Will a New Advancement CRM System Really Make a Difference?


A new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system can propel your fundraising efforts to new levels. But do you really need a new system?


A CRM is a hub for all donor-centric activities, and solutions exist for every organization regardless of size. With the right CRM, your institution can deliver timely, automated, targeted communications to donors to personalize the donation journey.


Leveraging new technology can help your development office stay competitive. But unless you first define your organizational goals and needs, it’s difficult to understand how any new technology meets those needs and achieves those goals. Especially when data quality is in question.


One of the first things organizations do when experiencing poor data quality, is start looking for a new CRM. But implementing new technology will not always solve the problems departments face with obtaining clean and accurate data.


A new CRM system may not be the answer to your problem, especially if your processes and procedures are the cause for your poor data. Your poor data quality will continue to be ineffective in a new system if you don’t correct procedures to ensure the current system is being fully optimized.


Can your organization relate to any of these common complaints when it comes to data quality and your CRM?


  • Teams are spending time and resources performing quality assurance and data cleanup, but these efforts are not focused on the most important to the users.
  • The CRM system includes a massive amount of data, but there aren’t enough resources to make a noticeable impact on donor-based efforts.
  • The information teams receive (either from the system or reports) is often misinterpreted by the users, making it ineffective.
  • Data is pulled from several resources, but there are no measures to interface the data, resulting in poor quality.
  • There is a lack of metrics and ongoing user education of the CRM system. As a result, users do not understand their responsibilities, the importance of data quality, and their role in the quality of that data.


If your organization can relate to any of these common complaints, it may benefit you to look internally and implement the following tactics before undergoing a new CRM implementation.


Perform a Data Quality Assessment

Your first task should be to assess the quality of the overall data your users are receiving. By using a quality data prioritization method, gauging the data usage and impact, you can obtain a quality rating. This also helps you determine the factors that increase or decrease that quality rating.


Incorporate Stakeholders

By identifying management stakeholders and stakeholders in different departments, you gain sponsorship of the data quality. This also helps to stress the importance of accurate data to the users responsible for the quality.


Establish a Strategic Data management Program

A comprehensive strategic data management program that reviews the overall quality of your data should:


  • evaluate if business definitions are standardized and comprehensive;
  • identify sources of data and the reliability of that data at each level of the process;
  • distinguish data entry workflows and determine which are susceptible to errors; and
  • review quality assurance procedures and determine if they are aligned with the highest priorities.


Consider these other measures that ensure you are obtaining the best data.


  • Use automated tools and routines to clean up your data.
  • Prioritize data cleanup at the user level.
  • Define a “master record” to ensure current data is used and duplicate information is eliminated—especially when integrating data from multiple resources.
  • Create reports that monitor the data quality.
  • Hold regular meetings with stakeholders to ensure the data meets quality expectations.
  • Illustrate how the quality of the data directly affects user efforts—stressing the importance of ownership of data at the user level.


After implementing these systems, you may find that you don’t need new CRM technology—alternatively, optimizing what you already have. High-quality data is the lifeblood of your fundraising initiatives. Every effort should be made to obtain quality data and fully use your CRM system.

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.

Frequent Complaints and How You Can Encourage Use of Your Advancement CRM


Advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) databases are essential to your development office. If used correctly, the advancement CRM provides insights about donors and supports their growing relationship with the institution.


The advancement CRM can support everyone involved in the donation process through donor-centric interactions. This is important because philanthropists expect organizations to demonstrate the impact of their support and engage them effectively. At the same time, development officers wish to approach supporters with a thoughtful strategy that will help them to achieve their philanthropic goals or establish a legacy.


Donor-centric interactions can’t happen if the information is not being captured within the advancement CRM. For example, a new development officer starts at your institution and receives their portfolio of prospects from the previous officer. The new officer begins to engage an existing prospect that was managed by another officer for three years.


But there is minimal information about past contact within your advancement CRM. This limits the depth of any strategy developed by the new development officer, requiring them to basically start from scratch. Multiply this by 30, 50, or 75 prospects in their portfolio, and the development officer may spend substantial time making a connection with their prospects.


What’s even worse, and potentially embarrassing, is if a development officer is required to ask for information the donor has already shared—some of which may be painful, especially if the donor is asked to retell the story of losing their loved one.


Your advancement CRM is vital to your donor strategy, but development officers may be reluctant to use it. We discuss frequent complaints and how you can encourage your team to use your advancement CRM.


Complaint #1: The advancement CRM database information is unreliable.

With this complaint, the problem is often data quality issues. For example, is the data unreliable because it is incorrect, missing, or not up to date?


The solution requires developing strategies that address your specific data quality issue. This often starts with empowering a culture of good data. Everyone should be held responsible for accurate information in the advancement CRM database. If not, establish ways to empower and encourage good data throughout your organization.


Complaint #2: I need to be fundraising and not entering data into an advancement CRM database.

Too often, development officers don’t want to be bogged down with data entry. But information in the advancement CRM database is an asset. There is often a correlation between a development officer’s success and an effective CRM. The advancement CRM is meant to capture information about the supporter, establish a strategy, and help the development officer to engage the donor following that strategy.


Combat this complaint by reviewing your prospect management guidelines. The prospect management guidelines should be a working document to help your development officers with managing their portfolio of prospects. The guidelines should include the prospecting strategy, plan of action, and contact report or interactions that provide information on how the program works.


Complaint #3: The advancement CRM database is too complicated and cumbersome.

This complaint often arises when business processes and workflows are overly complicated or disconnected from the development officer’s core needs.


The solution is to redefine success for a development officer. Then, standardize business processes and workflow to provide them with the tools they need to assess their progress. They should be able to answer these questions:


  • How am I doing?
  • How is my team doing?
  • How is the development office doing?


Training should also combine a review of prospect management values and objectives in a way that doesn’t become complicated or cumbersome.


When development officers complain or reluctant toward using your advancement CRM database, it can often be contributed to a misunderstanding or lack of training. Identifying the “why,” “what,” and “how” proficiency in your advancement CRM database business processes and workflow is often a simply, and effective solution.

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.


Change Management: Building Knowledge and Skills for Your CRM Implementation

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project requires many levels of change. Successful change management must go beyond how-to training on the new CRM product. Users and stakeholders should know how to adapt to the new processes, along with actively using the new language and terminology to operate in the “new world” effectively.


One component of your change management program you should consider is integrating a process toward building stakeholder knowledge and skills. This empowers users and stakeholders to build the essential knowledge and skills to make an effective transition and work their way toward mastery of your CRM.


Helping users and stakeholders with the building knowledge and skills part of the change management process can be broken into five steps. This five-step process is a continuum, and steps shouldn’t be skipped. Additionally, it is essential to integrate this process early on. It is not something you should wait until the end of your project to implement—it should also be adapted in parallel to your implementation plan.


Here are five steps to consider as you work to help users and stakeholders build their knowledge and skills during the CRM change management process.


Step one: Exposure

The first step to building skills and knowledge during the change management process should be exposure. The exposure state is a period to inform and educate users of the pending changes. This is a way of socializing users with the new system. Exposure can include talking about the new CRM and introducing users to the new features and design.


Exposing users and stakeholders acts as an introduction and helps prepare them for the level of change that is about to occur.


Step two: Experience

The next step includes allowing users to gain experience within the new CRM system. This step is a hands-on introduction to your CRM. Do this by creating structured scenarios or simulations to let users feel or experience the change, allowing them to test out your new CRM processes and procedures. As you conduct experimental usage, be sure it is within a controlled environment without consequences or deadlines.


Step three: Engagement

After the controlled environment experience, users move to the engagement phase. The engagement phase includes targeted activities to reinforce new behaviors, increase knowledge, and build skills required for the CRM change.


It is crucial not to jump to the engagement phase without first exposing users and offering experience. The most common mistake organizations make is starting in the engagement phase. But this creates a missed opportunity to give users the benefit of exposure and experiencing the CRM.


It is also important to note that when the exposure and experience steps are skipped, users tend to go into shock—making it more challenging to transition to ownership and become champions of the CRM. Using the “shock treatment” increases resistance of the change even after it occurs.


Step four: Ownership

The ownership phase is when users are proficient in the skills required to transition to the organization’s future state. Reinforce proficiency by reiterating engagement and allowing users to experiment with the aspects of your CRM. Users can only move toward ownership after successfully being exposed, experiencing the CRM system, and eengaging with your CRM system.


Step five: Mastery

Not everyone transitions to the mastery phase. But if you don’t allow users to go through every aspect of the change management process, you won’t be able to find those that can rise to the level of mastery. The mastery level is when subject matter experts have developed advanced skills that support the organization’s future state and are able to help others do the same.


As you continue to plan for change management of your new CRM, it is essential to remember that building knowledge and skills is only one aspect to consider. Building users’ knowledge and skills for your CRM implementation requires a five-step process that first exposes them to the change and helps them move toward mastery through the change management process.

How to Support Stakeholders in Making Decisions During a CRM Implementation

There are thousands of decisions during your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. These decisions usually involve a myriad of people. Along with managing the project, you’re challenged with trying to balance stakeholder engagement. You want to get buy-in—encouraging the stakeholders to have “skin in the game” and actively participate in the CRM implementation process.


But the downside is that as you bring in different individuals with varied experiences, this can create a challenge in making decisions. This becomes particularly difficult if you attempt to make decisions as a committee or consensus.


Trying to increase stakeholder engagement is a plus from a change management perspective, but it can complicate the project from a project management perspective. The goal is to continue with adequate progress, but the most significant impact on your success is stalling the project schedule because you can’t move through the decision-making process.


Don’t dismiss your stakeholders and not have them involved. It is essential to prepare and be ready for this kind of decision-making process, considering people at different vantage points.


We’ve developed a methodology to help you ease through the decision-making process during a CRM implementation project. Here are four areas to consider as you work through your CRM decisions.


Phase one: Investigation

The investigation phase of your CRM decision-making process is where you’ll consider all the information available to make the decision, as well as the information that supports the input. Prepare correct information and develop an understanding of where things might get stuck. Determine if education might be valuable to support better informed decisions.


There are three distinct steps of the investigation phase you should consider.


  1. Determine what is known and what is unknown.
  2. Understand the barriers that have prevented progress.
  3. Evaluate if participants are ready to move forward or additional information needs to be gathered within a defined timeframe.


It is important to complete all three steps in the investigation stage. If you don’t, you risk getting stuck in the level of complexity of information.


Phase two: Alignment

The alignment phase is where you’ll take a more critical analysis of the decisions to be made—specifically identifying the desired outcome and what factors need to be present to support the result.


You’ve developed sufficient information in the investigation phase to market the decision. As you begin to take a more critical look, ask yourself: Are we all clear on the decision we’re trying to make? Pay close attention to not only assessing the decision, but also its options. If you can clearly state a decision but cannot clearly state the options, this can become a problem because both pieces are required.


Clearly articulating each option identifies what the decision gives you. There is always a goal or desired outcome—that’s the only reason you’re making a decision—of something you want to change.


During the alignment phase, consider your CRM decisions and options with these three steps.


  1. Clarify the actual decision to be made.
  2. Identify all available options.
  3. Determine the optimal decision-making model: consensus, consultative, autocratic.


Remember to clearly state where you are, where you want to go, and the decisions you need to make to get there. Then, identify the options of how to get there, and the different pathways to achieve your desired outcome.


Phase three: Synthesis

You’ve taken the time to investigate your decisions and critically analyze your options—identifying their importance. The synthesis phase is an evaluation of each option as compared to the desired outcome. This is where you will decide how your options affect your decisions. When synthesizing your CRM options, consider:


  • Can you appropriately evaluate each option?
  • How close does that get you to the desired outcome?


As you continue to analyze your options, remember you wouldn’t be struggling over a decision if there is a clear front-runner. It’s essential to complete the synthesis phase, so you understand and differentiate your options—hopefully eliminating less-favorable ones.


Phase four: Conclusion

You’ve made your way to your CRM project decision-making conclusion phase. It might feel like you’ve completed all the tasks at hand, but not so fast. The conclusion phase is vital to solidifying your decisions and should not be skipped. This phase is where you will communicate your decision—whether one or many—to your team and help them understand not only the “what” but the “why.”


If this step doesn’t happen, you will find yourself in the same decision-making cycle on repeat. The conclusion phase requires you to make a final decision, review, and confirm all participants understand it in its entirety.



This methodology can apply to multiple areas of your CRM implementation project. For example, you can use this to decide how an application looks and feels—that’s a design decision. You can also apply this same process to a data conversion decision where you are deciding if you should bring information over from your legacy system to your new system. Finally, it is applicable to change management when assessing whether to change processes and procedures.


Regardless of the reason, you can apply this framework to the many situations you will come up against during your CRM project. Decision-making during your CRM implementation will feel less overwhelming when you are prepared for each stage of the decision-making process.

How-To Guide for Choosing a Great Subject Matter Expert

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project changes your organization’s platform and processes, procedures, and team responsibilities. A CRM project requires your team to drive a transformational business change in a short amount of time, ultimately shifting how they work every day.


One of the critical team members in effective change management is the Subject Matter Expert (SME)—an individual with deep knowledge or expertise about a particular part of the business or the activity taking place.


The SME plays an essential role in driving change because they are:


  • keenly aware of the impacts, challenges, and obstacles that may arise as a result of the change;
  • experts of their role and processes;
  • experiencing the change first-hand;
  • one of the top influencers that will drive the change; and
  • respected, well-known, and trusted members of the team.


What is the role of an SME?

An SME provides knowledge and expertise about your department’s daily operations, and business needs to the project team. The SME role acts as a representative. They are the person that has been chosen to speak on behalf of the department. They are also a resource and a guide for the duration of the CRM implementation project.


There are four aspects to an influential SME role—all are equally important.


1. Knowledge and Expertise

The SME must be able to explain department operations clearly to the implementation team, answering not only “how” things are done but also “why.” The robots of the department won’t make good subject matter experts. Instead, SMEs are folks that can go a layer deeper, addressing questions like, “why do we do this, what value does it bring?” or “what job responsibility does it address and contribute to the whole of the organization?”


2. Representation

An effective SME will be required to speak on behalf of the department. They act as a guide to other department members, essentially becoming an information resource. In most organizations, there are many members of each department. Therefore, the SME needs to be a reliable information resource—they can’t get caught into the rumor mill or perpetuate gossip.


A subject matter expert is the movement toward change management because they are on the front lines, they’ve got a front-row seat. As a representative, the SME should be comfortable making recommendations considering colleagues and being open to new ways of doing things.


3. Leadership

Additionally, the SME needs to have leadership aspects since they will be leading change management. They will become the go-to person for your CRM project, and team members will look to SME for advice. Since they are a communication channel, the SME should work to limit challenges by bringing issues and concerns back to the project team.


For example, a challenge that may arise would be resolving things within the project team. This challenge can happen if an SME discusses issues with their colleagues who didn’t have the same access to information or ongoing information. This creates a situation where the SME has given the team members a negative view of the project before being fully introduced to it. This creates a one-sided viewpoint and puts the team at a disadvantage. As a result, the team developed a negative impression of the new CRM, even though they didn’t have all the information to formulate their own opinion.


4. Commitment

The SME must be committed—they need to be all in. They can’t head into the project with one foot in and one foot out—this prohibits their ability to be a valuable contributor to your CRM project implementation.


SMEs are a critical success factor for a CRM project. They are instrumental in driving change because of their expertise, personal change experiences, and influencing power. The SME is a valuable contributor to the change management activities of a CRM project which is essential to achieve the desired outcomes and successfully transform the way people work.

How to Create the Becoming an Expert Section of Your Advancement CRM Training Program

(This is the final article of a four-part series on creating an advancement CRM training program. We hope you enjoyed it!)


As we wrap up this content series, we hope you’re well on your way to creating an efficient Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation training program. A CRM training program helps your team operate efficiently and continually improve through program adjustments and updates.


Having an adequate training program not only increases your chance of successful adoption, but it is also an important step in helping users remain self-sufficient and collaborative with fellow team members.


In the final stage of your training program, you’ll want to address how users can become experts within the CRM system.


Expert level CRM users are efficient and help you gain a 360-degree view of your constituents—helping your institution create highly customized offers based on their interests, donor history, and more. Additionally, in today’s technology-dominated world, donors demand and expect a whole new level of attention—they expect your advancement team to deliver a great donor experience. A great donor experience is impossible without ongoing and meaningful communication, and an expert CRM user can help you achieve these goals.


Here’s how to create the “becoming an expert” section of your advancement CRM training program.


Become an Expert

There are training topics you can immediately identify as expert level and develop as a part of your initial CRM training curriculum. Most of these topics will evolve over time as people become more familiar with the system.


Listening and getting feedback will be vital to helping you evolve courses over time and discover training gaps. Create simple ways for users to communicate their ideas about their experience within the advancement CRM system. Users should have an easy way to communicate, not only the quality of training they receive, but additional training needs they discover along the way. The training gaps reported can inspire courses and help users expand on their abilities.


As you continue to build the expert level section of your CRM training program, look for the most efficient workflow and methods to help increase productivity by leveraging tools and technology.


Checklist for the “Becoming an Expert” Section of your Advancement CRM Training Program

The end goal of the expert level training should be getting folks to increase productivity and find the information they need to make data-driven decisions. Here’s what to include in the becoming an expert section of your advancement CRM training.


  • Shortcuts: Create in-depth instruction of intermediate and advanced level features to increase efficiency and offer timesaving methods.
  • Self-service tasks: Offer training that help users create their own notifications and build their own query or report.
  • Advanced searches: Show users how to conduct advanced searches and data mining.
  • Specialized tasks: Build training courses based on user feedback or on specialized tasks that may occur on an infrequent basis.

How to Create the Building Proficiency Section of Your Advancement CRM Training Program

(This is the third article of a four-part series on creating an advancement CRM training program. Stay tuned for more great content!)


If you’ve been following along on our four-part content series, you’re well on your way to creating an effective training program for your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation.


To recap on the first two articles, we first talked about the importance of setting parameters for the getting started section. Then, we talked about how to create the learning the basics section for your CRM training program. We also explained the importance of a CRM training program and how it serves as the foundation for your team to operate efficiently and continually improve through program adjustments and updates.


Now that you have prepared both the getting started and learning the basics sections, it’s time to move on to proficiency. Building proficiencies in your CRM core competencies is an extra step. But there are standard shifts in the industry, and if you don’t make the shift in your training, it can have adverse effects.


Here’s how to create the “building proficiency” section of your advancement CRM training program.


Create Proficiencies

As you create the proficiency section of your CRM training program, follow the learning path that is best suited for job responsibilities—evaluating the level of mastery. Help users build proficiency in working within the advancement CRM software to fulfill their job responsibilities.


Users should not be on an island. Construct a working knowledge of advancement CRM functional areas for departments that frequently interface. This prevents users from working in a silo and develops a working knowledge of how colleagues use the system.


To achieve this, create instructions for how to prepare reports. But be careful how you approach report training. Preparing reports can easily turn into “how to get data out of the system” which can lead to building shadow databases—not the method you want to use. People tend to build shadow databases in legacy systems because they export and use the data elsewhere, then the system doesn’t know what they’re doing.


Avoid this tendency by framing a question. In your building proficiency CRM training program section, include ways for users to access the reports they need—including next steps to take within the system to gain the information.


Include a section that prompts questions. For example, only after they identify what problem they’re trying to solve, they can decide on the appropriate report.


Include prompts to help them answer this question.

What reports or actions do I need to take in the CRM system based on the answer I expect to receive?


When it comes to working within the CRM database, something is wrong if users can’t continue to work within the system. They shouldn’t have to leave to gain information or assess reports that are directly related to your CRM data. Include instructions for how they should let someone know if they aren’t able to continue working within your CRM program.


Checklist for the “Building Proficiency” Section of your Advancement CRM Training Program

The building proficiency section of your advancement CRM training program should help users build upon their basic level of knowledge, most specifically, using it to create reports and analyze data. Here’s what to include in this section of your advancement CRM training program.


