Overcoming Staffing Challenges to Set Your Advancement CRM up for Success


Staffing challenges during your advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project is something every institution comes up against.


This is because a CRM implementation project is often a 12–20-month engagement requiring staff to commit to the project’s efforts in addition to their “day jobs.” Most institutions don’t have the luxury of staff quitting their day jobs to participate or fulfill the roles required for CRM implementation. Internal stakeholders are stretched.


Institutions need to establish plans to help stakeholders balance this workload. Overworked staff is a primary challenge and often the source of failure (or severely impact success) of a CRM implementation project.


We discuss common staffing challenges and how you can help your team balance CRM efforts with their day job or other responsibilities.

Staffing Challenges #1—Workload overload

Executive leadership and management must evaluate workload. This is one of the most important things that should be done during the CRM implementation planning phase. Identify upfront what percentage of time is needed for staff members and when they’ll be required the most.


Do your best to forecast the project timeline and plan your institutional staffing challenges accordingly. Be realistic about heavy workloads or department activities for the most common time of year.


For example, the end-of-year giving is busy across all departments, so plan to avoid scheduling anything that isn’t necessary.


During November through January, there may be an overlap between institutional activities and your CRM implementation tasks. If conflicts arise, rearrange and establish a backup during those periods if things cannot be moved.


For the day-to-day, assess staffing challenges by identifying low-priority or operational tasks. Use the following questions to help you alleviate key team members from unnecessary tasks.


  • Can low-priority or operational tasks be delegated to other staff members who are not participating in the CRM project?
  • Can you cross-train people in another area who might have a more manageable workload?
  • Can you assign these tasks to interns or temporary staff (if your budget allows)?


Time-blocking is also a helpful tactic that lessens the burden on internal stakeholders. Determine the time needed and block dedicated hours for design workshops or testing activities. This helps staff better allocate their time and ensures you’re not doing these things at the last minute.


Burnout can be significant with workload overload. It is hard to balance all the necessary responsibilities, even with adequate planning. You can work to combat burnout by celebrating wins and accomplishments. This helps people see progress—encouraging and illustrating that their time and dedication are valuable and not in vain.

Staffing Challenges #2—Implementation consultant works in isolation

Contracting a CRM implementation partner to engage in your project doesn’t dissolve the current staff from participating. This is a common misconception. Internal staff are irreplaceable, especially regarding implementation. Whether it’s their institutional knowledge of, historical information, or data quirks—the implementation partner would never know these things without the internal staff.


Be clear on how internal staff will participate in the ways the CRM implementation partner cannot replace.


The CRM implementation partner can augment and provide additional resources, including technical components and optimizing your advanced CRM platform. The implementation partner is also best served to structure your design sessions, facilitate decision making, and develop data migration programs and interfaces. Additionally, accessing controls (production vs. non-production environments) is also in their purview.


Whereas internal stakeholders are best suited to tailor specific processes or models that will work for your institution—for example, gift processing methods. Staff members are the only ones who can make suggestions to refine processes and workflows.


Other tasks best suited in collaboration with internal stakeholders are establishing hierarchy and rules, constructing usable reports inclusive of key performance indicators, and conducting user testing. No matter how much an implementation partner does user testing, only internal stakeholders can determine if the solution works for the institution.


These are only some of the common staffing challenges your institution may experience during an advancement CRM implementation, but important nonetheless.