Budget Considerations for an eCRM Change


The end of your fiscal year is rapidly approaching and you need to change your eCRM – what should you do? Keep reading for tips on how to work an eCRM change into your budget approvals. The right change can help you win more campaigns and raise more money for your organization in the year to come.

How much this is going to cost is likely the very first thing that comes to mind. That’s a logical jump, so let’s start at the beginning. A lot goes into estimating the cost of a new eCRM. Consider existing expenses, potential migration costs and new platform fees.

So, let’s start at the top to break this down.

Create a baseline

Your baseline is your performance on and cost of the existing eCRM. If you’re considering a move, likely you’re already unhappy for one reason or another. But let’s look at facts to build the basis of where you are and what you think you could be doing better. The baseline should inform the transformation you want to see based on data and experience. Here are some things to consider:

Current eCRM cost

What is the cost of the current system? Be sure to evaluate monthly/annual fees, transaction fees, costs of modules and even the cost of potential growth on the existing eCRM should you stay. If you have rapid growth in mind, this can become costly depending on your eCRM’s pricing model – how does your cost model change when you reach a certain number of supporters? What about based on emails sent?

Current results

Gather information on the last year or two of revenue online, campaign responses, open rates, click-through rates, email deliverability, etc. Let this data be the baseline of your current system. Keeping in mind that a new eCRM won’t just change these – that’s up to how you and your team implement and execute campaigns – but that a new eCRM may facilitate change through ease of use and new functionality.

Staff experience

Are your staff getting the support they need? This relates to ongoing training on existing and new modules as well as daily support requests. Do they get their questions answered? Do they feel supported and like they can learn to use new tools?

User experience

Does your current platform enable you to provide a good user experience to activists and donors? You want conversions. You want people to complete your forms whenever and wherever they are. Some systems provide mobile-ready templates, options for digital wallets and more to help maximize supporter experience. Does this sound like your current eCRM?


You have big ideas. Do you feel like you’re always trying to hack your eCRM to make it do something it ‘can’t’? While no eCRM will always do what you want, some are easier to bend to your will – more flexible. Give some thought to what you want to do in the future and how your current system can handle that.

Future considerations for Your Nonprofit eCRM

Is your current eCRM pretty much exactly the same as it was when you first started? If so, that’s a shame. The digital space we work in implies innovation. If your eCRM isn’t innovating and adding new features and modules they’re not thinking of the future or client needs. But, look past your current eCRM and forward to what you want and what it could be. Give strategic thought to how your eCRM will work for your team now and in the future. Your organizational outlook is part of these future considerations as well. Think of how your eCRM can solve problems across your entire organization while improving your team’s results.

We call this technology forward or tech-forward and it’s part of a more significant technology transformation. If you’d like to dig deeper on tech-forward and technology transformation, this article by McKinsey is excellent.

The concept is simple yet complex but the essence is that your technology should help you solve current AND future problems. It should simplify organizational issues and work across systems. Finally, the technology isn’t just about the product you choose, it’s about the company you partner with – your eCRM in this case – and how it works to adapt and grow over time – ideally presenting solutions to future challenges.

the nature conservancy logo

Who’s done this? The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC joined the Engaging Networks family in early 2020. Their journey began after a detailed digital transformation strategy they completed with Engaging Networks accredited partner, Beaconfire RED. They specifically sought a technology-forward platform and company and chose Engaging Networks. Hear it from Michael Cervino, Director of Membership Operations at The Nature Conservancy in this great interview.

Gather information and compare

information gathering written on a notepad

Assess your current and future needs to determine what you currently expect – and hope to get in the future – from your eCRM. Many organizations complete a requirements matrix to help guide their needs as well as to help the software companies respond to their needs.

Take a look at your options. There are a growing number of nonprofit eCRMs available on the market. Some cater to large enterprise nonprofits and others to smaller start-ups. Some can accommodate both. Your best place to start is your peer network and then Google with a basic search of ‘nonprofit eCRM’ or something similar. Vary your searches and be sure to dig down to the 3rd or 4th page results to evaluate all options. Choose the top 5 or so that seem to be the best match for your organization based on your needs.

The next step is to get basic pricing. Even a pricing range from the sales team will help you weed out options that are too expensive. That said, don’t be afraid to stretch outside your comfort zone. You can make a case for the cost of better tools if you can justify better results.

Migration cost considerations

data migration

How much do you think it costs to migrate your data from the current eCRM to a new one? That’s a good question. How much is involved with your migration? Here are some things to consider when estimating migration costs:

  • Do you plan to set up the database in your new eCRM yourself or do you need help?
  • Migration is a good time to do data cleansing. Does your team have the expertise and time?
  • Does your team have the capacity to do the download data from the old eCRM and upload to your new one on their own?
  • Does the new eCRM company have an onboarding process or team to assist you with migration?
  • Can your internal team develop the email and page templates needed to go-live? If not, does the new platform have out-of-the-box options to help you get started?
  • System overlap. This consideration is simply the cost of operating on your current eCRM while paying to set up your existing eCRM until go-live.
  • Should you work with a partner? Consider working with a migration partner who can manage some or all of the work. This is an additional cost but well worth it in many cases.

Final cost analysis and budget recommendations

Take all of the potential costs into account from new eCRM fees, transaction fees, module costs and migration costs. It can take some time and effort to research and compile these numbers so don’t wait until the last minute. Put together a line item breakdown of costs if you’re able and that’s organizational best practice. Or, create a potential cost range for your budget request. Either way, it will be informed by your research.

The goal is to get this into your budget request for annual approval. In an ideal scenario, you’d get this approved with enough time to do product evaluation and demos prior to the start of the new fiscal year. Then you’re ready to sign your new eCRM contract as soon as the new budget cycle begins and you can get started on migration.

Making your case for a New Nonprofit eCRM

In most cases, you’ll need to make a case to management for why you need a new eCRM – and for the extensive expenses involved with the change. Go back to your original baseline to start your list of reasons you need to make the move.

  • Current cost – Will you save money on the new platform?
  • Current results – Will you make more money and win more campaigns on the new platform? If you think so, give some thought to how you’ll back this up with data or case studies from other organizations using the new tools.
  • Staff experience – Will your staff be better trained and more confident on the new toolset? Will this create efficiencies freeing time for other work?
  • User experience – Does the new eCRM provide a better internal and external user experience? This can make it easier to deploy new campaigns and for supporters to take action.
  • Flexibility – Does the new toolset have a proven forward-thinking, innovation-based mindset and flexibility to give you the options you need in the years to come?

Can you think of any other substantial reasons for a new eCRM to present alongside your budget request?

Setting the budget is a stressful process. Planning a nonprofit eCRM migration is a very stressful process. But, with some thought and planning, you can justify the move and make a smooth transition. Just know the areas where you need improvement, your options, your potential costs (at least as you can anticipate them) and where you want to be in the future. Then you can successfully make the case needed for a new nonprofit eCRM.

Additional tools to help guide your eCRM transition

Are you looking for additional resources to help you plan, evaluate and select a nonprofit eCRM? Visit our Ultimate Guide to eCRM Selection site for downloadable guides, videos and case studies to help you.

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