  • In-depth instruction: Create training that helps users effectively use the features within the CRM or perform a specific set of tasks in the advancement CRM software. For example, how to maintain constituent records or manage prospect strategies and plans.
  • Real-life scenarios: Include real-life scenarios that staff members may encounter frequently in their daily tasks. This helps users become more self-sufficient and advanced within the CRM system.
  • Data consumption: Offer an overview on how users can use dashboards and reports to answer a question. Demonstrate the next steps they should take within the system based on their answer.
  • Data management and Security: Review your policies and guidelines on when and how exporting data should be completed.
  • Business rules: State what information is tracked within your CRM database in a certain way and illustrate why.

How to Create the Learning the Basics Section for Your Advancement CRM Training Program


(This is the second article of a four-part series on creating an advancement CRM training program. Stay tuned for more great content!)


In case you missed our first article, let’s recap. Implementing an advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) training program is vital for successful long-term adoption. But it also helps to bring everyone on your team up to speed—developing their skills and helping them work effectively. Your CRM training program serves as the foundation for your team to operate efficiently and continually improve through program adjustments and updates.


It is easy to create siloed CRM training courses that teach users what they need to know in the system. This method of training perpetuates a siloed culture and hinders your ability to achieve the 360-degree view of the constituent that everyone desires.


Instead, create a comprehensive advancement CRM training program that not only teaches users how to operate within the system, but also where to turn should they need additional training and support.


Here’s how to create the “learning the basics” section of your advancement CRM training program.


The Basics

If you don’t know what people are doing within the CRM system, that’s a lost opportunity. Your team may wonder why there isn’t collaboration. Sometimes this is because a lack of knowledge, or a narrow-minded thought process that says, “I know what I do, I know how to do it,” without any idea of what team members are doing.


Deter this way of thinking by designing the advancement CRM training curriculum from the big picture concepts for all users. This allows everyone within the CRM system to understand how their interaction in the advancement CRM software will affect their colleagues.


All users should know and take responsibility for having the same kind of knowledge regarding your advancement CRM. People should be able to speak intelligently about what their system supports and how it is used by the entire division, especially from the aspect of who’s going to be directly in it or who is receiving information.


Within the “learning the basics” section, review the high-level business processes that are supported by your advancement CRM. Include guidelines for collaboration and outline who will using the program. As you create this part of your CRM training program, emphasize the domino effect, reiterating to users that what they do in the system affects their colleagues. They should be mindful of these questions.


  • Who will have access to the system?
  • Who will not have access to the system but will receive data from the advancement CRM?


Additionally, communicate the common language that will be used going forward in advancement at your institution. This is even more important if you’re not using the same language and terminology from the old system—make users aware of these changes to avoid confusion or muddled data.


And finally, teach people how to search for information within the advancement CRM. Most of the time, the reason why users are in your CRM system is to navigate constituent records. Help users build proficiency in searching for information by teaching them not only to click through the advancement CRM software, but also how to navigate a constituent’s record.


Checklist for the “Learning the Basics” Section of your Advancement CRM Training Program

The “learning the basics” section of your advancement CRM training program should explain the base-level knowledge every user should know. Here’s what to include in this section of your advancement CRM training program.


  • Core modules: Give an overview of core modules, including functional areas in the advancement CRM software along with defining commonly used terms.
  • Set Expectations: Clarify what type of information is available in the database and what type of information is not.
  • Data Sources: Give an overview of who will receive information from the advancement CRM and how it will be used.
  • Informational Flow: Offer an overview of what information will flow into the advancement CRM. For example, all students with conferred degrees are loaded from the student information system in June. Or data from the patient information system is loaded daily.
  • Security: Discuss the approach to security and guiding principles, including adherence to organizational policies and industry best practices.

The Great Resignation: Is this a Challenge or Opportunity for Advancement?

We’re amid a moment of dramatic change across American life as people in all industries are quitting their jobs at record numbers. As nationwide labor shortages continue to impact every aspect of everyday life, nonprofits are not exempt.


What may be even more concerning is many nonprofits can no longer compete with wages seen in the private sector. In a recent New York Times article, Carrie Miranda, executive director of Looking Upwards, a nonprofit in Middletown, R.I. said, “we’ve lost our ability to be competitive. We used to compete with hospitals and other health care entities, and now we’re competing with the convenience stores, the fast-food places, the coffee shops … I’ve heard more and more people say, ‘I’d love to stay in this job, I’m passionate about the work, but I need to feed my family, I have to pay my rent.’”


This period has been deemed the “Great Resignation” and arose from what many think was a result of the pandemic and social and political events. In fact, four million American workers quit their jobs in April 2021, 3.6 million joined them in May, and 3.9 million followed them out the door in June.


But the mass-exodus may be more in part to a workforce that feels burned out and disenfranchised, only exacerbated by the pandemic and social and political events. Modern employees are reassessing their values, more aggressively protecting their time, and opening themselves to possibilities that give them a greater sense of purpose. They are seeking a new normal that goes beyond remote work.


The turnover trend has a lasting impact, especially in advancement. In an industry built around relationships—particularly among frontline fundraisers—organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to create a sense of continuity with donors.

The Great Resignation offers one of the greatest advancement recruiting opportunities in recent history. Nonprofit leaders are afforded the chance to shift their recruiting and retention efforts toward motivated, purpose-driven candidates, in search of careers with a more meaningful path. Here’s where to start.


Mentorship is important in any industry, and the lack of mentorship can hinder a career path regardless of job title. Focus on providing your advancement team the mentorship and coaching they are looking for by helping them develop their skills and build their experience.


For more experienced advancement team members, ask the question, “How I can prepare you to take over for me?” They might not want to do your job, but this helps illuminate and frame future discussions and growth plans.



It is incredibly important to set expectations from the beginning. If you’re interviewing an advancement candidate that wants to work remotely, but your organization operates on a hybrid model, it’s vital to make this clear.


Even beyond the interview, transparency should empower all conversations with your advancement team members. Workplace transparency is a philosophy of sharing information freely to benefit the organization and its people. For example, executives share company information with the whole team, or individual teammates sharing feedback with each other.


Transparency has become particularly important, especially as the workforce continues to mitigate several external challenges. Transparency must also coincide with understanding. Today’s modern workforce requires a level understanding that didn’t exist in the traditional workplace.



It’s important to ensure you set your advancement staff up for success by scheduling regular check-ins and managing expectations. Regularly connecting with employees helps you deter future challenges or address issues before they become a problematic.


For example, if your employee is frustrated because a lack of resources, you can brainstorm solutions to ease their frustrations. This may include getting them adequate resources or connecting them with team members for support. Either way, this level of communication helps employees feel supported and decreases the likeliness of resignation.


Professional Development

Most advancement team members want to grow and challenge themselves. In many cases, employees desire to find opportunities that expand their skillset. Growth-focused opportunities equip staff with the tools they need to progress in their career.


Traditional work culture thought of promotions in terms of three-year cycles: The first year you learn the job, the second year you do the job, and the third year you innovate. But it can be helpful to make the steps necessary to advance as clear as possible so employees understand what’s expected of them. Additionally, you may be able to promote an employee earlier than expected, which benefits both parties.


When job openings do arise, evaluate the position’s job description before you rehire. Ask questions that help your organization assess the value of the role.


  • Does this position need to be filled?
  • Does this position need to be rethought?
  • Is there anything in the job’s description that someone else might want to try or add to their expertise?
  • Do the job tasks fit better somewhere else?


Before you fill the role externally, look internally to see if your existing team might be interested. This helps your staff feel engaged in a meaningful way.


Shifting the way your organization recruits and retains your advancement workforce is important for the current moment. But these tactics help to build a healthier, happier, and more productive advancement team, which will be important long after the Great Resignation expires.

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.

Implementing a CRM Advancement Training Program? Start here.

(This is the first article of a four-part series on creating an advancement training program. Stay tuned for more great content!)


It’s one thing to implement an advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) program, but it’s an entirely different concept to live and breathe it in everyday life—that’s the hard part.


Adequate CRM training helps to bring everyone on your team up to speed—developing their skills and helping them work effectively. But because of your CRM’s complexity, you will need to develop a training program and curriculum to address knowledge gaps about the new software and new processes. Applying an advancement training program is important to ensure staff can successfully climb the steep learning curve introduced by your advancement CRM implementation.


This training program will serve as the foundation for your team to operate efficiently and continually improve through program adjustments and updates. As new team members are hired, this will become a part of their onboarding experience. Existing team members can also participate in refresher training so their skills will continue to evolve.


Organizations of all sizes are realizing strong return on investment (ROI) from technology. But more resources don’t necessarily translate into bigger returns. Research from Tech Impact Idealware suggests that what matters more is the combination of practices and culture that help organizations select the right tools and unlock their value.


In fact, the average ROI for CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent. But when properly implemented, the ROI of a CRM software system can exceed 245 percent.


Support System

At the culmination of the advancement CRM implementation, your excitement might quickly turn to anxiety—this shift is common in the early stages of your advancement CRM training program. This is because reality starts to set in, and you may be thinking, “we’re really doing this.” Which may then turn into worry about how to set the foundation and infrastructure to do so.


Before you jump into your advancement CRM training, create a plan and support system that will be available to users. Use the first part of your training course to review this infrastructure—this helps to reduce the anxiety and set the stage for a better training experience.


This also helps to assure your users that training won’t be a solo endeavor. It shows them that your CRM training program is a partnering process where they can learn what advancement CRM resources are available, how (and when) to use them, and a place to turn to when they get stuck.


Here’s how to create the “getting started” section of your advancement CRM training program.


Getting Started

The objective of the initial CRM training courses in the “getting started” phase should focus on pinpointing what you have—identifying your advancement CRM resources, what’s being rolled out, and what’s available regarding training (not just the software but support.)


This stage of your training program needs to illustrate how users can get training. Knowing where to “get” training should be embedded in the course, not just a one-off email. The how to get training aspect must be formalized and emphasized throughout the course.


You’ll also want to establish learning paths—these make it easier for end users to track their progress and understand how content relates. Users can see where they’re going and how things unfold verses seeing one course at a time. Additionally, learning paths help users see what is involved and why it builds proficiency for their job and responsibilities.


Within this CRM training program phase, you’ll also need to include instructions for logging into your system and any special steps to access the system remotely. This is where you can introduce the rules of engagement—including any policies, confidentiality, and data agreements. Include the dos and don’ts of how to use your advancement CRM. And finally, establish guidelines for promoting quality data.


Checklist for the “Getting Started” Section of your CRM Training Program

Getting started doesn’t have to be an angst-filled endeavor. Use this checklist to start off on the right path.


  • Develop learning paths: Create a schedule of courses to build proficiency for specific job functions or responsibilities.
  • Identify how to get help: Include how to report an issue, self-service options (including videos, how-to guides), and identify a designated person should they need support from a live person.
  • Distinguish how to get started: Create guides for how to login to the advancement CRM database. Include information on steps that need to be taken to access the system remotely, i.e., from home or on the road.
  • Outline the rules: Include a review of usage policies, including signing a confidentiality and data usage agreement. Review how to secure and protect data. This includes password policies, limiting the export or download of donor lists, and saving information locally on your laptop.
  • Promote data quality: All staff are responsible for data quality, and they should be diligent about entering information into the advancement CRM database correctly. Include information about how users can notify the data management team when incorrect information is identified. Label subject matter experts by department or include how to contact a centralized helpdesk.

Updating Your Legacy Database Documentation, What Are the Benefits?

You’ve decided to move your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system. You’re hoping for a clean break from your legacy system—the current system you’re on when you’ve decided to move on to a new software. However, you realize the transition will provide better data and ease of use once it’s finally up and running.

In the meantime, you might be considering if it’s worth updating your legacy database documentation. Doing so takes time and money, and you’re left wondering if it’s worth it.


Here’s a brief overview of how updating your legacy database documentation benefits your new CRM implementation.

Legacy System Review

Legacy systems are often based on an in-house client-server model. The database is running on a SQL Server or Oracle. There are Windows-specific applications. Users can access the system using a locally installed desktop client. Remote access is available through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) login and a Citrix remote desktop session.


The legacy system can also refer to an early generation, browser-based system. Compared to the previous category of legacy systems, the browser-based version may be easier to use and maintain. But they are not continually optimized to run on newer browser versions, subsequently relying on outdated versions to run smoothly.


But the question remains—do your legacy documents need to be addressed before transitioning your CRM solution?


In most cases, your legacy database either has little or outdated documentation. There is a standard argument that, if you’re leaving the system, why invest time and effort in bringing documents up to speed. Updating your documentation is not a waste of time and money. These critical elements will save your CRM project.

Misunderstood Processes

The original documents institutions have on hand about their legacy system are usually how the program was intended to be used. But business processes don’t always remain consistent as new users or institutional needs change.


For example, your users may have tried to establish business rules to accommodate a particular report. Many times, these workarounds to fill functional gaps in your legacy system can convolute your new CRM implementation.


It is beneficial to review the documentation on how your system was used and compare it to established business rules. Review the fields you’ve proposed, the areas the vendor set to use for one, and how it captured information—all that information matters and will be worth the investment.

Weird Data

The second thing to consider regarding your legacy database documentation is weird or strange data. When reviewing imported data, oftentimes the data doesn’t match what you expected to find. This could be a result of a requirement that wasn’t met by the system, and your users got creative. Many times, users find a way to use the system to get the information they want and need, and it doesn’t always align with your initial business processes.


If you don’t get to the bottom of the weird data in your legacy system database before the transition of your CRM application, the same thing will happen in your new system.


The top benefit of a new CRM implementation is the quality data. But if you transfer insufficient data into your new system and don’t have any documentation or understand where the guidelines exist, you’ll get good data from bad statistics.


Updating your data within your legacy database will allow you to spot the difference and pressure test the system. You’ll be aware of what portion complies and what does not. The only way to get quality data for your new plan is to ensure you’re transferring quality data from your existing database.


Examining your existing database will ease the transition to your new CRM—preventing failure, as well as costly and timely data issues later.

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.

Five Tips to Get Creative with Your Constituent Holiday Greetings

For many years, there has been a tradition of institutions sending their constituents a holiday greeting. Unfortunately, this is usually a long, drawn-out process.

Deciding on an appropriate message for your constituent holiday greeting is hard. Constituent holiday greetings require choosing the perfect message. But it can’t be an ordinary message—it must be carefully thought through and appeal to a broad audience without any political or religious affiliations.

Then, the constituent holiday greeting design adds another level of complication. Many institutions ponder how to create a design that is “on-brand” while simultaneously appealing to their many audiences. Again, without any political or religious affiliations.

Finally, there is the delivery method of your constituent holiday greeting. Traditionally, constituent holiday greetings are printed and sent through the mail. This method, of course, requires additional time to package the envelopes, prepare the addresses, and add postage—not to mention the cost of postage. Physical greeting cards may be standard among the older population, but younger folks may think it’s a less-acceptable concept and toss it. Plus, eco-conscious constituents may see this method as wasteful.

It’s time to reconsider the way you send holidays greetings to your constituents. Here are five tips to get creative this holiday season.

#1—Make a Holiday Video

Videos are always a great option to engage constituents without added effort. Your holiday greeting video can be produced—and distributed—quickly and professionally with the help of online services.

Platforms like ThankView build better relationships with personalized video. You can easily create and send personalized videos to raise awareness, promote events, update stakeholders, and thank those that matter most.

#2—Send Mobile Postcards

Using a smartphone or tablet, you can easily create a holiday postcard. Apps like JibJab and Smilebox provide a quick and fun way to send personalized greetings that won’t cause clutter.

#3—Deliver A Photo Slideshow

What better way to say “Happy Holidays” than to create a photo slideshow of how constituent donations impacted your institution? Use a design tool like Canva to make stunning slideshows in seconds.

#4—Say “Happy Holidays” in Real-Time

If you want to deliver a very personalized message, jump on a video conferencing platform like Zoom and say “Happy Holidays” in real-time. This may not be feasible for all your constituents, so reserve it for your new constituents or ones that meet a specific criterion.

#5—Create a Custom Card

If you insist on sending a physical greeting card this holiday season, opt to create a custom design. Look to your art department to create an illustration. If multiple artists want to participate, consider having a few variations to send to constituents.

Avoid putting any text on the front of the card. Then, have the cards printed in a standard photo size of 5 inches wide by 7 inches tall. Finally, write a note inside with instructions that encourage constituents to upcycle the card into a framed piece. This way, constituents who may not love getting a printed card due to waste can repurpose their holiday greeting and save the planet.

Holiday greetings are a great touchpoint during the holidays. Every institution should retain that touchpoint but also rethink the delivery. Happy holidays!

ThankView: https://www.thankview.com
JibJab: https://www.jibjab.com
Smilebox: https://www.smilebox.com/
Canva Slideshows: https://www.canva.com/create/slideshows/

Managing Your CRM Implementation Through the Holidays

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation is likely to last through the holidays. On average, for smaller institutions, a CRM project duration is 12 months. Whereas larger institutions, their CRM project can last anywhere from 12–18 months. So, it’s inevitable that your team is going to take your CRM project through the holidays. But work-life balance and productivity can co-exist if you plan for it.


Planning your CRM implementation through the holidays doesn’t have to be an angst-filled event. Reduce the stress on your team by respecting the time they’re giving to work on the project. The end-of-year holidays focus on family and friends—something we’ve realized even more important in the last couple of years—which should not change just because you’re doing a CRM project implementation.


Focus your efforts on how you’re treating the people participating in your CRM project more than the progress. Your team should not be expected to sacrifice their time through the holidays to participate.


Here’s how to manage your CRM implementation through the holidays.

Identify Breaks

Purposely establish a wind-down plan for your CRM project during the holiday season. This period doesn’t mean your team goes idle. Determine with each workstream where the break will occur. Review what has been achieved up until that point. Categorize the completed deliverables and those in progress.


During these wind-down meetings, plan clear breaks during the holidays and identify non-working days—days that nothing is planned (no exceptions.) Establish a stopping point where your team feels confident with their completed deliverables versus those in progress. This will help you decide where to pick up when you reconvene.


Plan Self-Paced Activities

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is not the time to start new initiatives. Avoid planning large meetings during this time. This helps alleviate the complications of scheduling since most people tend to take time off through November and December.


The reality is that activities for your CRM implementation project can happen. But instead of planning team projects, take advantage of self-paced individual activities that help move the project forward during this time.

  • Create templates
  • Refresh policies and procedures
  • Research concepts, new features, or technology
  • Encourage supplemental training

Take Time for Training

Use the holidays as a time to focus on training. Typically, the holidays are a less demanding time—creating the perfect opportunity for your team to participate in training they may not have been able to do otherwise.

Avoid CRM application training but encourage supplemental training activity. Have staff take advantage of training that may increase their knowledge or skill set that would enable them to contribute to the project more effectively. Examples of supplemental course topics to aid your CRM project may include:

  • Effective Marketing for Successful Fundraising
  • Developing Annual Sustainability and Major Gifts
  • Managing the Capital Campaign
  • The Art of Fundraising
  • Effective Leadership, Successful Fundraising
  • Engaging Women as Donors
  • Fundraising from the Business Sector
  • Social Selling


The holiday period is a time to focus on family and friends, but that does not mean it is a useless period for your CRM implementation project. Communicate clearly to your team to ensure they are still maintaining progress on your CRM project but take advantage of this well-deserved less demanding time.

Preparing for the Year-End Giving Rush

It’s that time of year again when the holiday season is quickly approaching. And if you’re in advancement or development, you’re probably thinking about what else this time of year means: the year-end giving rush. In development, the end of year is synonymous with increased giving.

In fact, 31 percent of all annual giving occurs in December, and 12 percent of that happens in the last three days of the year.


Additionally, 28 percent of nonprofits raise between 26–50 percent of their annual funds from their year-end ask.


Is your team prepared to manage the rush?


This time of year, is demanding for those on the front line of fundraising, but also those in operations. Your gift operations team may face the downstream effect of the increased number of gifts coming in a concentrated period.


Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) team can survive (and thrive) with a bit of upfront planning. Here’s how to get prepared.

