Snake Charming: Transforming CRM Project Pitfalls into Opportunities

My husband and I recently took a month-long trip to Curacao to escape the Chicago winter. We rented a beautiful villa where we could hear birds singing and feel the warm breeze—it was wonderful. But we noticed a small snake in the living room on the third day. I’m afraid of snakes and was ready to cut our trip short!


I faced a decision: Would I let this ruin our long-awaited vacation? 


Then it got me thinking, the snake represented situations that can unexpectedly threaten even the best-laid plans, not unlike challenges that arise in a major Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation.


When you’ve invested significant time and resources into a project, it is natural to feel disappointed or angry when obstacles get in the way. But staying positive and solution-focused is critical to overcoming the challenges.


What “snake” has shown up to potentially derail your CRM project? We discuss positive perspectives for everyday situations to transform a CRM project pitfall into an opportunity.

CRM Project Pitfall: You Weren’t Asked to Join the Core Project Team

Feeling excluded in any situation is an unpleasant feeling. The feelings of exclusion may be intensified if you’re being omitted from work projects—even if the omission is unintentional. It’s understandable to feel left out if you weren’t asked to join the core CRM project team.


But rather than stewing over the exclusion, put your efforts to good use and volunteer to support the CRM project. Offer to be a backup resource or suggest ideas to help drive successful CRM adoption. Finding ways to contribute will make you an invaluable change champion.

CRM Project Pitfall: A Team Member Makes a Costly Mistake

Mistakes happen. It’s part of life, but it can be very frustrating when a team member makes a costly mistake that directly impacts your CRM implementation.


When a colleague’s error causes a major setback, it hurts. But berating them rarely helps. It’s important to remember that we’ve all made mistakes. Instead, use the following tactics to manage the error.


  • Breathe: Before reacting to a team member’s mistake, take a deep breath and a moment to calm down.
  • Identify how the mistake happened: Decide why the mistake occurred in the first place. Was there a communication or project breakdown that contributed to this CRM project pitfall?
  • Discuss the situation with a compassionate lens: Remember, we all make mistakes. Emphasize that you’re allies working toward the same goal and collaborating to get things back on track.
  • Correct the mistake: Reversing the error is great, but it’s only effective if you also work to prevent the error from happening again. Prevention might require additional training or developing processes and procedures.

CRM Project Pitfall: Your Idea Gets Rejected

Having your suggestions dismissed or ignored can sting. It’s easier said than done but avoid taking it personally. If you’ve faced rejection, work to reframe it as an opportunity to understand the group’s needs and priorities. As you reframe the rejection, maintain a positive mindset, stay engaged, and continue to pitch ideas when appropriate.


Like the snake that threatened to end my dream vacation, a CRM project pitfall can feel deflating. However, maintaining optimism and adaptability is the best way to keep major projects moving forward through unpredictable obstacles. With teamwork and commitment, you can rid the snakes and achieve success.

Major Gifts Officers, To Enter or Not Enter Data?

Major Gifts Officer works with prospective donors to obtain funds and coordinate stewardship, among many other tasks. When it comes to data, there are often two schools of thought regarding the Major Gifts Officer’s role in data entry.

  1. The Major Gifts Officer should only be able to view enough information in the Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform to do their job.
  2. The Major Gifts Officer should actively input the information when directly interacting with a donor.

We discuss the pros and cons of each option to help you decide whether to task your Major Gifts Officer with entering data or not.

Major Gifts Officer Granted Read-Only Access

Granting a Major Gifts Officer read-only access is the look, but don’t touch model. The idea behind this is that institutions don’t want to burden the Major Gifts Officer with this entry-level, tedious task.


Here’s what to consider.




The read-only access model keeps your gift officer focused on fundraisers and activities rather than data entry. Your gift officer is a highly-paid resource. Not requiring them to enter data is being fiscally responsible.


Major Gifts Officers are likely better suited to creating strategy, building relationships, connecting with donors and faculty, and identifying opportunities to support donors’ philanthropic vision and impact.




By only granting your Major Gifts Officer read-only access to your data, you are centralizing data entry to a particular group specifically trained and in continuous conversation about data quality. This group understands the nuances of the system and data entry and has a straightforward methodology to maintain usable and reliable data.


But they are staying up to date of this valuable information, but your Major Gifts Officer is not. The gift officer is in the middle of the stuff happening while it’s happening—they’re gaining information and know firsthand how the donor feels. Getting as much of that information into the CRM is critical.


If the Major Gifts Officer is not responsible for data entry, you need some way to get the information from them into the system. This transfer of knowledge requires a second step and resources to be able to process the data—that’s instant overhead. It’s purely duplicative work if the person takes the information the gift officer gave them and copies and pastes it into the system.


But what if it’s not a copy-and-paste situation? Maybe the person is required to interpret what the gift officer provided them. For example, information is miscoded and goes through another filter before inputting into the CRM. This scenario allows for information to be lost or misinterpreted—like the age-old game of telephone.


Another con is if the Major Gifts Officer never touches the system and is not responsible for data maintenance, do they really have any stake in data quality? If they aren’t responsible for data maintenance, they may view it as someone else’s job. This creates the wrong environment and culture.


Data is an institution’s greatest asset. It’s a downside for the Major Gifts Officer to be entirely removed. 

Major Gifts Officer Required to Enter Data

This model ensures that Major Gifts Officers are at the forefront of the CRM system, and the responsibility to enter data usually comes with a mandate from the Chief Philanthropy Officer.


Here’s what to consider.




When Major Gifts Officers are tasked with data entry, one notable pro is that the information entered comes directly from the source. The CRM system reflects what happened as close as you can get.


Another pro is the gift officer is interacting with the system—it’s not just view only—it’s a genuine interaction that offers a different perspective. Major Gifts Officers may be more inclined to notice errors and offer a more complete profile because they are involved in many interactions.


This level of interaction may motivate them to correct errors if the record is misaligned. For example, the gift officer might notice a donor’s address is outdated if they recently met at the donor’s house.




There is specific training involved in understanding the CRM system from a data entry perspective. And most institutions have additional procedures to maintain data quality. The added responsibility of extensive training sometimes becomes a hardship for Major Gifts Officers.


This issue becomes more complex as gift officers learn additional information they may want to capture in the CRM system. They start to accumulate a training burden, and given the nature of their job, they may be unable to fulfill it. Even with the best intentions, things start to go awry and have a cascading effect—data becomes less usable and reliable. There’s no denying it, data quality is impacted without proper training and understanding of processes and procedures.


Now that you’ve considered your options, both may sound bleak. Our recommendation is to consider a model that’s not either-or. Instead, establish a workflow where Major Gifts Officers enter data firsthand to eliminate duplicative work. If they don’t have entry privileges, determine how to document the information and task someone else with entry. Or consider using guardrails. Guardrails could be helpful tips while entering or validating information.


At the very least, have a formal review process before data is deemed final. A formal review process presents an opportunity to make the workflow prescriptive. This interactive method suggests double-checking existing information in the record for accuracy. And establish balance. This eliminates the trepidation Major Gifts Officers may experience and gets them involved in the CRM system. You need them to be a knowledgeable user for the advancement of CRM.

No CRM Current State Documentation? No Problem!

At the beginning of the Advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation, you’re likely looking at current state documentation. What if you still need to write down your current state processes?


Your first reaction might be to stop and write everything down. But in today’s fast-paced world, you don’t have the luxury of spending time and effort on this.


But all is not lost in the absence of your current state documentation.


Below are five tips to consider if you’re in a similar situation.

Tip #1: Prioritize

Prioritization helps you focus your time and resources on the most critical and profitable areas—the same is true regarding your current state documentation.


Prioritize your primary workflow processes. Rather than trying to pinpoint all primary scenarios, select 3–5 over-arching scenarios from an advancement perspective. Document those scenarios from beginning to end rather than detailing every possible engagement workflow.

Tip #2: Leverage Power Users

Without your current state documentation, power users are a great resource from prospect research through stewardship and gift processing. For example, a power user from the fundraising team can start at the annual giving program and possibly progress to major giving.


Power users can also oversee a collective group of cross-functional team members to get the current state documentation on paper. For instance, if there is a particular process that is key and holds intricacies, a team member can schedule a one-on-one working session to investigate and acquire knowledge from the power user.


Leverage power users in two ways.

  1. Cross-functional group session: include everyone who touches the process’s components as you flow from beginning to end.
  2. Power-user session: complete an individual working session and get a “download” to create high-level documentation to be used.

Tip #3: Create Iterative Processes of Your Current State Documentation

The CRM’s current state documentation process is iterative and requires continuous improvement. Use an agile process and facilitate interactive workshops so you can compare what features and functionality the system has.


Then, work to match those high-level processes and create prototypes to build collaborative future state maps.

  • Don’t complete future state workflows and try to match the application.
  • Do complete an integrative process.

Tip #4: Position Staff as Subject Matter Experts

Your CRM implementation partner brings technical, product, and general expertise, which is different from what your internal stakeholders can offer.


There is a symbiosis between the implementation partner and internal stakeholders. Your implementation partner ramps up your knowledge about the platform and software, whereas internal staff members help increase your knowledge of the implementation partner and how they do business.


When forging the two, it’s essential to identify dynamics clearly. Specifically, identify who is providing what expertise and how they’re simultaneously supporting each other. This is important because, in lieu of written documentation, you’re providing collaborative project approaches to the consultant, and they provide a solution.

Tip #5: Configure as Needs Emerge

Break out of that old “waterfall method” and move toward agility. Configurations are a necessary component of your CRM current state documentation.


For example, you discover a feature set that works great from the process perspective, but one thing needs to be configured. Ask internal staff to analyze and determine a list of configurations to ensure you’ve interpreted the information correctly.


It may seem overwhelming without current state documentation. But this is an opportunity to establish a nimble user-driven approach to creating and establishing ongoing processes.

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.

Implementing an Advancement CRM? Don’t Forget Risk Management

Having an emergency plan before the emergency occurs increases the success of your advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. A successful risk management program helps you consider the full range of risks your advancement CRM implementation may face. Risk management also examines the relationship between different types of risks and the cascading impact they could have on your implementation and strategic goals.


Risk management should be viewed in three categories: the project risks, the technical risks, and the business risks. Categorizing risks is beneficial because it can reveal more extensive patterns or organizational weaknesses that must be addressed. Additionally, it helps you perceive the risk from all perspectives within your organization. These perspectives improve understanding of how the CRM project may affect other departments and how the risks may be correlated.


We discuss four key components to consider as you develop your advancement CRM risk management plan.

Risk Identification

Risk identification should be done at the early planning stages of a project. Allotting time early on for risk identification enables you and your team to:

  • think through what you’re trying to accomplish in your CRM implementation project;
  • distinguish who is going to be involved;
  • identify resources and budget needs;
  • assess components; and
  • outline barriers to success.

From a resource perspective, a key risk identification related to your advancement CRM implementation resources might include staff going on family leave during the project. Another common resource risk identification is having a role on a project you know that is not adequately trained.

Risk Analysis

After you’ve identified risks, you must complete risk analysis. Analyzing risk includes evaluating and assessing a risk score. This helps you to determine the likelihood of the risk occurring but also enables you to understand the impact on the project if that risk occurs. Specifically, during risk analysis asking, what is the source of the risk and components involved?


For example, data breaches in the middle of the implementation project have a lower probability of occurring. However, in the healthcare space, data security or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations would be a very high risk from an impact perspective.


Important tip: Risk analysis and identification is not a one-and-done thing, and these tasks aren’t exclusive to the planning stage.


Risk can be unveiled along the way and at any point, so its best to be doing these things during the early planning stages but also have a plan to do them ongoing.

Risk Mitigation

Now that you’ve identified risk and the analysis, you can mitigate it. As you plan for risk mitigation, focus on prioritizing the potential impact of what’s happening. Again, risk mitigation plans are working documents and must accompany identification and analysis. You can identify and analyze risk, but those are just documents if you don’t develop a mitigation plan.


Risk mitigation strategies should be useful and actionable. They are truly the “exit plan,” determining the route you need to take if the risk were to occur. This exit plan reduces the chance of the risk happening and minimizes the consequences—helping you achieve two things:

  1. acting early helps you reduce the risk’s likelihood; and
  2. lessening its impact and preventing it from happening again if the risk does occur. 

One common (and considerable) risk during CRM implementation projects is scope creep. A risk mitigation plan addresses scope and policies and allows for scope creep helps you contain and change it, making it less detrimental to your CRM implementation project. Changing the scope of the project becomes very fluid and increases success if you prepare for scope creep in your risk mitigation strategy.


Here are other things to consider in your risk mitigation strategy.

  • Comprehensive test plans and scripts ensure quality and reduce the risk of integrating a solution that doesn’t work. A risk mitigation plan integrates test plans and scripts to ensure whatever is developed meets the needs.
  • Contingency plans: Contingency planning should be completed for all significant impact or high-likelihood items during the analysis. Many organizations forget about contingency plans when formulating risk mitigation strategies. But it’s better to have the plan in place rather than trying to create it during chaos.

Tracking and Monitoring

The most underrated aspect of establishing a risk management plan is determining methods for tracking and monitoring. Too often, organizations spend much time identifying and analyzing risk but do not have established tracking and monitoring methods once the risk has occurred.


You need to establish risk metrics and triggers and know when to enact the strategies for all your action plans. Otherwise, you won’t know the risk is occurring or the circumstances that triggered it. Answering these questions up front support the monitoring and tracking process and set your risk management plan and advancement CRM up for success.

Navigating the Storm: Effective Crisis Management and Communication Strategies for an Institution’s Go-Live Date


The anticipation of an institution’s Go-Live date for a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system can be both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing. This milestone represents a crucial juncture, and disruptions of any kind may trigger far-reaching consequences.


If you find yourself amid a crisis during your CRM implementation, it’s imperative to enact an effective crisis management plan with appropriate communication strategies. But you can’t wait until you’re in the middle of a crisis to decide how to handle it. 


Here’s what to consider as you create an effective crisis management and communication strategy that minimizes potential fallout.

Pre-Go-Live Preparation

The first step to avoiding or managing any crisis is establishing a comprehensive crisis management plan before reaching your CRM Go-Live. As you develop this plan, consider including a range of scenarios, identify potential issues, assess their anticipated impact, and outline clear steps for resolution.


Here are a few questions to think about as you develop your crisis management plan.

  • What does crisis management mean to your institution? Specifically, your CRM project team?
  • How will your institution and team prepare for crises?
  • How often will you review your crisis management plan?
  • What are the current threats to your institution, and how will they impact your CRM?
  • If you experience a crisis, what are the ramifications?

Once you’ve outlined what to include in your comprehensive crisis management plan, establish a well-defined hierarchy of roles and responsibilities within your team. Identifying roles and responsibilities eliminates confusion and ensures everyone has a clear understanding of expectations during a crisis. Additionally, designate spokespersons for both internal and external communication.


Finally, develop an effective crisis communication strategy to ensure team members understand how to report issues, who to notify, and how the information will be disseminated to relevant parties.

Effective Crisis Communication

The key to effective crisis communication strategy is to be selective about the information you share—be honest, but you also need to be strategic. Hiding information makes your institution look suspicious, which, by extension, hinders trust.


Instead of hiding information, focus on transparency. Transparency builds trust, and stakeholders will appreciate your forthrightness. The first step toward transparency is sharing your crisis management plan with key stakeholders. This sets the tone and helps stakeholders understand how you’re prepared to address issues.


Being transparent is not simultaneous with being silent. In times of crisis, silence can cause more damage. Instead, provide frequent updates to stakeholders—whether internal or external. Consistent communication helps manage expectations and demonstrates your commitment to resolving issues promptly.


As you communicate during a crisis, tailor messaging for different audiences. This builds trust and proves you understand how the risk may implicate others or your organization. For example, what the technical team needs to know during a crisis will differ significantly from what your stakeholders need.


Lastly, encourage two-way communication. Actively listen to stakeholder concerns and questions. Acknowledge their feedback and provide prompt answers. Open lines of communication foster trust and enable you to address issues effectively.

During a Crisis

If your institution finds itself amid a crisis during your CRM Go-Live, don’t despair—you’ve already established an effective crisis management plan! This stage is when your crisis management plan will be put into action: Initial crisis management messages are released, employees and stakeholders are contacted, and public and company safety is prioritized (more than usual.)


There are a few additional things to consider during a crisis, especially if it escalates.

