Whether your nonprofit is well-established or just now finding its footing, the right CRM will help you develop valuable relationships with supporters. Think of it this way: this database is your central hub for all your constituents, from donors to volunteers to sponsors to staff members.
Because the nonprofit tech world is rapidly developing, CRM software is something you just can’t do without. From maintaining strong relationships to streamlining the online fundraising process, CRMs give nonprofits the power to reach all their goals. In the long run, you’ll reach larger audiences and grow your impact considerably.
In fact, a CRM is often the thing that gives a young nonprofit its first real growth boost. However, the cost can often be prohibitive for small organizations.
Luckily, there are now professional-grade options that are low-cost or free! Don’t let the phrase “low-cost or free” deter you, as these systems are just as high-quality as any expensive system on the market.
When assessing your low-cost or free nonprofit CRM platform options, choose the one that’s best suited to your organization’s needs. To do this, follow these key steps:
- Assess your needs.
- Understand common features.
- Consider integrations.
- Explore a few top providers.
- Don’t get locked into restrictive pricing.
- Think about your growth.
If supporter engagement has been lacking lately, it may be time for a software upgrade. Ready to start putting your supporters first (and possibly grow profits as a result)? Let’s dive in!
1. Assess your need for free nonprofit CRM software.
Nonprofits on a budget typically think they’re unable to afford a system with the functionality they need, limiting them to spreadsheets where they have to manually enter information. Especially when you’re learning how to start a nonprofit, you may be overwhelmed by hefty price tags. However, this spreadsheet-only mindset is a common misconception, because the approach doesn’t really get the job done.
When you only store your constituent data in a spreadsheet, you miss out on a handful of vital features that enhance the supporter experience (and improve retention rates). Unlike traditional spreadsheets, nonprofit CRMs play a part in all of your strategies.
They help to streamline the donation process, manage supporter data, create targeted outreach, and much more. Best of all, there’s no need to drop a fortune on an expensive system.
Here’s a small part of what a low-cost CRM for nonprofits can do for organizations just like yours (that spreadsheets just can’t!):
- Create donor profiles.
- Process and manage donations.
- View supporter relationships.
- Track participation and engagement.
- Automate mass and target emails.
If you’re in the market for free nonprofit tech solutions, swing by our free nonprofit software guide. Chances are, you’ll find a tool that fulfills one of your organization’s needs without making you drop a pretty penny.
2. Understand the common features of low-cost CRM software for nonprofits.
While some tech solutions are more comprehensive than others, there are a few common features prioritized by most systems. Make sure your nonprofit CRM offers these core features:
- Tracking and managing information by individual, whether supporter, donor, staff, volunteer.
- Abilities to tag, filter, sort, and search your data as needed.
- Robust export functions to make sure your data is actionable.
Because of the growing dependence on technology, most donors prefer to give online. You’ll need a system that automatically tracks online donations. However, there is still a handful of donors who prefer to give offline, so make sure you can easily input their donations as well.
Extensive nonprofit CRM features
Once you’ve found a low-cost CRM for nonprofits that fulfills these basic donor management standards, look into more robust features.
To start, make sure you can build web forms to go directly onto your nonprofit website. Visit this guide for a few best practices. Specifically, a comprehensive solution will enable you to create online donation forms, event registration forms, volunteer sign-up forms, and so on. Take it a step further by branding these to your organization with colors, fonts, and images so that they flow seamlessly with the rest of your website.
Then, make sure your free nonprofit CRM offers email automation. If you think emailing constituents is out-of-date (and ineffective), you’re wrong! In fact, email-based marketing and promotional campaigns have generated 28% of all nonprofit revenue in previous years.
Especially since the donation process is becoming more digital, supporters will expect an instant follow-up email post-donation. With a CRM that enables customizable email automation, you can set up a follow-up message that exceeds their expectations.
From here, you can send targeted, mass, or individual emails to anyone in your database in just a few clicks. This is great for making appeals and getting everyone involved. Then, view and track their responses as well as open and click-through rates to get an idea of which communication strategies are effective and which aren’t.
Overall, a free donation tool with built-in CRM capabilities is often the smartest move for small and growing organizations. It gives them all the core features they need to succeed and lets them begin building a solid data foundation.
3. Consider integrations with your existing tools.
If you’re already using effective digital tools, a free nonprofit CRM or a low-cost option that works seamlessly alongside them is a valuable asset. Instead of having to constantly transfer data, your nonprofit CRM should automatically do this without being prompted. After all, your tech is designed to speed up your workflow, not interrupt it.
Remember, your CRM serves as your central database for constituent data and interactions. When it easily integrates with your existing tools, your database becomes much smarter, allowing you to combine the power of your entire software ecosystem. Best of all, there’s no learning curve since your team will be leveraging its existing tools.
Integrations or built-in donation software should rank as one of your top priorities. Once you find a low-cost CRM for nonprofits that offers this, branch out to additional giving methods, marketing software, and more as your organization grows. Let’s take a look at a few of these potential growth opportunities.
Online Giving Software
As previously touched on, your system should offer form-building capabilities. However, you’ll still want to make use of your dedicated giving software. Cover all of your bases and ensure your donors have a customized experience.
By integrating your online donation tools with your nonprofit CRM, all donor data will be automatically funneled into your database as soon as someone completes a gift.