Schedule a Planning Session

Schedule a planning session and invite your front line staff and operations team to join. Identify how they may be able to support each other during this busy time. Do you need to adjust any processes and procedures to make things work more seamlessly for both departments?


For example, there may be exceptions to cases that require the front line team to let the operations team know more information about a prospective donor. There may also be exceptions to your processes and procedures if there was a push for tribute donations or leveraging corporate matching.


Knowing all the information up front—for the front line and operations staff—will help everyone move through the year-end giving rush more efficiently. Plus, everyone will have access to the information and data they need to measure the success of their campaigns.

Review Messaging and Expectations

Review campaign messaging with your front line fundraisers and giving staff. You wouldn’t want to make a campaign push and have your front line staff be unaware of what is being put out there from a year-end perspective. Your front line staff need to know all messaging and expectations so they can act accordingly when donors and supporters start responding.


You should also review the statistics and identify how many appeals have been sent out. Do your best to project an average response rate so your team can begin to distinguish a number and estimate expectations.


Get prepared with these questions.

  • Is there any unique data tracking that needs to happen with these gifts?
  • Does the data need to be associated with a particular campaign or appeal?

Understanding this information increases the success rate of your front line fundraising teams.

Evaluate Staffing and Conduct Training

You’ve reviewed your messaging and informed your team. Now you need to look at your staff availability. Determine your staffing needs.

  • Are you adequately staffed?
  • Does your staff have the capacity to accommodate year-end giving?
  • If you don’t have enough available staff, do you plan to staff up for the end-of-year demand?

Once you’ve determined the number of staff, now you can consider the tasks they’ll need to complete. Since accuracy and speed are essential, consider refresher training for your staff. Everyone must be proficient and able to get the information entered quickly and correctly. Additionally, all staff members on the gift operations team should be experts on managing what you consider “high volume.”


If necessary, establish specialists to handle low-volume, high complexity gifts—things that need to be dealt with “kid gloves,” such as a VIP donor.

Establish Clear Guidelines for Records Management

Since this is a busier time for your staff, the tendency to make mistakes may increase. Set clear guidelines for record management. You need correct information for receipting and acknowledgment reasons—the objective for year-end needs to be on what is required to get the gifts in correctly.


But be aware that mistakes will still happen. You can fix some mistakes, but it is unrealistic to correct all errors on a record due to the volume of gifts. Identity where to expend your time and effort from a records maintenance perspective. And establish a method of tracking records that will need attention once the rush is over.

Communicate Progress

It is essential to communicate your progress for year-end gift processing. Your front line fundraising colleagues are waiting and looking closely at the results of their year-end giving campaigns. This is why it is important to publish and communicate your progress.


Communicating your progress helps your fundraising team determine their success as it relates to their goals. In addition, keeping communication open during this time helps ease stress, allowing your team to focus and work more efficiently.

Fundraising Credit and How to Watch Out for Bad Behavior

You’ve established standards for evaluating your fundraising performance. And you’ve also set goals. Fundraising credit is what gets counted in your development officers’ performance to help determine if they are meeting, below, or exceeding goals.


As an institution, you must decide how to establish credit for gifts. Fundraising credit is one of the most debated topics in advancement. But it’s an essential part of the development officer role.


So, what counts toward a development officer’s fundraising goals when things are done in a myriad of different ways?


It’s not always a straightforward practice. And whichever approach your institution adopts, it’s essential to be aware of the unintended destructive behaviors you might be enforcing by choosing a certain practice.


Here are the unintended bad behaviors popular fundraising credit practices may be creating.


#1—Inflated Portfolios


One popular fundraising credit practice is when credit is given to a development officer for all gifts from their assigned portfolio. This might include gifts whether they did anything or not. The credit is given as soon as a donor writes a check, turns over stock, notifies, or completes paperwork on a planned gift—even if an officer did not have a conversation, they get the credit.


The unintended bad behavior that may result is inflated portfolios or assignment hoarding. Remember, even if they’re not involved, they get credit. As a result, officers may feel inclined to get as many people assigned to them as possible since that increases their volume. There is no intentional strategy, and fundraising becomes solely about playing the numbers game.


#2—No Collaboration


Another common fundraising credit practice includes giving credit to the assigned development officer. In this scenario, an officer must demonstrate they had an intentional strategy for that donor that led to the intended gift. For example, “prove it to me you were involved.”


The unintended bad behavior that may arise is a lack of collaboration. If development officers are forced to focus only on their own assignments, they won’t make time to help colleagues. They’ll likely fall into the trap of “I need to get credit; I need to show it’s part of my portfolio and identify my actions that lead to that gift. A collaborative environment falls to the wayside since only the assigned officer gets credit for what they can say they did.


#3—Lack of Focus and Intention


Finally, another common fundraising credit practice is when credit is given to the assigned development officer and all team members who contributed to bringing in the gift.


In a perfect world, this type of practice empowers collaboration. But the unintended bad behavior that may arise is that officers divert their attention by asserting themselves on as many (and any) donor opportunities as possible. In this scenario, simply being a member of the team ensures they get credit whether they did a lot, a little, or even none of the work. This may decrease the level of detail and attention an officer devotes to their assigned portfolio because it pays more dividends to attach themselves to multiple portfolios.


Not all unintended bad behavior will happen in each scenario. But it’s important to create a level of awareness of the unintended consequences in these common practices for assigning fundraising credit.


As you credit your development officers for their fundraising practices, use these four guiding principles for effective management.


  1. Recruit and retain quality development officers. Focus on individuals with a level of professionalism and integrity.
  2. Equip them with the resources and information they need. Insufficient tools to do their job will support the desire to take shortcuts or cut corners—potentially looking to “game” the situation. Development officers may be forced into survival mode because they don’t have what they need to do the job, even though they are expected to perform.
  3. Evaluate performance equitably. Be transparent; there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind on how they’re being evaluated.

Don’t overlook bad behaviors because of success. The ability to raise a lot of money should never excuse unprofessional or bad behavior. Keeping the “bad apples” around can permeate the situation. It will destroy morale in the long-term for only a short-term gain

What’s Considered Fundraising Performance and Do You Have It Covered?

Every institution should have baselines for establishing fundraising performance of their development team. Having some strategy and evaluation tool helps set the starting point or the “scoreboard” for how well (or poorly) a program is doing.


Make your performance metrics readily available so every team member can easily access the information. Clearly defined fundraising performance metrics prevent wasted resources and can act as a self-evaluation tool. Your team can use the information to either stay the course or course-correct if it is working—ultimately keeping your fundraising team on track.


Here’s how you should be evaluating fundraising performance.


Good—Baseline No. 1


An excellent place to start with your fundraising performance evaluation metrics is to identify guidelines and expectations as it relates to individual and overall goals. Development officers can assess current progress against their established goals. These metrics are commonly focused on dollars raised and productivity.


In this case, productivity is considered how many:


  • donors have been engaged;
  • face-to-face visits conducted;
  • meaningful contacts connected with; or
  • proposals or opportunities established.


On an even more detailed level, assess productivity by establishing officer engagement with the donor to determine:


  • size of the gift;
  • area of your organization they want to support; and
  • actual gift or contribution they want to donate.


Better—Baseline No. 2


Once you’ve identified all the evaluation metrics in the “good,” you can then move on to the “better” way to evaluate your team’s fundraising performance.


In this next tier of performance evaluation, examine the comparison between the progress they’ve made to-date versus established goals—focusing on the overall potential of their portfolio. Ask yourself these questions.


  • What could they be doing?
  • What’s their top dollar amount based on who’s in their portfolio?


Your development officers should understand what your institution expects and how it compares to their goals. Additionally, in this level of fundraising performance evaluation metrics, they will know what their maximum potential is, and if they should “up their game.”


Best—Baseline No. 3


The “best” fundraising performance evaluation level includes everything in the “good” and the “better,” plus analytics analysis.


For example, you’ve established a scoreboard, seen progress, and identified your team’s maximum fundraising ceiling. Now, you can add in analytical insight analysis to discover performance gaps that might exist and decide how you can close them.


To reiterate, baseline one includes your standard reporting with some percentages as an evaluation tool. Whereas baseline two helps you to assess what you’re doing in addition to forecasting. Lastly, baseline three is an analysis of data analytics, while simultaneously evaluating and identifying improvements.


These baseline levels are a maturity model and your institution must go through each tier sequentially.

How is Tableau Software different from Microsoft Power BI?

The world of data visualization and analytics is moving fast. However, to remain relevant in the data analytics field, a tool must have that unique mix of power, ease of use, brand recognition, and price. When it comes to Tableau Software https://www.tableau.com and Microsoft Power BI https://powerbi.microsoft.com/, both tools have this “secret sauce,” which is why many teams find themselves comparing Microsoft Power BI against Tableau when looking for the perfect data analytics tool.


Here’s how they differ.




Power BI uses the existing Microsoft systems like Azure, SQL, and Excel to build data visualizations that are less expensive. This is an excellent choice for those who already work within the Microsoft products like Azure, Office 365, and Excel. In addition, its lower-price option is perfect for smaller organizations that need data visualization. Still, it doesn’t have much extra capital.


Tableau specializes in making beautiful visualizations, but much of its advertising is focused on organizations with data engineers and bigger budgets. There’s a free version available, but it offers limited capabilities. The more you pay, the more you can access Tableau, including benchmarked data from third parties. In addition, Tableau has a nonprofit tool and versions for academic settings.


Takeaway: Overall, Power BI sits at a lower price point than Tableau, with a free version, a monthly subscription, and a scalable premium version with a higher price. Although it’s a Microsoft product, Power BI users don’t have to pay directly for Office365 to access the tool’s admin center interface. However, there will be charges for subscriptions and users. Tableau’s pricing is a little more confusing since it is a tiered system distinguishing between different user types. 




Power BI comes in several forms: desktop, pro, premium, mobile, embedded, and report server. Depending on your role and needs, you might use these services to build and publish visualizations. 


The most basic setup is an Azure tenant (which you can keep even after your trial is over) that you connect to your Power BI through an Office365 Admin interface. Although that sounds daunting, most organizations using the software will already have the framework to get the server running quickly. Power BI is easy to use. You can quickly connect existing spreadsheets, data sources, and apps via built-in connections and an application programming interface (API).


In addition to the free public product, Tableau also comes in several forms: individual, team, and embedded analytics plans, which are available on-premises, via a public cloud server, or a private cloud server. Tableau lets you set up your initial instance through a free trial, which gives you full access to the parts of the tool. 


Takeaway: Power BI is available in three categories. Desktop, mobile, and service. The same basic setup is Azure Tenant. Tableau makes it possible to share the results generated in Tableau desktop over Tableau Online or Tableau Server.


Dashboard and Visualizations


Power BI has API access and pre-built dashboards for speedy insights for some of the most-used technology out there like Salesforce, Google Analytics, email marketing, and of course, Microsoft products. You can also connect to services within your organization or download files to build your visualizations.


Tableau integrates with popular enterprise tools and widely used connections. You can view all the connections included with your account level right when you log into the tool. 


Takeaway: Tableau’s connection interface is a little more involved than Power BI because you’ll need to identify which data to pull into the tool when you make the connection. It might be helpful to understand what data you want to look at and why before you start making those connections.




Some organizations choose to use both Tableau and Power BI to improve their data visualizations. They can be connected, although you may run into issues if you have multi-factor authentication enabled or if a session remains idle for too long. 


Takeaway: Power BI cannot connect to Hadoop databases, whereas it enables data extraction from Azure, Salesforce, and Google analytics. Tableau allows accessing data in the cloud and connecting to Hadoop databases. It also identifies the resource automatically.




Power BI has real-time data access and some helpful drag-and-drop features. The whole tool is built to speed up time to visualizations. It gives even the most novice users access to powerful data analytics and discovery without a lot of prior knowledge and experience.


Real-time data access means that teams can react instantly to business changes fed to Power BI from the CRM, project management, sales, and financial tools. Power BI certainly has the leg up here because live data access is where most SaaS products and especially most dashboard products are moving toward.


Tableau’s features are just as powerful, but some are a little less intuitive, hidden behind menus. For example, use the dashboards and reports to forecast revenue based on past customer behavior and employ calculations to transform existing data based on your requirements. In addition, Tableau gives you live query capabilities and extracts, which is particularly helpful for data analysts who are used to stopping all work for the query process.


Takeaway: Tableau lives somewhere in between query-based (and developer-dependent) data visualization and drag and drop. They balance it nicely; however, despite the somewhat cluttered appearance, Tableau is easy to use if you’re familiar with your data sets or are willing to spend some time studying.

Here’s How to Give Your Advancement CRM Project Communication a Digital Refresh

Having a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) communication plan is important, especially during your implementation phase. The way in which you communicate with users before, during, and after your CRM implementation is crucial to the project’s long-term success. Open and consistent communication throughout your CRM implementation keeps your project on track (and in scope)—ultimately supporting your timeline and budget.


Traditional project communication is no longer enough. A project status report illustrating percentage complete simply won’t suffice given how much information vies for our attention. You’ve got to go further, especially with the level of importance of your projects.


Now is the time to consider a digital transformation on your advancement CRM project communication. Digital transformations are forcing organizations to change the way they conduct CRM project communication—creating a need to adapt to the new market reality. This change is driven by donors who expect content to be delivered in relation to what they’re doing anytime, anywhere, and in the format and on their device…the same goes for your users.

Here’s how to give your advancement CRM project communication a digital refresh.

Step 1: Create A Communication Plan that Provides Added Content

Content is an asset to any organization and any department, but especially when it comes to advancement. Content helps you build trust and connect with your target constituents, but also acts as fuel for your other marketing and communication techniques. It’s the base upon which you promote your organization, so it’s essential to give it the attention it deserves, especially during your advancement CRM project implementation.

Step 2: Use A Multi-Channel Communication Strategy

Having a multi-channel communication strategy allows you to not only reach a wider audience, but you are able to reinforce your organization’s message. Using email, mobile, and social can support your message tenfold.

Integrate a variety of content strategies including:

  • developing articles for your project website;
  • creating social posts to share your project journey;
  • offering a behind the scenes look to increase excitement in an email campaign; and
  • featuring a team or individual working on the project through your social media.

It can be difficult for stakeholders to effectively communicate during an advancement CRM project implementation—even more if they aren’t directly involved. Connecting with them through digital platforms is imperative to your CRM project’s success.

Step 3: Talk About Project Challenges

Your CRM project is tough. Being transparent and talking about your challenges openly (and honestly) can increase stakeholder engagement. Share the challenges that your team was able to overcome through your communication channels. Discuss what tactics and tools you used to help manage the challenges. Being forthcoming and allowing people the opportunity to develop a greater understanding makes your project more relatable.

Step 4: Highlight Team Members

When conducting a CRM implementation, your team may very well be one of your most important assets. Highlighting your team members and recognizing their commitments are always a good idea. But if you’re looking to do a digital transformation, highlight the team members who may have volunteered to work on your advancement CRM project through your digital communication channels.

Step 5: Use Video

Don’t be afraid of video. Video messages will increase engagement. Video is a great option for messages from your project sponsor. Additionally, visibly seeing the project sponsor allows the potential for individuals to make that connection and further be inspired by what the project sponsor has to say.


Another option for your video messaging is to conduct an interview. Select those that have gone through a successful project implementation. Interview them to get some lessons learned and apply the tips to your project. Sharing with your audience will boost engagement and make your institution feel relatable.


As you push out this content, be mindful and take opportunities to make it interactive, reinforcing stakeholder understanding of your CRM implementation project. Establish an infrastructure and analyze your open rates, click rates, and see what people are interested in to further refine the messaging in the content you create.


Lastly, make sure you provide your stakeholders a way to provide resources and feedback. Further informing the information you put out about your advancement CRM project.

You Need to Conduct the Stakeholder Interview During a CRM Implementation and Here’s Why


A Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation is a significant undertaking. We’ve discussed this at great length in previous posts. However, whenever undergoing a CRM implementation, many times, institutions neglect to interview stakeholders. But stakeholders play a significant role in determining the success of CRM implementation—their collaboration means crossing the boundaries to full adoption.


 Who are stakeholders?


A stakeholder is anyone interested or potentially affected by the project outcomes, or whose input can impact the development. Some of the stakeholders commonly involved in a CRM implementation project are top management. They can include (but are not limited to):


  • Project Leaders
  • Executive Management
  • Senior Management
  • Resource Managers
  • Marketing Managers
  • Sales and Customer Service Agents
  • Customers
  • Dealers and Product Managers


Stakeholders may also include entire departments in your institution.  For example, a sales department can be considered a stakeholder as they could potentially be affected by a new CRM solution. When examining your stakeholders, consider all internal and external users who either have a stake or may influence your CRM project’s success (or failure).


Remember, each stakeholder has its own unique needs, interests, and expectations.  Their commitment and collaboration throughout the project will also be a differentiating factor in the success of your CRM implementation.


Here’s why it’s essential to conduct the stakeholder interview during a CRM implementation.


 Understand Perceptions


The stakeholder interview helps you to understand their perception of the CRM project. It also allows you to elicit reactions and suggestions. This may help measure your organization’s overall goals and put strategies in focus.


When planning your CRM project, consider all the features you need to address the affected stakeholder’s goals.


Here are six steps to ensure stakeholder satisfaction.


  1. Identify stakeholders at the beginning of your CRM project—this saves you surprises or changes in scope or agenda.
  2. Determine the leaders of the project. Keep in mind, those who are affected are different than those who are leading the project.
  3. Ensure your stakeholders agree on the project’s deliverables.
  4. Prepare an agreement from all the stakeholders on how to handle any changes that may occur.
  5. Practice effective communication with the stakeholders—working to agree on deadlines and project expectations.
  6. Focus on transparency: Avoid miscommunication later if one or more of the stakeholders change during the project.


 Set Measurable CRM Goals Related to Your Stakeholders


Setting measurable goals upfront makes it easier to measure the effectiveness of your CRM later.


To measure CRM success, you need to set SMART goals:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely


If your goal is to increase donor retention, you wouldn’t measure the number of open donor opportunities. In contrast, if your goal is to shorten your donor engagement cycle, you likely wouldn’t count your email list growth rate.


It’s even more essential to develop SMART goals that directly correlate to your stakeholders’ perception.


These goals should directly support your initiatives to:


  • determine a stakeholder engagement strategy;
  • detect change resistance;
  • assess the level of impact on your department; and
  • determine appropriate messaging and tactics.


 Example Questions


Now that you know the purpose of the stakeholder interview during a CRM implementation and understand the stakeholder’s perception, here’s what to ask.


  • Describe your group, core functions, and activities.
  • How do you (or your team) use the current system to perform their daily work activities for each group?
  • On a scale of 1–5, how would you rate your current level of understanding of the CRM project?
  • Next, how do you think the CRM project will help your department (e.g., anticipated benefits to the department) based on your existing knowledge?
  • How will the project impact your department (e.g., anticipated changes to work activities and the department in general)?
  • How do you typically deliver information to your employees?
  • Who else from your department do we need to engage?
  • Any general concerns, issues, or “heads up” items about your group?
  • Do you anticipate any roadblocks or barriers to success (e.g., competing initiatives or priorities, etc.)?
  • What advice do you have to help us be successful?


The successful deployment of CRM strategy requires a seamless, cross-functional integration of processes, people, operations, and marketing capabilities that is enabled through information, technology, and applications. As an institution, don’t neglect the importance of interviewing your stakeholders to gain insights that can support your initiatives.

Here’s Why It’s Important to Focus on Change Management During a CRM Implementation

Change management within the Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation context is about getting users to adopt new processes and practices and the technology that supports them.


Change management should be viewed as an integral part of any CRM project. Without change management, the preparedness is very surface level. Attending training on the new CRM software is great but change management must go beyond that. In definition, change management is the process, tools, and techniques used to manage the people side of business change to achieve the required business results.


Not having a plan for preparing yourself for that level of change can create a lot of surprises and overwhelming moments once the system is live—especially when your team is expected to function at a high level.


Here’s why it’s essential to focus on change management during a CRM implementation.




Often, the stakeholder population is only aware of the coming changes that a CRM implementation will cause for their everyday lives at a “birds-eye view.” However, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful project is the level of awareness at a much deeper level—in other words, being able to articulate what is changing.


