.

First, validate that a system migration is the right move. Improving your team’s use of the current system is nearly always the faster and much less expensive route. Here are some basic questions to start with.

  • Can you identify business objectives that the current system simply isn’t capable of meeting?
  • Did you provide adequate end-user training to your team… twice?
  • Have you tried everything in your hands to re-configure the system to work for your processes, not against them?

If you can answer yes to all those questions, then it’s probably time to bid farewell to the inadequacies of your current system and begin the quest for an effective replacement. During your journey, be sure to ask yourself and key team members these ten questions before deciding which platform to implement:

10 Questions to Ask Before eCRM Selection

What are the challenges or pain points within your organization? How does your current system either minimize or exacerbate these?

Both long-term and day-to-day challenges are often caused or solved by an eCRM. If you’re struggling with donor retention, meeting fundraising goals, or maintaining data, examine how your system is either contributing to or resolving these issues.

What does your current system do well or poorly?

Write down everything you can think of from user adoption to specific functionality to overall performance. Review your list and determine what could be improved through additional training, custom development, or system integrations.

What is your team happy with in the current system?

There must be some elements of your eCRM that work well, or it probably wouldn’t have been implemented in the first place. What are the redeeming qualities? Seek them out, and make sure to include them as requirements in your new system.

Looking for the Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit eCRM Selection?

Check out our landing page with papers to guide you through planning and selection, downloadable rtemplates, video guides and much more.

What would your team like to see improved?

This list could get quite long, which is great to gathering requirements that need to be included in the new system. Categorizing the list into back-end, front-end, and fundraiser-specific requests is often helpful, as every bullet point will help guide your decision.

What features are must-haves in a new system?

Cloud-based storage, workflow automation, reporting capabilities, and built-in email are nearly always a must. Fundamental elements will be specific to your nonprofit and the type of work it performs; for example, child sponsorship organizations must have a way to connect sponsors with beneficiaries, and healthcare organizations must use a HIPAA-compliant platform.

What is your current process and/or system for: online donations, major gifts, email marketing, and events?

Write these out in as much detail as possible and note wherever you see potential to improve inefficiencies or increase effectiveness.

Are you using any integrations with your eCRM? If so, what do they accomplish?

This includes any platforms, plug-ins, or custom development that your eCRM interacts with.

What are your challenges or pain points with other systems being used for online giving and donor management? Are there opportunities to consolidate platforms?

Migrating to a comprehensive eCRM solution may allow you to centralize your systems. Take as many opportunities as you can to streamline information and simplify routine workflows.

What other processes concerning online giving and donor management need improvement?

Brainstorm ways to empower your team by leverage technology in these areas.

What data do you want to migrate and why? Are you also migrating data from other systems?

Every piece of data should have a purpose, so know exactly what you want to migrate and why. If there’s no use for it, throw it out. As scary as that sounds, trust us. It’s time. This is your opportunity to analyze the types of data your team is maintaining and how it’s organized. Remove duplicate records and de-clutter your database for a fresh start in the new system.

Asking these ten questions to key team members (often in IT, marketing, or fundraising operations) will help you prioritize your wish list for selecting a new eCRM system. We’ll wrap up with our top three tips for a successful eCRM migration:

Tip #1

Set realistic expectations and meet every deadline

Tip #2

Get input from key stakeholders on your team

Tip #3

Test, test, test. Did we mention you should test?

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Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.