Building a CRM Application Administration Team for Advancement Operations


Organizations tend to focus too much on their Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) technologies and not enough on the personnel manning the technology. In other words, many organizations use CRM tools as if it is the sole ingredient to a successful donor strategy. Unfortunately, without the human touch, this approach isn’t practical.


Application administration is often automatically seen as a technical resource that should reside within the information technology (IT) department. This has shifted in the advancement industry with emerging technologies. 


Users are becoming self-sufficient, and a similar track is happening in the operations realm. Instead of your application administration sitting in a central group of technical folks administrating on your behalf, it’s now getting closer to the user. 


The nimbleness and ease of configuration have warranted that. But with that comes the expectation of a quick turnaround, creating a downstream of resources closer to users in the trenches. 


We recommend following that trend and building a CRM application administration team. 


Here’s how to create one for advancement operations. 

Create an Organizational Chart 

The aspect of application and administration is no longer extended order taking (request, completion, and notification.) Instead, it’s moving toward a consultative approach where application administration becomes a joint effort between the person with the technical aptitude and the user with the flexibility. 


This requires you to look at your organizational chart and identify a reporting structure. 


Consider having an application administration person or team (depending on your CRM project size) be closely linked to the resources providing user support and training. This creates a lot of synergies. Have your administrators do one thing, and your training folks teach something else. 

Encourage Application Knowledge 

Closely examine the skill sets that exist within your overall CRM project team. As you build your application administration team, consider who can go beyond general application knowledge. The application administration team should know how to configure the application and how users use it (including their daily processes.)


Consider standard team building procedures.

  1. Set organization goals and start planning. 
  2. Define the roles within your team. 
  3. Maximize the skills of your team member. 
  4. Embrace diversity.
  5. Set expectations from day one. 
  6. Allow your team to take risks and experiment. 
  7. Celebrate successes and failures.

Focus on Big Picture Perspective

Your CRM application administration team should move from the silo of a set of knowledge toward becoming big-picture perspective oriented. Big picture thinking is the ability to grasp abstract concepts, ideas, and possibilities. This type of thinking emphasizes the system in which they are operating while considering various stakeholders, competitors, and technological disruptions.


A big picture perspective accounts for how obstacles impact the organization and how that can turn into an opportunity. It also helps balance user needs and requests, which can drastically impact your CRM implementation.


For example, if someone requests an application change and that change satisfies some users but makes it more difficult for 50% of other users—big picture perspective examines the pros and cons.