When you don’t have to manually enter data, you’ll save hours of work and eliminate opportunities for human error.
Not only will a comprehensive nonprofit CRM document traditional giving methods, but it will document text-to-give donations, too!
Since text-to-donate is one of the easiest ways to acquire donations, you’ll likely acquire a handful of new supporters using this tool. Sometimes, donors just want a fresh new way to give.
Make sure this donor data flows seamlessly into your nonprofit CRM, so that it doesn’t get lost in translation!
Matching Gift Tools
Corporate philanthropy is a powerful giving method. Specifically, matching gifts have the power to double (maybe even triple!) your donations.
With an integrable matching gift tool, you’ll instantly identify match-eligible donors and market content to the right individuals.
Use this tech to convey the importance of submitting match requests and increasing donations. Not to mention it’s a great retention strategy! By growing their impact, donors will feel more vital to the success of your cause. Best of all, they won’t have to reach back into their own pockets!
4. Explore a few top providers of low-cost CRMs for nonprofits.
Chances are you need a low-cost CRM for nonprofits right now. Otherwise, you may miss out on developing important relationships with donors. Snowball’s basic plan has you covered with all the features you need for FREE, such as:
- Donor and transaction histories
- Unlimited accounts
- Simple setup
- Nonprofit-Specific design
Its built-in nonprofit CRM capabilities give you everything you need to begin tracking and using data in effective ways. After setup, you’ll automatically have access to an unlimited number of users and plenty of easy-to-navigate features.
Snowball is super simple to get started with. With quick implementation, you won’t miss a beat!
At Snowball, we’re dedicated to providing top-notch software at an affordable cost to nonprofits just like yours! Our goal is to reduce donor abandonment by simplifying the giving process for organizations and donors alike. Ready to maximize your donor retention (and fundraising dollars)?
Larger organizations may need to consider more heavy-duty features in their next database solution. To continue exploring other options, visit Double the Donation’s nonprofit CRM guide.
5. Don’t get locked into restrictive CRM pricing.
A nonprofit themselves, TechSoup offers discounted (and even free) tech solutions for other organizations. While receiving donated software might seem like a great (and affordable) solution, you’ll actually be much better off thinking outside of the TechSoup box.
From eligibility requirements to time and usage restrictions, there are a handful of rules your organization must follow to receive the donated tech products. Plus, the tech may wind up not really fitting your needs (even though you’ve already paid the admin fees).
In fact, that’s the problem with the majority of expensive tech, even when purchased at a discounted rate. You spend all your time choosing and implementing a pricy system just to realize it can’t be customized to suit your nonprofit. By that point, the money’s spent and you’re stuck with an unusable system.
Instead, research and find a free or low-cost CRM for nonprofits that can help you reach your potential. Remember, your tech should save you time, not disrupt your workflow. Make sure to choose a sustainable solution that helps you develop long-term relationships with supporters.
6. Think about your future growth when choosing a free nonprofit CRM.
With the right tech solutions, you should expect to see your organization grow and develop. So why wouldn’t your nonprofit CRM grow and develop with you?
A nonprofit CRM is an important foundation for growth. It strengthens all of your strategies down the line. Starting with one early on in your growth will give you a serious advantage as you work to expand your impact and reach.
However, it can be difficult to predict your growth and future tech needs. It’s important to think about your organization’s long-term goals. Then, ensure your system supports these goals.
To determine if a database will grow with your organization, assess these features:
- Constituent Profiles. Most CRMs are priced based on the number of donor profiles they can have. Your system should fit your current number of constituents and beyond.
- Users. New team members may need access to your system as time passes, but many nonprofit CRMs also limit the number of users per system. Make sure your nonprofit CRM can accommodate your growing team.
- Features. As your nonprofit’s strategies develop, you might need access to new fundraising tools. Your CRM vendor should offer expansions and upgrades (or at least integrate with third-party software).
In short, the best software is easily expandable. If your system can’t accommodate your development, you might be left with unrecorded or incomplete data, and your relationships will suffer as a result.
Instead, choose a low-cost or free nonprofit CRM that provides you with limitless fundraising and donor support. With a system that grows with you (instead of against you), your organization will reach new heights!
A dedicated nonprofit CRM is simply something your organization can’t do without. However, most solutions come with a hefty price tag, something most nonprofits can’t afford in the long run. With many low-cost and free nonprofit CRMs on the market, your organization is sure to find a comprehensive (yet affordable) solution.
Don’t get stuck with a system that doesn’t really work for you. Go with Snowball! We’re committed to giving nonprofits the tech they need to grow their impact at an affordable rate.
Snowball’s free CRM is the perfect solution for small to mid-sized nonprofits. It allows you to smoothly navigate all your constituents, and an easy setup process means your team won’t waste time implementing the new system.
Want to continue your research? Explore these helpful resources that we think you’ll find useful:
- Best Nonprofit Software To Raise Money Fast. On the market for new nonprofit software? Check out our top suggestions!
- 14 Steps To Starting a Nonprofit: A Guide. Follow our easy-to-use guide to get your nonprofit up and running. You’ll be fundraising in no time!
- Creating a Nonprofit Digital Strategy. Explore DNL OmniMedia’s ultimate digital strategy guide. Follow their tips and reach new audiences.