Guiding Principles for A Successful Advancement CRM Implementation

Implementation of a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software is the process of centralizing all communications between an organization and its donors. An advancement CRM implementation project involves adopting software with features that match your needs—including storing donor conversations, tracking leads to follow up with, and more.


You may think of the entirety of your CRM implementation project as installing your software and adding some configurations and customizations to make it work for your specific institution. But a successful project requires much more than that.


Here are three guiding principles for a successful advancement CRM implementation.

Partner Across the Organizations

High Performing Advancement departments do not operate as an island. Partnering across the organization deepens relationships with donors, supporters, and volunteers. The same should apply during a CRM implementation. To operate as an island would go against the fundamental objective of a CRM, which is to develop a 360-degree view of constituents.


Plan to engage your colleagues across the organization early. Focus on these aspects.

  • Understand the overall CRM vision as an institution: Initiate an institution-wide discussion if you are the first department to consider a CRM. Can a CRM initiative enable components of the institution’s strategic plan?
  • Educate your colleagues on your vision of the CRM: What business outcomes are you looking to achieve? Identify the benefits and the value.
  • Discuss the information strategy of the institution: Identify the benefits of enhancing the information exchange between advancement and other areas of the institution.

Engagement is Key, But Diversity Makes the Difference

Subject Matter Experts’ (SME) participation is vital during a CRM implementation. But what is as important is how you organize SMEs into workgroups. One mistake often made in managing SMEs and organizational structures—is creating an SME workgroup that mirrors the organizational chart. This method continues to reinforce silos that exist throughout the organization.


Instead, a better method is to populate SME workgroups with team members in different departments whom all work with the same information. This diverse workgroup of individuals who interact with the same information from other vantage points often results in optimal application design and efficient workflow.

Progress and Pace

The common question is, “How long will the implementation take?” Unfortunately, there is no magic timeline that is ideal for every institution. Some factors impact your timeline, including the complexity of your implementation, the staffing and skills you have available to assign to the project, and the budget you can allocate.


In determining your timeline, you will need to balance progress and pace. The project progress is based on evidence to stakeholders that viable products are in the works. Stakeholders will evaluate progress on what they can see, touch, and interact with.


Think about how long you can hold your stakeholder’s attention with the promise that a new CRM is coming before they stop believing you or they become completely apathetic. Of course, this needs to be balanced with a pace the project team can adhere to without causing resources to burn out or decreasing quality.