CRM Solutions for Non-Profits

Once upon a time, it was all about mailing lists. Blast out as many messages as you can to what you think is a list of people who’ll be receptive, and hope for the best. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

Today, that approach is working less and less. Why? Because people have grown weary of tons of junk mail, and of constant pesky phone calls. The “saturation point” has been passed. Untargeted bulk mail will only rarely reach its goal. Most of it will end up in the landfill—unread. So what’s a political candidate, an advocacy group, or a charitable organization to do?

Take a look at the “supporter pyramid.” This is a representation of all your current and future relationships:

You’re already maintaining your relationships with the people in the top two tiers (otherwise, your organization will soon be out of business!). And hopefully, you’re at least sending newsletters or periodic mailings to the next two tiers as well. But what about tiers 5 & 6: people who definitely have the potential to become active supporters but just “aren’t there” yet — either because they don’t know enough about you, because you haven’t reached out to them in a way that genuinely engages them?

People in these groups represent your organization’s future. They’re the pool from whom you’ll one day recruit members for the top tiers. Reaching out to them is the single most effective way to grow your organization. In fact, it’s not just effective, it’s essential. Each year, some of those in the top tiers will “die off,” either figuratively or literally. In order to survive, your organization must constantly replenish them.

In the past, such persons were the logical candidates for untargeted bulk mail. But as we described above, that doesn’t work any more.

CRM = Building Real Relationships

What is needed instead is the cultivation of genuine relationships. That’s the core idea behind CRM, or customer relationship management. (The term comes from the for-profit world. As a non-profit, you can substitute “supporter” or “donor” or “voter” for “customer.”)

When you reach out to people at any tier on the pyramid, you create a relationship by talking “with them” rather than “at them.” You address not just your concerns, but theirs. You not only talk, you ask questions and listen. And most importantly, when they respond, you carefully note what they have to say, and acknowledge it in all your future contacts.

This is easy enough to do on a one-on-one basis with the small core of people at the top of the pyramid. But how do you do it with thousands (or even tens or hundreds of thousands) of people on the lower tiers? That’s where CRM technology, such as that offered by Advanced Business Systems, comes in. Here are the basic steps of how it is used.

Step 1: Gather as much information about every single individual as possible in a sophisticated database. Aside from the obvious (names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses), you’ll need to find out as much as you can about each person. What are their “hot-button” issues? Have they donated to or otherwise actively participated in other organizations? Have they already had any contact with you? If so, what and when? How did you respond? You may already have some of this information, but not yet have organized it. Or you can acquire it from third party vendors. You can also design your Web site to facilitate this process. For example, if you allow people to sign up for a newsletter, why not also ask them to indicate their interests? ABS can help you with all of these techniques.

Step 2: Send out a micro-targeted message, and get feedback. Don’t just trumpet the virtues of your organization and ask for money. Rather, be very, very specific in addressing potential supporters concerns. And ask lots of questions: for example, use a Web or paper-based survey. If you’ve never had contact with a person before, you may want to emphasize the survey, and for the present, de-emphasize funds solicitation. And remember: while there are economies of scale in printed mail (10 mailings to 10,000 people cost far more than 1 mailing to 100,000), e-mail allows for extreme segmentation at virtually no cost. ABS can help you segment your target constituency, and to refine your message.

Step 3: Create a genuine conversation. If you get feedback, respond to it, specifically. Allow people to request specific white papers on topics of interest to them. Thank donors not just for donating, but for advancing the specific causes of interest to them. If you don’t get feedback, then follow-up consistently but unobtrusively, e.g. with a bimonthly e-mail. Autoresponders are a highly effective way to do this. And always remember: every communication should serve to move the recipient up the pyramid. ABS has the technologies with which to automate the conversation process, leveraging your time and funds.

Step 4: Keep building your database, and go back to Step 1. Those who don’t use CRM often complain about “list decay.” People either move or lose interest. The same old messages grow stale. “List maintenance” is considered an unpleasant chore. CRM users, however, know that as they converse and gather information, their database grows more, not less valuable. It’s true that manually entering new addresses is nobody’s idea of fun. But by reaching out both on and offline, it’s often possible to motivate people to enter their own address and other data through the Web. The step of getting new persons into the database and gathering information on existing ones dovetails with Step 1… and the process begins anew. ABS can help you turn your database into an asset that grows more valuable every day with a minimum of maintenance effort.

Why not get started now?

ABS’s CRM solutions are scalable. We can help non-profits of all sizes—from tiny grassroots groups to “household-word” national and international organizations—systematically build relationships. Because we tailor our solutions to your organizations size and goals, we can provide powerful CRM tools regardless of your budget.

Why not explore what ABS’s CRM technology can do for your organization? There’s no cost or obligation to you. Just use the form in the upper right hand corner of this page to contact us—or give us a call at (847) 680-6328. We’re looking forward to hearing fom you, and starting the conversation!

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