generic CRM systems and the reduction in the number of viable proprietary fundraising databases, an interesting question is arising: should charities now be choosing a CRM platform before even looking at which specific supplier/partner they want?
It is a process which some companies in the commercial sector have already been practising for years. For some companies, they will decide first on whether Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM etc are the best fit for them, and only then will they search for a specific partner who can help them implement a new CRM system on that chosen platform.
For charities, however, at least until recently, because the options have primarily been about comparing different proprietary fundraising database suppliers (e.g. Blackbaud, thankQ, Redbourn, ACS etc), this has not been an approach we have taken. That said, there will of course have been some technological decisions: the system must be SQL Server, or it must be Oracle; it must be dot net or it must run on Linux etc. Or even, it should be open-source. And so on. So it's not a completely alien idea.
It's just that with the new CRM systems, the platform choice can be far more "business-oriented"; i.e. if we do decide that platform X is the right solution for us - and if that platform is one of the generic CRM systems - then we now have the choice of talking to numerous companies about how they would implement that, looking at whether we want a templated version or start out-of-the-box, develop in-house or with a partner, and so on.
But additionally, if as a charity you do want to be considering a platform first, you also need to consider the proprietary solution as one of those platforms - and (probably) not just one such solution but the concept as a whole. As I have discussed many times in my blogs, there is no simple right and wrong as to whether you should select a traditional fundraising database or a CRM solution. If you do select a proprietary solution then you will (almost certainly) implement it with that system's software author and that has its pros and cons. If you go with a CRM solution, then using a business partner of that software author (or even doing it in-house) also has its benefits and downsides.
Personally, at the moment, I think choosing a platform first is a difficult approach to take for all but a few, probably larger charities who already have a detailed, well thought through technology plan and IT strategy. Especially at an early stage in a procurement project when you are still trying to understand the differences, the benefits of all solutions, the impact on your organisation and so on. I think there would have to be clear reasons for you to only look at the traditional fundraising databases, or decide not to look at those at all. You might dismiss one option or one supplier etc as you progress your procurement, but I believe you need to understand what all options can offer before going solely down one route. So at the moment that will usually mean keeping them all in the hat until you are ready to shorten your choices to the final few.