This applies to technology, tools, workflow, and processes that may be changing. Users need to articulate how the roles and responsibilities within their department are shifting. Helping users understand role changes on a detailed level is a clear distinction between a successful project and an unsuccessful project.


Fact: Change management enables organizational roles and structures that will support the future operating model.


Planning and Preparation


The emotional impact of change drives the need for change management. Once you have that detailed level of awareness of what’s changing, you can then develop adequate plans for adoption. But first, let’s examine the emotional impact of leadership and employees.


Leadership desires:


  • increased productivity;
  • new service concepts;
  • new processes or process redesign;
  • new organizational structures with cross-functional collaboration; and
  • significant cost savings.


Whereas employees are confronted with:


  • fear of job losses;
  • change of responsibility and decision authority;
  • change of work location;
  • new (and unknown) leadership styles;
  • new expectations of superiors and peers’
  • requirements for additional skills and expertise; and
  • new and unfamiliar tasks.


Fact: Change management addresses these issues and prepares staff members to operate in the new environment.




Motivation, training, and user-friendliness are critical components to a successful CRM implementation. Training objectives include basic competency with the software system interface and operation.


But perhaps, what may be more important is a form of mindset training to help deliver a seamless, high-quality experience on a consistent basis. This requires a change in employees’ frame of mind.


There are five building blocks of successful change.


  1. Awareness: Of the need for change.
  2. Desire: To participate and support the change.
  3. Knowledge: On how to change.
  4. Ability: To implement required skills and behaviors.
  5. Reinforcement: To sustain the change.


The different stages of change follow a process.


  • Current state: Includes awareness and desire.
  • Transition state: Focuses on knowledge and ability.
  • Future state: Directly correlates to reinforcement.


Fact: Change management prepares end-users to support the new processes and new technology.


 Performance Assessment Measures


Finally, change management involves assessing duties and responsibilities under the CRM mandate and a reconfiguring of performance measures. It should include a thorough evaluation of the existing organizational structure to determine the changes necessary for optimal CRM delivery.


For example, business units may need to be reconfigured around donor segments instead of product or geographically derived organizations.


Fact: Change management manages stakeholder communication and involvement to maximize project understanding and commitment.


CRM impacts every department and division within an organization, and its success is predicated upon everyone actively supporting the new strategic initiative. Establishing shared cross-departmental enterprise goals and objectives is essential to achieve cooperation during the arduous change management process.


Six Steps to Help You Understand the Scope of Your Advancement CRM Implementation



There’s never enough time and resources when a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation is underway at your institution. But before you begin, it’s essential to pay attention to the scope of what needs to occur. You may be wondering, what does that entail? 


Your project is not just about implementing the CRM software you choose—it’s usually more comprehensive than that. Defining the scope of CRM projects means figuring out which areas need to be included in the CRM implementation plan. Understanding the scope of your advancement CRM implementation is essential to establish what the effort will (and will not) cover and prevent feature creep and project bloating.


Here’s six steps for how to understand and plan the scope of your advancement CRM implementation.


 Step 1: Set Your Parameters 


To begin the scoping process, reflect on what you’re hoping to improve using a CRM system—narrow your focus to help you understand what kind of scope you need. Then, to keep expectations realistic, make a list of questions for yourself and the vendors of your shortlist platforms. 


Consider things like:


  • Budget
  • Timeframe
  • Amount of training you think you’ll want


By asking these targeted questions to the project managers and stakeholders, you can move forward confidently with parameters that meet your needs.


Step 2: Define the Scope 


Defining the scope may be easier said than done. But with a bit of preliminary planning, you can get up to speed right away. 


Ask yourself these questions. 


  • Is our CRM scope broad or narrow? 
  • What is the timeline—will it be all at once or staggered?
  • What is my general budget?  


Ask your vendors these questions. 


  • How long does this solution take to implement? 
  • What training resources are included in the base cost? 
  • What type of customer service do you offer? 
  • How well does the CRM platform integrate with other systems? 


Step 3: Decide on Additional Technology Components and Platforms


What technology platform are you going to use? This includes all the software involved—not just the vendor software you purchased like Salesforce Affinaquest or a Blackbaud CRM. It has all the software that is (or will be) installed that supports the CRM vision. 


Usually, CRM software can’t operate alone. It needs a place in the ecosystem that it can be integrated. And you need to identify all those other systems it must integrate with. This could include a data warehouse or a data analytics platform—these are most often implemented in tandem with a CRM package. 


Step 4: Gather Information from Relevant Departments


Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to gather your specific requirements. Long-term CRM success often has less to do with the technology you use or the money you spend and more to do with adoption. 


Because of this, it’s important to make sure everyone is on board from the beginning. Ask for feedback from the departments in your organization about their needs and goals for the CRM. 


Also, think about your institution’s infrastructure and processes that will be impacted, as well as instructions to identify key performance indicators (KPIs). Then, make your intentions to upgrade and integrate a CRM system apparent to all those whose work will be impacted by the changes. 


Step 5: Identify Your Users   


Who are your actual users that will be a part of this project and implementation? 


This includes those who directly access the CRM software but also those who will be the data consumers. Consider all users who may be consuming data through other measures. This includes users who are accessing information from a self-service portal. 


For example, your finance department would be considered users because they may be accessing your CRM application to post to your general ledger. They’re not logging in to the system, but they are consuming the data—so they’re considered users.


Step 6: Distinguish Business Processes


Create an inventory or identify the business processes that the CRM implementation will enable. It is essential to identify those that are a part of your scope and detail out processes within your organization that are out of your scope. 


For example, you might distinguish a business process that impacts this project, but you do not want to touch the XYZ process. Solidify what’s in scope as is what’s out of scope—doing so helps set expectations for your user population. 


Defining the scope of your advancement CRM is vital for your institution. It offers better insight into the overall cost of your project and the features you need. Additionally, it provides a better understanding of your requirements and what you’re expecting from the project from all members of your institution.

Overcome the Challenge of Managing Advancement Operations During a CRM Implementation 



Undergoing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation is a significant undertaking. It can become increasingly challenging to juggle all that needs to occur in operations while not derailing your CRM implementation project. 


Even during an 18-month CRM implementation project, your institution is trying to raise money and increase donor engagement. This is in addition to your everyday responsibilities—your team can’t hit the pause button to complete your CRM implementation. 


Because of this, you need to focus on the types of decisions being made. Here’s how to overcome the challenge of managing advancement operations during a CRM implementation. 


Avoid Unnecessary Changes 


Avoid making unnecessary changes to your existing donor management system during a new CRM implementation. When you undergo unnecessary changes, your risk to the CRM implementation increases exponentially. It can push your project to focus on the “current state”, while the project is trying to identify and facilitate a “future state.” It is problematic if the current state becomes the moving target. 


All aspects of the implementation—from data conversion to process engineering to business requirements—start to shift on the project team. The change management impact of moving that current state target is enormous. 


Additionally, fulfilling changes outside of your CRM implementation can disrupt your stakeholder’s transition period. For example, you go from steady-state to transition, then you come out on the other side. But you’ve thrown your stakeholders into a transition that has nothing to do with the actual CRM implementation. 


Throughout the project, your stakeholders have multiple streams of change and get confused. They may: 


  • wonder what they were doing before;
  • be confused as to how they can adapt and adjust to what they need to do in the future; and  
  • be frustrated that they must adapt and change again.


One way to avoid this is by making your CRM transformation roadmap an integral part to your overall framework—step-by-step navigation to get your institution from the point of departure to the end of arrival. Your roadmap should include:


  • taking a set of actions;
  • implementing activities; and
  • achieving outcomes in a planned sequential manner. 


The CRM transformation roadmap, as the name implies, is more than a “quick fix.” Instead, a practical roadmap needs to be based on strategic and operating model considerations. 


Make It Mission-Critical 


If changes must happen during a CRM implementation, they must be mission-critical. But before you make that kind of decision, there needs to be a complete risk management plan around the change in the current system. That risk management plan will then become a part of the CRM implementation and should be a well-thought-out process and not taken lightly. The absence of a risk management plan increases the risk of CRM implementation success. 


The risk is essential to user adoption of the CRM implementation and their ability to adjust to the new future state. They will remain in transition and stuck figuring out the changes made to the current system. 


Resist Launching Other Initiatives 


Launching other projects or initiatives during a CRM implementation can create a resource strain. You don’t want to “shut down,” but you also don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on your stakeholders. 


In and of itself, a CRM implementation is a considerable effort. However, adding ancillary projects or initiatives splits your stakeholder’s time. Taking on projects—including a CRM implementation—is usually in addition to your team’s workday. 


Continually fractionalizing your team’s time and input can jeopardize their well-being and quality of work. They parse out their time and attention, so their productivity, level of engagement, and overall contribution diminish—it becomes unilateral suffering.


Avoid spreading your team too thin by looking at your resource plans. Eliminate launching new projects and initiatives during a CRM implementation. It is such a heavy lift, there is not much else your team can manage during this time. If you must focus on additional projects that can’t be avoided, divide up the resources. Dedicate one group to working on the CRM implementation, and a different set of resources to work on the mission-critical project. 

5 Tips to Offset the Daily Struggle of Advancement Services and Support Your Development Officers



Those in advancement services often face many obstacles when it comes to being pulled in different directions. The first obstacle is time management. They may be faced with managing operational activities on top of a slew of daily tasks. Your advancement team may struggle to allot time for emergencies—the “at the moment need” that advancement services are tasked with supporting.


On top of their already burdened workload, those in advancement services must work in standard training and development. If they’re able, they may also be tasked with working on internal team projects to innovate or do better in the future. 


If your advancement services team is struggling in the day-to-day, here are five tips to offset so they can provide the quality support your development officers need. 


Conduct A Staff Assessment


Your advancement staff is one of your most valuable assets as an organization. As such, you don’t want to overwork them. Instead, take time to complete a staff assessment to identify how much work each team member has and if it’s time to add to your team. 


First, meet with each employee to identify their primary duties and associated volume. Then, track activities for a set time—this could be a couple of weeks or a month. Incorporate seasonality and non-standard work. As you conduct your staff assessment, decide if you have adequate resources to address all the necessary factors. 


Ask yourself these questions. 


  • Does the advancement team have adequate time to complete operational activities? 
  • Is there enough time in the advancement teams’ schedule to support emergencies as they arise? 
  • Is the advancement services team able to participate in standard training and development? 
  • Does your advancement services team have the ability to participate in internal team projects?


If you’re falling short on any one of these factors, this could indicate that you are understaffed. Conversely, if you’re unable to fit all of these components into your staff’s workload or schedule, you might have too few people. 


Consider hiring to help support your existing advancement services team or offset the workload by hiring a consultant


Be Flexible with the Work Environment 


When it comes to daily operations, consider the working environment. Many times, the “heads-down” work that staff or team members need to complete may not be conducive to their working environment. Do they have uninterrupted time in their schedules that they can use to complete these types of tasks? Consider being flexible with staff in finding that optimal environment. This might mean offering a remote work option to complete the work. 


Or it could mean offering a spare office for them to go into and close the door. Being flexible with the environment provides optimal productivity for team members to complete their daily operational tasks. 


Revert Emergencies to Management 


Emergencies should always be directed toward management.  Any emergency request or needs from the development officers should be reviewed and prioritized by management. Management can help identify what can be removed or postponed from the advancement team’s workload to accommodate the emergency. Always avoid simply piling on more work.


Establish Dedicated Time for Training and Development


Allot time for your advancement services team to participate in training and development on a quarterly basis. 


If possible, ask your team to share insights and ideas on applying the training to their daily tasks. It’s one thing to absorb the information. But training and development should be about bridging the gap on how to incorporate it into everyday usage. 


Use Internal Projects for Team Growth and Future Development


Internal team projects are essential for growth. In many cases, projects that are completed often result in increased productivity and effectiveness. Based on department priorities, your team should allocate time for internal projects each quarter to be fit into their workload. 


Are You Ready to Accept Cryptocurrency Gifts? Here’s What You Need to Know



The number of organizations accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has been steadily growing in recent years. For example, UNICEF has been accepting cryptocurrency since 2019[1], whereas another well-known organization, Save the Children, began taking the digital currency in 2013[2].


For many organizations, the idea of accepting cryptocurrency may feel impossible—you may even doubt the benefits of receiving digital currency. But with the right approach and knowledge, your organization can benefit significantly from accepting cryptocurrency.


Here’s what you need to know if your organization is considering accepting cryptocurrency gifts.


Things to Consider


Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that runs on decentralized networks and has secured cryptography. It does not have an issuer or a centralized regulator—which means it’s not controlled or influenced by a government or organizations like banks.


Cryptocurrency is like a digital asset that exists on a network spread over a vast number of computers. It can be thought of as secure digital files as money for transactions.


The decentralized network usually comes in the form of a blockchain—technology that records and manages digital transactions—and uses a peer-to-peer network to form blocks of information linked to new blocks whenever new data or transactions appear. Because of this, it’s easy to trace and impossible to duplicate or counterfeit.


The Benefits


Accepting cryptocurrency benefits donors and organizations alike. One of the most significant benefits for organizations is the ability to reach a younger generation, specifically millennials and Generation Y. These generations are technology savvy and form the single largest generation of contributors to the economy[3]. Other benefits of accepting cryptocurrency include:


  • offering an additional payment method;
  • expand your donor reach and diversify your audience;
  • take advantage of significant tax breaks;
  • convenient and fast;
  • monetary value remains stable over time; and
  • offers your organization a competitive edge.


How to Accept Cryptocurrency


Even though it may be overwhelming at first, most organizations can begin accepting donations via cryptocurrency with some simple additions to their fundraising policies and procedures.


First, decide how your organization will accept donations. You can opt for a payment processor, a personal wallet, or a hybrid model. Individual wallets help you to directly and manually control your cryptocurrency. The downside of this model is that it does require you to have an in-depth understanding of how cryptocurrencies operate. It may be more of an undertaking but ultimately worth it since you can use web wallets (online), software wallets (downloaded), and even hardware wallets (devices).


The payment processing method is the more preferred choice for most organizations since it acts as a third-party processor and diverts the technical expertise and offers better security. This option offers you a fast and straightforward mode of accepting cryptocurrency donations but does come with its own set of requirements.


Payment processors that can handle cryptocurrency donations include:


  • Engiven: A platform specially designed for 501(c)3 nonprofits to easily manage their cryptocurrency donations.
  • The Giving Block: The go-to payment solution for over a hundred nonprofits and universities that accept crypto donations.
  • Bitpay: Currently one of the most powerful platforms for managing nonprofit cryptocurrency.


Then there is the hybrid model which offers you components of the personal wallet and the payment processor. This model provides better tracing features for donations and blockchain transactions and may have a better interface and user experience compared to wallets. But a hybrid model doesn’t include dedicated management of payment processors or the total independence of wallets.


Cryptocurrency Policies and Procedures


When you decide to move in the direction to accept cryptocurrency gifts, consider these things to ensure compliance.


  1. Update your gift acceptance policy for accepting cryptocurrency gifts for your institution.
  2. Educate your staff about institutional policies surrounding cryptocurrency and why its important.
  3. Establish oversight in these initial stages of accepting these gifts to carefully evaluate the acceptance process and discuss lessons learned to update or modify policies accordingly.


Cryptocurrency is a phenomenon that has the potential to become as far-reaching as the internet itself. For any emerging industry—including nonprofit organizations—those that adopt these policies early on will benefit significantly, including reaching a younger donor population that has historically been a struggle for institutions. Cryptocurrency donations allow you to tap into digital finances and virtual money, which continue to grow bigger every day.



[1] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-launches-cryptocurrency-fund

[2] https://www.savethechildren.org/us/ways-to-help/ways-to-give/ways-to-help/cryptocurrency-donation

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/

DonorSearch and Affinaquest Partnership: Here’s What Your Organization Needs to Know


Technology has leveled the fundraising playing field for organizations of all sizes—in many cases across the globe. Long ago, fundraising meant a letter in the mail with a return slip and the long wait that followed. Fundraising (not that long ago) required in-person visits and long lead times.


Today, it’s so much more.


Donors can contribute with just a few taps on their phones and amplify their impact with peer-to-peer fundraising platforms that integrate seamlessly with social media accounts. This means more up-to-date data is available to help fundraisers achieve ambitious goals.


Platforms are available to assist with constituent relationship management (CRM), data mining, and more. But often, especially in smaller teams, using multiple programs isn’t feasible, physically or financially. So, in June 2021, DonorSearch and Affinaquest announced a partnership to combine the best of both platforms. Here’s what your organization needs to know.


DonorSearch verses Affinaquest


Affinaquest is an Advancement CRM software powered by the Salesforce platform. Affinaquest is a leading provider of advancement software and services to educational institutions.


DonorSearch is known for its data research, data mining, and is leveraged by the advancement space to gain information about its prospects. Founded in 2007 and built upon years of experience in philanthropy. The purpose of DonorSearch is centered around helping more organizations identify, expand, predict, and connect with suitable donors.


By identifying suitable donors, expanding your donor list, and using intelligent technology to predict giving behavior, you can connect with the eligible donors at the right time.


DonorSearch provides any publicly available information about donors, including:


  • wealth;
  • assets;
  • publicly announced affiliations;
  • boards they belong to; and
  • companies they own.


The Partnership Benefit


DonorSearch and Affinaquest have come together to create a solution. This partnership combines the power of the Affinaquest platform with DonorSearch’s donor intelligence, launching DonorQuest powered by DonorSearch, a game-changing new approach to prospect research and managing major gift portfolios.


This partnership increases efficiency for data mining. Previously, organizations were required to research DonorSearch and put data back into their CRM platform. But because of the partnership, the data integration is now automated—offering customers a new level of innovative service in support of their essential missions.


According to a recent press release[1], features and benefits of DonorQuest powered by DonorSearch include:


  • Initial batch review of up to 20,000 prospects across all major giving portfolios.
  • Detailed profiles with over 65 different data points stored inside the CRM record.
  • Automated refresh of screening results for major gift portfolios every week with push notifications of significant wealth changes or new donations found.
  • Real-time relationship mapping in the Affinaquest platform based on known nonprofit board affiliations.
  • Optional full database screening or DonorSearch ProspectView Subscriptions are connected directly to the CRM.


What Remains the Same


The partnership between DonorSearch and Affinaquest increases efficiency and ease of use for donor relations. Still, there is no “easy button” for data and prospect research. Here’s what remains the same.


  • Matching accuracy is still important and just as tedious as before.
  • If you have limited information about your constituents, then the reliability of finding data or the right person hasn’t changed—that unknown remains the same.
  • Data mining of public information for DonorSearch doesn’t change the process of the research team’s performance.
  • The prospect management team must still have a strategy for the data you’ve acquired to make it actionable.


Getting the correct data into the hands of Development Officers will always remain the most crucial task—enabling them to qualify (or gauge) the interest of individuals and follow-up on a prospect. The partnership between DonorSearch and Affinaquest is a great tool, but don’t lose sight of your overall goals.


[1] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/donorsearch-and-affinaquest-partnership-301305449.html

3 Documents You Should Maintain for Your Advancement CRM Platform


Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) is the set of processes and supporting technologies used to initiate and improve relationships with constituents. CRM is not just a technology that is brought into your institution. It helps you manage relationships with constituents and involves all of the workflows, processes, and reporting that your institution uses to achieve its mission.


When it comes to your Advancement CRM platform, document maintenance is vital. Here are three key documents you should revisit now.


#1—Master Configuration Document


The master configuration document tracks changes made to the software application to make it work for your organization—specifically site changes that enabled a certain workflow. In many cases, this document’s purpose becomes a part of your application support guidebook.


It can be a vital tool for your support team to reference when trying to help users with questions. It’s also used (or referenced) when contacting your software vendor for support due to a problem or issue. The information in your master configuration document is helpful to your software vendor and ensures you receive support as quickly as possible.


#2—Security Matrix for Staff


The security matrix for staff provides clear guidelines for how access is disseminated across the institution—indicating who has access to what information. Within your security matrix, include the justification of the access to make sure it is aligned with the staff’s job responsibilities.


