Budget Considerations for an eCRM Change

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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.

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

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

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.

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

Emily has worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 2019, working on a range of campaign areas to empower people with vision impairments to live the life they choose. Prior to this, Emily working in parliament and severed as a borough councillor.

Brani Milosevic ia a digital consultant and coach at https://www.digitalleadership.ltd/
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Rhiannan Sullivan is the Vice President of strategy and partnerships of social action network, Care2.com. Over the past 10+ years, she has worked with hundreds of UK and EU charities helping them grow and develop their digital fundraising programmes. Prior to working for Care2, Rhiannan worked at then political campaigning agency Blue State Digital, a global leading digital strategy agency who has helped many organisations build and engage online communities, clients included political and advocacy campaigns, non-­‐profit organisations, cultural institutions and global consumer brands.

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I joined the Woodland Trust in 2018 and now lead on policy and engagement campaigns working to improve protection, restoration and high quality creation of woods and trees. Prior to campaigning for trees, I worked in Peterborough, tackling fuel poverty in the community. I care deeply about the climate and nature crises and the many, intersectional impacts and solutions. Endlessly inspired and energised by the dedication and passion of our supporters and the public who take action time and time again.

Hannah Mudge is Digital Innovation Manager at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and has had the privilege of seeing the 147-year-old international development charity evolve over the last decade, from sending out its first online fundraising appeal to achieving record levels of income despite the challenges faced since the start of the pandemic. She is based in Peterborough and enjoys running, cooking and reading in her limited spare time when not parenting two lively boys. During 2020 she added ‘homeschooling’ to her skillset although what Ofsted rating she would achieve is probably best left to the imagination.

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Matt Strong is the Campaigns and Engagement Officer for the Ramblers.

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Claire Warner is a former charity Fundraising Director & Senior Leader, turned Culture & Wellbeing consultant.

It was in trying to throw herself back into her beloved Fundraising Director role after 12 months' treatment for aggressive breast cancer, that Claire realised the focus & memory loss and heart condition side effects she'd been left with after her treatment, plus the life-changing experience of the illness itself, meant (guttingly!) a 300% commitment, 50+hours a week Fundraising Director role was no longer an option.

On looking into what others do in this situation, Claire discovered the field of workplace wellbeing, the research work of Prof Cary Cooper, the Gallup Organisation and Simon Sinek, and hasn't looked back since.

In 2018, Claire created her own piece of research into the wellbeing of fundraisers and when it concluded in 2019, over 700 fundraisers had taken part. The results of the research were used to further inform and refine the work Claire does with organisations and individuals in the charity sector.

In 2020 Claire won the Best Digital Leader Award at the Social CEO Awards and in 2021 curated the first Charity Wellbeing Summit.

Today, Claire works on organisational culture and wellbeing projects with charities and offers coaching and mentoring programmes to sector professionals.

Becky has spent the last decade building people power and people-powered movements to hold the most powerful to account for a fairer, more just, and cleaner future.
She helped build 38 Degrees UK into a movement of over 1 million citizens and led many of the biggest campaigns. As part of OPEN’s senior team, she helped build and sustain a network across 19 different countries, by supporting, coaching, and building fast-growing digitally facilitated organisations.

She's currently Senior Strategist at The Sunrise Project leading the Global Banks Program and building grassroots activism on finance around the world. She’s on the board of Skiftet, Sweden’s biggest online campaign community and Left Foot Forward in the UK.

Andrew Taylor-Dawson is Development Manager at Liberty, where he leads on member and support engagement. He has been in fundraising for around 13 years. In this time he has worked in the human rights, homelessness and social justice sectors as well as having been a freelance consultant.

He has held board positions with Global Justice Now and the adoption support organisation We Are family.

Rebecca is a Digital Project Manager, who recently led the redesign and redevelopment of The Children's Society's website.

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For the past 12 years, Glyn has almost exclusively worked with charities and non-profit organisations. Almost all the projects he works on are focused around campaigning, fundraising or supporter recruitment, and often a mixture of all three.

Now based in Berlin, Glyn works with organisations in the UK, Europe and North America.

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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.