  • Escalation Protocols: help address issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels. Ensure decision-makers are readily available and informed about critical developments—time is of the essence in crisis management.
  • Multi-Channel Approach: Be prepared to disseminate information via email, phone calls, social media, and other platforms. In a crisis, different stakeholders may prefer various means of communication. 

Most importantly, during any crisis, remain calm, listen to stakeholders, and identify and monitor risks.

After the Crisis

Your crisis management work is hardly finished when a crisis passes or subsides. You must continue contact with your employees and stakeholders—sending proactive updates and being available to answer questions.


This is also when you will conduct a post-crisis evaluation. Identify what went well, what didn’t, and how you can put lessons learned to good use for other projects. Document your findings to refine your crisis management and communication strategies. Each experience should be a learning opportunity that strengthens your institution’s ability to handle future crises.


Effective crisis management and communication strategies are vital to successfully navigating the challenges of an institution’s Go-Live date. Transparent, well-prepared, and responsive institutions inspire confidence in their stakeholders, even in adversity. By integrating these strategies into your institution’s culture, you ensure surviving the storm but emerging more robust and resilient.

60 Days Until Your CRM Go Live, Here’s Your Two Minute Offense to Finish Strong


Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation Go Live date is 60 days away. You’ve already put in a lot of work, but the last 60 days are no time to retreat.


We discuss a two-minute offense to help you finish strong.


Prioritization is your biggest asset to finishing your CRM implementation strong. There are many tasks left to complete, so you must know what will have the most impact and added value to the end users. Prioritize what will happen in the next 90 days (60 days until Go Live and the 30 days after.)


As you consider what to prioritize, remember these do’s and don’ts. 

  • Don’t hold out false hope.
  • Do communicate openly and clearly.


At this point, your training plan is completed with scheduled dates, content, and delivery method. Your trainer’s schedule is committed and confirmed; facilities and equipment are secured.


User acceptance testing is likely already completed, and feedback has been vetted and prioritized. Users are comfortable with self-service reporting and training. Configurations before the Go Live date are done and documented.


As you approach your Go Live date, consider how you’ll ramp up training after going live. What will additional training look like 30, 60, and 90 days after Go Live? 


During this sprint toward the finish line, all resources on hand—whether information technology (IT) or other supporting team members—should have their calendars confirmed for Go Live.


Their skillset should be (if not already) evaluated and decided how they can best support the CRM implementation. Avoid classifying the bulk of your team resources under an “IT umbrella” without considering how they can help your Go Live date and activities.


There are three categories of knowledge sets that need to be considered.

  • Application: Team members understand how the CRM works best or should be used and will work with the end user. These team members can leverage areas of the application to complete specific operational tasks or business processes.
  • Technical: Team members understand the system itself. They are equipped to deal with errors during data integration and understand processes that make the CRM system work.
  • Security: Team members who identify and monitor those who are accessing the correct information.


Communication is key during all phases of your CRM implementation, but maybe even more so when it comes to sunsetting your legacy system and moving toward the new one. 


Legacy systems often don’t go away but are phased out—typically in stages. These stages must be communicated to end users.

  • Stage one: Set a standard date for the legacy system to remain available in view-only mode. This date is when no new data will be added, but will remain available for reference, comparison, or troubleshooting. Ideally, the first stage stop date should be shared 30 days prior. 
  • Stage two: This date is when the legacy system will be completely discontinued. At this time, there will be no new data entry into the legacy system, and the new CRM system will be the only resource for information.

Reaching a successful Go Live for your CRM requires a series of carefully planned steps that are communicated to all users and stakeholders. Use this two-minute offense to finish strong and reach your Go Live date with time to spare. 

Tips for Delivering Bad News to Stakeholders During an Advancement CRM Implementation


Unforeseen obstacles or challenges during a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation are inevitable. The worst thing you could try to do is hide it from your stakeholders—that is a recipe for disaster. When enduring obstacles or challenges during a CRM implementation, the objective, whether good or bad, should be clear and transparent communication to your stakeholders. 


Communication, especially when delivering bad news, is dreaded for most people. These conversations can be unpleasant; emotions can run high, and tempers can flare. There may be a fear that stakeholders will become defensive, and the conversation will strain the CRM implementation. This fear may cause the team lead to inadvertently sabotage the meeting by preparing for it in a way that stifles honest discussion. While unintentional, this habit is a byproduct of stress, making it challenging to deliver corrective information effectively.


Clear and transparent communication is critical to maintaining trust, understanding, and ongoing cooperation of your stakeholders during and after a CRM implementation. 


Consider this four-step approach for communication best practices when delivering bad news.

Step 1: Identify the delivery method.

Timing and delivery are crucial when it comes to breaking bad news. Avoid unnecessary delays, rumors, or leaks that can create anxiety and confusion among your team. However, you also want to avoid catching them off guard or interrupting their work. Choose a convenient and respectful time for your team and give them some notice if possible. Also, consider the best mode of communication for the situation.


In general, face-to-face in-person or video meetings are preferable for sensitive or complex issues. This lets you convey your tone, body language, and emotions and address immediate reactions or questions. Real-time delivery, whether in-person or virtually, allows for two-way communication, which should be emphasized. It is important to note that while adequate, a video or email message is entirely inappropriate in this circumstance.

Step 2: Focus on the solution vs. the problem.

Another critical element of delivering bad news is to focus on solutions and actions rather than dwelling on the problem. Clearly and concisely explain the issue at hand, but early in the message, describe potential solutions. If solutions aren’t available, discuss your plan of action to mitigate the problem. 


Highlight opportunities or benefits that may arise from the situation and emphasize team and organizational goals and vision. Involve your team in finding solutions and actions and solicit their feedback and suggestions. This helps them feel empowered and engaged and fosters collaboration and ownership.


Remember a few do’s and don’ts as you prepare solution-based communications.  

  • Don’t provide promises or unrealistic timelines for the resolution. 
  • Do reassure stakeholders the team is committed to resolving the issue. 

Step 3: Prepare the message and those delivering it.

Not only do you need to prepare the message to be delivered, but you also need to prepare the messenger. Before anyone talks to stakeholders, ensure those presenting have a clear and accurate understanding of the bad news and its implications. 


If those delivering the message are confused or correcting each other, stakeholder confidence will be diminished. Gather all the relevant facts and data and anticipate possible questions and concerns. This ensures everyone is in alignment as to what the issue is and strategies for resolution or the next steps. 


Avoid sugarcoating, exaggerating, or hiding the truth, as this will only damage credibility and trust. Instead, be honest, concise, and respectful, and explain the reasons and rationale behind the decision or outcome.

Step 4: Listen to the activity and ask for feedback.

Finally, be prepared to listen to stakeholders actively after you deliver the message. Allow adequate time for stakeholders to voice concerns and ask questions. Listen to their feedback and concerns and address any issues or questions. Show respect and validate you’ve heard the message—avoid becoming defensive. What has the potential to be a healthy conversation can quickly dissolve if a defensive perspective is taken.

Streamline Your Advancement CRM Implementation with a Data Assessment


Introducing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) into your institution’s operations boasts features like workflow automation, data integration, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven insights. But these things can only be fully realized with the proper data foundation.


The importance of laying an appropriate groundwork for your data during a CRM implementation cannot be overstated. By ensuring the data’s integrity and readiness, you unlock the complete potential of your advancement CRM.


We discuss how a data assessment impacts the success rate of your CRM implementation. 

What is a data assessment?  

There are many expectations regarding your new advancement CRM. Institutions often expect it to perform leaps and bounds over their legacy system. In many cases, it can, but not if incorrect or outdated data is transferred from the legacy system. In this case, the frustrations experienced in the legacy system will follow you to your new CRM.


A data assessment prevents the letdown and helps you realize the benefits of your new advancement CRM. At its core, a data assessment is a data inventory—accounting for valuable information in your legacy system (or a miscellaneous spreadsheet) and creating a strategy for integrating it into the CRM. 


Completing a comprehensive data assessment is a tailored strategy specifically designed to maximize the benefits of your CRM application. Central to its purpose, the CRM aims to enhance the engagement of constituents, amplify fundraising efforts, and refine the lines of communication across various stakeholders. 


When you conduct a data assessment, you engage in a rigorous identification process of all data sources and systems linked to your operations. This thorough examination establishes a well-defined strategy for archiving and purging, ensuring only the most relevant and recent data is chosen for the conversion process.

Data Privacy and Security 

With the ever-increasing importance of safeguarding personal and sensitive information, a data privacy and security assessment pinpoints data components that require elevated attention due to their security and privacy implications. 


By identifying and documenting data privacy and security, you can highlight special considerations in the overall data conversion strategy. This ensures vital aspects of your data are treated with the utmost care and expertise—allowing you to design and configure your new advancement CRM application. 


Additionally, your data remains secure with only the appropriate people having access. 

Data Cleansing and Standardization 

Everyone knows insufficient or incomplete data exists in your legacy systems. And the question remains, “Should we clean up the data or leave it behind?” Whatever you choose, establishing an action plan for the cleanup process is necessary. 


Data cleansing prevents bad data from being transferred. It also ensures your new data meets expectations for decision-making and becomes a foundation for good data to build on.


Recognizing the intricacies of data structures can be challenging. A data assessment first evaluates duplicate constituent records. Then, a data assessment analyzes reference tables for core data to ensure consistency and relevance. 


Identifying orphaned or missing relationships between core data tables and correcting misaligned dates ensures chronological coherence. This detailed examination identifies and recommends proactive solutions to counteract conversion challenges—significantly increasing your data conversion process’s precision and success rate.


A typical timeline during a data assessment might include:

  • Month 1: Data inventory
  • Month 2: Data private and security assessment 
  • Month 3: Data cleansing and standardization assessment 
  • Month 4: Data cleanup and check-in
  • Month 5: Data cleanup and check-in

Partnering with Precision Partners for a data assessment means investing in a streamlined operation, committing to accurate and secure data (especially the most sensitive components), and driving your advancement department’s mission with unparalleled trust and efficacy. 


You can expect the following outcomes when you partner with us for a data assessment:

  • Optimized data foundation for AI.
  • Decrease budget and schedule risks.
  • Increase trust and user adoption.
  • Increased return on investment (ROI).

Three Ways an Advancement Services & Support Assessment Supports Your CRM Implementation


Every organization’s strength lies in its people. And in the dynamic landscape of Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems, the right team setup becomes the cornerstone of operational success. 


However, in our experience, organizations forget to assess staffing skills before diving into a CRM implementation. 


Conducting a staffing skills assessment helps identify areas of expertise and potential growth, empowering you to realign responsibilities and ensure the optimal team organization structure. 


When you know what skills exist and clearly understand the gaps, you guarantee every team member is on the same page. Additionally, your team can better master the nuances of the CRM system at an individualized pace.


Here’s how an Advancement Services and Support Assessment can support your CRM implementation.

Staffing Skills and Capabilities 

With their cutting-edge features and capabilities, CRMs demand a team adept and poised to harness its potential. An Advancement Services and Support Assessment is an initial evaluation of your team’s current skill set and capabilities. 


When you know exactly what skills exist on your team, you can make better decisions. You’ll have a clear understanding of whether to invest in upscaling your existing staff or bringing in new talent. Regardless of what you choose, the decision determines whether your team is highly knowledgeable and perfectly aligned with your strategic objectives.

Organization Structure and Alignment

Organizational charts evolve for various reasons, but when did you last examine the structure? Additionally, have you considered how your organizational structure aligns with your CRM implementation?


Pre-planning how your organizational structure aligns with your CRM rather than reacting when the implementation is in place could positively or negatively impact adoption. 


Balancing industry best practices and the distinctive nature of your organization, Advancement Services and Support Assessment is designed to offer specialized guidance for staffing roles and responsibilities—evaluating your current team structure and dynamics to advise on an optimal realignment of responsibilities. 


This strategic reshuffling heightens efficiency and ensures your team engages with the new operational capabilities. The goal of this assessment is to facilitate a seamless integration that amplifies both productivity and synergy within your Advancement services department—maximizing efficiency and ensuring a seamless collaboration with the new CRM.

Ramp Up and Training Strategy

Your Advancement services team often acts as a support group after a CRM implementation. And their journey through implementation determines the long-term success of your CRM. Institutions must invest more time and resources in a ramp up and training strategy. 


Understanding the pivotal role that your Advancement team plays during implementation and beyond ensures users within the institution can turn to them for guidance and insights. Each team member must be confidently equipped with a deep understanding of the CRM system.


Undergoing an Advancement Services and Support Assessment improves your implementation success rate by determining the optimal preparation strategy for the self-paced learning process essential to the CRM implementation. 


This strategic approach ensures every team member has a comprehensive grasp of the CRM application at a pace and depth tailored to them. And your team will be better equipped to retain more knowledge, understand practical applications, and become dependable subject matter experts for other users within your institution.


When you partner with Precision Partners for an Advancement Services and Support Assessment, you’re ensuring a future-ready Advancement services department ready for success. You can expect the following outcomes:

  • Operational excellence
  • Efficient staffing alignment
  • Empowered team
  • Future-ready department
  • Established subject matter experts

Advancement CRM Guidelines for a Great User Experience Design


Advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platforms, particularly on Salesforce, have opened a new world for tailoring the user experience. But for anyone who has embarked on a project like this, you likely quickly learned it was a blessing and a curse. 


While having endless possibilities is a great thing, it can sometimes become a stumbling block without an excellent strategy for optimizing design and user experience. 


We discuss advancement CRM guidelines to consider for a great user experience. 

Simple is better.

Streamline the user experience by focusing on the most important things and removing the clutter. This follows the less is more philosophy. 


Don’t be afraid to remove things from a user’s visibility, allowing them to focus, perfect, and master a smaller number of features and information that makes the most impact. 

Structure the user experience.

At first, users should focus more on summary or high-level information. This may include focusing on a maximum of five data points. Avoid presenting all the details simultaneously for those five data points. But as users dig into the summary information, they may be able to answer their question independently.


Then, after they’re accustomed to the summary information, they can build off the information by drilling down on the detail. 

Resist turning your new system into your old system.

One of the most common areas where institutions fail to resist turning their new system into the old system is with terminology. Don’t relabel everything the same as it was in your old system. It is especially challenging to label everything in your system that is unique to your organization because no one knows what you’re talking about. 


Instead, follow mainstream labeling practices. This enables you to compare data to other industry colleagues. 


Another common area where institutions fail to resist transforming the new system to the old is by having complex workflows and automation. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Why are we jumping through hoops in the user interface to make this happen?”  


Is it because you are following an outdated practice since that’s how it’s always been in your institution? Or is it beneficial? Avoid incorporating complex workflows and automation by having conversations with colleagues outside your institution and following best practices. 

Never enter the same data more than once. 

Entering data multiple times is the death of the user experience and will frustrate them to no extent. This practice is also inefficient, decreases data quality, and leads to misaligned and incorrect information.


Humans are not equipped to enter the same information multiple times. In fact, surveys that ask too many of the same type exhaust respondents and produce unreliable data, according to a 2022 study published by the University of California in Science Daily. The same study found that people tire from questions that vary only slightly and tend to give similar answers to all questions as the survey progresses. 



The Elephant in Advancement, Top 5 Reasons for Low User Adoption of a New CRM Platform


Here’s what we all agree on—it is vital for an institution to nurture relationships, manage engagement, and drive successful fundraising initiatives. But low user adoption rates after implementing an advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform can be frustrating. 


The most cited CRM user adoption challenges across professions and industries are attributed to lack of precise goals, software complexity, and training support. Understanding how and why these challenges arise can improve CRM user adoption.


We discuss five common challenges to consider. 

#1—Insufficient training or familiarity with the technology. 

Institutions don’t always address both training and familiarity with the tool. Training on your advancement CRM needs to happen on two levels. The first level is users need to understand what the tool can do. The what capabilities should include in-depth knowledge and understanding of the CRM’s features and functionality. 


That combined with what is the best way to use it aligns capabilities and best practices with their daily operations. 

#2—Complex and non-intuitive interface. 

You can have a great CRM platform + bad implementation = low user adoption.


If this is true, you’re likely leading one of two extremes. The first extreme is, too often, institutions have the mindset they will keep everything the same from the out-of-the-box CRM. These institutions expect users to use it as-is and work through it from there. This mindset is sometimes considered conservative, but that is an incorrect assumption. 


When you keep your CRM as-is, you’re creating a complex and non-intuitive interface. Remember, the software vendor showed you everything from an application administrator’s point of view, so you know what you’re dealing with. You’re handing off the most complex version to users if you keep it the same. 