Having a handle on your security at all times is an essential part of maintaining data security and data access policies.


#3—Data Management Business Rules


Your data management business rules define how a specific field should be used and provides guidelines to populate uniform information in that field. For example, you may identify data management business rules that require specific naming conventions or the structure in which you would input that information.


These business rules should be directions given to the user—explaining what to do if they do not have the given data at the time. The purpose of the data management business rules helps maintain data quality for accurate reporting and reliable decision making within the system.


Overall, your institution should review all three of these documents regularly. On an Ad Hoc basis, you should assess these documents for updates before rolling out any new initiatives using your advancement CRM system.


For periodic reviews, follow these guidelines.


Master configuration document: Yearly basis

Security matrix for staff: Twice per year

Data management business rules: Yearly basis

3 Steps for Engaging and Connecting with Alumni


Have you ever wondered how successful colleges and universities convince past students to give something back to their alma mater? Most often, it’s because they’ve established ongoing relationship and engagement strategies with their alumni.


An alumni engagement strategy requires careful consideration of things like nostalgia, trust, and emotion. More importantly, it means identifying marketing techniques to elicit those feelings.


Communicating with your alumni should be a part of that strategy. One of the easiest ways to communicate is through an online platform like PeopleGrove[1].


An online platform can:


  • provide alumni with access to career opportunities;
  • centralize directories, alumni job boards, and chapter management;
  • advance your mission by driving higher engagement; and
  • measure increases in giving.


It’s a no-brainer; your alumni serve many valuable roles for your institution—helping to build and grow your brand through word-of-mouth marketing, plus offer mentoring, internships, and career opportunities to fellow students.


There is a significant investment to implement an online alumni network platform. Often, the same investment falls flat because institutions think, “build it, and they will come.” In turn, the information technology (IT) department acts as the pseudo “community” for its alumni.


That approach is always ineffective. Think about it like this. You’re an alum of the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkley reaches out to inform you of their new alumni community, offering you the opportunity to join fellow alums and network—suggesting you can catch up with classmates and gain access to powerful relationships.


But six months pass, and you realize you’re interacting with very few people, or worse, the same people, and no one is responding to your inquiries. Alumni quickly become discouraged and leave the platform.


These online engagement platforms are great for enabling meaningful connections throughout your community—whether that’s an alumni community or constituent community, but only if you have a strategy. Here’s how to make the most of your online platform by engaging and connecting with alumni.


Step 1: Market Your Program


Get rid of the idea that just because you build a platform, your alumni know about it and want to use it. Overcome this challenge by marketing your program so alumni are aware of its value and usability. Marketing can’t be a one-time thing. And it should be a thoughtful and continuous marketing plan.


Form a marketing committee. Use your network to find help by tapping into alumni who work in marketing. Then evaluate other alumni organizations. What are they doing to market their platforms? Don’t necessarily copy what they’re doing but take inventory of how they talk to their audience and solve their wants, needs, and desires.


Effective marketing includes understanding your value proposition and knowing what your alumni expect to receive. Think about how you can best reach them, and set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART) goals. Finally, assess your goals often and evaluate your plan regularly.


Step 2: Educate About Useability


Another reason alumni may leave your networking platform is that they don’t understand how to use it. You can’t assume alumni know how to take advantage of this resource, even if it is a user-friendly platform.


Take into consideration that you probably have alumni spanning several generations. Be mindful of the nuances of each generation and their specific wants, needs, and desires—providing ideas about how (and why) they should use it.


Emphasize the ease of use—which can also be a part of your marketing tactic. Create marketing content that answers alumni questions. For example, “Have you tried the ABC feature? If not, here’s how to use it.”


This type of communication should be ongoing. Develop a communication plan that educates alumni frequently—this promotes sufficient engagement and increases your retention.


Step 3: Maintain Your Metrics and Measurements


Like anything, you need to measure and analyze your metrics regularly so you can adjust as necessary. Schedule weekly or monthly check-ins to see what’s working, what’s not, and determine a plan to course-correct.

[1] https://www.peoplegrove.com

Opportunities for Capitalizing on Post-Pandemic Fundraising Online

The global pandemic forced rapid changes across every industry sector, including advancement. As we continue to move toward the new normal, we’re seeing some of those changes—especially regarding the emphasis on online interaction—stick around.


Organizations should continue to take advantage of online fundraising platforms and methods to supplement their advancement initiatives. Donors are continuing to engage online, and we anticipate this becoming even more prevalent in post-pandemic fundraising.


There are two areas to pay particular attention to: Do-it-yourself fundraising platforms and third-party fundraising. Here’s why.


DIY Fundraising Platforms


The shift to DIY fundraising where supporters can easily launch their own campaigns and raise money is growing quickly. Anyone with a desire to raise money for their favorite organization can do so online and begin fundraising quickly. This model is particularly successful for smaller organizations.


DIY fundraising operates like a traditional peer-to-peer[1] campaign—enabling individuals to create personal fundraising pages on your organization’s behalf. Most often, supporters choose to do a DIY fundraiser centered around a holiday, birthday, or special occasion.  They create a fundraising campaign under a parent campaign and ask for donations to fund it.


DIY fundraising is a multi-tier approach, allowing your organization to empower its donors. You can think of it as a tree. You have the main trunk (your organization’s campaign website). From there, personal fundraisers create their own branches from their personal fundraising website. Each branch represents a different campaign—some branches are larger, and some branches are smaller. But each branch is necessary.


Supporters can connect their own beliefs, values, and identity to your mission using their personal fundraising pages to inspire donors with a story, driving your mission forward on their own terms. This leads to high fundraising goals and a personal desire to see your campaign succeed. Plus, you’ll be able to reach a new pool of donors that might have been inaccessible otherwise.


The impact of DIY fundraising is often greater and provides increased fundraising potential because of high personal buy-in. DIY fundraising campaigns increase trust between your organization and new potential supporters, drawing on their network to increase donations.


People are more likely to donate to a cause that their friend or family feels strongly about. In fact, 46% of respondents in a Classy report[2], say they choose to donate to a cause if a family member or friend asks them to. In addition, 50% state that a friend or family member being personally affected by a cause would motivate them to give.


Make DIY fundraising easy and fun by providing support. Create a DIY fundraiser toolkit to assist supporters with setting up their website, procedures for structuring their story, adding images, and other specifics to match the same look and feel of your brand. Offer examples to illustrate what other supporters are doing. Once its live, be open to promoting their fundraiser on your organization’s email list, social media, and more.


Third-Party Events


A third-party fundraising event is when a business, organization, community group, school, or individual plans and hosts a program or an event that benefits an organization. These events are hosted by (or paid for by) the beneficiary, but all proceeds generated support the mission of the organization. Third-party initiatives can be an excellent fundraising tool with a high return on investment (ROI) because it doesn’t require many resources from your organization.


The pandemic taught us that third-party events can still be successful even in an online atmosphere. Virtual events cater to those with demanding schedules or those in distant locations. But they also serve to reach new audiences—specifically, Millennial and Generation Z donors.


Third-party fundraisers give organizations a tool to solidify relationships, inspire new ones, and create an avenue to gain donations. Online platforms let the donors organize and promote their event independently.


Third-party fundraisers can be even more successful if you identify your top fundraisers and then offer them support—whether it’s helping them promote their event or offering guiding principles and fundraising tips. Imagine how your top fundraisers could succeed with your expertise!


For example, help your best supporters build their fundraising website so it has a few extra bells and whistles. Discuss their fundraising strategy and goals and provide feedback for best practices. Help them build their campaign and strategize to engage their network of friends and families through tried-and-true methods.


Supporting third-party fundraisers with these additional resources creates an opportunity to increase the output of the online platforms and fundraising campaigns. Their campaigns will exceed expectations and your organization warrants the benefits.


[1] https://www.classy.org/blog/what-is-peer-to-peer-fundraising-2/

[2] https://learn.classy.org/why-america-gives-special-report?sfdc_cid=7012R0000016Wcg

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.


[1] https://www.forrester.com/report/CRM+Success+Hinges+On+Effective+Change+Management/-/E-RES90081#

3 Dirty Secrets to Consider During an Advancement CRM Implementation

Implementing an Advancement Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platform is an intense amount of work in a set time. The change aspect in itself is a huge undertaking—not to mention the task of changing how you do things and your daily job duties. There are learning curves with software technology, and often, the work falls onto those within that learning curve.


The damage to your team that goes overlooked during implementation can have long-lasting effects. As an organizational leader, you need to be conscious of the cost—not only from a monetary standpoint but the long-term cost of damaging the actual people who worked on the CRM implementation project.


Here are key indicators that you’re not handling the stress well and the three dirty secrets to avoid.

Dirty Secret #1—Overworking a few people because they can get things done.


Every organization is guilty of it—even those that aren’t implementing a CRM application. Leaning on those that are organized, motivated, and highly skilled seems inevitable. But, for the go-to person, it can feel frustrating and even lead to burnout, diminished employee engagement, and turnover intention [1].


Try this approach: recruit your “B” team often.


Carefully consider your team’s availability (especially those who are more skilled) and the person’s knowledge to do the tasks. You might have to modify task estimates or time allotted based on the resources.


Consider that not every task can be assigned to your “A” team, but it can be completed (and done well) by your “B” team—even if they may need a little support in terms of learning along the way. Focus on task-level planning, develop a clear objective, and create a realistic timeline.


Regardless of who is assigned the task at hand, be mindful and continue to monitor progress—making changes when someone is overworked.


Dirty Secret #2—Creating an environment with no room for mistakes.


Perfection, by definition, is “being free from all flaws or defects.” It’s highly likely your CRM implementation will have some flaws or defects—at least in the beginning.


Try this approach: encourage a culture of innovation.


Leaders need to know what it means to have an innovative mindset[2]—generating creative or novel solutions to problems that result in improved performance. You can’t force innovation, and you must embrace the fact that innovation is situational.

You are embarking upon something new—this always requires an innovative mindset. Encourage your staff to be creative. Get into the mindset that you can’t be creative without making mistakes. Instead, build a buffer into the project for errors and allow for flexibility.


This means, as a leader, you must challenge your team members to think from multiple perspectives, avoid relying strictly on facts and data, and allow room for ideas that arise from intuition. Remember, if it must go perfectly, it’s already a failed project.


Dirty Secret #3—Allowing disrespect during a project.


It should go without question, but you cannot allow incidences (no matter how small) of disrupting or disrespecting others during a project.


Try this approach: look to your project leads to model good behavior.


Professionalism and respect for your colleagues should be a guiding principle—microaggressions and disrespect should never be tolerated. Emphasize that all opinions should be heard and appreciated.


Your project leads are in the perfect position to eliminate disrespect. Their job is tough on making decisions, but with that role comes the responsibility of respecting your colleagues and stakeholders. If they lead with respect, it’s likely your team will follow suit.


[1] https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/icamer-19/125936189

[2] https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/how-do-you-respond-to-a-new-idea/

Understanding Staffing Models for CRM Application Support

Most organizations have little to no control over the structure of their Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) application support staffing models. It’s essential to understand how they are different—plus the pros and cons of each—so you can effectively moderate issues as they arise.


The resources available to your project team may vary and are contingent on your organization’s predetermined staffing models. We discuss the differences and how to mitigate their deficiencies.


Decentralized Staffing


Larger organizations tend to require a decentralized staffing model for their CRM applications[1]. Within the decentralized model, resources and staff may sit within the development team and have their own program analyst and Information Technology (IT) resources. These positions are often placed within Advancement—they are also funded and have a reporting structure that promotes through the advancement team.


A significant benefit of the decentralized staffing model is that you have access to your resources—staff are specialists and understand the business practices for any technical solution they provide. Staff lives and breathes fundraising, advancement, engaging constituents, and the context for technology solutions.


However, a downside of decentralized organizations is that employees may struggle with multiple individuals having different opinions on a particular decision. These organizations will need to overcome the obstacle of getting everyone on the same page when making decisions.


Another downside with this model can be that resources get narrowly characterized from a technology standpoint. The staff becomes experts in the technology, and their innovation may diminish over time because they are so specialized.


Decentralized staffing models are most successful when they utilize diverse expertise and knowledge—including a broad-based management team to ensure the organization has knowledgeable directors or managers to handle various types of situations.


Centralized Staffing Model


In the centralized staffing model, the need for technical resources or support to get things done relies on a “borrowing” structure from a central pool of resources. Smaller institutions tend to benefit from a centralized approach to their technical help. This model allows several departments—including the advancement team, HR team, the finance team, and the institutional teams to be supported by shared resources.


Centralized organizations can be highly efficient regarding strategic decisions. On the contrary, they can face adverse effects of bureaucracy—which can damage organizational effectiveness.


The benefit of a centralized staffing model is that staff can become specialists and remain acutely aware of new technology and procedures. Staff in this model tend to stay up to date on new platforms, programming languages, and other resources—their technical knowledge and skillsets are broader.


Centralized staffing allows an institution to streamline processes and create business operation efficiencies related to policy development, technology, pay practice, and resource management. In this model, you can (in most cases) attract better resources because they have a variety of projects to work on—offering a diverse workload for the highly skilled person.


One of the most significant downsides of the centralized staffing model is that resources and staff are shared. You’ll need to develop policies and procedures to indicate the methods that support you (and your team) to meet their deadlines.


Think about questions like:


  • How will your staff get into the queue?
  • How will your resource staff manage an abundance of requests?
  • Will you be able to meet your deadlines with their current workload?


Changes may take longer to initiate in a centralized model. Leadership must evaluate requests for policy, workflow, or technology changes at an enterprise level, requiring investigation, testing, pro and con analysis, and shared governance vetting. Once approved, the change must be communicated and rolled out—requiring an additional level of planning and coordination.


Sharing resources with the rest of the institution can get complicated. Not all institutions can avoid this type of staffing model and must work to mitigate these setbacks.


Hybrid Concept


A hybrid staffing model allows staff to gain the best of both worlds. In this scenario, employees can experience the benefits of becoming experts in their field while concurrently sharing resources.


In the hybrid staffing model, the resources belong to the centralized team but include staff with a comprehensive technology skillset. Often, the Advancement department pays for the services to have dedicated resources or at least a commitment to dedicated resources at a certain level.


The hybrid staffing model type tends to work well in larger institutions since they can afford resources within their department.


Staffing models vary depending on your organization. One is not necessarily better than another—whichever one you have, be sure to understand its complexities and plan for any deficiencies. Doing so will increase your team’s strategic and tactical capacity—keeping your organization at the forefront.

[1] https://www.discovercrm.com/crm-case-studies.html

3 Reasons Why Your School Should Participate in the CASE VSE Survey

Since 1957, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has collected data on fundraising at U.S. higher education institutions and a select group of private K–12 institutions. This annual survey—Voluntary Support of Education Survey (VSE)—offers institutions the opportunity to understand year-over-year trends compared to their peers.


It can be an enormous undertaking for institutions to participate in the CASE VSE survey. Gathering data and accurately reporting it is no small task. But it is to your advantage to participate. Here’s why.


Reason #1—It’s free.


Participation in the VSE survey is free and voluntary (but highly recommended) for higher education institutions. Participation in the survey offers a deeper understanding of private gifts and grants from alumni, parents, other individuals, foundations, corporations, and other organizations.


Reason #2—It provides a comprehensive overview of data.


In addition to gift income—it gathers data on enrollment, endowment market value, plus educational and general expenditures from each institution. Independent schools provide a total advancement program expenditure figure as well.


Reason #3—It offers a visual representation of your trends.


CASE VSE participants receive a report that offers a visual representation of their year-over-year trends compared to their AMAtlas peers. This data can be used to estimate national trends and for benchmarking by individual institutions.


How do you prepare yourself for the VSE survey?


First, visit the CASE AMAtlas Surveys website and create a login. Visit the surveys tab and indicate whether you will participate—opting to participate activates the survey for data entry.


There are different variations of the higher education and pre-college survey. Most institutions complete the full version of the survey, even though they may omit optional questions.


Next, it’s time to collect data for input.


Required  Data for All Survey Versions


  • Enrollment
  • FTE Enrollment (higher education institutions only)
  • Endowment
  • Expenditures
  • Advancement Program Expenditures (pre-college institutions only)
  • Giving by Source—alumni, parents, grandparents (pre-college only), other individuals, foundations, corporations, religious organization, fundraising consortia, and other organizations
  • Giving by Purpose (total is equal to total giving by Source)—specifically support that donors designate
  • Current Operations (unrestricted and restricted)
  • Property, Buildings, or Equipment
  • Endowment (income unrestricted and restricted)
  • Loan Funds
  • Newly Established Deferred Gifts
  • Alumni Records (solicited and donors)
  • Realized bequests and their dollar value
  • Three most significant gifts from living individuals, endowments, foundations, and corporations


Keep in mind there are deadlines for data submission. You’ll need to mark the survey done by October 1st (higher education institutions) or November 1st (pre-college institutions). You can request a deadline extension by email if necessary.


Annual Survey Schedule


  • Late June: The VSE survey opens for data input.
  • October 1st: Survey deadline for higher education institutions.
  • November 1st: Survey deadline for pre-college institutions.
  • February: Official release of the survey results.


How do you continue to maintain viable fundraising records and adapt to change when new standards come out?


Focus on maintaining accurate, organized records. Allow space to adjust as new standards are released. For instance, is your record-keeping able to incorporate changes in data collection and storage? If not, it might be time to analyze your processes and procedures—and maybe even time to consider implementing a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Here’s How to Ensure A Successful Advancement CRM Project Sponsorship

You’ve likely contemplated the implementation of an Advancement CRM for quite some time—it’ll save hours of administrative time, offer better future casting, and create a central hub for all your donor profiles. Having your Advancement project run smoothly often comes down to outstanding leadership. Standard project management always has a project sponsor—an executive-level person responsible for the outcome of the project.


In many cases, the project sponsor is the Chief Development Officer (CDO) or Chief Philanthropy Officer (CPO). Some organizations may opt to formulate a sponsorship committee including individuals from your Information Technology (IT) department—a viable option if your IT is a centralized staffing model. Regardless of who takes the lead, your sponsor can help your project with its vision, communication, implementation, and make critical decisions.


Here’s how to ensure a successful advancement CRM project sponsorship.




The project sponsorship role needs to be visible; It can’t be a role merely on paper—it must be an active role throughout the project’s duration.


Sponsors first need to understand how their role supports the project team. Decide your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, assess how your project sponsor can mitigate those weaknesses or transfer them into strengths. For example, if your team is unaware of your sponsor’s commitment to the CRM adoption, mitigate that by being more accessible.


Your project sponsor should mesh their calendar with the project calendar—making themselves available to attend meetings frequently. The project sponsor needs to be present during milestone moments like project kickoff, forums—they can in no way skip out on those types of events—or meetings where information is being disseminated.


The project sponsor doesn’t need to be present at every meeting because that isn’t feasible, but have them pick some key in-depth activities. For example, if your sponsor has expertise and strategy around business intelligence, they can get involved more intimately in that capacity.


Encourage them to get a little bit out of their comfort zone—asking questions when they don’t know the answer. If stakeholders and project team members see your sponsor making an effort—being brave, vulnerable, and asking questions—it creates a culture of inclusion, allowing team members to feel comfortable and supports innovation.


One of the biggest problems in CRM project implementation is team members are often afraid to ask questions. When the project sponsor takes that lead, it creates a ripple effect.




It’s essential to set a vision and goals of your CRM project that aligns with your organization’s mission. It’s necessary to maintain communication and ensure everyone understands the need for implementation. Think about what your team may be wondering.


  • Why are we doing this?
  • What are the goals and vision?
  • How does this affect my role?
  • What long-term changes will be made?
  • How does my skillset contribute to the project?


Allow your team to understand the “why,” which always supports the “how.” But as you know, CRM implementation is a massive undertaking and often wanes on staff—often feeling like a second job.


An essential role of the project sponsor is to mitigate the impact of those changes, reduce fear of change, and offer encouragement throughout the process.


Project team members and stakeholders need to hear from your project sponsor. Encouragement should be ongoing—don’t wait until the end to celebrate their success. Ongoing encouragement can help pull your team through a challenging portion of a project.


