Guidelines for Building a Successful Advancement CRM Training Program


Maximizing Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software is only possible when users know how to use its various functionalities. They must also understand how the use of the tool fits into their day-to-day business processes. 


The level of understanding is often a result of what is being delivered in your training program and who it’s being directed toward.  


Most people initially think about fundraisers when referring to CRM (trainees) users. However, depending on which CRM system you use, other departments should also be part of the onboarding process. Determining the right people for your training program helps identify not only how to conduct the training, but also when, and what the scope will entail. 


We discuss guidelines for building a successful advancement CRM training program. 

Data Integrity

Establish a clear narrative on data integrity and relevancy. Data used in training should be clearly identified as to where it came from to help trainees avoid second-guessing themselves. Specifically, is the data being used as a snapshot in time?


There also needs to be clear documentation on what data is to be entered to make the training impactful and relevant. If you’re going through training and entering informational data that may not be appropriate to everyday life and activities, you won’t get as much use out of it. 


Additionally, data should be specific to a job description or applicable across all levels. Relevant data improves training engagement. For example, a fundraiser may be interested in data related to their pipeline or reaching year-to-date goals. But they’re probably not going to be interested in the finite transaction history of a gift. This information will fall flat because it’s not a subject they’re interested in.


While it is impossible to customize everything, you should at least account for this when creating a training program.  

Application Configuration 

Application configuration is based on optimal workflow. Institutions are implementing software applications that are more highly configurable, but investing in the business analysis is not put at the forefront of the implementation. 


Investing in the business analysis will give you a better return on investment. Tailor this training to tap into a narrative approach (user story) that focuses on pertinent scenarios. For example, if you’re a fundraiser and attended an event, you must know how to complete an activity report for your manager. The narrative approach offers an example and shares the next step (i.e., creating a future task or a follow-up for one of the prospective donors.) 


User narratives set a training program up for more success because users can see themselves in the stories and the tasks are immediately relevant to their role. 

Self-Service Reporting 

Many individuals want to be self-sufficient and know the system can do great things. But self-service and data literacy go hand in hand. For self-service reporting, there needs to be an emphasis on data literacy. If you have self-service, you’ll need to understand your data, its structure, and what is available. 


For example, a fundraiser that focuses on the pipeline, potential donors, and prospects is more interested in being taught to pull that information rather than requesting it from a reporting team. 


Provide the self-service ability to pull the most common data pertinent to them and have them do it regularly, teaching them how to filter, access, and navigate through the information. 

Quick Win Integrations 

Everyone talks about being unable to do things within the CRM when putting things in their calendar, even though calendar integrations are standard across all CRMs. You set yourself up for failure if you don’t take the quick win integration right at go live. 


Always take advantage of quick win integrations—especially if they directly impact your training program.