Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Small Charities Need to Know About CRM Systems – 2nd Version

I have updated my free ebook, What Small Charities Need to Know About CRM Systems. Buying a new CRM system or fundraising database can be a daunting experience for any NFP organisation, let alone a small charity. So although I publish a lot of information on my blog which I hope is useful for all charities, this book contains some points which I think smaller not-for-profit organisations need to particularly be aware of or specifically consider.

As before, this book has been produced for people whose day job is not the procurement or implementation of new databases – which for small charities is probably almost everyone! And you do not have to be technical to understand it. It is for fundraising managers, chief executives, trustees and fundraisers, but of course I hope it is equally useful for database staff and charity IT staff too.

This second version has a brand new section on System Development and updates throughout the rest of the book to reflect my latest thoughts and the software options now available to the sector.

Click here to download the PDF for free.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12 Key Lessons From My Last CRM Project

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me... Twelve Key Lessons I Learned From Managing My Last CRM Project

I thought I would finish this set of blog posts with a quick-fire set of some of the most important lessons I learned from the last CRM project I managed. Each point really deserves its own dedicated blog post, but I hope they provide a succinct set of tips in themselves:

  • Configuration not Customisation where possible: I have blogged about this before and it remains true. The more you can Configure and use the software's built-in tools and GUI to configure and define your system, the better. Each bit of Customised code will add cost, time, risk, pain and something you should try to avoid unless you can see real benefits, at least during implementation.
  • Don't try to re-create your existing database: It is so easy to go down the path of replicating exactly what you do now but just in a new CRM system, when what you should be trying to do is use the functionality and approach and benefits of the new CRM system. If you have bought system X then use it as it was meant to be used. Long-term that will set you up so much better.
  • Yes, ask users what they want, but then start with a simple base configuration and go from there: i.e. don't try to do every little single thing which users ask for, don't try to change every form on every screen for n different teams, don't bend and change the software in complicated ways when you are still learning and building it. Instead, get the basic requirements, use the software in as simple way as possible to get a starting point and then show the users that - if there are then things which you really have to change then you can consider them at that point or even post-live.
  • Don’t under-estimate the challenge of data integration: Integration is hard, no matter how you do it. Think of all those external data sources you need to import, that other system you want to share data with/update from your new system. It takes time, effort and money. Some suppliers may have starting points for some things such as JustGiving etc and that's good, but you may still need to change things.
  • Treat reporting as its own workstream: Reports are always one of the things in a project where you start off with great intentions and then as the project goes on, you can find they slip down the order of priority. I would recommend managing them in a dedicated workstream, with a dedicated member of staff leading on them. Remember: reports are one of the key reasons you have a fundraising/CRM system in the first place!
  • Work hard at supplier relationships: At some point in your implementation, it is highly likely that something will go wrong and you will need to discuss something painful with your supplier. The better your relationship with your supplier at that point, the more likely you will be able to come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. It needs work but it's worth it.
  • Consider a Product Owner/Solution Owner: In a large CRM project with a significant timeline and budget, consider including a role of Solution Owner (aka Product Owner). This is a role for someone who understands not only the charity's requirements and strategies but also fundraising/charity requirements more generally, as well as CRM software and technology. The reason for this is because the implementation of sophisticated, flexible (and often expensive) CRM software systems is of course not just about the software but about building/configuring and using it with the people and processes in mind - and understanding the whole approach, design, dependencies and implications of design. The role provides a central point of contact for design understanding and fundamental decision making.
  • You will always need more people on your team: As the project progresses, you will no doubt find that you could do with more people working on your project, although it could be that you don't know all the exact roles when you start the project. So think about this up-front, budget for it and bring on some roles as you go through the project. Ideally, have a budget for future roles but have an agreement with your project board that you can define the actual roles later. And backfill if you can - always good to up-skill both the people you bring on to the project and the staff who step-up to do the BAU whilst those other people are on the CRM team.
  • Think about the post-live structure of your database support team ahead of time: It could well be that the roles you have in your current database support/CRM team will be different to those which you will need with your new CRM/fundraising system, especially if you are moving from a traditional/proprietary software to a CRM Platform,  Think about this as far ahead as possible and make plans.
  • You can mix-and-match your approaches to cost within the project: There is always the question of whether you should go for a Time and Materials (T and M) or a Fixed Cost budget. In fact, you could mix and match even in the same project. For example, some of the development work might be T and M but the data migration could be a fixed cost. Etc.
  • Post-Live: Use a Roadmap, not Phases. I will point you to my older blog post on this as the principle still stands. I believe that having a roadmap approach to post-live development is far better and more efficient than the concept of Phase 2, Phase 3 etc.
  • The importance of fun in internal comms: When you are engaging all your users, staff and stakeholders with your regular communications (which you have planned, yes?), then think of the one word which many people would describe such comms. Go on, close your eyes now and do it... Okay, got that word? Was it... "Boring"?! Sorry, that is often how it is! So make your internal comms more fun: whether it is with more innovative emails, interactive demos, screens in the staff room, lunchtime meetings with food, competitions with chocolate... It doesn't matter so much what it is, but try to think what would make you read something you didn't want to read and do that.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Supplier Catchphrase Bingo!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me... Eleven Things Which Suppliers Say at Demos Which You Can Use to Play Supplier Catchphrase Bingo!

