ProSpeak: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Today’s CRM Solutions for Nonprofits
Over the past year, constituent relationship management software vendors for nonprofits have been parading around the concept of “open” to the marketplace like presidential candidates touting “change.” Like “change,” “open” is something everyone wants, but few people define it the same way. This creates confusion and, inevitably, disappointment for customers who expect their concept of “open,” but get the vendor’s version instead.
Even worse, all the marketing buzz around the “open revolution” is obscuring the real question: How does your organization truly get the unique CRM features and functionality its business processes require to execute your mission and change lives?
CRM today is the heart of most nonprofits’ marketing, fundraising and communications strategies. A good CRM platform enables a nonprofit to build long-term, meaningful relationships with constituents and drive giving in a scalable fashion to fund important work.
“Open” is becoming an irresistible force in nonprofit CRM because closed, proprietary technologies are too restrictive, dictating how to manage constituent relationships. The advantages of one closed CRM solution over another are based on how well each product’s structure complements your organization’s relational model — not the robustness and effectiveness of the technology. And no software ever mimics your processes, needs and desires perfectly.
Open CRM starts with full-featured platforms and applications, and allows you to adopt the functionality, interface, flow and processes for your organization’s unique needs.
The bottom line when you cut through all the noise is that there are three levels of openness for nonprofit CRM software:
1. The Mail Slot
The narrowest form of openness, this is analogous to the small, covered slat in a front door. Some don’t consider it “open” at all. A software company creates a portal to allow very specific types of data from a very specific source to pass into your system. Usually, you pay the vendor to build and install this functionality, or it’s the result of a partnership between vendors to produce integrations or connectors. An example is integrating a CRM system and an accounting package so transaction data passes directly into the system for reconciliation and compliance.