The second extreme is over-engineering the entire user experience—adding automation and changing the user interface until it’s unrecognizable. In this extreme, what you’ve likely done is made it look like your legacy system. Essentially, you’ve bought a brand-new tool and converted it to what you’re trying to retire. 


The correct conservative approach is to streamline the user experience, eliminate noise, and focus on valuable tool sets and information. 

#3—Lack of leadership buy-in and support. 

Users follow leadership and watch to see what they feel is essential. This includes social and organizational cues within the institution. If leadership has yet to emphasize the importance of the advancement CRM, the entire implementation, or if they’re not using and promoting it, their employees are less likely to embrace it. Attitude reflects leadership. 

#4—Inadequate donor data integration.

You’ve bought the tool itself, but it cannot live in a bubble. In advancement, an ecosystem of technology needs to work together. There must be a 360-degree view that seamlessly integrates with other systems, otherwise user adoption decreases. This is because if users jump from one system to another to do their job it becomes cumbersome, and they are reluctant to do it.


Unfortunately, even if the inadequate integration is to blame, the new system takes the brunt of it. Users think, “Why should I learn a new system if it doesn’t seamlessly fit into my world?” Integrating the CRM with essential tools—for fundraising and engagement to automate data flows—is critical to the user experience. Doing so increases user adoption rates. 

#5—Lack of clear ROI and impact visibility. 

Users are more likely to adopt and embrace an advancement CRM when they can witness or understand how its impact will make a difference in what they care about. 

  • What are they measured on? 
  • Is there an impact on their goals?
  • Are they measured as an individual staff member or as a department?

User adoption decreases if the advancement CRM implementation or overall project fails to provide clear linkages between the why and what the organization hopes to improve and achieve. Consider sharing your organizational goals regarding: 

  • Key metrics
  • Donor engagement 
  • Campaign performance 

It’s about connecting the dots for users on why they’re doing this and how this new advancement CRM technology will make a difference. Clearly indicating your organizational goals directly impacts adoption and enthusiasm for the system. 

CRM Implementation Tips from an Industry Leader: Benefits and Challenges


Implementing a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform may feel like an impossible feat—one you know will benefit your organization but wonder if it’s worth the cost (both fiscally and personally). 


We sat down with Binti Harvey, Vice President for External Relations and Institutional Advancement at Scripps College, to discover the benefits and challenges of a CRM database. Here’s what she had to say. 

Benefits and Challenges

Regarding the most significant benefits of implementing a CRM, Harvey says it enables a deeper understanding of constituents and promotes engagement. “We can have the right conversations at the right times to anticipate interests and needs and engage our constituents on a deeper level,” Harvey said. 


But a CRM is not a perfect solution. “With any CRM, there are some functions and operations that the platform is better or worse—there is no perfect tool,” Harvey said. “This allows thinking about other platforms to connect and enhance the basic capability or function, creating an ecosystem of tools.” 


Whether you add integrations or not, maximizing the CRM database to its full potential is critical. Harvey says, “We often have a Ferrari driving like a Ford. Maximizing efficiency requires staff, time, and expertise capacity.” 


So how does Harvey manage the benefits with the challenges? First, balance. “It’s important to have the folks working most closely to the CRM database be a part of the knowledge communities,” Harvey said. “We balance a constant learning mode and a continuous improvement cycle.” 


Constant learning happens by listening to what other institutions, vendors, and firms like Precision Partners have to say. “Having these relationships offer a birds-eye view of how the tool is being used and best practices. This helps us regularly evaluate and adjust our approach,” Harvey said. “Robust onboarding and training system—including a protocol for new and existing employees—helps us adhere to those practices and accelerate our initiatives.” 

Strategic Planning and Budgeting

CRM platforms aren’t just “nice to have.” They can be essential to supporting your divisional goals and strategic plan. “We have a robust two-year planning cycle that starts with articulating our aspirations. Then we conduct a gap analysis, assigning specific metrics to a strategy for closing those gaps,” Harvey said. “The CRM allows us to measure those things as levers.” 


“For example, increasing engagement of a particular segment of our alumni population, the CRM allows us to segment volunteering per class year, and then we can gauge how we’re moving the needle for those segments,” Harvey added. “In other instances, the CRM allows us to set a goal and monitor our fundraising outcomes explicitly, specifically how it aligns with our progress. With this data, we can make our aspirations concrete and keep the strategies we’ve identified as the highest priority.” 


Because the CRM database is mission critical, Harvey says they build their budget around the cost of the CRM, which remains consistent. What’s not consistent is how much (if any) they budget for integrations. “Choosing a new satellite tool is a significant investment, so we’re very thoughtful about that,” Harvey said. “Before we commit to integrations, we focus on what the core database offers and assess if the new tool is worth the additional human and financial expenses accompanying that investment. We also monitor the always-evolving database for anticipated new features or capabilities in development—opting to maximize the database instead of integrating a new tool.” 

Fostering Success 

The question remains, can an advanced CRM database foster success principles like collaboration, productivity, data quality, and sharing information? Yes, but it depends on organizational culture. “My philosophy is those are aspects of organizational culture that should be nurtured and bread with or without the CRM database, but the database becomes a way to reinforce and bring them to life,” Harvey said. “The temptation can be for people to think the database solely belongs to the advancement services or operations team. With this thinking, there isn’t shared ownership for its health and functioning quality. But what we’ve tried to do here is ensure data quality has shared ownership and accountability.”


Which Harvey adds is an opportunity for conversations and cross-functional collaborations. “With this approach, people have moved away from their shadow systems, and our CRM has become the single source of truth,” Harvey said. 


But getting there was a painful process. “We have one more area to resolve, but our success so far has required a lot of discussions about process, agreement on definitions, deciding who inputs what and how do you document agreement, as well as conducting intangible exercises to build trust,” Harvey said. “Users of the CRM must trust those who are maintaining and populating the database so they feel confident data is accurately reflected.” 


The intangible exercises Harvey refers to a focus on team building. “We’ve engaged our teams in exercises to learn more about each other’s work and build trust,” Harvey said. “Much of that work happened while working remotely because we were transitioning our CRM during the pandemic. But now that we are meeting in person, the trust-building happens more efficiently and effectively, and we’ve made progress faster.” 


“Cross-functional meetings are happening, and our teams are joint problem-solving. This allows for course correction in a much more efficient way,” Harvey added. “Instead of relaying information, there is an opportunity for collaborative creativity when all teams sit in the room and bring perspective.” 


A final reminder that no matter how robust your CRM database is, Harvey says it’s not a “silver bullet.” “Your CRM is a tool. The way and when you use it, and your level of knowledge affects the extent to its ability to achieve what it needs to do,” Harvey said. “But maximizing your CRM database enables you to have a high functioning, well-designed tool, which allows your team more space for engagement, better decision making, and high-level transformative activities.”  

Advancement CRM Implementations: The Impact of Scope Creep


When implementing a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform, there is a philosophy in the advancement industry to get the minimally viable product up and running as quickly as possible. 


But as organizations get closer to Go Live with their minimally viable product, they begin to experience it first-hand, and discomfort may set it in. The typical response to this discomfort is often adding functionality at Go Live. 


Adding functionality this late in the process creates scope creep, and you must resist the urge to make those changes. Scope creep introduces tremendous risk to your project. 


Here are three things to consider about the impact of scope creep. 

Solution Stability

When you start expanding your scope toward the latter stages of a project, you risk your solution stability. This is because the functions you’ve added have not gone through the same rigor and paces as everything else that is a part of the original solution. 


Additionally, interconnectedness is jeopardized—what you’re adding to what already exists affects the transition and integration. 


For example, you’re nearing the latter stages of the project, and you’ve decided to add an interface that was not planned initially. This puts your interconnectedness at risk because the data from the new system has not been through the necessary paces for how it will interface with your new advancement CRM. This lack of pacing also increases the risk to your data quality.

Project Team Focus

Adjusting your scope during the latter stages of a CRM project increases your risk of your project team’s loss of focus. This is because the project team has developed a rhythm—they’ve established an approach to getting work done and understanding what they’re working with. 


But adding additional elements to the scope without adequate time diverts their attention and requires them to consume new information—in most cases, very quickly. This disrupts the team’s efficiency, productivity, and performance rhythm. It can also delay successful adoption.

Change Management 

The third risk area of scope creep is its effects on your change management program. Throughout the project, your change management program is continuously assessing and managing change, supporting users through the CRM transition. 


But with scope creep, you’ve moved the goal. So now your change management program must either reassess—which often there isn’t enough time—or you’re left to experience the effects at Go Live without adequate preparation. 

Finally, consider that most institutions come from a legacy system that has existed for an extended time. As a result, users are accustomed to the legacy system—even if they dislike it—with a deep understanding of features and functionality. When you shift to a new advancement CRM with the concept of a minimally viable product, you risk users feeling overwhelmed or, worse, hindering adoption. 


Scope creep hinders your CRM project before it can generate value for your organization. A structured approach to CRM implementation—including training and optimization—helps you avoid CRM scope creep while maximizing the value of your system.

Things to Consider as a Functional Lead to Boost Your CRM Implementation Strategy


The functional lead or product owner is critical in bringing together the technology of your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. Ultimately, the functional lead advocates for executive leadership and stakeholder expectations. 


But what does it take to succeed in this role? 


We sat down with Erica Douglas, Senior Director of Philanthropy, Business Solutions Team, MD Anderson Cancer Center, to hear more about the crucial responsibilities of a functional lead in a CRM implementation project. 


Here’s what to consider. 

Change Management 

The CRM implementation team at MD Anderson Cancer Center is nearing the end of their project with a tentative Go Live data of October 20, 2023. Douglas’s role is a functional lead with the Journey CRM implementation project. Leading from the philanthropy side, Douglas acts as a liaison between the implementation team and central IT. 


Working closely with Precision Partners, Douglas says her job currently involves mapping data. But to do that well, the institution was required to look at its business processes. “We’re extracting data from our legacy system and mapping it accordingly in the new CRM,” Douglas said. “And we’ve had to evaluate our business processes to ensure efficiency.”


As they endure data mapping and move along with their CRM implementation, the obstacles they see most prominently are related to change management and a limitation of resources. “We are moving from a 20-year-old technology—it’s like going from the first iPhone to iPhone 14. The technology is so different,” Douglas said. “Even though the change is necessary, many people are anxious about it—we’re moving to something new, and they’re used to doing things a certain way.”


From an institutional perspective, they’re happy to move technology and excited about how it will bring efficiency to business processes, but the challenge of effective change management remains. “Precision Partners is part of our change management,” Douglas said. “Together, we’re developing better communication to increase inclusivity.”


In practice, this looks like Douglas reiterating the recommendation of creating an environment that empowers questions. “We frequently ask our stakeholders how they feel regarding the project,” Douglas said. “And we’re actively communicating different aspects of our project.”


“When we gather as a division, I can be found presenting on a topic or something about the project. This increases communication and allows everyone to get on the same page. It creates a sense of belonging,” Douglas added.


Vendor Relationship  

This CRM implementation is MD Anderson Cancer Center’s second attempt. “Our first vendor wasn’t aware of the entire philanthropy process—I think that’s where the breakdown happened,” Douglas said. “Their lack of understanding made it challenging during the discovery session and trying to gather functional requirements. As a result, a lot of angst built up.” 


Because of lessons learned, they’ve aimed to work with an appropriate implementation agency for their second attempt. And Douglas says her IT background has been valuable. “I know technology, and I know the business; this helps me to connect the two and bridge the gap,” Douglas said. “Being versed in both areas helps me because I understand the technical aspect and act as a translator. But I can also enlighten IT about what it means from a business perspective and explain why.” 



If you’re working with limited resources like MD Anderson, be strategic and focus on communication. But ongoing training is also vital for success. “Start change management early and have frequent training. The earlier you start and begin adapting your CRM, the better chance you have for project champions,” Douglas said. “Even though we’re nearing our Go Live, we’re still doing lunch and learns. From our group division, we want to incorporate more of them internally to increase inclusiveness and transparency across the whole division.” 


And don’t discount learning by trial and error. Douglas’s business solutions team has succeeded dramatically with “sandbox thinking,” creating a low-risk practical learning atmosphere. The sandbox thinking allows users to experiment within the program—minimizing risk before introducing ideas on a broader sale. “Having an environment where people feel safe to make mistakes helps,” Douglas said. “My team has taken extra steps to learn and complete tasks—their comprehension is exemplified when they complete their testing.”

Keeping Subject Matter Experts Engaged in an Advancement CRM Implementation


Implementing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) is already challenging for most organizations. The success (or failure) of your CRM is greatly dependent on many variables, but especially on stakeholders like your subject matter experts (SMEs).


Advancement CRM implementations can last 12 months or more—SMEs are critical resources and are required for the success of the project. 


So how do you keep them engaged throughout the process?


Here are a few strategies to keep your subject matter experts engaged in a CRM implementation over 12 months or longer.


Involve them early and often.

SMEs should be involved in the planning and design phase of the project. This will give them a sense of ownership and help them understand the value of their contributions. Additionally, understanding the priorities and concerns of different SMEs from the beginning will help with communication strategies during and after the design sessions. 


Here are a few other ways to engage your SMEs at the beginning of your CRM project.


  • Workflows: Ask SMEs to provide perspective about a workflow that may have been overlooked or missed. They can also contribute an understanding of department workflow requirements and identify gaps.
  • Vendors: SMEs can participate in discussions with vendor representatives about the CRM implementation or application changes that may impact the department’s workflow, productivity, or end-user functionality.
  • Liaison: SMEs can serve as the department’s liaison and facilitate basic troubleshooting, problem identification, and escalation to the technical experts or the vendor.

Provide ongoing training and support.


A good training program not only increases your chance of successful CRM adoption but is also essential in helping users remain self-sufficient and collaborative with fellow team members. As the project progresses, provide ongoing training and support for SMEs to ensure they have the skills and knowledge they need to be effective contributors.


Keep the lines of communication open.


Regularly check in with SMEs to ensure they are aware of the project’s progress and address any concerns or issues they may have.

Offer incentives.

Consider offering incentives, such as recognition or rewards, to keep SMEs motivated and engaged in the project.

Make the work meaningful.

Help SMEs see how their contributions are making a difference and how the project benefits the organization. This can help keep them engaged and motivated for the long term.

Foster a positive team culture.

A positive team culture can help keep everyone, including SMEs, remain engaged and motivated. Here’s how to foster a positive team culture.

  • Distinguish success: Definitions of success vary. Collaboratively define what metrics, outcomes, and actions signal success for SMEs throughout the CRM project.
  • Set goals: Collectively identify goals for CRM project milestones. Set deadlines, track progress, and celebrate successes as you go. 
  • Identify values: Ask your team what they value most and draft a value statement. For example, ask questions like: “What do you value?” and “Which values promote team culture building?” or “What do successful employees share in common?” Then create a value statement that outlines the input. 
  • Offer continuous development: Building a positive team culture takes time and consistent work. Offer ongoing development opportunities that promote teams to learn together.
  • Be supportive: Fostering a positive team culture is about more than work—embrace opportunities to be supportive in good times (and bad). 

As you continue to foster a positive team culture, encourage open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect among team members. Every team member should see how their work contributes to the overall CRM project. 


Overall, it’s essential to involve SMEs in the project from the start, provide ongoing training and support, and keep the lines of communication open. By doing so, you will keep SMEs engaged and motivated throughout the project.

Salesforce Platform for Advancement, Knowing What It Takes to Manage Releases


When switching to a cloud-based Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) application, like Salesforce, saving money is a top priority. But what you’re actually getting is an entire collective where features are rolled out consistently. 


With cloud-based CRM platforms, you’re thrust into an environment with a cadence of more frequent upgrades. You may be looking at upgrades two to three times per year. And in advancement, that means a significant change—application upgrades once a year can feel overwhelming. So, it becomes less about whether upgrades will happen and more about how to prepare for them. 


Preparing for CRM upgrades requires effective release management. Release management involves planning, designing, scheduling, testing, deploying, and controlling software releases. This ensures that release teams efficiently deliver the applications and upgrades required while maintaining the integrity of the existing operating environment.


Processes for release management may vary and should be customized for each organization to minimize production downtime or interruption in operations.


There are five primary steps to release management. Each step is essential for adequately organizing and executing a successful release.