Be sure to offer:


  • messages of encouragement;
  • messages of gratitude; and
  • thanking a project team or project team member for their hard work.


Timely encouragement throughout the project continues to fuel and support team members working hard and can make a big difference in your project’s success.

Data Privacy and Security—Classifying Data for Advancement


Data is a significant asset to your organization. It can provide a wealth of information about donors. A growing number of organizations are using data analytics to determine which supporters are most likely to make a significant gift or donate in response to their campaigns.


Data privacy is more important than ever before—especially in today’s digital economy—and organizations should review their data, privacy policies, and procedures. Here are different types of data privacy and security and how to classify data for advancement.


What is Confidential Data?


Any data or information that is protected by laws, regulations, or industry standards is considered confidential. Confidentiality is the need to strictly limit access to data to protect organizations and individuals from loss. Confidential data can also be defined as information that could cause harm to an individual or an organization if it is inappropriately accessed.


Data Privacy


Data privacy (information privacy) is a data security division that deals with the proper handling of data—more specifically, consent, notice, and regulatory obligations. Practical data privacy concerns are affected by several factors.


  • whether (or how) data is shared with third parties;
  • how information is legally collected or stored; and
  • regulatory restrictions


One important aspect of data privacy is transparency. Organizations must disclose how they request consent, abide by their privacy policies, and manage the data they’ve collected. Ask questions to understand your organization’s stance on data privacy.


  • What data is to be collected?
  • How long will it be kept, and does that comply with the laws?
  • Is there limited data access that is monitored, or is that data openly available?
  • What measures will be taken to protect data?
  • Is the planned use of the data aligned with why it was collected?


Data Security vs. Data Privacy


Simply keeping sensitive data secure may not be enough to comply with data privacy regulations. Data Security protects data from compromise, whereas data privacy governs how data is collected, shared, and used.


If you’ve worked to secure data—implementing encryption, restricting access, and overlapping monitoring systems—but your organization collected the data without proper consent, you could be violating data privacy regulations.


You can have data security without data privacy, but you cannot have data privacy without data security. Train employees to understand the difference. Include processes and procedures necessary to ensure the proper collection, sharing, and use of sensitive data as part of a data security portfolio.


Sensitive Data


Sensitive data is any information that needs to be protected—often dependent on the nature of the business conducted by an organization and, even more so, the responsible governing body.


What is Considered Sensitive Data?


The categories of sensitive data vary based on the privacy laws that apply to an organization.


For example, a healthcare organization will need to adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules. In contrast, an educational institution will have to adhere to regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).


Sensitive data includes any information such as:


  • personal data, or data that can be used to identify an individual—including customer and employee data;
  • financial data such as bank account or credit card information; and
  • intellectual property or proprietary information such as software code.


Personal Data


Personal data, also known as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), is any information used to identify a specific individual. The protection of personal data has become increasingly important due to regulations that aim to protect individuals concerning their personal data processing. This has only become more prevalent as cyberattacks continue to evolve.


More frequently, organizations are being held responsible for how they process and secure sensitive data to prevent exposure and risk.


Cybersecurity Risk


Cybersecurity threats and data breaches have become the rule rather than an exception for organizations. Do you have data protection policies and the necessary procedures in place to guard against this threat?


Your organization must carefully handle sensitive data to avoid disclosure or data breach. The potential damage from a data breach goes beyond tarnishing your organization’s reputation. Your organization can be legally liable if you fail to comply with data privacy laws—which can come with exorbitant fines and penalties.


Protect sensitive data with cybersecurity best practices.


  1. Establish a data protection policy.
  2. Create a comprehensive and up-to-date inventory of sensitive data.
  3. Develop guidelines for assessing and maintaining privacy and confidentiality of data on all systems.
  4. Communicate your organization’s data security policies to staff members.


Go a step further and implement basic strategies for preventing data theft.


  1. Don’t open unsolicited email attachments or unknown files.
  2. Educate staff to identify and prevent phishing.
  3. Require strong passwords for each employee, and insist they are changed regularly.
  4. Establish processes to monitor your network for suspicious behavior.


Using Data for Advancement


Collected data is only valuable if it’s used for a purpose. One of the most popular uses of organizational data is for development. You can’t control people’s ability to give—but you can control how you use data to make decisions regarding your advancement.


Revamp your advancement strategy to focus on assessing your most connected donors and how you have engaged them.


Gauge donor giving capacity. Analyze alumni data and external sources, such as tax filings, home values, and other assets—then assign “wealth scores.” Once you’ve assembled data or scores on wealth and involvement, have staff members work on your top and bottom groups separately.


Look for differences. Organizations should record more than just donations in their fundraising databases. Review data to see which events your supporters attend, whether they volunteer or serve on committees, and how they give to other charities.


Identify loyal donors. The traits and behaviors that predict who is most likely to give a significant gift vary. Use data to identify loyal donors, even if their contributions aren’t substantial gifts.


Review of FERPA Regulations—Dos and Don’ts for Fundraising


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student education records’ privacy in the United States. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under the U.S. Department of Education’s applicable program. FERPA applies to any public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school and any state or local education agency that receives funding under appropriate U.S. Department of Education programming.


FERPA allows “school officials” access to a student’s education records without consent if the official has “legitimate educational interests” in the information.


To prevent breaching FERPA, your organization’s disclosure should define “school official” and “legitimate educational interests” in a way that includes fundraising—disclosing types of information that are shared (name, address, date of birth, degree information, athletic team participation, etc.).


Fundraising departments are allowed to be in contact with campus partners, including admissions. These information transfers should happen only after a student has accepted their offer of admission. This is because parent prospecting and alumni fundraising are not problematic once the applicant is officially a student. But the data transfer should only include basic personally identifiable information.


Education Records


Education records include records—whether handwriting, print, computer, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, or e-mail—of an institution that contains information directly related to the student.


Education records do not include:


  • medical records;
  • employment records (when employment is not contingent on being a student);
  • law enforcement records;
  • alumni records; and
  • parents’ or eligible students’ rights.


Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. Schools that fail to comply with FERPA risk losing federal funding.


How FERPA Helps


FERPA gives parents certain rights regarding their student’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when a student reaches the age of 18 or attends secondary education.


Current regulations exclude records with information about an individual once they become an alumnus. Schools must be cautious not to mistakenly interpret this provision to mean any document created or received by the institution after a student is no longer enrolled—regardless of the subject matter—because it is not an educated record under FERPA, whether they were created or received by the institution.


Parent Rights


Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless parents or eligible students can’t review them.


Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:


  • school officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
  • accrediting organizations;
  • to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • appropriate officials in health and safety emergencies; and
  • state and local authorities within a juvenile justice system.


Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors, awards, and attendance dates. But schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow them to refrain from disclosure.


Parents and eligible students must be notified annually of their rights under FERPA. Communication can be completed through a letter, school bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article—the method of communication is at the school’s discretion.


Unintentionally Violating FERPA


Carelessly disposing of old student records indirectly violates FERPA.


Under FERPA, schools are responsible for how vendors use data. That means that if a vendor unintentionally misuses a student’s education records, the school will be found at fault. This also includes online fundraisers.


Know when to release and withhold records. It is a violation of FERPA if schools deny parents access to student records if they are under the age of 18.


Proceed with caution when talking about student-related information that you may have experienced indirectly. For example, teachers can speak about a student incident if they witness it firsthand. But if a senior administrator reads a report about that incident, the senior administrator cannot talk about it publicly. These concepts apply to social media usage.


Here are some other dos and don’ts when it comes to FERPA and fundraising.


Do understand the difference between a directory and non-directory information, but don’t make this information available to the public.


Do know students can grant written consent, but don’t disclose non-directory information without student written consent.


Do check for a FERPA restriction before communicating directory information, but don’t disclose the information if that student has a FERPA restriction.


Do understand parents can receive non-directory information in cases of emergencies, but don’t share non-directory or non-public directory information with parents if the student is over the age of 18 without written consent.


Do use blind carbon copy (bcc) when electronically communicating with multiple students, but don’t use carbon copy (cc) with numerous students, parents, or constituents.


To make sure your FERPA disclosures are inclusive, contact your admissions office or legal counsel.

Review of HIPAA Regulations—Dos and Don’ts for Fundraising


Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) aims to protect the confidentiality and security of information. The Privacy Rule component of the law establishes national standards to protect individuals’ records and other personal health information—setting limits and conditions on how organizations will use the information without a person’s authorization, including usage for fundraising.


Updated HIPAA regulations were released in 2013, clarifying the rules fundraisers must follow to comply with the statute. Fundraisers need to revisit these modifications to ensure proper adherence.


HIPAA requirements apply to different situations, and without the proper knowledge and approach, it’s easy to make common mistakes. Here is a review of the HIPAA regulations as it relates to the dos and don’ts fundraising.


Information Available to Fundraisers


Organizations can target their fundraising based on the nature of the services a person received or their physician’s identity. The personal health information that can be used for fundraising purposes includes:


  • patient demographic data (name, address, phone/email, date of birth, age, gender, etc.).
  • health insurance status;
  • dates of patient services;
  • general type of department in which a patient is serviced;
  • treating physician information;


Information requiring written authorization before fundraising use may include:


  • diagnosis;
  • nature of services; and
  • treatment.


The Rule for Supporting Foundations


If an institutionally related foundation conducts fundraising activity, a business associate agreement with its health care provider for the use of patient information is not required due to its direct supporting relationship.


Consultants on a retainer or other external fundraising vendors who will be granted access to patient information must agree with the health care provider on file.


Notification Practices


Before using information for fundraising purposes, a HIPAA-covered entity’s Notice of Privacy Practices must state organizations may contact the patient for fundraising efforts. The patient can opt-out of receiving any fundraising communications.


You must provide this Notice to the patient in advance of receiving care.


It is important to remember that patients have the right to opt out. Health care providers and supporting foundations legally must include a provision in all fundraising communications (including telephone and face-to-face solicitations). The provision must state the patient has the right to opt-out of future solicitations and must:


  • identify any conspicuous part of the materials sent to the patient;
  • describe how your organization may use information;
  • be written clearly, in plain language; and
  • include a simple, not burdensome means to opt-out from receiving further fundraising communications.


Segment your opt-out options so patients can elect to opt-out of campaign-specific or all future fundraising communications. It’s important to note that the opt-out does not lapse.


Here are some dos and don’ts of fundraising when it comes to HIPPA compliance.


Do: Conduct a Thorough Risk Analysis


Some of the most significant HIPAA penalties are because of failure to conduct a thorough risk assessment. Violations related to inadequate risk assessments fall under the most severe Willful Neglect tier of penalties. Every organization that creates, receives, maintains, or transmits private health information must conduct an accurate and thorough HIPAA risk assessment to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.


Don’t: Ignore Social Media Usage.


Most people (if not all) are active on social media in some capacity. People use social media differently, especially regarding HIPAA’s primary objectives. Too often, social media encourages the careless sharing of data. HIPAA regulations strive to keep personal health information as confidential as possible.


Do: Perform Regular Self-Audits


Conduct periodic self-audits as recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—it’s proven to be one of the most effective HIPAA compliance tools.


Self-audits tend to focus on HIPAA Security Rule compliance—covering technical, administrative, and physical safeguards related to personal health information. Audits can include issues within the Privacy Rule.


Don’t: Forget Your Employees.


Internal issues related to HIPAA compliance are a common mistake when it comes to not-compliance. Often, employees fail to ensure that all third-party vendors, contractors, and business associates handle sensitive information appropriately. Third-party HIPAA compliance was a focus of the 2013 HIPAA Omnibus Rule. Entities should work with vendors to ensure that private health information is secure.


Do: Have a Training Plan


The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule have training requirements, including the mandate that both covered entities and business associates provide regular training to their workforce members who handle private health information.


HIPAA doesn’t specify the length and topics required, but the Privacy Rule states that training must be as necessary and appropriate for the workforce members to carry out their functions.


These functions can vary, especially regarding fundraising. Create a targeted training plan to ensure your organization remains HIPAA compliant.


Do: Have a Contingency Plan


Organizations and covered entities must ensure they have a current HIPAA contingency plan to prepare for adverse events that could affect private health information. Events could include a physical burglary, natural disaster, or cybersecurity attack.


Your contingency plan will depend on your risk assessment and analysis—addressing the most prominent threats to your private health information. Establish specific guidelines and procedures to follow, including things like systems and data recovery.


Don’t: Tackle Compliance Alone


You can’t achieve HIPAA compliance single-handily. If necessary, work with an outside expert or consultant to develop a comprehensive risk assessment, create an effective training plan, and identify potential cyber vulnerabilities.


At the very least, enlist a compliance partner at the beginning stages of the preparation for HIPAA compliance.

Best Practices for Digital Communication with Donors



These days, it’s nearly impossible to find an organization that hasn’t conducted some form of online fundraising. Does your team actively engage and support donors with digital communication? It can be difficult with limited in-person interactions.


Plus, the digital environment is a loud and busy space. The competition for donor attention is at an all-time high. Without a coherent, unified digital communication strategy, you risk losing focus and visibility—especially true if you’re targeting an older population.


A comprehensive digital communication strategy is the single best way to ensure a personal interaction without the in-person interface—helping you to put your overarching fundraising or donor acquisition goals into action.


When creating a digital strategy for your organization, focus on these constituent parts to simplify the process.


  1. Determine your goals.
  2. Examine your audience.
  3. Define your constraints.
  4. Equip your team with the right tools.
  5. Craft a communication plan.


A digital communication strategy is only effective if its well-received by donors. Here are four best practices to ensure donors engage with your digital communications.


Personalize Conversations


A nonprofit’s success is related to the relationship they have with donors. Whether you’re sending out an appeal or a thank you letter, you must personalize your donor communications—80 percent of people say they engage with personalized messaging[1].


In a world with primarily digital communication, it feels less ambiguous. Digital communication requires you to be more purposeful with how (and when) you communicate.


Personalize your donor communications by:


  • addressing them by name;
  • communicating with them as an individual, not the organization they’re affiliated with; and
  • referencing their previous involvement and its impact.


Use Donor-Centric Language


Having a donor-centric tone when communicating with your constituents goes a long way. Switch your general messaging to donor-centric messaging—it can be as simple as speaking to “you” vs. “we.”


Incorporating a donor-centric tone also requires an awareness of your donor’s goals. By understanding their unique needs, you can connect and engage with them better.


Empathize with your donors by asking questions that engage with purpose.


  • What is most valuable to you?
  • How do you envision supporting our organization?
  • What are ways we can help you achieve your goals?


Leverage Multichannel Communication


A multichannel approach is essential for donor communications. It allows you to reach a larger audience and reinforce your messaging. Donors vary with how they prefer to communicate.


Email marketing is a common way to communicate, but its important to utilize other channels such as:


  • social media;
  • website landing pages;
  • text messaging; and
  • telephone


Make Technology Simple


There’s no doubt that technology will impact your digital communication strategy in 2021 and beyond. Donations are happening online more frequently, requiring the use of eSignatures or transfer of documents.


Often, donors are sending documents with sensitive or confidential data through email that isn’t always encrypted.


Some donors may be hesitant or discouraged from supporting your organization due to security concerns or complicated technology processes. If you’re dealing with an older population, how do you communicate effectively and leverage technology? You’ll need to simplify technology and clearly explain the requirements.


You may consider implementing programs to support your digital communication strategy. SignNow[2] offer organizations the ability to streamline document workflows, automate and collaborate donation form processing, request eSignatures, and protect sensitive data with advanced encryption to keep contracts and other sensitive information safe.



[1] https://us.epsilon.com/pressroom/new-epsilon-research-indicates-80-of-consumers-are-more-likely-to-make-a-purchase-when-brands-offer-personalized-experiences

[2] https://www.signnow.com/solutions/nonprofit

5 Questions to Assess Your Campaign Readiness for Advancement


At times organizations need to raise substantial funds for a specific purpose apart from annual budgets. Typically, campaigns fund tangible things like an expansion, renovation, or restoration. Capital campaigns are always based on an ambitious vision, or more commonly referred to as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG).


When it comes to capital campaigns, some organizations focus primarily on the question of campaign feasibility. But it is just as (if not more) important to focus on the question of campaign readiness.


If you are preparing for a capital campaign, much focus is on your gift officers and programs to develop your overall campaign strategy and identify campaign priorities. During this process, there are often many questions as planning gets underway.


The campaign feasibility assesses the external environment, whereas readiness examines the organization’s ability to manage and maintain a campaign. Here are five questions to ask within your organization to determine if your capital campaign is ready for launch.


Can we identify a lead gift?


The success of capital campaigns highly depends on the initial lead or principal level gifts. If you aren’t able to identify lead gifts, you likely won’t develop the campaign you are envisioning.


The most successful capital campaigns identify where the top two or three gifts will derive. For example, if you’re looking to raise $1 billion, you’ll need to identify lead gifts upwards of $100 million.


Can we identify major gift donors?


Similar to lead gifts, it’s essential to know where a significant number of major gifts will come from. If you can’t, it might not be time to launch, and your time would be better spent developing your major gift fundraising for your annual fund.


How well-positioned are we to solicit, receive, and steward the gifts that donors will give?


Donor relations are an organization’s comprehensive actions promoting long-term engagement and quality interactions with donors. Positively manage prospect relationships over time by focusing on the seven steps of solicitation.


  1. Identify
  2. Research
  3. Plan
  4. Cultivate
  5. Ask
  6. Close
  7. Thank and Steward


Are our advancement services teams prepared for a capital campaign?


You can’t reach audacious capital campaign goals without the proper teams to support your initiatives. If the expectation is that your current staff and resources are sufficient for campaign production, you might fail to reach new, ambitious goals. Instead, assess the areas you may need additional support.


From prospects to patients, members to alumni (and everyone in between), the people who fuel and fund an organization’s future present an immense amount of data to be captured, managed, and visualized—ultimately leveraged by the experts in advancement services[1].


Do we have the prospect development pipeline to meet our capital campaign goals?


You must know what’s in your fundraising pipeline. One way to determine if the pipeline works as it should, is to determine whether people from your donor list are spread throughout.


Remember, there are three main reasons people donate:


  • deep passion for the cause;
  • belief in the organization; or
  • know someone affected by the mission.


Accurate Constituent Data


In addition to readiness, accurate constituent data, efficient and reliable gift tracking, and reliable campaign reporting are critical components to your capital campaign success.


An organization’s most valuable asset is its accurate constituent data. The Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is usually the central piece of software at an organization. The CRM is more than a database—proving intelligence and functionality organizations need to optimize fundraising and communication with their supporters.


Accurate data sets you up for fundraising success—allowing you to set reasonable goals, evaluate your team needs, reach constituents, track gifts efficiently, and analyze reliable campaign reporting.


[1] https://www.advserv.org/page/about-advancement-services/


5 Best Practices to Ease Your Advancement CRM Online Training


Advancement is becoming increasingly more challenging. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. These unprecedented times are fueled by a global health crisis, world-wide financial turmoil, and political unrest. Markets are volatile with many negative societal implications. Many organizations continue to shutter their face-to-face activities and healthcare systems are strained under the pressure of ongoing patient needs.


Online learning is continuing. Working virtually has proved many positives but may not be as straightforward when considering online training in complex systems like Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)—especially if your audience is more “old school” and prefers in-person learning.


A fully online course lacks a physical teaching space and requires digital communication and transmission of materials and assessments. Compared to the in-person learning environment, the online environment requires different strategies for teaching and learning. These new elements might seem intuitive, but for others might not be as obvious.


Online instruction requires the knowledge and practice of online etiquette (or netiquette) and the initial establishment of performance and behavior expectations. Virtual instructors need to be aware of these differences and be deliberate as they transition their course to the online environment.


Online training for your Advancement CRM is no exception. Here are five best practices to ease the burden of your Advancement CRM online training.


Get Employee Support


First things first, you’ll need to get your entire organization to ‘buy-in’ to the idea of virtual CRM training. Without their support, conducting training in any capacity will fall flat. CRM training and education will flourish if the organization’s people believe in the system, the benefits it can deliver, and have an understanding of their role in the overall implementation.


