Eventually, most nonprofits will face the challenge of replacing their constituent relationship management (CRM) database. Sometimes, it is a good thing. Your current system simply can’t keep up with growth. Other times, it is a matter of an aging system, an unsupported infrastructure or slowness in customer support response.
Whatever prompts the decision, the transition process can be fraught with challenges. Here are seven tips for nonprofits to follow when moving to a new CRM database.
1. Consider a consultant. Consultants can be costly and may not fit every budget. Still, the return on investment may be well worth the expense. An independent database expert can be an invaluable asset in drafting the request for proposals, evaluating the resultant proposals, identifying responsive bidders and helping to make the ultimate vendor selection.
2. Focus on security. Data related to donors, members or constituents is a valuable asset. In fact, data can be an organization’s most valuable asset. So, make security a high priority in the vendor evaluation process. Request detailed information on each provider’s approach to database security.
3. Limit customizations. When evaluating proposals, be mindful of the features and functionality offered compared to what your organization needs. Customization can drive up the final price and make future upgrades more difficult. So, be aware what the base offering comprises and limit system changes to the essentials.
4. Include key stakeholders. From top management to staff, many people throughout the organization depend on the CRM database. And, each group can offer important insights on the final form the new CRM database should take and challenges that might arise during the transition. Identify key stakeholders within the organization and involve them from day one. Including them on the front end will assure their buy-in once the system is live.
5. Anticipate possible problems and plan for them. During the transition period, access to data will undoubtedly present a problem from time to time. Know there will be times when immediate access to the latest data will be impossible, and plan for this contingency in advance.
6. Commit everything to writing. Having written procedures is always a good idea. However, it is critical when migrating from one platform to another, as institutional knowledge can easily be lost in a transition.
7. Evaluate what data to transition. Moving to a new platform provides a great opportunity to evaluate the information in your database. Some data may not need to transition to the new database. Don’t transfer outdated or irrelevant information.