So this is mainly for fun but with a serious(ish) message. The next time you have a software demonstration from a supplier or set of suppliers, listen to their spiels and see how many of the following phrases they say which you can tick-off in each presentation...

We offer the best support in the sector Our system provides a 360 degree view We want to be a partner with you
This is a Game Changer You must be in the Cloud Our system is completely Future-Proofed
We’re specialists in sorting out other suppliers' problems You don’t need any documentation (We do) Agile...
You should never buy… (e.g.) a CRM Platform/proprietary fundraising software…
X isn’t difficult (e.g. data migration, integration, reconciliation with your finance system, security)

Of course, some suppliers may say some of the above things and genuinely mean them. Some companies of course implement CRM systems using an Agile project methodology and may well do it well (I'm just sceptical of what exactly they mean by that or if it is just a buzzword they are using); some will truly believe that Cloud is best (for them at least); and some may well have sorted out another supplier's "problems" at another charity - but by the time you've met a few, each one of them will be claiming they have sorted out another's problems...

My point here is not to ridicule suppliers, but to emphasise that they are, understandably, selling to you. You need to ask questions, dig down into specifics, request examples, ask them to show you specific elements of their software, talk to their implementation and support staff, have second meetings and so on and so on.

And always take with a pinch of salt any company that says their software is completely future-proofed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ten CRM Case Studies for Charities

On the tenth day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me... Ten Useful Case Studies of How NFPs Are Using CRM Systems

Case studies are a useful way to see how charities and the NFP sector have implemented fundraising and CRM systems. The following are ten such examples (in alphabetical order):

NB For clarification: this list in no way indicates that these are the ten best or the only ten systems you should consider. There are many more and you can see a more comprehensive list of Fundraising Software and CRM Systems on my website.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nine Costs to Remember when procuring CRM Systems

On the ninth day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me... Nine Costs to Remember when procuring CRM Systems

There are many costs which you need to take into account when procuring and then implementing a new CRM System or Fundraising Database. The following are the core costs:
  • Software Licenses: Regardless of the type of license - perpetual vs monthly/annual (subscription) licenses, and concurrent vs named vs unlimited user numbers - you need to make sure you are comparing like-for-like across all your potential options, including any 'core module', additional modules/apps etc. (And that's before you consider and compare actual functionality and benefits.)
  • Hosting/Storage: This can be different depending on whether you are looking at cloud or on-premise or third-party hosting. It is comparatively simple to cost at an "explicit" level but can be very difficult when looking more deeply. At a simple level, Cloud systems will probably include x Gb of storage with your standard price and then you pay extra for every additional Gb you need. Bear in mind that can add up, especially for larger databases. You will therefore need to work with potential CRM suppliers to calculate how much storage you will need - and then add more to allow for future growth. That can be difficult. With on-premise solutions, the explicit cost is of course the hardware and associated software - but the harder costs are the fact that your internal IT staff will need to maintain that hardware, do upgrades etc, which is why Cloud salespeople say Cloud is so much cheaper. And for on-premise, you should probably also allow for the cost of new servers every n years, depending on your organisation's policy.
  • Internal Project Team: Except for small database implementations, you will almost certainly need specific costs for an internal project team, back-filling etc. (See Christmas Tip #6 for a few more thoughts on this). Such costs could vary depending on the type of software or supplier you select.
  • Supplier Professional Services. This has the potential to be a wide range of costs - and one of the highest budgets. For example: consultancy, system design, development and customisation, creating blueprints, report writing, installation, support with UAT, post-live support, project management etc etc. Read another blog post of mine about how you can compare suppliers' professional services costs and what to look out for.
  • Data migration: I have separated these from the rest of the Supplier Professional Services because, for any database larger than a simple spreadsheet, they can be harder to cost up-front, until a supplier has had the chance to look at your existing database in detail. For larger projects, this won't come cheap - do not under-estimate.
  • Training costs: whether it is internal, using a third-party/contract trainer or using the supplier's staff.
  • Integration: If your project involves integration of any sort (and it almost certainly will if it is for fundraising), from receiving online donations on your own website or data from JustGiving, through to importing data from fulfilment houses and exporting to finance systems - and more - then these costs can start to add up. I have written several posts specifically about integration over the years. Bear in mind 'integration' can mean different things to different people and to different suppliers so be careful when comparing costs and approaches. Talk to all suppliers in detail to clarify any uncertainties.
  • Annual (on-going) Costs: Software Support/Maintenance - Most traditional fundraising package suppliers charge x% per year for software support/maintenance but that often includes future upgrades too. With CRM systems, the business partners you implement the software with will also likely charge annual support costs which will vary depending on whether they are selling a 'template' solution, developing from 'vanilla' etc. And Software licenses - if you are paying on a monthly/annual basis then you will of course continue to pay such costs every year. To compare, annualise them and compare over n years.
  • Other Costs: Okay, I know this category could include anything but that's the point! I do also want to emphasise that there are any number of other, additional potential costs in a fundraising or CRM implementation, from hardware and workstations, to PAF and banking validation software, other people costs, paying fulfilment houses and other suppliers to change file formats and so on and so on. Find what you need and build them in to your final budget.