  1. Plan: The planning stage is the most time-intensive as your entire release is structured from start to finish.
  2. Build: Once your plan is finalized, you can start designing and building the product for release.
  3. Test: User acceptance testing is the most crucial step to release management. This step collects data and assesses fixes required to launch officially.
  4. Prepare: Once the review is complete, validate and prepare the release for deployment.
  5. Deploy: Depending on the significance of the changes, training may be required for adequate deployment.

Release management oversees a constantly changing process. And with each release is an opportunity to refine workflow.


As you plan and prepare, evaluate what’s in the release and determine if the feature set is something your organization can use. If the answer is yes, you’ll need to allocate resources for the configuration, setup, security, and testing strategy.


Don’t discount your testing strategy. It’s one thing to have a feature, but it’s another to verify that the system will work with your environment and integrates with other configurations. Your testing strategy helps evaluate and determine that.


Don’t spring upgrades on your users. Instead, deliver them through a communication plan. And in many cases, CRM upgrades require additional training. If additional training is required, this should also be openly communicated to users.


Your communication plan should also outline how you will accept requests for customizations. Salesforce is touted as “easy customization,” and you can mold it to your needs. But with that power comes responsibility, and it will challenge your process. Users often want to take advantage of customizations, and depending on the size of your organization, you may get a lot of requests. Requests could include everything from legitimate needs to unrealistic desires where users hope the application will do their job for them.


Either way, requests may test your practice and capability to manage them. Success will greatly depend on how well you can prioritize those requests as they relate to institutional priorities.

Long Lasting Effects of a CRM Implementation and Changing How You Do Things


Implementing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system can feel daunting. There is much to consider during project planning—from the initial setup to the ongoing maintenance. 


CRM project planning should be about tasks and deadlines but also intentional about the environment you’re creating for your most valuable assets: your team members. A CRM implementation requires long hours and hard work from a designated staff within an institution, and you must account for natural human occurrences that will happen. 


If you don’t, your CRM project can have long-lasting adverse effects on your team. It’s time to change how you do things—understand how to mitigate challenges and build a supportive culture for your CRM implementation project team. 


Here’s what to consider.


Joining a CRM implementation project team is an intense daily commitment. The number of hours required to put toward a CRM project creates fatigue—mentally, physically, and emotionally. 


Like any position, there are highs and lows and predicted busy times. But being a part of an implementation team is like having continuous busy times for 12–18 months, depending on the project. In addition, the sheer mental element of constantly processing information—usually new information—and synthesizing it can lead to decision fatigue.


Decision fatigue is the impaired ability to make decisions and control behavior because of repeated acts of decision-making. Studies suggest that to optimize your energy, you must reduce the number of daily choices. 


But there is no hands-off approach for the client. A successful partnership between the client and vendors—software vendors or a consulting firm—requires you to remain highly engaged. This is because vendors aren’t implementing your CRM for you; they are implementing it with you. 


Additionally, people face fatigue because of uncertainty. Especially those that aren’t working directly with the CRM implementation. These folks are likely speculating about what is going on. And because the human tendency is to think the worst when faced with uncertainty, individuals may experience anxiety since they don’t know what’s happening. They may also worry that their job will be eliminated because of the latest technology. 


In many cases, people are glad to get rid of their old CRM system and looking forward to something new, but as the go live nears, many people are struck with the reality of dealing with the changes. This causes them to mourn how things used to be. 


People are going through the grieving process during a CRM implementation. They must leave behind familiar and comfortable things—not only with the current system and methods, but the way they operate.


Gone are the days of knowing exactly how things will go when they start their work. The new CRM can upset their stability or cause their plans to fail. So, naturally, they are grieving the way things used to be—even if the change is for the better. 

Under Appreciation 

Most have high hopes during a CRM implementation project. People often join the effort in hopes of a career opportunity—maybe a promotion—or simply the recognition of going above and beyond. This is because joining a CRM implementation project is like professional volunteer work. 


Unfortunately, while going through the CRM implementation process, the increased demands and work output can go unnoticed. Frequently, there is a mindset that appreciation is the equivalent of no complaints. Some may think, “No news is good news.” But this way of thinking doesn’t add value and unintentionally makes people feel underappreciated when working diligently. 


Additionally, change and added stress induce emotional reactions. And when something goes wrong, there is an increased risk of experiencing a cycle of the “blame game.”


Accounting for these situations can impede your implementation team and ensures your CRM project does not have a lasting effect after your go live date.

Building a Grateful Patient Program During a Recession


As fundraisers look ahead to the new year, many see storm clouds gathering on the horizon. 


There has yet to be a marked shift in donor behavior, but some fundraisers say it’s only a matter of time until that changes because of inflation and a possible economic recession.


A poor economy presents real challenges for fundraising. From total giving decline to fewer donors, fundraisers are feeling the pressure on their already demanding job. 


The need to fundraise persists and often increases during an economic downturn—especially for healthcare fundraisers. Here are ways to move forward with your grateful patient program despite a recession.

Communicate Clearly

Total giving will most likely decline if economic conditions don’t improve. Clearly communicate the impact of the recession on your organization and how donations from grateful patients can help.


This could include information regarding budget cuts or challenges your organization is facing. Additionally, communicate the specific ways donations can make a difference. Donors who have a clear understanding of how their funds make an impact will be more inclined to give. 

Leverage Social Media

Use social media to share stories and updates about the impact of grateful patient donations. This is also a great way to engage with existing and potential donors.


Being active on social media increases the visibility and awareness of your program—all of which benefits your fundraising efforts.


  • Facebook: Shorter posts usually receive more likes, comments, and shares. People prefer messages that are quick and concise. You’ll also want to include the “ask” early on. Put your donation link at the beginning of your post, followed by brief copy.
  • YouTube: Educational videos create awareness about the important issues of your nonprofit and are good ways to make your brand visible on YouTube. Focus on videos that appeal to emotions—people are more likely to give to a cause they can relate to. 
  • Instagram: Stories generally are viewed more than regular Instagram posts. Highlight your best stories to increase followers and inspire donations. Gain more followers by hosting interactive question-and-answer sessions through your Instagram stories.
  • Twitter: Twitter is most effective when you post often. Frequent posting with hashtags offers a better opportunity for people to discover your organization’s content. It also creates more opportunities for engagement.

Offer Flexible Giving Options

During a recession, donors may have less disposable income than they did previously. Consider offering flexible giving options, such as making small, recurring donations or donating in-kind goods or services.


Here are some other ideas for flexible giving options.


  • Digital wallets: Google Pay and Apple Pay automatically populate payment information on a donation form through secure facial recognition. This eliminates additional barriers for donations and reaches donors where they are.
  • Hybridization: Hybrid campaigns allow donors to show their support in multiple ways. For example, before your signature event, donors could upgrade their one-time donation to an automatic recurring donation.
  • Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency is a tax-deductible digital payment method when donated directly to a nonprofit organization. With a marketplace worth over $3 trillion and more than 100 million users across the globe, this form of flexible giving is a growing method for nonprofits.
  • Payment apps: Apps like PayPal and Venmo increase action from supporters who have already established trust with these platforms. They can use existing balances and stored information to donate.

Engage Donors

Engage with grateful patients by thanking them personally and sharing updates on the impact of their donations. This helps to build strong personal relationships and encourages ongoing support.


Donor retention vs. acquisition can be effective regardless of an economic downtown. Donors are retained when they are:

  • thanked (early, often, sincerely, and graciously);
  • communicated with;
  • engaged regularly (and not always about giving a gift); and
  • invited (when appropriate) to invest more in the organization and its mission.

Diversify Fundraising Efforts

In addition to your grateful patient program, consider diversifying your fundraising efforts to include other types of fundraising, such as grants, corporate partnerships, and online fundraising campaigns.


Diversifying your fundraising portfolio with multiple revenue streams is crucial to sustainability. Just like a financial advisor wouldn’t recommend investing in only one avenue, your nonprofit shouldn’t rely solely on one fundraising effort. Instead, diversified fundraising efforts help to ensure a steady stream of support for your organization and improve your adaptability.

Best Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Fundraising



Artificial intelligence (AI) can be traced back to World War II. The famous mathematician, Alan Turing, helped the Allied Forces crack the Nazi encryption machine. At the war’s end in 1945, Turing focused on computing machinery, famously positing whether “machines could think.” His writings laid the foundation for a future vision of artificial intelligence—the replication of human intelligence in machines. 


Fast-forward to the present, and AI is now ubiquitous. Innovative technology has provided us with assistants like Alexa and Cortana, recommendations on YouTube or Netflix, chatbots, facial recognition, and self-driving cars, to name a few. However, AI is no longer the future; it’s the present. 


Yet, there are some industries where AI may not seem to be an obvious fit—namely, those characterized by a high level of interpersonal relationships and human connections. However, even in industries requiring constant human interaction—such as the field of development—AI can still play a significant role in simplifying tasks and freeing up time for your constituents and staff.  


Here are some of the best ways to use artificial intelligence in fundraising. 

Data Analysis 

Nonprofits collect much data on their operations, donors, and the people they serve. AI helps analyze this data to identify patterns, trends, and insights that inform strategy and decision-making. 


For example, AI can analyze donor data to identify trends in giving patterns. These trends can then be used to tailor your fundraising campaigns.


AI automates time-consuming or repetitive tasks, freeing staff to focus on more impactful work. For example, you can use AI to automate sorting and categorize incoming donations, analyze social media data to identify potential donors, or address common (repetitive) questions. 


  • “Can you give me the bank transfer details? I can’t seem to find them.”
  • “When did I make my last donation?”
  • “I know I saw a date for the gala. When is it again?”


Using AI eliminates the need to respond to these commonly asked questions and allows your development staff to focus on more mission-critical activities. 

Predictive Modeling

Another way that AI is beneficial for fundraising is how it can help anticipate future needs and trends. This allows your organization to be proactive in planning and resource allocation. 


For example, AI in fundraising can improve workforce efficiency by analyzing donor data to identify prospects and predict upcoming donor lapses. This could potentially shape how you prioritize your time with donors.


It’s important to note that while AI can be a powerful tool for nonprofits, it’s not a replacement for human judgment and decision-making. You must also consider the ethical implications of using AI and ensure you are using it responsibly and transparently. This is because AI can unintentionally result in a bias against constituents since it is trained on large data sets compiled by humans, and natural preferences (age, gender, or race-related) can creep in. 


If AI is employed correctly, efficiency and productivity invariably increase, resulting in more high-value solicitations and additional revenue.

Preparing Your User Support Team for Your Advancement CRM Implementation


Your application support team for your advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation is crucial to supporting users and preventing insufficient data or an unsuccessful adoption. But what is a user support team, and who are the members? 


There are two groups that are important to a user support team: application support and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). 


As you prepare your user support team for your advancement CRM implementation, here’s what to consider. 

Application Support 

The group that gets the most attention regarding user support is your application support team. These individuals usually have technical aptitude or training. Their responsibilities are comprehensive. The application support team will likely: 

  • Security model maintenance: Deciding who gets access to what within the application.
  • Care and feeding of the application: Accepting requests for improvements or modification of the application (application configuration).
  • Data integration or migration in and out of your advancement CRM to another system in your institution—at a designated frequency, ensuring accuracy.

Your application support team may also include your report writers and trainers. 

  • Report writers: Create reports to make information easily accessible to users. 
  • Trainers: Create training materials or provide training on the application. 

The number of people in your application support team varies from institution to institution and is often based on budget constraints. Our recommendation is 1–2 individuals per 50 users. 

Subject Matter Experts 

Most people know they need the application support team available at their go-live date. While this team will maintain the care and feeding of application and stability, the application support team is often expected to simultaneously be the user support team. 


But this doesn’t ensure a genuinely sustainable support system for users. 


Consider a different approach. While the application support team may take the lead, other resources in your organization can offer additional support.


Look to the SMEs or “power users” that seem to be standouts in learning the application. As you go through the CRM implementation process, you’ll notice certain users participating in the project that seems to get it quicker. Use this opportunity to leverage those individuals as a resource for their colleagues. This will expand your capacity for user support, alleviating the burden on the application support team. 


The added benefit of using SMEs as a resource is the first-hand knowledge and relatability. Users will need support, especially after go-live. But in addition to getting help on the application, they’re getting support from a colleague who truly understands daily operations. Specifically, a deeper level of understanding about the job and responsibilities needed to carry out in this environment. 


SMEs can relate to users and listen with intention. Users may be reluctant to receive outside help. But asking SMEs may feel easier because they speak a similar language and won’t feel exposed.

Training SMEs

Preparing your SMEs for the additional support team responsibilities requires some consideration to offer a broader understanding of the features available in the advancement CRM.


Keep in mind that the SMEs are training while preparing for their current role. So be mindful of how they can maintain their current job but offering expanded training on what the system can do beyond everyday tasks is essential. This helps develop their knowledge and keeps them growing in the system. 


This also helps avoid bad habits. When users see something new and don’t remember how to do something, they’ll make up their way of doing it—empowering bad habits along the way. Instead, leverage SMEs to be an information resource about the correct way to do something—optimizing workflow and adhering to best practices. 


SMEs will also need to understand how to personalize the system. Most advancement CRM systems have user preferences or configurations. Comprehending these aspects helps them best support their colleagues and create an optimal experience. 

How Do You Implement Your New Advancement CRM in a Decentralized Environment?


When doing your advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation, you need input from a cross-functional team of stakeholders. This helps to understand the requirements and expectations across the board. Specifically, identifying what is required for the new advancement CRM in the way it’s configured and implemented that would enable and support the business needs of all your fundraising and engagement areas.


What’s more critical to consider is when those units are decentralized—whether that means different locations or reporting structures. For example, reporting structure could be related to other parts of the organization or diverging organizational structure (not all reporting to the same person.) 


Key elements may be taken for granted in a more centralized fundraising environment. But in a decentralized environment, you must make strategic decisions more carefully regarding time and effort. 


Here’s how to implement your new advancement CRM in a decentralized environment. 

Relationship Management

Establish a strategy around relationship management. Constituent management is usually a source of concern when moving toward a decentralized fundraising model. 


Assuming from a legacy standpoint, everyone had their own system in their world—it was easier to protect their constituents. However, once all the constituents come together in a single CRM; how do you manage these concerns? 


  • “If I share my constituents, what will happen?” 
  • “Will you poach them?” 
  • “What happens if you’re talking to “my” constituents without me knowing?” 


To resolve this, the primary objective should be that every constituent belongs to the intuition, and decisions need to be made from that perspective. Designate a group or individual poised to “manage” constituents. This committee can evaluate conflicts that may arise in this decentralized fundraising environment. Once decided, this designation should be a part of a strategic plan or guidelines stating how they will manage the constituent. 


The constituent relationship manager or committee should act as a gatekeeper, coordinating every interaction collaboratively to maximize opportunities for the constituent to support the institution. In this scenario, everyone benefits from having a 360-degree view of all constituents, allowing them to see how they fully engage with the institution, including all the touchpoints.

Data Model

The second area needing focus in a decentralized CRM implementation is your data model. Again, the baseline assumption is that up until now, each site or decentralized group had an individual database. But now you must bring this information together. 


First, have a data expert from each bearing group come together and decide the standard data points across each fundraising group.


Is there an opportunity to agree on standard definitions for those that are different? For example, is the data more similar than different? Or could you move toward a best practice about a particular data point to help you standardize it across groups? 


Your last resort is to identify requirements for “site-specific” or “group-specific” data fields. 

Security Model

Finally, the third area to consider in the decentralized advancement CRM environment is your security model. Your security model should designate who gets to do what within the system. The recommendation—and most optimal way to collaborate—is that viewing a record is allowed across the entire institution. 


Remember, if you can’t see a record managed by a specific fundraising group or location, then that’s like having individual databases. Being able to view the information for all constituents should be the goal.


You have two options for editing and managing constituent information.


Option A: Establishes a completely centralized group for data management in which everyone needs to request changes made in your new advancement CRM. 


The upside of this scenario is that you have standardized data management, high data quality, similarity across the board, and it follows business rules. But the downside is this model is extremely resource intensive. Your institution may not be able to staff up a team to support a 100% centralized data model. 


Option B: Decentralized data management is aligned with the group managing the constituent relationship because they likely have the most updated data. In this aspect, the relationship manager or group managing the relationship must be equipped to take on the workload. 


In the distributed model, another committee to consider is a data governance committee and leverage representation in these distributed areas. The data governance committee helps make strategic decisions for managing decisions in this distributed model. Specifically, what data is being captured, how it should be captured, and the business rules around capturing data to make it the most useable and accurate for everyone.