Getting key stakeholders involved early can help, but don’t forget about engaging end-users. Frequently, organizations think that if the executives are supportive, their staff will be too—this isn’t always the case.


If you’re struggling to get the support you need, survey to see if employees value the transition. They may be worried about learning a new system or assume their job may change as a result. While valid—and in some cases true—understanding their trepidations helps meet them where they’re at and eventually supporting them to buy into the transition.


Develop a Targeted Training Strategy


CRM platforms are often equipped with limitless possibilities—overwhelming even the most technology-inclined individual. Instead of jumping into all it has to offer, break your training into bite-size pieces that support crucial operational processes.


For example, one of the things you might do with your CRM system is to locate your constituent base in a personalized and targeted way. To do this effectively, first develop a strategy. Then train people on how you use the system to support that initiative.


Utilize Synchronous and Asynchronous Methods


There is an assumption that people will use the CRM system consistently and systematically immediately following training. Not everyone learns in the same way, and inadequate training can increase frustrations or even lead to employee burnout[1].


Avoid this by incorporating synchronous training—live scheduled classes—with a combination of asynchronous work encouraging employees to complete activities independently. Use the asynchronous work sessions to have trainees practice uploading data or running reports.


Create a strategy to address the non-users or those that may be struggling with comprehension. In an online training environment, this might look like having office hours to ask questions. Or set aside time to allow the training leader to conduct a screen share and walk the end-user through the issue in real-time.


Create Real-Life Training Scenarios


There is nothing more frustrating than trying to learn new software and not understand how it applies to a person’s day-to-day. Tailor training to your specific organizational needs. Clearly identify outcomes and expectations, focusing on tasks they’ll need to understand in their individual role.


Use this opportunity to establish acceptable working practices. Decide formatting and other requirements to ensure consistency.


Creating standards of practice helps avoid entering data in multiple ways. For example, if you’re entering names and addresses into the CRM database, require everyone to enter information in title case without abbreviations.


Schedule Ongoing Training


Plan to have ongoing online training for your Advancement CRM. This helps to maintain the long-term value of your investment in CRM technology by regularly engaging end-users in new updates, processes, and procedures.


It also provides opportunities for consistency, making sure anyone using the CRM system has a solid understanding of expectations, specifications, feedback, and the ability to problem-solve.


Investing in your CRM now is more important than ever before. But your CRM system must be more than a database—it should provide the intelligence and functionality you need to optimize fundraising and communication with your supporters.



[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007681321000392


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.


[1] https://www.prosek.com/unboxed-thoughts/source-development-survey-shows-big-majority-of-reporters-prefer-phone-over-zoo/

[2] https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/8/course-correction-will-the-coronavirus-crisis-upend-the-higher-ed-fundraising-model

How to Develop Your Business Intelligence Team in 5 Steps


Implementing Business Intelligence (BI)—performance-based data, often acquired through software—enables organizations to access constant reporting, meet reporting requirements faster and easier, and foster a broader culture of accountability and data-driven decision-making.


BI data can help you from an operational perspective, fundraising and revenue-hitting goals, and organizational efficiency. Develop and analyze prospects and closely measure your team’s performance with BI data—making decisions regarding things like Key Performance Indicators (KPI), budget forecasting, and other metrics-oriented decisions.


Advanced analytics is a complex undertaking that presents strategic opportunities but also data challenges. But it all starts with an effective business intelligence team. Here’s how to develop yours in five steps.


Step 1: Define Your Vision and Strategy


BI’s main benefit is to help make better-informed decisions supported with accurate data—helping to uncover new business opportunities, cut costs, remain compliant, hire more effectively, or identify inefficient processes that need reengineering.


BI can help make better decisions by showing up-to-date and historical data within the business context.


A few ways that BI can help organizations make smarter, more data-driven decisions include:


  • Identify ways to increase profit
  • Analyze customer behavior
  • Compare data with competitors
  • Track performance
  • Optimize operations
  • Predict success
  • Recognize market trends
  • Discover issues or problems


Before you begin, you’ll need to define your vision and strategy. Too often, organizations dive into BI with high aspirations and little planning to get there.


To define your data roadmap, you’ll first need to identify things like:


  • Mission, vision, and competitive strategy
  • Goals for the data team to achieve
  • Infrastructure you need to accomplish
  • Resources to prioritize


Step 2: Structure Your Analytics Organization


Building your BI team requires structure that supports the vision and strategy you’ve defined. Misaligning your team structure can result in subpar results, lost revenue, and team burnout.


There are several ways to structure your team.


A centralized team structure is often independent of the Information Technology (IT) department in larger organizations. A centralized team may have its own budget and more autonomy. Frequently, the analytics team reports directly to an executive.


The main benefit of the centralized team structure is the autonomy it presents. The BI team can apply analytics and data as they deem necessary—providing value and support to your overall strategy.


On the contrary, the centralized team can become siloed and get buried in overly complicated processes—keeping them from being productive and impactful. Not to mention, everyone is accessing the same data sets which can result in a duplication of effort.


A decentralized team model functions similar to marketing a product. You hire a dedicated team member to create and control an internal team effectively. The leader of this team would need to be someone with skills in the hybrid domain and analytics.


The decentralized teams works independently of other teams, and priorities are decided by the C-suite. This structure is useful in the early stages of data science, providing “quick wins” in pilot projects—it often proves less risk.


This team structure is not effective unless an organization has robust data governance and master a data management model. Otherwise, people within different business units and functions may have conflicting information or require more time to verify analytics conclusions.


A hybrid team structure is a combination of a centralized and decentralized team. It functions similar to a centralized unit, except the team is placed under a business function—using analytics to drive strategic results.


In this structure, the team reports to the head of the department. Hybrid teams are useful for organizations with less mature analytics strategies or limited resources.


Step 3: Define Roles


After you’ve defined your vision, strategy, and structure, you can now identify individual skills and team roles needed to achieve these results.


A great place to start is leadership.


The Business Intelligence Director is a high level and expensive position—it is the most sought-after position in Advancement. This position directs and oversees high level strategic and tactical decisions for BI tools and applications—they are responsible for leading the design and maintenance.


After you’ve established leadership, create job roles that help fulfill the skills and resources you defined in your data vision and strategy. Avoid getting stuck on the right job title, but instead, focus on understanding the skills required and how you might leverage or complement those skills—whether through existing team members or outside vendors.


Step 4: Recruit and Assess


A successful data-driven organization isn’t derived solely from data, but from the people. Hiring the best resources is where the value from data is created within your organization.


You can choose to hire talent to fulfill an internal role or opt to partner with an outside vendor. From inception to operational stability, leveraging outside consultants to jumpstart your effort depends on the types of resources available.


If your needs are in advanced technology or machine learning, consider looking to outside vendors to fulfill your needs. Currently, this role is exceptionally specialized and could cost your organization upwards of $250,000 annually. In this instance, working with a vendor is more affordable than hiring someone internally.


Step 5: Develop Data Skills


Data skills should not remain siloed in the BI team if organizations hope to add value and create a competitive advantage from their data. Data democratization—enables the average end-user to evaluate data without requiring outside help—is essential for companies who embrace it, leveraging it to create a data-driven culture.


To ensure a data-driven culture, consider taking steps toward developing employee data skills.


  • Cross-pollination: allows team members with diverse and complementary skills to develop new ideas and concepts.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: similar to cross-pollination—directly related to organizational structure—and encourages team members to work closely together with the BI team.
  • Hybrid career paths: creates opportunities so employees can shift into other data related operations like management, digital marketing, or customer relationship management.
  • Provide professional development: offers monthly presentations from internal or external experts, inviting staff to attend data analytics conferences and workshops.


Building your BI team is a complex process, requiring a long-term view and a clearly identified mission and vision for your data goals. The ability to get data faster depends on your relationships with centralized resources—accelerating with the right hires, whether internal or external.

Data Security: A Primer for Advancement Leadership

Data security is critical to making sure that vital information from your organization is not easily accessible, but maintaining data security isn’t easy. In fact, there have been 540 data breaches this year.


That’s 163,551,023 people affected in 2020 so far by breaches in data security. Let’s dive into this critical topic as more and more workers and students sign in online every, single day.

Top 6 Causes of Data Breaches

To increase your knowledge about data security, here are the top causes of data breaches.

1. Weak and Stolen Credentials

Passwords that are cracked through brute force algorithms are a main cause of data breaches, but so are stolen passwords.


To keep your passwords safe, make sure that you’ve made them complex enough to render them “unhackable”. You can randomly generated passwords and manage them with tools like LogMeOnce or LastPass. Extra points for a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

2. Application Vulnerabilities

Hackers find the technical vulnerability in a software and then exploit it. Before using or launching a new application, make sure your team tests it for vulnerabilities and finds ways to patch those security threats. This includes applications that house your constituent data, like your Advancement CRM database.

3. Malware

“Malware” is short for “malicious software.” It describes a variety of threatening methods that are designed to infiltrate and damage, disrupt, or hack a device. For example, think of viruses, worms, ransomware, and Trojan Horses. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of malware.

4. Malicious Insiders

Taking care of your employees so that they don’t become a future risk to your institution is important, but so is screening out those who seem predisposed to betraying their employer. Malicious insiders are the employees who have access to sensitive information and then purposefully commit a data breach to harm the institution. Better hiring and screening processes, along with maintaining a good organizational culture and robust employee training programs, can help prevent these insiders from coming on board and wreaking havoc from within the organization.

5. Insider Error

Employees who do not have malicious intent but commit a data breach by mistake are also a threat. These employees may not be aware they’ve done anything wrong, but one accidental keystroke can cause a serious data breach.


For these employees, it’s important to remind them to take more care with their work and to encourage them to be transparent when they’ve made an error. Employee training is a crucial step to prevent these errors. Together, you can grow and learn, ultimately stopping similar mistakes from happening.

6. Physical Theft

Theft of a device that holds your institution’s sensitive information falls under this category. To prevent these breaches, you may want to take extra care in where you physically store this information—consider using a safe or a security system.

Why Preventing Data Breaches Is Important

Data breaches are preventable. In fact, 4 of the 6 causes of data breaches can be prevented based on changing human behavior. This means that every staff member in Advancement can be a part of the solution.

How To Prevent Data Breaches

There are several measures you can take to prevent data breaches.

Security Policy Training and Education: Setting The Standard

When you’re creating your security policy training and pulling together your educational materials, it’s important to clearly set the standard. When you’re completing this step, it helps to ask yourself and your colleagues the following questions:

  • What is the policy?
  • Why is it beneficial to the organization?
  • How does a security breach impact Advancement?
    • By making a breach relevant to Advancement itself, you’re adding a sense of urgency for employees to comply.

You’ll also want to discuss examples of behaviors that adhere to the policy and examples of behaviors that would violate the policy. By giving employees clear examples, you’re ensuring that they’ll fully understand what does and does not constitute a data breach.

Advancement Leadership as Security Champions: Lead by Example

As a leader in your Advancement team, you must champion the cause to protect sensitive information and build confidence with your donors and supporters. Give periodic Executive Briefings on the key points below:

  • Know what data you have, including its:
    • Location (is it in an on-premise data center, is it vendor-hosted, is it in a storage room, or is it in Mike’s desk drawer?)
    • Format (is the data in a digital copy or a hard copy?)
    • Volume (how much data is there, really?)
    • Classification (whether the data is sensitive or confidential)
  • What potential vulnerabilities exist based on the data you have, the software you’ve used, and access you’ve given staff members?
    • Map these vulnerabilities out and identify them, before a breach occurs.
  • What plans are in place to reduce the vulnerabilities your company has? Are they working? (Tip: If they’re not working, brainstorm ways to improve.)

Communication Plan for Data Breach

Have your plan ready before a data breach occurs. Establish a communication plan such that you and your leadership team can be immediately informed if there is a threat or possible threat of a data breach. Creating a data breach task force or committee can also help streamline that process internally. Determine how you will communicate to your constituents.

Performance Evaluations: Enforce Security Policies

You can’t simply rely on IT to be the sole security watchdog for your organization. By the time they are even aware of staff behavior that has compromised the organization, that door may have been open for months. Staff should be evaluated on a consistent and measured basis.

Data Security: Final Thoughts

Assessment of your Advancement team’s Data Security requires a 360-degree look into how your institution is performing, the vulnerabilities that exist, and ways that existing processes can be refined to prevent future data breaches.


When you’re trusting employees with sensitive data, remember—human error can and will happen, but with the right precautions, you’re taking safeguards to prevent future accidental breaches from happening again.


Malicious actors also exist, but again—with the right measures, you’re taking steps to prevent them from hacking into or stealing your data.

Developing Advancement Operations Procedures

Everything You Need to Know About Developing Advancement Operations Procedures

We’ve all seen what happens when colleagues think the other followed up with a major donor — and then no one does. Without proper procedures in place, it can be difficult to organize complex programs and maintain efficiency.


When it comes to streamlining processes or developing operations procedures for your advancement team, there are a handful of key steps to success to follow. It’s equally as important to document procedures as it is to implement procedures in your department, so be sure to not only write the steps down but also share the new processes within your department and to external stakeholders to ensure alignment and buy-in.


Let’s unpack how to develop procedures that help your advancement operations go more smoothly, as well as the steps to implement the program in your institution.


How Developing Procedures Improves Productivity

Developing Advancement Operations procedures improves productivity by streamlining existing processes.


You see, standard operating procedures can help bring much-needed structure to any organization. This is especially true for institutions with limited budgets and resources. But by investing the time and effort into defining standard ways of working, you save time when amidst the execution of a high-profile event or impending deadline.


If these procedures are developed and implemented in advance, they will be well established  (and quickly accessible) when needed most.

8 Must-Haves for Effective Procedure Documents


What exactly does an effective procedure document contain? When you’re compiling your procedure documents, make sure they have the eight key features listed below.


  • Objective: Describe what will be accomplished by using this procedure.
  • Background: Give the user some context about why this procedure was developed.
    • For example, are you trying to comply with a regulatory or institutional policy?
    • Additionally, are there any significant changes in this procedure that need to be identified upfront?
  • Scope: Describe what this procedure will address. What need will it fill?
  • Responsibilities: Provide a high-level overview of all participants and their role in the procedure.
  • Definitions: Supply a list of business terms that will be used in the procedure.
  • Process Overview: Provide a high-level description of the overall process that will be used for this procedure.
  • Procedure Steps: Describe all the key procedure steps in detail.
  • References: Create references to other related information, including policies, other procedures, forms, templates and other institutional systems.

Getting Buy-in From Stakeholders


To get buy-in on these procedural changes from your stakeholders, you’ll need to be transparent about what you’re trying to achieve. For instance, why are you implementing these changes now? What challenges will they solve? How will your organization improve due to the implementation of these advancement operations procedures?


If you’re able to answer these questions clearly and with confidence, you’re well on your way to creating an operations procedure that your stakeholders will encourage and embrace.


5 Steps to Implement Top-Notch Procedures in Your Organization

Now, let’s take a look at how to implement best-in-class procedures in your organization. To do so, you must take these five steps.

1. Educate Users on Best Practices

Best practices keep organizations in a position to be donor-focused and bogged down with operational challenges, so identify them early and reiterate them often. Once your users are equipped with deep knowledge of these best practices, they’ll thrive under your new procedures.

2. Standardize How Information Is Captured

When standardizing how the information you collect is captured, you’ll want to do two main things.

First of all, increase the speed of your data entry to maximize efficiency. Second, improve the accuracy of your data entry by making every extra effort to do so—without losing the speed gained from increased efficiency.

3. Decrease Ramp-Up Time for New Staff

By streamlining your training processes, you’ll decrease the ramp-up time required for new staff. Decreasing the time needed for onboarding and training is ideal at any point, but it’s especially critical when you want a new hire to dive into their workload right away.

4. Develop a Reference Library of Business Practices

Developing a reference library of business practices for all users will help you get everyone on the same page. As a bonus, it will also help you avoid receiving similar questions from different users down the line.


When developing your reference library, you’ll want to understand the use of reporting in procedures. This will ensure your reference library of business practices will remain relevant as the organization evolves.

5. Inform Users About How Data Entry Impacts Reporting

If users are informed about how data entry impacts reporting, they’ll be more likely to take pride (and extra care) in their data entry tasks. So, let them know the full extent of their impact.


Continuing the Success of Your Procedures

Continue the success of the new procedures you’ve implemented through optimized procedure management processes and robust procedure development services.


Procedure Management Processes

Your procedure management process should establish the procedure owner, along with any Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This process should also educate business users on new and revised procedures.


Additionally, your procedure management process should establish a procedure review schedule, with a cadence that is quarterly, semi-annual or annual.


Lastly, procedure updates should be scheduled multiple times per year to ensure your procedures are being managed effectively.


Procedure Development Services


When developing your procedures, it’s good to have options. (Such as, a trusted advisor to counsel an organization on the critical selection and number of procedures to establish as an institutional foundation).


When developing these procedures, you’ll want to be mindful of the 8 Must Haves for Procedure Documentation. You should also hold regular procedure review workshops. Reviewing and validating  recently developed procedures and workflow with key stakeholders.


Once any revisions have been made and final sign off achieved, you can then implement the new procedure through staff training. Being sure to measure user adoption across the institution.


Procedure Development Planning: Final Thoughts

To recap, your procedure documents must have an objective, background, scope, responsibilities, definitions, a process overview, procedure steps and references.


Everything You Need to Know About Developing Advancement Operations Procedures


Not forgetting these success factors in your organization, either. They include:

  • Educating users on best practices
  • Standardizing how information is captured
  • Decreasing ramp-up time for new staff
  • Developing a reference library of business practices for all users
  • Informing users about how data entry impacts reporting


Once you develop and implement effective procedures, you’ll also want to manage and measure their success.


Procedure Development Made Easier with a Trusted Operations Partner

As a leader in higher education and/or healtchcare, it can be difficult to maintain service levels to demanding schedules and major donors. With proper standard operating procedures, your team can boost productivity while maintaining quality service.


Reach out for a customized consultation with Precision Partners, so you can focus on achieving your fundraising goals and maintaining excellent relationships with your donors.

How to Improve Your Advancement and IT Partnership

I often find myself at the intersection of Advancement Operations and IT Support. I consider both groups my colleagues. From each area I hear the frustrations and challenges about working together. What makes it so difficult for Advancement Operations and IT Support to work together and how can you improve these interactions?

Acknowledge and understand that you will often feel like you are speaking different languages. Use the following structure as a guide for your communication:


For Advancement Operations:

Discuss the business challenge that you are facing – how does it impact your daily operations? Why is it important to address now? Why do you feel that a technology solution will make it better? Discuss what you have heard and where you have received your information.

For IT Support:

Reiterate your understanding of the business challenge that Advancement Operations is facing. Actively get confirmation that you understood it correctly? Do you agree that a technical solution will achieve the desired results? If not, be very clear and specific why this is the case. If a technical solution is suitable, have you successfully addressed this issue or a similar issue before? Do you perceive any challenges or barriers to success? Are you available to help? If not, provide alternatives to address the challenge.

For Advancement Operations:

Reiterate your understanding of the technical solution, solution approach, or next steps. Actively get confirmation from IT Support that you understood it correctly. Do you perceive any challenges or barriers to success with the solution or approach? If so, be honest and discuss your concerns.

For Everyone:

All discussions should be professional and respectful. Every person in the room is an expert, it requires patience and an open mind  to communicate with colleagues who have a different expertise.

  • Be willing to explain the terms and acronyms that are second nature to you
  • Be willing to share a day in your life to provide context to the conversation
  • Be willing to stretch yourself and learn something new

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?

Know the Difference – Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement

For all of my colleagues in Advancement Services or for anyone in charge of Advancement Information Systems; I have a Precision Practices tip for you. I’m going to talk about the difference between Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement versus Implementing CRM Software.


If we look at implementing new CRM software as the entirety of the project, here’s what happens…we install our software, add some configurations and customizations to make it work for our specific institution. That’s it! These items consume our focus, attention, and resources. A successful project requires much more than that, so let’s shift our thinking to Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement.


