Sunday, January 29, 2012

Specific Things to consider when procuring a generic CRM System

This is the fourth post in my series on The Impact of Generic CRM Systems on the Fundraising Database Market.

There are of course many things to consider when purchasing any type of database, whether it is a dedicated fundraising package or one of the generic CRM systems. The list below provides points which are specifically relevant to the generic CRM systems. (That said, some of these points could certainly apply to any database but they are accentuated because of the type of solution which the generic CRM systems provide).

  • Cloud Technology: Because it is quite likely that you will be hosting a generic CRM system in the cloud, there are various pros and cons associated with that. Read my previous blog about the points you need to consider.
  • Functionality: by definition, because it is a more generic system (not fundraising-specific), you won’t necessarily have all the functionality you need/want and might/would expect from a dedicated fundraising package. Of course, because you would be buying into a platform and the potential scope, you therefore need to see past the vanilla version of the system. It is not WYSIWYG! I have detailed the pros and cons of some of this already but the two most important points are:
    • There will be some specific functionality which you will need to consider and which the vanilla versions won’t have. This is probably, mostly going to be income related, especially Gift Aid and Direct Debit processing and possibly other income issues such as Payroll Giving. But you might also want to consider the record structure for organisations and how that can or cannot be applied to corporate/trust fundraising. Membership might also be an issue? And maybe assure yourself that they can support you with all your Direct Marketing and segmentation needs if that is a significant aspect of your fundraising.
    • Don’t go for style over substance!
  • Demos: Following on from the above, you therefore need to manage the software suppliers’ presentations in a slightly different way to those from dedicated fundraising package suppliers. With generic CRM systems, it is as much about seeing how the company and software works, as it is seeing exactly what it will do, because it is quite viable that some functionality you require won’t be in the version you see at the demo. (Of course, with any system you need to always consider the supplier, but it is likely there will be more of a reliance with these CRM systems). Therefore, challenge the suppliers, make sure they do understand your needs, ask them what they have done before which is the same/similar, how they would approach your specific requirements.
    • If you are making a large investment, you may even want to ask the suppliers to prototype one or two aspects of the system. This will be possibly be more difficult if you are comparing a fundraising package with a CRM system, so you need to consider that and make sure you are being fair to everyone.
  • Evaluating The Suppliers' Fundraising Knowledge: As I’ve already said, it is even more important to be working with a company who understands fundraising, and who you are comfortable with and you can work with, as they may well have more need to be bespoking and configuring etc, whereas at least with a fundraising package you can see what you will/won’t get.
  • Intellectual Property: if you are buying a company’s template, or even if you are buying the vanilla version and getting a reseller to configure/bespoke it for you, then can you make your own bespoke changes to that? And if in later years you decide not to use their services, can you still continue to use their work/template?
  • On-going changes: For suppliers selling templated versions, how will any bespoke changes they make now fit in with future changes to their template version?
  • Development: what happens if you make changes to anything internally? How does that impact IP/support etc?
  • Cost: The project may well involve more Discovery/Feasibility Costs; remember, the heart of the Total Cost of Ownership won’t be in the software licenses but will be in the implementation. Refer to my previous post in this series on costs for more thoughts on this.
  • Risk Management: because of all the points I have detailed throughout this series of posts, you will need a different sort of risk management to a dedicated fundraising package.
One thing which will be interesting to see is how some of this will change over the forthcoming years as the systems, and templated versions in particular, mature over the years to come.

Of course, do not forget all the standard things you should do throughout any database procurement, from reviewing processes, gathering requirements and doing data audits through to proper cost comparisons, taking references and so on. (For lots more information on this, see my blog on the Top 50 Database Procurement Tips for Charities and Not-for-Profit Organisations  and the accompanying and more thorough eBook).


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