Whether you choose Option A or Option B, what’s critical, is that you have a request and workflow process. But keep in mind that whoever is managing the constituent records does not absolve everyone else from being responsible for data quality. Users should still be accountable if they see incorrect or missing information and make that request to have information updated. 

How to Select the Right CRM Go Live Date for Your Institution


Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation requires many resources. Going live with your CRM project is the culmination of weeks, months, and sometimes even years of groundwork, project planning, preparation, execution, monitoring, and controls involving an institution’s internal and external stakeholders. 


Your go-live is when something becomes available for use—moving from the test environment to the production environment. This is when your CRM system is officially and formally available to users. 


Getting to the go-live date can feel like the finish line, but it is just the beginning of successful adoption. In fact, what happens before is just as important as what happens after going live—an unsuccessful go-live can cost you financially and create a cascade of problems.


The go-live date is arguably the most critical milestone in a CRM implementation. Here’s how to select the right go-live date for your institution.

Stakeholders and Business Units 

Selecting your go-live date for your CRM shouldn’t be a decision made independently. Your stakeholders will be one of your best resources when determining which dates are most feasible and those to avoid for your CRM go-live. 


Initiate conversations with stakeholder groups, asking what institution-wide dates to avoid. Are there major holidays that may conflict with your timeline? 


Then have a similar conversation with each business unit. Find out what times will be more stressful than others. For example, always avoid dates like your flagship fundraising event and end-of-year giving campaigns. 

Project Milestones 

A project milestone is a specific point used to measure the progress toward the goal. Milestones in CRM project management are used as signals for a project’s start or end date, external reviews or input, budget checks, submission of a major deliverable, and more.


As you consider the most appropriate date for your CRM go-live, you’ll also need to evaluate your project plan milestones and how they implicate going live. Consider project tasks and the time frame your staff needs for completion. Then, set realistic expectations for how your team can achieve the project milestones and how that supports your go-live date. 

Executive Committees 

The executive committee acts as a steering committee because it guides the direction of the entire board and prioritizes challenges. They also often lead executive board meetings, set agendas, and collect reports from other committees and board members.


Most often the steering committee is responsible for: 

  • supporting the project;
  • making decisions;
  • resolving issues;
  • approving the project budget;
  • obtaining status updates; and
  • encouraging project managers. 

Engage your executive steering committee to consider the best go-live date. Offer multiple dates for consideration and use decision analysis tools like a Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation (SBAR) to evaluate your options effectively. 


SBAR is a verbal or written communication tool that helps provide essential, concise information, usually during crucial situations. In some cases, SBAR can replace an executive summary with a formal report because it provides focused and concise information. In addition, it allows for setting expectations for what will be communicated and how between team members.


As you consider the right date for your CRM go-live, allot for a 60-day window. This ensures your staff aren’t distracted and can fully devote their time and effort to supporting your CRM go-live. 

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Your CRM Go Live Date


Ensuring a successful advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation requires strategic planning on various levels—including careful consideration of your go-live date. Going live is a massive change for every user impacted by the new CRM. It’s also stressful—for some, more than others. 


Universally, there are types of dates you should avoid. Here are some to consider when selecting your CRM go-live date. 

Flagship Fundraising

If you have a yearly flagship fundraising or engagement event, you should always avoid this time for your CRM go-live date. Typically, there is a heavy dependency on your donor database and interfacing systems to support this event. It is also an “all hands on deck” situation, and your team won’t be devoted to your CRM. 

Additionally, having system downtime and a dip in productivity—two inevitable events that will happen at go-live—is not feasible during your flagship event. 

Fiscal Year End 

Too often, organizations think the fiscal year-end is a great time for a CRM go-live date. This is a tempting date, especially for those who are financially driven and accountant minded. This may seem like a clean cutover from an old system to a new one from a financial perspective, but there are better times of year for going live. 


This is because your fiscal year end requires a level of detail and accuracy to close your books and satisfy audit requirements, and it’s already a high-stress period for team members. It takes significant effort to complete your books successfully, and adding to a new system’s learning curve is unnecessary stress. 


Whatever gains you can get from the clean cutover is not worth it based on the stress, potential for inaccuracy, and the learning curve. Instead, opt to close your books on your old system, and once that’s complete, transition to your new system. 

Calendar Year End

Another date to avoid for your CRM go-live is the calendar year-end. Like your flagship fundraising event, this period is incompatible with downtime or operating with the learning curve of a new system. 


Year-end is a popular time for giving, and a decrease in productivity will compound the already stretched-thin team. Your fundraising staff should be focused solely on getting gifts entered efficiently and accurately into your advancement CRM—not learning a new system. 


We also recommend not scheduling your go-live date within a 60-day window of these dates to avoid compounding the stress level.


Implementing a new CRM takes time, effort, and resources. Planning your transition to go-live shouldn’t be excluded from the process. This is because a successful go-live ensures your CRM becomes the tool you intended it to be—and it all starts with the date you select.

Things to Consider in the First Months of CRM Implementation


Achieving a successful and fully adopted Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform can be an organization’s most challenging task. Finding and implementing an effective CRM takes considerable time and resources. In its entirety, the challenges of CRM implementation can be significant. But one of the reasons why organizations struggle is they often start the process without enough planning.


Here’s what to consider in the first 30–60 days of your CRM implementation.

Resource Plan

An essential part of the CRM planning process should include having a resource plan, both internally and externally. Your internal resources are a key component to successful CRM adoption. Your resource plan should identify how your existing staff will be impacted, including their current workload and how that will accommodate the additional workload. 


Also, consider your external resources—even if they are part-time or contract resources. Your resource plan helps identify how to use your external vendors, including software providers and consultants, who may assist with the implementation.

Project Governance

Establish a project governance structure. A governance model facilitates a consistent message throughout the CRM implementation. 


For example, executives often consider risk, time, and money during a CRM implementation. A good project governance plan helps to curb the risk, stay closely tied to the budget, and stay on track regarding time. Decide your governance plan early and stick to it.

Decision Making

Effective decision-making is only as good as the information available to make these decisions. And the more people you get together or information to sift through, the more difficult it becomes to make decisions.


Establish a plan or structure for how you will make decisions—whether by committee, consult, or influence. Include more than one way to make decisions because not all decisions are the same. Some decisions deserve lots of analysis and debate, whereas some require minimal, and others can be made independently. Consider these types of decision-making structures.   


  • Command: One person makes the decision. They either act on the decision independently or tell others about it. 
  • Consult: One person takes responsibility for making the decision after seeking input from others.
  • Influence: The group concludes together, often after extended discussions, and everyone agrees to support it.


Your decision-making structure should be communicated and as straightforward as possible—otherwise, you risk delaying or complicating your CRM implementation. Allow more time to work through difficult and important decisions—analyzing your options and building the internal support you need to implement the decision.


After you establish your decision-making structure, make the appropriate people aware and decide on a plan for application.

Procurement Process Timeline

Have you included your procurement process in your CRM project timeline? The procurement process can drastically change the timeframe of your CRM implementation. Procurements work differently, requiring an understanding of the context—not asking the right open-ended questions can cause delays.


Your procurement process timeline should cover how the process works through established guidelines, including a way to interpret and digest new guidelines that arise.

Project Hierarchy

There may be multiple project managers depending on the size of your CRM project. Because of this, it’s essential to establish a regular and consistent communication plan and a hierarchy.


A resource shortage or project size may require more than one project manager. Within your project hierarchy, decide at the beginning who is the overall project lead. From there, determine who reports to whom and what areas each project manager focuses on. 

Three Tips to Help Increase User Adoption of Your CRM Platform


There is an assumption that people can pick up new tools and technology with a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform. But that’s a detriment to user adoption. 


Here are three tips to help increase user adoption of your CRM platform. 

Integrate Single Sign-on (SSO)

Everyone is dealing with multiple usernames and passwords in every facet of life. When it comes to an end user, tacking on another username and password can feel frustrating, even if it’s intended to increase the security of your CRM. 


Instead, develop a strategy to leverage existing network security and authentication methods. Incorporate a single sign-on (SSO) to eliminate frustrations, increase efficiency, and the overall success of your CRM project. With this technology, users will seamlessly transition their existing username and password to the new system. 

Establish Document Management 

Another method for increasing the success of user adoption of your CRM platform is establishing a document management system. A document management system reduces costs, automates tedious manual processes, and makes work more efficient. 


However, your staff may not be excited about the benefits of a paperless office as it incurs a new way of doing things. And many employees tend to continue doing things the way they’ve always done them rather than venturing into the unknown.


Not establishing an effective document management system in your CRM implementation limits the level of user adoption. 


A document management system brings the many competitive advantages of automation to your organization. Help users understand how document management can benefit their role. Consider these ideas. 

  • Get buy-in from your organization’s executive team.
  • Find a tech-savvy project lead in each department to advocate for the initiative and share their enthusiasm. 
  • Communicate the plan and create awareness. 
  • Share the project team’s vision for the paperless office. 
  • Involve users in workflow design. 
  • Make training relevant to everyday tasks.
  • Celebrate accomplishments to build momentum and enthusiasm.

Create a Reporting Strategy

A CRM reporting strategy helps illustrate data and trends—a key advantage of users successfully adopting a CRM. Data informs strategic decisions, tracks performance, and helps users make tactical changes. 


Invest in a strategy around reporting. This strategy should provide a 360-degree view of tracking constituent data. This increases the overall efficiency and success of reporting, enabling data generation to be more accessible and transparent to all stakeholders. Remember, the less time your team must spend compiling data, the more time they can spend on other aspects of their roles.


Data is most powerful when it’s easy to generate, digest, and present. Instead of spending hours compiling reports, use your CRM system to create a custom reporting dashboard. 

Your Institution Bought Salesforce, Now What?


Institutions often select Salesforce as the enterprise constituent relationship management (CRM) platform without consulting the development department. After the purchase, the development department may be left wondering what they do next.


Often, the next step is to consider whether to build or buy CRM customizations. Customizations increase efficiency. This is because they include tools overlaying the core database to create an ecosystem. If you have the correct integration tools, you can swap them out as new ones are developed or your organizational needs change.


And as you can imagine, there are many options.


Here’s what to consider as you decide whether to build or buy CRM customizations for Salesforce.


If you want to buy a CRM overlay …

Software vendors have created managed packages or overlays for the Salesforce platform that is specific to accommodate the process of philanthropy and engagement. Buying an overlay that fits your business practices can be beneficial because it is already built to accommodate.


Some examples of pre-built overlays are Affinaquest Relationship RM and Ascend by UC Innovation.


  • Affinaquest Relationship RM: Overlays Salesforce and helps your organization improve fundraising, build stronger relationships with constituents, and create a seamless donor experience.
  • Ascend by UC Innovation: Builds stronger relationships with constituents and provides a full-spectrum, integrated view of all advancement activities.


If you want to build a CRM overlay …

The build decision essentially leverages the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). The NPSP is preconfigured for nonprofits as easy-to-use fundraising and constituent management application designed to make your daily life a little easier.


Building custom overlays may not be feasible for smaller organizations. This type of practice is often reserved for larger philanthropy divisions to accommodate their complex business practices.


Single-org or Multi-org Architecture

Another big decision that an organization needs to consider after purchasing Salesforce is whether they will have a single- or multi-org architecture. Single-org architecture means using just one instance of Salesforce for your organization. While a multi-org architecture involves having more than one Salesforce instance.


A single org architecture is like “renting space” within a larger organization—like renting an office space within a commercial building. In this architecture type, there is more opportunity for sharing space and resources.


Single-org strategy uses one instance of Salesforce to serve your entire business. With this approach, you can standardize your business processes and create consistency in your organization’s use of Salesforce.


A single-org structure is beneficial if you need the same standards across your organization.


Other benefits of a Salesforce single-org architecture include scalability, leveraging integrations, ease of training, data management, and transparency (to name a few).


  • Scalability: Your global standards can be readily adopted in each new department.
  • Leverage integrations: Adding application integrations to Salesforce is easier when your team can roll out the same changes throughout your system.
  • Ease of training: Everyone can use the same Salesforce training, and you don’t need to maintain separate in-house training and guides.
  • Manage your data: Single-org strategies make it easier to manage data since you can apply the same data practices regardless of department or team. They also help prevent data duplication because all Salesforce users in your organization can see the same database.
  • Transparency: Your single-org architecture provides the same information, processes, and structure that the various business units within your company can access.


The downside is that a single-org architecture may not be the right fit for everyone. The more independent departments or business units are in your organization, the more likely you will need a multi-org architecture.


This is because a multi-org architecture is like having a dedicated space—like renting out an entire floor in a building—and sharing resources only as previously identified.


For example, some very large organizations have distinct businesses with different customer bases. A company with varying bases of the customer is unlikely to have much overlap in customer data.


A multi-org architecture needs a data integration plan to identify what you will “share”. You’ll also want to consider things like:


  • Stakeholders or departments: Including all those who may make the critical decisions about your Salesforce strategy.
  • Necessity of a multi-org architecture: Can you manage a multi-org setup appropriately?
  • Regulatory or security requirements: To stay compliant, what is necessary for your Salesforce use?
  • Cost: Is the overhead cost of a multi-org structure worth the investment?
  • Business goals: Do you need multiple orgs to achieve your business goals?


Customizing your Salesforce platform is likely necessary to make it work most efficiently for your organization’s needs. The decision may be difficult—but not impossible—due to the many variables and options. Salesforce is an ultra-adaptable platform. And whether you’re creating a new Salesforce customization or purchasing an existing overlay, it’s best to take everything into consideration.





How to Evaluate Your Business Processes During a CRM Implementation


For a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation to succeed, the focus (from the beginning) must be on how the system supports and integrates with (and enhances) an organization’s business processes.


It is essential to undergo a business process analysis during your CRM implementation. Doing so will help to uncover challenges within your automation methods and assist you with the CRM implementation.


What is a business process analysis?

A business process analysis is a method used to understand a process and improve its efficiency, accounting for the various steps and stakeholders involved in a specific strategy and the information exchanged. Business process analysis is an aspect of the larger concept of business process management.


There are many reasons why organizations should perform a business process analysis. Specifically, because technology and innovations (like a CRM implementation) and you can evaluate your processes and identify opportunities for improvement.


CRM implementation success relies on the standardization of processes within your organization. A single department, team, or individual not effectively using a business process or best practice will inevitably create challenges with your CRM implementation. And if not corrected, the adverse effects and challenges are only compounded post-implementation.


Now’s the time to evaluate your business processes. Here’s how to get started.



The first step in evaluating your business processes during a CRM implementation is to look at your processes in their entirety. Next, you’ll need to examine two specific areas: objectives and stakeholders.


Are you able to articulate the objective of the business processes?

Who are the stakeholders of the process?


The stakeholders in this instance are those who need to participate and those who will benefit from the results of your CRM implementation. Both will see things from different perspectives, and it’s essential to consider how you evaluate your business processes.


Assess Data

There are three components to a business process: data, decision points, and communication. The first component is the step in which you are doing data collection or maintenance of that data. Data maintenance allows you to organize your data management processes, while data cleansing ensures you have updated, error-free information. By maintaining correct data and monitoring data management processes, you can improve your business operations. As you assess and analyze your data, ask yourself these questions.


  • Is the data useful?
  • Is the data accurate for the data that you’re collecting?
  • Furthermore, is there a clear maintenance plan to sustain or improve data accuracy?


Decision Points

Next, you’ll want to look at the decision points within your business process. When looking at your decision points, identify who should be a part of this process and why.


Are the correct people that are making the decisions within that process?

Do they have the correct information that is easily accessible to make the appropriate decisions?



The third component of your business process evaluation should be to assess the communication steps. Specifically, you’ll want to ensure your communication aligns your operations within the business processes.


Effective communication is essential. This is because implementing a CRM doesn’t just involve modifying operations and business strategy—it involves changes to all facets of an organization. Your stakeholders may be inclined to resist the change. When creating a new business strategy, it is essential to consider the existing procedures, processes, and stakeholders involved.


Successful execution of your CRM requires everyone from executives to team members understand the strategy. If the operational activities and tasks are not aligned with the strategy, the CRM implementation will fail. Therefore, your organizational goals must be identified and aligned with the other components of your business processes.


Evaluate the communication steps. Is the correct information getting to the right people at the right time?


Business process analysis is essential. But it is even more critical during a CRM implementation to ensure your project is adopted successfully.

Workgroup Lead for Advancement CRM Implementation: The Inside Scoop


Precision Partners sat down with two workgroup leads from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to discuss their advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation. We discussed the responsibilities of being a workgroup lead, challenges they overcome regularly, and important qualities to have to succeed in this role.


Here’s the inside scoop.


How would you describe your responsibilities as a Workgroup Lead for your CRM Implementation?

“I would say my responsibilities include a lot of information gathering and coordination,” said Angela Hernandez, Associate Director at MD Anderson, Business Solutions Team. “I act as a liaison between our company and Precision Partners. I am often fielding questions and passing information back and forth.”


Hernandez is a marketing person by nature, which helped in the role as a workgroup lead. “When I started at MD Anderson, I was on the marketing team. So I understand how to communicate based on my audience,” Hernandez said. “My work in marketing has helped me by knowing who I am working with, how they respond in their preferred communication styles, and translating information in a way that will be more readily received. This job is a lot about the relationship, understanding audiences, and communicating effectively.”


For Senior Director of Prospect Development at MD Anderson, Michele Armstrong says one of the primary responsibilities of her role is remaining engaged. “This role requires me to stay engaged. It is a significant time requirement on that part—working with others to engage their team members, prompting questions, and assisting,” Armstrong said. “There’s also a lot that goes on outside of the workgroup—like tactical pieces, making decisions about data, and data validation—that must be completed by engaging people in the workgroup and outside of the meetings in the development department.”


What do you find most challenging in this role?

“Communication is the most challenging part,” Hernandez said. “Communication styles vary greatly depending on who you are talking to. This requires an understanding of how others prefer to receive information, how to be clear while also being on top of deadlines, and making sure everyone is doing what they need to do when they need to do it. It can be even more challenging if you’re in a group of different titles or teams—especially if you’re a workgroup leader instructing someone who has been there a lot longer than you.”


Michele says a challenging aspect of her role is working in parallel. “Multiple streams and workgroups are going on at the same time. I’m leading one, and I’m also a member of another. There may be six or seven workgroups happening simultaneously,” Armstrong said. “Working horizontally and understanding the decisions made that may impact this group can sometimes feel siloed—we’re required to lead and facilitate decisions without having the clearest picture of everything going on.”


For example, “decisions might be made regarding the stewardship and donor cycle that affect how we engage our donor base and make them feel appreciated in their giving. Some of the decisions made can impact our overall strategy,” Armstrong said. “Understanding the interconnectedness of it all can be a challenge. This simply means I must reach out and ask questions, but sometimes I don’t know what I don’t know.”


What skills or abilities do you feel are a must-have for this role?

“Being a subject matter expert in whatever you’re leading is crucial,” Armstrong said. “You must understand the work and processes. Additionally, having good working relationships with members—not just within the working group but also with leadership. Critical thinking and the ability to see key components and details are important—you need to be able to look at the bigger picture and its impact. As a workgroup lead, I often help my team understand the “why,” which helps them avoid getting bogged down in the day to day.”


Being a subject matter expert requires more than product knowledge. “My job is not to work with the CRM but to be an expert in our business within our unit,” Armstrong said. “It’s a relational database, and I must know how it impacts the input and output of our work. I understand the business and have a good working knowledge of how it impacts the system. This takes years to acquire—you can’t have someone new in this role—most of our team leads have been with the institution for a while and have institutional knowledge in addition to knowledge of the work and the system.”


Other essential skills or abilities for the workgroup lead role are “being organized, understanding time management—not just for you but other individuals—and again communication,” Hernandez said. “Communication is so important. People need to know what they need to do. Clear communication can help eliminate excessive back and forth questions. If people understand their responsibilities upfront, there isn’t time spent answering those kinds of questions. Sometimes this looks like communicating with a colleague in a different position or higher title—you’ll need to take the initiative to manage up.”


Another essential skill is the willingness to advocate. “A workgroup lead should not be afraid to advocate for both sides of the equation—communicating to your external partners, like Precision Partners, but in turn, being able to take the response back to colleagues in a way they feel they’ve been heard, and their questions or concerns have been represented. We don’t want anyone to feel that they’re not being heard.”


What are some of the behind-the-scenes contributions you are making in your role that no one even knows you are doing?

“There’s a lot of engagement between several leadership team members to make sure we’re aligned philosophically in our decisions,” Armstrong said. “I want to make sure every decision is aligned with our leadership’s expectations—I’m frequently having conversations to ensure we’re in alignment. But, again, this is a relational aspect, and I want to ensure I am building that relationship but also locked in step with their expectations.”


“For me, it is probably the communication. In the workgroup that I am leading currently, sure they’re aware that I am the workgroup lead, but I don’t think they realize necessarily the discussions that are made,” Hernandez said. “I’m working with Precision Partners to develop a communication plan to present the information to our team clearly and concisely so they will receive the information effectively. We’re all very busy people, and we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page. At MD Anderson, our teams vary. There are not many times you can get a large group of people physically together, so having that information communicated in a digestible way is valuable. That’s something I work on with Precision Partners; I don’t think everyone realizes the time it takes to do that.”


What advice would you give your colleagues in advancement in preparing for this role at their institution?

“The best advice would be to come at it from a realistic point of view and make sure you are as organized as possible,” Hernandez said. “When it comes to managing others on different teams, let them know you are open to them asking questions and making sure they know how to contact you. This helps to build trust. When your group trusts you, that makes the whole process easier for everyone involved.”


“I didn’t quite understand this until a decent way into the project but understanding expectations from phase one is important. For example, I didn’t understand the expectation of having business as usual on our Go Live date. I was under the assumption that we needed to take advantage of new capabilities and streamline in addition to business as usual,” Armstrong said. “The expectations, at least for us, was that this doesn’t have to be a perfect product on day one, but we do need business as usual with no disruption. That may not be the same in every institution, but you should aim to have a philosophical understanding of what leadership expects for your project. This will help you fully understand and meet the expectations to the best of your ability.”

Three Things to Consider When Choosing a Hosting Partner for Your CRM Application


Most hosted Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software comes in software as a service (SaaS)—a delivery model where software is licensed to clients on a subscription basis. As a result, you might wonder whether a hosted CRM could offer you the same functionality that in-house CRM solutions provide.


Although a hosted CRM might be less customizable, it aims to provide an identical standard and variety of tools and functions. When a CRM is hosted, it eliminates the need to install software onto hard drives or provide on-site server infrastructure. Instead, updates are handled by your provider, and changes are administered to all users simultaneously.


But there are several things to consider when choosing a hosting partner for your CRM application. Taking time upfront to do your due diligence helps ensure your CRM application will perform to the specifications you intend—eliminating user frustration and providing the results you need to be successful.


For things to run smoothly and optimize the application to its fullest extent, use this checklist to ensure all critical aspects are covered.


Here are three things to consider when choosing a hosting partner for your CRM application.


Data Center Standards

Compliance, especially when it comes to sensitive data, is vital. Your CRM hosting vendor should follow these data center standards to help you remain compliant.


HIPPA Compliance (healthcare organizations): Information received, cataloged, and shared must meet the privacy and security rules set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services—including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).


PCI DSS Compliance: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) optimizes the security of credit, debit, and cash card transactions and protects cardholders against misuse of their personal information. The data center you partner with should have standards in place to remain compliant.


SOC Compliance: SOC 2 compliance is a component of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) ‘s Service Organization Control reporting platform. Their goal is to standardize systems, assure security and availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and customer data privacy. Ask your CRM hosting partner how they plan to help you remain SOC 2 compliant.



The reliability and performance of your CRM application are the keys to successful fundraising; any downtime will significantly impact your efforts. This is why it’s crucial to consider the reliability and performance of your CRM hosting partner.


Reliability comes in at different points: availability of your system and disaster recovery.


You must realize that when partnering with a hosting vendor, you are not in control. You’ve handed it to someone else to manage the hardware, architecture, and networking, and 100% availability is not realistic.


But it is important for your CRM hosting vendor to be mindful that for most organizations, every hour down, is a loss of productivity and business. They should ensure your system operates at peak efficiency, striving for a 99.9% availability time.


Another component of reliability is disaster recovery. In many cases, the location of your CRM hosting vendor and data could be anywhere in the United States—likely not in the same area as your organization. Therefore, you need a vendor that provides a comprehensive recovery plan. For example, ask them, “How long will it take for our data to be running and accessible should a disaster occur?”


A disaster recovery program needs to be in place to recover data within a specific period. The particular time of recovery is based on your CRM vendor and a tolerance level set by your institution. Part of your CRM hosting disaster plan should include a network redundancy system—the process by which additional or alternate instances of network devices, equipment, and communication mediums are installed within the network infrastructure.


The network redundancy should include either alternating or different networks within the infrastructure to provide a network failover. The disaster recovery plan should consist of regular testing, and the results should be published and disseminated to appropriate managers.



If your CRM data is running painfully slow, what’s the point? Your CRM hosting vendor must monitor the system to ensure you are not exceeding established performance thresholds. The performance threshold is again, based on the tolerance level set forth by your organization.


Protocols need to be in place to ensure your CRM system performs to the established standards. Proper monitoring by your hosting vendor should be ongoing, not only that your system is up and available, but that it is meeting your established performance thresholds.



Ask your CRM hosting partner, “What level of access do I have to our CRM data in a host environment?”


Before CRM hosting was developed, your advancement CRM data sat in the exact location of your users. Your technical staff could access the back-end database, and users had access to everything.


But in a host environment, a lot of that access is limited. It is essential to consider the ability to access your data beyond building reports—ensuring your technical and reporting staff can access the data at minimum. Identify how much data they can access before signing your hosting agreement.

How to Write a Go Live Support Plan for Your CRM Project Implementation


You’ve selected a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system. It’s almost time to go live with the new system. You’ve done the due diligence, chosen the right people for implementation, and put all the pieces in place to create a system that works (and your team will use).


Few projects can have as big of an impact on your organization as your CRM implementation. Adoption requires effort, and if not done correctly, your team members may reject the new system leaving you with wasted money and effort.


An essential part of your CRM project adoption requires a successful go live. However, going live is a tall order and will likely incur challenges. Do you have a well-thought-out go-live support plan? One that will detail responsibilities and give ownership of the various things required for the system to work correctly?


If not, now is the time to start. Here is how to write a go-live support plan.


Why is a Go-Live Support Plan Important?

When it comes to your CRM project implementation, helping the project move forward is an ongoing process. This support should happen sooner rather than later—especially because it helps support the platform during a defined stabilization phase. The entire go-live process can last anywhere from four to six weeks.


Because of this lengthy duration, having a CRM go-live support plan is essential. Not having a support plan can impact user satisfaction. If your team starts using the system and encounters an issue they can’t quickly resolve, they will be left with the impression that using the CRM system is complex. They may assume that mentality toward the system, making adoption even more challenging.


A go-live support plan helps you address issues early on. This support plan is important because a quicker resolution of problems simultaneously increases productivity—getting them back on track faster.


From a resource perspective, a CRM go-live support plan helps establish a business case to leverage the additional staff during the stabilization phase of the project.


Include these essential factors in your CRM go-live support plan.


User Expectations

The go-live support plan should set user expectations for how to get support—addressing these common areas of concern.


  • Identify who they should contact when an issue arises.
  • Indicate how they should contact the designated support individuals—requests may start electronically.
  • Specify the hours that support is available: For example, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Outline the response time and process: Be explicit in response time, which may vary based on your available resources. Try to minimize the response time when possible. For the best outcomes, aim to respond to requests in less than an hour.
  • State how to make a support request if you’re operating remotely.
  • If applicable, consider a live support option: Users may prefer to speak to a live representative. If someone needs to talk to a live person, the response time should be ideally less than a half-hour, a maximum of one hour.


Stating the process and expectations in your go-live support plan enables users to become comfortable with the process. The unknown of what to do if (or when) an issue arises creates anxiety in users. But filling in the gaps (especially in a remote environment) can ease their worries. Additionally, more information provided helps users become self-sufficient and productive.


Virtual Command Center

It is likely vendors, partners, and implementation partners are in a different location. Therefore, part of your go-live support plan should establish a virtual command center. The command center is needed so all the experts that worked on getting the system integrated and operational are accessible to handle issues that might arise. Additionally, people need to be in place with defined roles and responsibilities to structure the command center properly.


As you plan your staffing, think of your support staff in two categories: the front-line response team and expert team.


The “front-line response team” should be well-versed in how the application works and able to respond quickly. They should be able to assist with login, password problems, and how-to questions—answering a high volume of questions. This team will triage more complex issues and then hand off to the second-line response team.


The “expert team” is the second-line response team. This team focuses on complex issues and develops short-term workarounds. They can perform troubleshooting and work until resolution. In addition, this team will work on more time-intensive activities.


Plan to keep a regular staffing schedule in your virtual command center during the hours you’ve indicated in your CRM go-live support plan. This builds confidence in users since they’ll know when they can get support. Additionally, consider your institution’s trends and staff availability. For example, do you expect heavier hours of usage and business in the morning? If so, you must align your staffing to support these trends.


Proactive Communication

It is important to have proactive communication outlined in your CRM go-live support plan, including system health reports. There should be a straightforward process for users to report any system issues that are known. This is important because if a problem happens frequently, your help desk and support team can get bogged down with the same issue.


When frequent issues occur, include a way to communicate about known problems, stating the expected resolution timeframe. If possible, share a workaround or a suggestion with users so they can maintain their productivity within your CRM.

Evaluating a Customization for CRM Implementation: Cost vs. Value

Your organization has purchased a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) product; now what? After buying a CRM and during implementation, organizations must decide if they should undergo customizations. Customizing a CRM has many benefits but comes with a high cost—in both time and resources. The questions surrounding CRM customizations are common and should be considered carefully.


What is the guidance or thought process behind CRM customizations?  


Some organizations feel they’ve spent enough money on the product itself and say “no” to all customizations. In contrast, others decide to customize until its unrecognizable as the original CRM program. But doing this fall into software development—which isn’t practical.


It shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to customizations of your CRM system. Instead, there needs to be a balance, making decisions based on the organization’s needs while assessing value and cost.


Here’s a three-step process you can use to evaluate the cost to the value of your CRM customizations.


Step one: Usability

Not every customization will apply to every organization, nor should it. Therefore, the first step in evaluating the cost to value is deciding if (and how) the CRM customization will benefit your organization. To identify the purpose and use of the customization, ask yourself these questions.


  • What is it going to do for our organization?
  • What department or business units will the CRM customization support?
  • How many people will it benefit? If it’s only helping one person, is it worth it?
  • What departments will use it?
  • How will it be used?
  • Can we articulate the purpose?
  • What is it going to do for us?
  • What problem will it resolve?


These questions will help you develop a deeper understanding of exactly how a CRM customization can impact your organization.


Step two: Return on Investment

Creating a CRM customization requires time and resources. To ensure the results are worth the cost, you must first evaluate where you will get the most return on your investment. There are usually five areas where CRM customizations have a high return on investment.


  1. Time-saving:  Customizations that save users time also increase efficiency and usually have a high return on investment.
  2. Usability:  Customizations that increase usability for a large number of users are often worth the cost because they increase efficiency.
  3. Capability:  Customizations that allow you to capitalize on an opportunity and do more than you would do without it offer a good return on investment.
  4. Data quality:  Your organization relies on quality data, and if customization increases data quality, it also decreases your risk, which can increase your return on investment.
  5. Regulatory compliance:  Customizations that increase regulatory compliance are often worth the investment because it decreases your risk.


As you continue to assess the cost to value ratio for your CRM customization, always aim to define the value—whether it’s money-saving, opportunity, or avoiding risk.


Step three: Actual Cost

Whether to engage in CRM customizations often comes back to the actual costs. Actual costs are not only what you’re going to pay the implementation consultant to build it, but your team’s resources and time invested to support it. For example, customizations will require your team to validate it and create resources for documentation and training.


When evaluating customizations for your CRM, think about these do’s and don’ts.


  • Don’t talk about high cost, low value: Too much cost up front that doesn’t offer much value long-term is not worth your time and resources.
  • Don’t consider low cost, low value: This can be a trap. If it’s low value, why are you even considering it? There’s likely not much benefit to it at any point.
  • Do consider high cost, high value:  While high cost, high value can benefit your organization, consider it carefully. Have you assessed everything in terms of value?
  • Do consider low cost, high value:  This is your best option and ideal state.



Overlooked Phases During Application Design and Prototyping of Your CRM Implementation

You bought a standard Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), and now it’s time to customize it to make sure it works for your specific organization. The application design and prototyping have a precise process, and it’s likely where you’ll spend most of your time.


During this process, you’re collaborating with an implementation consultant who may only have general knowledge about your industry but are an expert in the product you just purchased. You are the department’s subject matter expert (SME), but you don’t yet know anything about the program, so you’re relying on them for their expertise.


You’re hoping to forge an application design and prototype for your organization between both perspectives. This is a good thing, but organizations tend to focus on instant engagement during this process. During application design and prototyping, the preparation and follow-up phase is often missed. This is where the magic happens and is the difference between success and failure much of the time.


As you consider the entire process of your CRM application design and prototyping, there are some essential elements to consider. First, consider that you are about to throw a bunch of SMEs who have never worked on this type of project before. CRM implementations to this extent usually don’t happen frequently—for most organizations, they occur about every ten years. So most of the people on your team likely weren’t there during the last. But if they were, their knowledge is irrelevant because the technology is different.


Too often, organizations overlook the phases during the application design and prototyping process of your CRM implementation project. Here are three ways to avoid it and ensure your application design and prototyping process runs smoothly.


Prepare Your Team

It is a disservice to throw a bunch of SMEs into the engagement phase and not adequately prepare them for it. Too often, it’s not until they get to the engagement that SMEs realize they must commit hundreds of hours to the CRM project, which only results in panic.


During your CRM application design and prototyping preparation phase, you should identify how SMEs can support the project and how they’re affected. Let them know:


  • their role in the CRM project;
  • how they will be relied upon;
  • how they are supported;
  • the tasks they are responsible for, as well as expectations; and
  • the time commitment expected in addition to their everyday tasks.


Additionally, it is easier for your SMEs to walk into a meeting where they know what is expected. Plus, they are better suited to engage and have a conversation if they’ve had the chance to read over materials, understand the language, and get familiar with it—the familiarity of your CRM will enhance the engagement phase.


Focus on Mindset

Another thing to consider during the application design and prototyping phase is how mindset impacts your CRM project. Working on your team’s mindset will help them better manage what they’re up against.


Your team’s experience to-date is in the technology they’re familiar with using. If you’re not careful, you can make your new technology look like your old one, wasting money in the process. This is because the normal human tendency is to revert to what’s comfortable when things get complicated. But working on your team’s mindset helps them to resist these tendencies.


Have conversations upfront and prepare your SMEs for what to expect—including their commitment. Clearly explain the effort and time commitment required. Ask them to be honest when answering the questions: “Are you up for it?” and “Can you manage it with your current responsibilities?”


If they answer “no,” then you’ll need to reevaluate.


Asking your team if they are willing and able to endure your CRM implementation project, supports their overall well-being. When teams are plunged into a CRM project without fully understanding the time and work required, they often fall ill due to stress.


Outlining expectations is a form of self-care and shouldn’t be neglected.


Invest in the Follow-Up

The follow-up during your CRM application design and prototyping process is just as important (if not more) than the planning. If there’s no plan for following up, your efforts may fall flat—for example, much of your team’s time and effort are spent participating in planning sessions. But then everyone goes back to their office and resumes their normal day-to-day activities. As a result, your team forgets about the project and may fall into thinking, “what project” or “what implementation.”


The duration of the preparation phase may last for a few weeks; the engagement phase may happen for a few months. But the follow-up phase is much longer and often happening months later. There is usually a long list of follow-ups because it is hard to make decisions on the spot during the engagement phase. The follow-up phase is crucial since it helps resolve everything you put on that list during the engagement phase. Without a plan, you put your CRM implementation project at risk.


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.

The Project Team Mindset for a Successful Advancement CRM Implementation

For any organization, implementing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is a challenge—bringing about changes on all levels and involving every employee.


The promise of a CRM is captivating, but it can be frustrating in practice. A CRM allows organizations to gather constituent data swiftly, identify the most valuable donors over time, and increase donor loyalty when done correctly. It also reduces acquisition costs and makes it easier to engage similar donors later. But when a CRM doesn’t work well—which is often—it can lead to costly and timely mistakes.


Building an effective CRM implementation team is critical for successful adoption. An effective CRM project involves all parts of an organization—including top management. But what may be one of the essential aspects to successful adoption is your CRM project team.


Here’s how to support the project team mindset for a successful CRM advancement implementation.


A CRM must be able to deliver on its promised ability to help organizations achieve their goals. The solution must be flexible enough to cater to an entire range of donors for this to be possible. Organizations succeed when they adapt their CRM to work with complex data sets.


From the start, look through a wide lens, then adapt as you learn about new conditions and parameters. Hold sessions to identify requirements in detail and adopt agile project methodology that allows you to discover CRM challenges early. But remember, mistakes must be allowed; the goal is to learn from them and move forward.


There are hundreds of decisions to make during a CRM implementation project. Therefore, the team must avoid stalling the project for a single decision. Instead, identify and respond to changing requirements or goals to prevent delays while striving for continuous improvement.


Establish an infrastructure for efficient decision-making. Empower your team to make the best decision with the information at hand. Letting them know that they can make a different or better decision if they acquire knowledge later.


Every member of a CRM project team has different skills, expertise, and talent. Collaboration allows everyone to share their ideas while understanding how their team members think, work, and operate. This, in turn, allows the employees to learn from their colleagues and build upon their strengths.


All parties should be permitted to contribute to the end goal. Collaboration builds trust and accountability. Making contributions through the lens of what “we” need as a department, not what “I” need as an individual staff member.


Low-budget and mid-market CRM users are often tasked with implementing CRM systems independently, so, understandably, they have challenges to face during the implementation process. CRM implementation challenges are some of the main reasons CRM projects fail to achieve their objectives.


These challenges may include resistance to adopting the software, data security, and inaccurate data entry. When it comes to the project team mindset, head into the implementation with the idea that disruption will happen. Overcome this by challenging the traditional culture to improve user satisfaction and deliver better value in your CRM project.


When it comes to a CRM, teams tend to over-analyze, and things get way too complicated. Easy access and intuitive user interfaces are critical for CRM software to be widely adopted. Avoid solutions with inconsistent terminology and little guidance on how to navigate account entries and donor data.


Encourage your team to simplify. If you can’t explain it in a 30-second elevator pitch, it’s too complicated. When it comes to fields, less is more—only the most important details about each contact or opportunity are required, with the option for users to add more detailed information when necessary.


Like any significant transition in an organization, CRM implementation takes time, effort, patience, and investment. But the benefits of supporting your CRM implementation team are well worth the effort.

Discovery Sessions: A Blueprint for Success

There is a discovery phase at the start of all advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project implementations. The goal during the discovery phase is to understand where you are as an organization, your current processes, and where you want to go. Additionally, during this phase, you identify what prompted you to buy a new CRM, pinpointing your current challenges, and deciding how they might impede your journey.

Essentially, the discovery phase is an investigation helping you identify what’s going on.

The next time you’re heading into your CRM implementation project discovery phase, use this blueprint for success.


Before heading into your discovery session, you’ll need to gather a few documents. Standard documents you should have on hand include current process diagrams, policies and procedures, department policies, and training documentation.

These documents don’t necessarily need to be updated but providing them to your CRM vendor affords a starting point—creating a snapshot of how you work. Gathering your documents ahead of time is an efficient step from a preparation standpoint. This way you won’t need to remember what to report what’s in those documents. Additionally, you won’t need to waste time during the discovery session reviewing documents that can be reviewed in their own.

Use the discovery session to discuss viewpoints or offer other commentaries that may not be clear in the documents.

Before heading into your discovery session, you should begin to recognize your pain points and challenges. This may not be immediately detectable since you’ve been living with them for years—you’ve likely gotten used to them. In the weeks leading up to your discovery session, take note of your frustrations. Have sticky notes handy. If you get frustrated or find something takes too much time, jot it down on your sticky note. Then, either create a complete list or bring your sticky notes to the session. This will help you eliminate the need to think about and identify your pain points on the spot.

In the Beginning

Once you are in the discovery session meeting, be sure that everyone introduces themselves. Stating their role in the institution and how long they’ve been there is excellent information. But to take it a step further, have a business or team introduction that indicates what the team handles in the organization and how they stay organized to get work done. These things are often missed but can be helpful to establish a framework and point of view of the team.

During the Meeting

It is essential to understand the moderator’s intentions. They should set the stage to identify what business areas need to be covered in the meeting. For example, if you want to talk about gift operations, you’ll want to make that clear from the beginning.

After the stage is set, you can identify critical processes that are missing and locate a part of the topic area to be addressed and corrected.

As the meeting continues, focus on keeping it conversational with open-ended questions. If possible, opt to have a visual component. But avoid using a stuffy PowerPoint presentation. Instead, use a whiteboard for an interactive session.

Whiteboarding sessions help those in attendance understand current processes and visualize the future. It also helps validate everyone’s voices and avoid future misunderstandings. For example, as people express their pain points, they go up on a visual meeting board. This visual representation in real-time immediately validates the participant and lets them know they’ve been heard. It also facilitates feedback—a misunderstanding of the content allows for an immediate correction.

After the Meeting

If you used a visual board, it should continue to be available to all participants and be made accessible for a few weeks. Making the board available allows your team to revisit their ideas for clarification. It can also spark a deeper conversation. Encourage comments to continue to be posted even after the discovery session ends—allowing for more ideas to be added as thoughts arise.

Then after you’ve allowed adequate time for review and commenting, establish a method to add to your document repository. Make it easy for people to contribute their documentation for the discovery on an ongoing basis.

Are you an Unattractive Client?

When it comes to your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) partnerships, oftentimes, there is a focus on vendors and consultants. But have you considered your actions as a client and how that affects your CRM project implementation.

It’s important to consider what you are bringing to the table at the outset of the advancement CRM implementation. And assessing if what you’re doing is making it more difficult for your project to be successful.
Here are three areas to consider and determine if you’re an unattractive client.


Most CRM vendors will provide a document or information about your resource requirements. In addition, they will identify what it will take to get things done. This document usually includes a recommended skill set and availability that your organization (the client) must provide.

When it comes to staffing—the people power—elements of your project, institutions often take shortcuts. There’s no doubt that your CRM implementation project is an enormous undertaking, and you may be short on staff even before it begins.

But institutions that take shortcuts when it comes to the staffing recommendations can jeopardize the CRM project and increase the risk for failure.

Here’s why: When deciding how to divide the appropriate amount of time—say 50 percent—institutions might disregard the vendor’s recommendation thinking it is too large of a commitment for one team member. So, to get around this rule, some institutions opt to split the commitment between 2–3 people. But there are many challenges with this arrangement. One of which includes the project management being divided between multiple people—this is an ineffective strategy. Additionally, this type of arrangement requires a significant amount of communication, which institutions often forget to consider and leads to communication barriers.

Splitting project management is one of the worst strategies. Project management is the hardest part of your CRM project, and it needs to be filled by a dedicated individual.

Decision Making

Project governance is critical to establish at the outset of a CRM project. Unfortunately, institutions try to pattern their project governance after their fiscal and regular project planning structures.

But this creates a web of committees that slows down decisions for your project. If you’re trying to use an agile approach to your decision making, don’t bog down your choices in a committee format.

Here’s why: Decision-making in a project needs to be expedient and nimble. But if every decision is run through a congressional structure, it’s going to take way too long, and decisions won’t be made. Structuring your decision making in a committee format will increase the failure, stress, strain, and timeline of your CRM project.

When it comes to the decisions that are critical to the project, aim to appoint one individual. Empower the individual to make those in-the-trenches decisions—from optimal design to approving validation. For example, a decision on a specific deliverable needing approval from the vendor should include the least amount of people as possible.

The designated person can take input from others, but in more of a representative style verse asking for input by consensus.

Reserve consensus decision-making for infrastructure-type elements and use it sparingly. Consensus decision-making works well for approving the budget—especially if you are seeking more money or going over budget.


CRM vendors should not be expected to take ownership of your project implementation. Especially if you contract a software vendor or have a team complete your CRM project implementation.

Here’s why: It’s one thing to install software, but it is entirely different from operationalizing the solution. The new CRM needs to become a part of the fabric of your institution. And successfully adopting your CRM software will primarily be your responsibility. Your CRM implementation project success depends on how well you embrace and take ownership.

Developing A Successful Partnership with Your Consultant

Your advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project implemen- tation can be an enormous undertaking for your organization. Because of this, it is common for there to be various vendors and even a consultant relationship to aid your project.


Partnering with a consultant for your CRM project provides ongoing support with your extra undertakings — further improving efficiency and productivity. Developing a successful consultant relationship helps you maximize the benefits of your CRM implementation.


Here are a few things you should be aware of as you develop a successful partnership.

Authentic Communication

Being able to effectively communicate is one of life’s most essential skills. It enables you to pass information on to other people and understand what is being said. When it comes to working with partners for your advancement CRM project, it’s essential to practice good communication, but most importantly, authentic communication. Authentic communication is the act of listening more than you speak while being open, honest, and straightforward.


Authentic communication may feel uncomfortable at first, but when you’re comfortable with providing honest feedback with your consultant, it increases your CRM project efficiency. Whether it’s how they are conducting a specific meeting with stakeholders, a particular engagement, or the deliverables they are providing, you need to address these issues with honest feedback—even more so if your consultant is no longer proving value.


And the same is true when it comes to hearing your vendor or consultant’s concerns—you must be able and willing to listen. You should be open to a productive dialogue about any challenges throughout your CRM project—identifying steps to move toward the desired outcome.


Finally, an effective consulting partnership should be flexible and positively adapt to your CRM project needs.


Clear Roadmap

A successful consultant partnership has a clear roadmap. Your roadmap should identify your starting point and include clear objectives and ideas about how to get there. This roadmap should not feel vague. Instead, it should empower you to feel confident, so you can achieve the goals you have established.


Rely on your consultant’s ability to listen carefully and observe your organizational interactions and culture. Since they aren’t necessarily operating in your organization on a regular basis, they may pick up on challenges that could be a barrier to your success.


A good consultant should be able to identify your blind spots. They should also be able to determine what you don’t know and provide tactics to work through those challenges and barriers.



Trust means you’re relying on someone else to do the right thing. You should be able to trust your consultant in a myriad of ways. First, you should be able to trust they have the skills and abilities to perform what you’ve asked them to do. Not only to get the work done but to achieve the goals and move the organization forward.


Second, you should trust they are bringing their best people to engage with you. And lastly, at every turn in the engagement, you should be able to trust they are still your advocate and have your best interest in mind.


In a successful consultant partnership, there should be space to feel comfortable with honest communication—even when things are not going well—because it helps you identify an accurate course correction.


Engaging a consultant with a network of resources or connections provides your organization many opportunities. A consultant helps you leverage valuable resources and establish relationships in the industry—helping your organization complete tasks and make strong referrals for other needs.

3 Tips for a Productive Partnership and Successful Vendor Management

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project implementation requires a lot of moving parts. A CRM implementation will likely require you to have multiple vendors or you might choose to work with a consulting firm. A consulting firm may be your strategic integrator—taking the software you select and assisting in its adoption and integration into your organization.


Regardless of the type of partnership you elect, like most aspects of life, you need to get to know someone before you can build a productive partnership. The same is true for your vendors.


The key to succeeding in vendor management is to share information and priorities with your vendors. That does not mean you share everything without question. Appropriate vendor management practices provide the necessary information at the right time to allow a vendor to serve your needs better.


Gain the commitment of your vendors to assist and support the implementation of your CRM. Here are three tips for a productive partnership and successful vendor management.

Tip No. 1: Identify Expectations

The vendor-institution relationship is a two-way street. Just as your institution can’t function effectively if a vendor underperforms, the same is true for the vendor. One part of successful vendor management is to contribute knowledge or resources that may help them serve your institution better.


As you know, there is a little bit of heavy lifting on the institution’s part to continue to establish that relationship. In some instances, it may not be clear. This is especially true if you’ve contracted with your vendor for specific services and there is a misunderstanding. Maybe you’ve missed a conversation and aren’t sure how those services are delivered. Or perhaps the delivery of services is not in line with the CRM project’s key objectives and outcomes.


Avoid complications by identifying expectations and asking questions of your vendors to help you understand their side of the business. Map out what your institution is trying to do and determine how it directly relates to the vendor’s contracted products and services. Creating clear guidelines and identifying expectations allows you to build a relationship based on good communication—which ultimately boosts trust.

Tip No. 2: Make Adequate Connections

Frequent communication is key to maintaining productive relationships. Communication is relevant to all business relationships, including how your institution can support your vendors and other partners. Actively listening and making connections between team members supports productive partnerships and vendor management.


Keep your vendors informed about your institution’s plans, priorities, and problems, and encourage them to share theirs with you. This ensures both parties understand what needs to be done and prevents small issues from escalating.


Connect people from the institution side to the individual or team from the vendor side. Ideally, match contacts responsible for similar tasks—even if there is a counterpart for critical positions between the vendor and the institution.


Be mindful that creating adequate connections becomes more complicated if there are barriers regarding skill set or language. Try to connect people who would be speaking the same language or those with a similar skill set. Things could get complicated if you have a subject matter expert on the institution side but can’t link up with someone similar in skill set or language on the vendor side.


Alignment with crucial resources and roles in your CRM project is essential—regardless of whether it is the institution-side or vendor-side.

Tip No. 3: Monitor Progress

Monitoring progress from both sides is vital. Establish the mapping from the project objectives and outcomes from the vendor services provided. This will support vendors and your team coming together more efficiently.


Conduct continuous monitoring—initiating an ongoing check-in—to make sure you are on the right track. Sometimes it requires a deep look into “lessons learned,” but ultimately, you can be integrating that along the way. If necessary, adjust how the teams interact and the resources that need to be assigned. Ask yourself these questions:


• Do I need to re-map or establish a reconnection between the services?
• Should I reassess the partnering counterparts?
• Do the teams work well with each other? If not, where is the disconnect?


A CRM implementation is an enormous undertaking, and vendor management can be challenging even with the best intentions. Be mindful of strategy and planning and understand how all that comes into alignment, especially regarding your vendor relationships.

When Outsourcing During CRM Implementation, Don’t Forget These Technical Components


Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project implementation often requires outsourcing to meet demands and ease the burden of your in-house staff. When it comes to the technical component of CRM implementation, outsourcing is even more practicable.


Outsourcing your CRM technical needs allows you to gain access to a wide variety of aptitudes and expertise you likely wouldn’t have with in-house employees—often at a lower overall cost than paying to hire and train in-house staff. This solution enables you to spare significant time and cost.


Are you struggling with what exactly to outsource when it comes to technology for your advancement CRM project implementation? Here are three technical areas that can easily be outsourced and help your project run efficiently.


Programming Efforts


Almost every organization has programming advancement needs. The most critical question is whether to outsource your software development cycle. Most organizations don’t have the resources on hand when it comes to programming efforts. This is because it takes time to build that skill set. Advancement CRM projects last anywhere from 12–18 months; that’s too rapid for employees to start building their skills from scratch. It’s in your best interest to take advantage of an outside expert.


Outsourcing your programming efforts gives you access to senior expert programmers that can assist in integrating other applications within your new CRM. With adequate programming support, you can leverage the much-needed automation, so applications aren’t disparate from one system to another.


Bringing in an outside specialist helps you build your intelligence platform and data analytics strategy.


Overseeing in-house CRM development is a great option if you can invest in the necessary resources, time, and assets to get your team trained in programming. But if you can’t, then consider the benefits and the minimal risks of outsourcing your CRM development.


Data Preparation


CRM implementation is a project that requires preparation, commitment, and cooperation across the entire organization. You need to prepare many things, such as allocating resources, getting people on board, rolling out a clear and consistent plan of action, and preparing your data for conversion.


Data preparation may include cleanup, transformation, routines, and data assessment. All these tasks require a significant amount of time and skillset—something you may be short on given your project’s timeline.


Offset this obstacle by working with a consultant to support your data preparation. A consultant can help migrate data but also analyze data usability—helping you transfer only the most relevant data to your new CRM. This helps to ease your team’s burden and increase the efficiency of your project.


Testing and Validating


An area often shorted in terms of time and effort is the testing and validating of your CRM implementation. Quality assurance is a particular skill, and it is assumed that everybody can pick it up and do it. Most organizations don’t have the availability or staffing knowledge to complete quality assurance testing and validating effectively.


Instead, look to an outside consulting partnership to augment your testing efforts—doing so adds significant value to your CRM implementation. Engaging an outside consulting firm will be worth the investment because you’ll be able to complete your project with a more stable solution.

3 Components to Consider Outsourcing for Your Advancement CRM Implementation


Beginning a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project is a large undertaking. You want it to succeed, but your organization may be pressed with its current resources.


CRM project implementation outsourcing is becoming increasingly more common, and it can help you avoid common mistakes. Most organizations choose to outsource to cut costs. But strategic outsourcing has many other benefits, such as accessing skilled expertise, reducing overhead, flexible staffing, increasing efficiency, and reduced turnaround time.


Here are three areas to consider outsourcing during your advancement CRM implementation.


Project Management


Outsourcing the overall project management of your advancement CRM implementation benefits your organization by significantly reducing your operating costs, saving time, and increasing team productivity. Full-time administrators are in high demand and often request a high salary. Contract CRM administrators are easier to engage with quickly.


The person you partner with must have a strong background in project leadership, along with an in-depth understanding and knowledge of business practices. Both are vital to your implementation’s success.


CRM Administrators can integrate your CRM with finance tools, communication tools, inventory systems, and donor intelligence services—improving the overall flow of data in your organization.


Workflow Optimization


The second area where outsourcing makes sense is process engineering or workflow optimization. Working with a consulting partner who has in-depth knowledge of advanced business practices can offer you a fresh perspective.


Frequently, the most challenging aspect of change is innovation—which is even more challenging if you’ve done it the same way for an extended period.


Outsourcing your workflow optimization offers an objective perspective—allowing you to understand what other organizations are doing and remain aligned with industry trends and best practices.


Change Management


Resistance to change is a given in most CRM implementations. Having an adequate CRM strategy is a lot like a map. You need to establish a starting point and identify the most effective route to get there. Your CRM strategy should engineer customer-facing outcomes that align and support the organization’s sustainability strategy.


This happens with effective change management. Without a change management strategy, you can expect that 50 percent of users will continue to operate as if the CRM technology doesn’t exist[1].


Engaging a consulting partner with expertise in change management can increase your project’s success. An outsourcing partner offset learning curves, overcome challenges and adjust preexisting cultural norms. You’re more likely to implement a change management program that will speak to all those things when having the expertise from an outsourcing partner.


Outsourcing different aspects of your advancement CRM implementation is economical and efficient. When you outsource, you share the burden and responsibilities of your project with your outsourcing partner—enabling you to remain focused on your core responsibilities, easing the burden of your in-house employees, and maximizing the productivity of your staff and project implementation.



Focus on These Critical Areas If You Are Implementing a New Advancement CRM


Implementing Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) initiatives can be overwhelming—they require change, disrupt processes and workflows. They force your organization to think about how you manage your existing data and deciding how you’ll move forward with data collection.


Internally, business processes and technology may need to be changed. Externally, constituent experiences can be disrupted, requiring you to shift in how you communicate.


Improving your CRM platforms can leverage an integrated advancement solution that helps break down data silos, drive major gifts and online fundraising, improve reporting and insights with artificial intelligence (AI), personalize engagement, and steward longtime supporters.


Now is an incredible time for Advancement teams to focus on improving and modernizing their strategies for success.


Focus on these critical areas if you are implementing a new Advancement CRM—primarily if staff work remotely or have worldwide concerns.


Stakeholder Engagement


Stakeholder engagement has always been an essential part of Advancement, but it needs an overhaul—the way it’s been done is changing. Gone are the days (at least temporarily) of traveling for face-to-face interactions.


Video visits were trending even before the pandemic. One-third[1] of all advancement teams were already using video chats as visits, but now it’s an overwhelming majority. This trend will likely not disappear.


The shift to digital engagement holds massive potential for fundraising. A gift officer can make dozens of video calls in a day versus a handful of in-person visits—doing so at a fraction of the cost.


There will always be a need for face-to-face visits with prospects, but incorporating more resources into building out digital advancement programs can help deliver personal, concierge-like experiences to more donors at scale.


Project Communication and Transparency


Project communication is challenging without layering on the obstacles brought on by the pandemic. Teams remain working remotely. Many are facing worldwide concerns that extend far beyond your organization.


The way you communicate varies greatly depending on the project’s role and stage—but project communication and transparency have never been more critical.


A CRM accurately and efficiently drives prospect research and reporting—helping you streamline gift entry, inform strategy, measure campaign effectiveness and return on investment (ROI), and access predictive analysis tools.


Focus on reliable information and transparency about the benefits your organization offers your constituents, funders, and communities—they are critical to your legitimacy, funding, and competitiveness.


Requirements Management


Poor requirements management processes have been associated as a leading cause of project failure. Requirements can be classified into functional and non-functional.


Functional requirements are capabilities that the product or service must satisfy user needs. These are the most fundamental requirements often referred to as business requirements.


Non-functional requirements include usability, performance, reliability, and security requirements. These are qualities that a product or service must have—they are no less critical than functional requirements.


Requirements management helps suppliers and customers understand what is needed to avoid wasting time, resources, and effort. To be effective, it must involve all four requirements processes: planning, development, verification, and change management—which also should be associated with formal standardized organizational implementation.


Many requirements management tools are already well-positioned to handle the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Critical areas that requirements management will significantly influence for years include remote working, consolidation and automation, and AI. Organizations that have already adopted these practices stand to benefit greatly and rise above the competition.


Requirements management will have to facilitate an agile approach to business. Simultaneously maintaining an efficient development process may mean shorter time-to-market, more imaginative prioritization of business demand, and integration of design thinking processes into development.


Iterative Planning


Managing new roadblocks, disparate team members, and responding to the new budget and resource constraints should be reflected in your project management processes. With economic and market turmoil, you’ll need to use all available resources to guide decisions with data analysis and predictions for your top prospects and trustees.


This current pandemic is not a time to drop everything and panic—it is an opportunity to manage projects and continue to deliver value to your organization.


Iterative planning—the process of creating new strategies or developing new products—will be a necessity as organizations may be vulnerable to the economic fallout of the pandemic.


Not to mention, the pandemic has decreased median income wealth in the United States[2]. Mid-tier giving will likely be more critical than ever—significantly if top donors scale back the same way they did in 2008.


High levels of uncertainty require you to operate at high speeds. Here is a five-step cycle you can apply to plan ahead, responding to the rapidly changing environment.


  1. Get a realistic view of where you are starting.
  2. Visualize multiple versions of your future and develop scenarios.
  3. Establish your stand and overall broad direction.
  4. Decide actions and strategic moves that can be applied across scenarios.
  5. Set points that trigger your organization to act at the most opportune time.


Develop a team dedicated to planning. They should focus on developing your modular and support your iterative planning cycle throughout the crisis.




CRM Implementation for Advancement – Preparing for Data Conversion

For all of my Advancement Colleagues, I have a Precision Practices tip for you. I’m going to talk about the 4 stages that will help you prepare for Data Conversion and increase the success of your CRM Implementation.


When I first engage with my clients, I routinely ask – what are your major concerns about the implementation? What keeps you up at night?

Data Conversion is among the top 3 most common responses that I get. Everyone has heard horror stories about the pain of realizing errors in the converted data after go-live.

Simply put, they want to know…How do I meet stakeholders’ expectations and have clean and accurate data at go-live?

If you include the following 4 stages in your data conversion you will significantly increase your data conversion success. Our clients have achieved a 98% data conversion accuracy using this methodology to prepare for data conversion

Stage 1: Data Exclusion

The first stage is data exclusion. The objective is to leave behind all data that is no longer useful to the organization.



  • Identify all data tables in your current database that have 0 records
  • Identify all data fields in your current database that have no data, only contain 1 unique value (ex. all records have Y)
  • Identify all data fields in your current database where there is old information that is no longer used, data that is not useful going forward, or was collected for a program/initiative that no longer exists
  • Identify all fields that you are unable provide a clear definition for or you don’t remember the data is used

Action to Take: We want to completely remove this data from even being considered during the data conversion process. Pretend that is no longer exists.


Stage 2: Data Archiving

The second stage is data archiving. This is historical information where we can’t definitively say it that it is no longer useful, but at the same time we cannot identify a user that would use the information on a routine basis.



  • Identify data tables, fields, or a subset of records that would not be useful for daily operations but would be helpful to refer to occasionally
  • Identify data tables, fields, or a subset of records that may be useful during in-depth research

Action to Take: Establish a repository for data that has been archived that can be accessed by a select group of users. This data will not be included in the data conversion to the new CRM.


Stage 3: Data Clean-Up

The third stage is data clean up. The objective of this stage is to identify data that has been entered incorrectly or no longer complies with your current business rules. We DO NOT want to skip this step, because moving inaccurate data into your new CRM is the quickest way to eliminate any chance of user adoption.



Prioritizing is critical because there’s a lot of data that we’ve collected over the years. We need to prioritize the most critical information to clean up first.

  • What information do we need on DAY 1? What is going to be the most visible to all users?
  • Are there too many records to clean-up? This may be a good time to consider data archiving or maybe even data exclusion. If the records are beyond cleanup, maybe we don’t need them at all.

Action to Take: Whenever possible, have a database programmer develop database scripts that will clean-up many records at one time. For complex data clean-up that requires careful review, provide detailed instructions to subject matter experts to spread the workload.


Step 4: Data Transformation

The next stage is data transformation. This process focuses on the remaining data after data exclusion, data archiving, and data clean-up. The objective is to make the data conversion as simple as possible by realigning our legacy data to closely match the structure of our new CRM database. Complex logic or spaghetti code should not exist in our data conversion scripts.



  • Are there multiple steps required to describe the mapping between a source field in our legacy system to a destination field in the new CRM database?
  • Have we made design decisions or established new business rules that our existing data no longer fits?

Action to Take: Have a database programmer develop scripts that will take the legacy data and transform it into a structure, format, or value required by the new CRM database


As a recap, we explored 4 Stages that will prepare you a data conversion and lead to success when Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement:

  • Data Exclusion
  • Data Archiving
  • Data Clean-up
  • Data Transformation

Leave a comment and share your data conversion experiences. Are there additional methods you would add to this list?

Let’s evaluate your CRM

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant at Precision Partners

Maximizing the benefits of Constituent Relationship Management systems has become critical for organizations that are looking to solidify the long-term viability of their fundraising, advocacy, and advancement programs. This has created an urgency for organizations to find answers to the following question…

Why do so many Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementations fall short in the following ways?

    • Meeting the expectations of its users
    • Being the catalyst that transforms how the organization relates to its constituents
    • Ushering users into the age of “Self-Service”
    • Realizing the Return on Investment


These common barriers to success are often the culprit that limit the success of a CRM implementation

Hurdle #1: Defining project objectives and measurable factors for success

With the pressure of developing an RFP, selecting a software vendor, packaging a project proposal and justification for board approval, magically garnering resources that are already overloaded – this critical step is often lost in the shuffle.

Hurdle #2: Implementation Preparation

CRM Implementations are often a new endeavor for an organization and the members of the project team. This often leads to the phenomenon of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. This lack of knowledge and preparation can limit project success before it even gets started and in most cases the impact isn’t realized until the project is well underway.

Hurdle #3: Support for Project Leadership

Software implementations are demanding and projects that seek to revolutionize the way an organization interacts with its constituents increases the need for peak performance by the Project Manager. All too often the Project Manager is asked to run the implementation marathon without a coach, proper training, preparation, or continued support.

Hurdle #4: Project Team Performance

Project team members must be fully engaged to become a high performing team. Fully engaged does not equate to a dedicated resource. No matter how much or how little a person is allocated to a project, the following factors must be present for a high performing team to emerge:

  • A team identity
  • Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Above all else a commitment to the success of the team
  • Continual reinforcement that their contribution is integral to the success of the team
  • Recognition and Appreciation
  • Personal and professional growth or value in their engagement

Hurdle #5: Project Health Assessments

Project status is most often measured by whether the project is on time, within budget, and the software application is delivered according to the documented specifications. While these are important elements to monitor this does not speak to the overall health of the project. Did the methods used to deliver a quality product on time and within budget cause a loss of trust between project team members or stakeholders, disintegration of cross departmental relationships, or loss of credibility for the project sponsor or sponsoring department? Most organizations would say that any of these negative impacts are not acceptable, but it often happens in projects without a structure for prevention or intervention.

Hurdle #6: Stakeholder Engagement and User Adoption

Many projects manage to engage a core set of team members who develop a solution that they wholeheartedly believe will meet the needs of the organization. It is the biggest threat to morale when after such a strenuous effort, the software application does not meet the most basic needs of some key stakeholders and declared unusable.

If you are currently facing these challenges that are threatening the success of your CRM implementation, Precision Partners Project Advisory Services is your solution.  

Contact Us