Let walk through what that looks like. If you focus your project on implementing an entire solution for Advancement, that does include implementing the CRM software. But we also want to integrate the CRM software into the entire fabric of the technology ecosystem that already exists.
This can include things like:

  • An integration with a Document management system
  • An integration with a Financial system
  • An integration to the Grants Management system
  • For a University, an integration with a Student Information System
  • For a Hospital, an integration with a Medical Records System


But we don’t stop there…


The second component we MUST add is how do I make the CRM software a valuable tool for every staff member that uses it. In that case, I’m actually talking about a broader component of the project that will include an on-going Training Program. From a product training perspective, all of my staff members need to have a certain level of proficiency with different modules of the CRM software. It is highly likely that I’m also going to implement new workflows. As part of my Training Program I will also need revamp my policies and procedures. The primary objective is to provide guidance and establish a new business practice in daily operations for everyone who uses the CRM software.


The third component we MUST consider is Data Governance. There is a lot of information that is going to move in and out of the CRM software as it becomes an integrated part of the technology ecosystem. I need to look at establishing a Data Governance Structure. This is a Committee or Team who will actually provide guidance on an on-going basis to maintain the data quality and make sure the CRM software retains useful information.


The fourth component when Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement is populating the new CRM database with information from our existing system. How do I get my old data from my legacy system into the new CRM? This might not only be information that’s coming from the legacy system, we might also have shadow databases sitting out there that also need to be considered as well.


As a recap, we explored 5 Components that you MUST have equal amount attention and resources when Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement:

  • Implement the new CRM software with configurations and customizations suitable for my institution
  • Integrate the new CRM software in my technology ecosystem
  • Create a comprehensive Training Program that incorporates product training and new business practices
  • Establish an ongoing Data Governance Structure
  • Identify all sources of data required to move to the new CRM database


If I incorporate all of these components in my project charter and project management plan, I will achieve the true benefits of the CRM software and also meet the expectations of my Advancement staff.


I hope you found this helpful, comment and let me know what other items you would add to a MUST DO list when Implementing a CRM Solution for Advancement.

A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!


The promise of having accurate and reliable data is often made as a part of the implementation of a new CRM (constituent relationship management) software. It is that promise that often keeps every VP of Advancement/Development Services up at night trying to figure out how to miraculously transform over 10 years worth of information plagued by human error and evolving data entry procedures into something that is pristine, free of duplicates, and meaningful for all users. So why do we even take this on? Accurate and reliable data is critical to user adoption. There is no way of achieving all of the benefits that were listed in the project charter for this multi-million dollar system if no one uses it. So let’s take a look at how we can fulfill on this promise…


Continue reading “A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!”

Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?

Why doesn’t Business Process Improvement just happen?  This is an important question many institutions are trying to answer.  Let me suggest a better question to ask: What challenges will you encounter when trying to improve the critical processes that you use everyday?  Let’s investigate why this happens …

Continue reading “Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?”

Are You Using the Wrong Fundraising Model?

There are two main fundraising models institutions utilize.


Transactional fundraising and relationship fundraising. Although fundraisers say they want to build lifelong relationships, many fall into the trap of the transactional fundraising model. Can your current fundraising practices pass the pressure test for Relationship Fundraising? Continue reading “Are You Using the Wrong Fundraising Model?”

How do you know your new fundraising system is a success? Your staff actually uses it!


If you are not performing this then you may be missing a great opportunity to improve the success of your new fundraising system.


There is really only one way to find out how your staff feels about their new fundraising platform.

Continue reading “How do you know your new fundraising system is a success? Your staff actually uses it!”

Benefits of Having a Trusted Advisor On Your Advancement Services Team – Stay Ahead of the Curve

(This is Part 2 of a 2 part article. In Part 1 talked about the top 10 reasons why you need to add a Trusted Advisor to your team. In this second part I am going to a little more in depth as to why having one will help keep you up to date on the latest tools and technologies for fundraising and philanthropy.)


Do you ever get the feeling that you are the last to know about the latest technology, tools, and trends in fundraising? Sometimes just the fact of being made aware of new technologies and strategies by a volunteer or the development board can send you scrambling to implement the latest shiny new tool without the benefit of a well thought out plan or strategy.


Maintaining or stabilizing your current operations is important and can take up the majority of your time and focus. As important as that is, it is also imperative you continually strive to evolve and improve the operations. The competitive and ever changing landscape of fundraising demands that you stay current in the latest trends and technology. Without staying current your organization won’t have the right information to make key strategic decisions that will impact your overall success.


How are you supposed to accomplish all of this?


One solution is to dedicate 15% of your staff’s time to tracking and staying on top of the latest trends and technology. Have them get to know the vendors to discover and evaluate what new technology is out there and then determine what will work best for your organization. Have the team spend some time forecasting not only what trends and tools work today but how it will impact you in the future. By doing this you can stay ahead of the game and plan your next move.


Simple right?


Okay, we know that while that might work, the reality is neither you nor your staff have the time to do all that. As well-meaning as you might be to try, your day is too busy putting out fires and just trying to keep up with the backlog of projects. Your staff doesn’t have the time to stay current on everything that is changing and developing. The problem becomes the more it is neglected the further behind you are in terms of the latest technology used that makes all your efforts successful. It’s like being with a group of your friends while they are looking up restaurants in the area on their cell phones while you look at your old flip phone that doesn’t know what a browser or app is.


So what is the solution?


What about a trusted advisor that you can turn to that will provide you the information you need on a regular basis? Someone that specializes in knowing the fundraising market, knows the technology, vendors and trends. Someone that has the relationships built with vendors that would allow them to sit down and evaluate what will work for you. Your advisor needs to be someone that knows your organizational culture and business practices. Someone that can sift through all the noise and clutter and present you solid solutions to your fundraising technology needs. Someone that will listen and be able to advise you what will work now and in the future.


Your organization, the donors and your staff deserves the very best. By adding a trusted advisor that knows the industry and is interested in your success you can achieve excellence.


If you are want to be ahead of the curve in knowing the latest tools, technology, and trends in fundraising, give me call at (424)206-5379.


Profile picture

Dauwn Parker leverages her extensive background in CRM consulting and experience in fundraising operations to guide her clients to success. She offers her clients valuable leadership coaching, lessons for avoiding common pitfalls, best practices, tools, and techniques. Clients find Dauwn’s communication style as a differentiator in her services, whether conducting a large group facilitation or a one-on-one coaching session, she breaks complex concepts into consumable segments of information making it easy to understand for anyone regardless of their role in the organization, level of experience, or skill set.

Top 10 Benefits of Having a Trusted Advisor On Your Advancement Services Team

(Because this is such an important topic I decided to run a two part article. The following is part 1.)

At some point it becomes necessary to bring on a trusted advisor to take your fundraising efforts to the next level.

As with any business endeavor it helps to get the perspective of someone that is outside the normal team. There are several reasons for this. You don’t have the needed expertise, people who work together every day become comfortable with the way things are and sometimes overlook things, sometimes things just need a fresh perspective from someone that knows the industry and what your needs are.

After all many successful people have business coaches, companies hire security consultants to get an impartial audit of systems and policies, insurance or benefit advisors make suggestions as to the best plans for the company employees and list goes on.

Advancement Services provides the backbone of your philanthropy operations. Doesn’t it make sense that your Advancement Services Team has a trusted advisor to depend on?

The top 10 benefits of having a Trusted Advisor to empower your Advancement Services Team are:


  1. You want to expand and grow, to do this you have to take on projects that you have never done before. Having a trusted advisor who has the experience to guide you will not only reduce costly mistakes but assist in guiding you and your team to achieve the outcome you desire.


  1. You gain the confidence and continued support when collaborating or brainstorming with an expert. Instead of getting a staffer to research and analyze something in an attempt to determine if it is right approach, a trusted advisor will have the knowledge to quickly determine the right direction and present it to you.


  1. When you are inundated with requests for improvements or new technology a trusted advisor is able to give you an objective evaluation of what to do next that will align with your strategic vision and produce the most value.


  1. When you are faced with continual resource constraints having a trusted advisor on your side can help you develop and present a case for not only more but the right staff or technology.


  1. A knowledgeable expert on your team will be able to evaluate and give objective feedback on the health of your projects in progress and also provide an impartial assessment of the level of risk in your current business practices.


  1. A trusted advisor, that knows your industry, can assist you in assessing the skills of the staff and provide training and professional development coaching tailored specifically to your needs and goals.


  1. When you conduct executive briefings for your Chief Philanthropy Officer (CPO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO) having a trusted advisor, who is an industry expert, assisting in the briefing will help you to deliver information in a clear and informative way. The added benefit of having an expert with you in briefings is that it will help you convey your message in a persuasive and powerful manner.


  1. Continuity in the face of staffing changes. Things happen, people leave or have extended periods of absence. A trusted advisor, who understands the overall goals, can maintain momentum of the strategic plan and assist in the selection and orientation of new staff.


  1. A trusted advisor can provide you with access to a network of vendors, contracted resources for staff augmentation, and contacts at other organizations similar to yours. An industry expert will have the necessary contacts and resources, that you may not have, that can help get you to the next level.


  1. Having a trusted advisor brings you to the next level by achieving excellence through continued process improvement in records management, gift processing, prospect research, and portfolio management. Adding an industry expert on your team will help you incorporate industry best practices and keep you informed on how other organizations may achieve success.


Having a trusted advisor to guide you can mean the difference in standing still or propelling your efforts to the next level.

(In Part 2 we will discuss how having a Trusted Advisor is imperative when it comes to keeping up with the latest tools and technology in philanthropy.)


If you have the challenge of mounting demands and not enough resources,contact us at (424) 206-5379 to discuss how to jumpstart your productivity in the new fiscal year.


Profile pictureDauwn Parker leverages her extensive background in CRM consulting and experience in fundraising operations to guide her clients to success. She offers her clients valuable leadership coaching, lessons for avoiding common pitfalls, best practices, tools, and techniques. Clients find Dauwn’s communication style as a differentiator in her services, whether conducting a large group facilitation or a one-on-one coaching session, she breaks complex concepts into consumable segments of information making it easy to understand for anyone regardless of their role in the organization, level of experience, or skill set.

How to Select the Right Project Manager to migrate your Fundraising Database to a New CRM system


Now that you have finally decided to migrate all the fundraising data you have in various places to a sleek new CRM database there remains only one problem.

How are you going to achieve a donor database that provides clean data, solid reports and a staff that buys into the process?

Who are you going to put in charge of this monumental task?

In the early days of using computers, to manage fundraising databases, most organizations relegated this task to programmers. The organization didn’t understand the technology needed and didn’t want to be bothered as long as they could get the information they needed. The result was a programmer, with little knowledge of the industry, developing and acting as the Project Manager for the most important tool in your fundraising arsenal.

Selecting the right Project Manager is integral for your fundraising database migration and can mean the difference in having the project done right, in budget and on time or incurring cost and time overruns and not achieving the desired outcome.


An article by Benoit Hardy-Vallee, PHD, at Gallup states that there are 3 main reasons for project failures:

  1. Technical
  2. Individual
  3. Stakeholder

When selecting a Project Manager these are the 4 key elements you need to consider:

  1. A Dedicated Resource

The project manager must be available as a full time resource to the project. They cannot juggle their duties as the Director of Advancement Services or Manager of Information Support Services and lead this effort. Many have tried and learned that both the project and the operational duties have suffered.

  1. Domain or Subject Matter Expertise

Do they have the technical expertise and understand the fundraising business. Does the Project Manager have a successful track record of implementing the right systems and procedures that you need in order to achieve the desired goals in your organization? Your CRM database is the lifeblood of the fundraising process and it is imperative the Project Manager you choose understand the process. The consequence of not having someone with the technical and industry knowledge will result in simply going through the motions and not achieving the desired outcome.

  1. Leadership Skills

Do they have the necessary skills to pull together a cross functional team and move them toward the desired goal. The ability to communicate, assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses and maximize the productivity of the team members ensures not only the individual team members professional growth but ensures a cohesive team. When conflicts arise do they have the leadership skills to resolve the conflicts in a constructive and professional manner?

  1. Process Improvement and System Implementation

Database migration is never simply a technology project. User involvement, Executive buy in and facilitating the next generation of fundraising are all goals that need to be achieved. Failure to do so results in having the same inefficient processes, just using new technology. To fully realize a return on your investment the right Project Manager will implement the right processes and procedures tailored to your specific needs.

The right Project Manager will have the skills necessary to build teams, effectively manage time, have cross functional thinking, set priorities, coach, facilitate and delegate and most importantly, successfully deliver the desired results.

Selecting the right project manager is the determining factor in successfully implementing a new CRM database that will enable you to achieve your fundraising and engagement goals.

Leave a comment – We’d Love to Hear from You

What has been your experience – any lessons learned? Are there other factors when selecting a project manager that has impacted your project in any way?


Profile pictureDauwn Parker leverages her extensive background in CRM consulting and experience in fundraising operations to guide her clients to success. She offers her clients valuable leadership coaching, lessons for avoiding common pitfalls, best practices, tools, and techniques. Clients find Dauwn’s communication style as a differentiator in her services, whether conducting a large group facilitation or a one-on-one coaching session, she breaks complex concepts into consumable segments of information making it easy to understand for anyone regardless of their role in the organization, level of experience, or skill set.

Calling all Frontline Fundraisers – What’s in it for You?

Institutions are now required by their Boards to provide more transparency and accountability for Fundraising Campaigns. This has prompted an array of metrics that not only evaluate progress towards fundraising goals but also evaluates daily productivity.

Here are some metrics that might look familiar…

  • Number of Face to Face Visits
  • Number of Phone Calls
  • Number of Proposals Made
  • Average Time Spent in Cultivation
  • % Increase in the Number of Donors in Your Portfolio
  • % Increase in Dollars Raised from Donors in Your Portfolio

While there is no denying that this information is beneficial to Executive Management and the Board in evaluating progress and performance, what benefits do you receive as a frontline fundraiser? Share how you use Fundraising Metrics  – What works? What doesn’t work?

Leave a comment or email me at [email protected]

Are you learning your lessons too late?

If you are a diligent Project Sponsor and made sure that your team complied with industry best practices at the end of your project you participated in a Lessons Learned activity that pulled together the entire team to reflect on the project…

  • What worked worked well in the course of the project?
  • In what areas are there opportunities for improvement?
  • How can we get better results?

As each team members settles into the meeting usually on pins and needles expecting to be the target of rapid fire accusations for everything that went wrong. The project manager eases some of the tensions by establishing some ground rules and creating a learning environment for constructive feedback and solutions oriented thinking.

There is an uncomfortable silence until the one brave soul finally starts the conversation…

“Well, I thought adding an ice breaker to each meeting with our stakeholders got them more engaged, this turned into lively discussions and we were able to get more information about their needs, wants, expectations, and requirements. But, our method of managing the information was a little haphazard and it led to a lot of confusion and having to ask the same questions repeatedly.”

It just takes one person to start the conversation, pretty soon you can hardly keep up while one person after another chimes in with more examples. There is a frantic chorus of “oh yeah”, ” I agree”, “I remember that” as people start to dust off the cob webs of their memory to retrieve anecdotes, funny stories, unusual requests, victories, and defeats giving life to these project moments all over again.

It’s hard to disturb the conversation because you witness the natural team building and human connection that occurs during this process. The energy in the room is completely different than when meeting started, but there is still work to do. The project manager refocuses the team’s attention on the list of items identified for improvement. Its time to offer solutions and action planning – what can we do better? Once again a flurry of comments, suggestions, procedural solutions, system solutions, training solutions.

You are impressed by the wealth of information that was collected that will inform the next project. You are even more impressed by the process of collaboration, camaraderie, and collective problem solving. You compliment your Project Manager  for a job well done and feel satisfied that you are now equipped with insights for improvement.

So what happens next…

Nothing – Life goes on!

I am not making any judgements or accusations, I am just stating reality. It is rare that the lessons learned document that was created is even referenced after that initial meeting and as much as it pains me to say it, all of the great ideas for making things better in your organization are long forgotten.

So why does this happen?

This method does not take into account that there is a 90 day window where people must start seeing results to enact any real change. In other words you have 90 days to 1) clarify the idea or suggestion for improvement 2) create an action plan 3) get buy in 4) implement it (at least on a small scale) 5) measure it 6) communicate the results.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds like another project,  I don’t have time for that. What if I told you that this is possible by changing your team’s approach to the lessons learned process?

If you incorporate the lessons learned throughout your project, you will see the following benefits:

Effective Team Building – Lessons Learned activities during the project allow the team to collaborate and problem solve on real situations, not manufactured or simulated activities.

Culture of Continuous Improvement – Creating a culture of continuous improvement through frequent lessons learned activities allows for course corrections or change to occur in a timely manner. You have an opportunity to beat the 90 day time clock. Your team can actually learn the lesson and do something about it.

Increase Team Performance – Remember earlier how I described the anxiety in the room at the beginning of the lessons learned activity. This anxiety didn’t just appear, it has hampered your team throughout the project. By having lessons learned activities throughout the project, you give your team the opportunity to identify the problem, determine a solution, and move on. This eliminates a burden that often impacts performance.

If you are able realize these 3 benefits, not only have you sponsored a successful project, but you have impacted the way your team collaborates for future success. Doesn’t that seem like a lesson worth learning?

If you are the Project Sponsor for a non-profit CRM implementation and want to give your team the tools to be successful, send me a quick email at [email protected] to request a free project strategy session.

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant – Precision Partners

This is not warm and fuzzy

I worked with one of my clients to plan the kick off meeting for their CRM Implementation project. I started with my workshop Tools and Techniques – Planning a Successful Project Kick Off Meeting and the team was brainstorming on how to meet each objective of the meeting..

Inspire – establish a context that is larger than the project

Inform – define the project, clearly communicate to users the impact of their involvement,  and establish how they will receive more information

Engage – get users involved right from the start

In prior discussions my client expressed concerns about getting their users involved in the project, so I suggested that they conduct a commitment exercise during the kick off meeting.

Here’s how it works…

  • Users  are given cards during the meeting to write down their commitment to making the project successful. To make the directions clear, you can have the cards pre-printed with “My commitment to  [Your Project Name] is …”
  • Executive leadership and project team members publicly share their commitment to the project
  • All of the cards are posted on a visual display and should be referenced throughout the project.

After explaining the commitment exercise I could tell something was wrong, the energy and excitement was sucked out of the room in a matter of seconds.  Finally, one of the project team members let the cat out of the bag – “We don’t do warm and fuzzy here, these type of activities never work”

Here is the reality…there is nothing warm and fuzzy about this commitment exercise. If you are not able to engage your users in your CRM implementation, you don’t have a chance at success.

This is the kick off meeting, the very start of the project, you are still in the honeymoon phase, if you are unable to engage your users at this stage, its time to roll up your sleeves and do some heavy lifting. The benefit of doing an exercise like this, even if it fails, it gives you a critical piece of information that you didn’t have before – are your users engaged in the project? If the answer is NO, its time to get a plan of action in place to get them engaged. This is all a part of change management and any strategies surrounding change management takes into account human responses and natural tendencies. What is clear is that people are rarely inspired by technology, but they are inspired by 1)achieving excellence 2)making a difference or knowing that their contribution made an impact 3)being a part of something bigger than themselves. With any CRM implementation the technology is a tool that enables you to achieve your organizational mission. Focus on that aspect during your kick off meeting, this is what people really care about.

So with a little trust in their project advisor, my client included the commitment exercise in the project kick off meeting – It was a huge success! 

Let me share with you what worked well…

The VP of Development gave an inspiring talk that created a context for the CRM implementation project and concluded with a clear call to action. Each person was charged with “making [the institution] a world class fundraising organization.”

The Project Manager provided clear information about the project approach and how users would get involved and most importantly the impact of their involvement on project success.

I moderated a discussion panel to inform users about Constituent Relationship Management strategies. The panelists provided their insights into the keys to success for a CRM implementation and any lessons learned from prior experiences.

The results…the board that was purchased to display the project commitments could not hold all of the cards because the response from users was overwhelming. Prior to the meeting the team was concerned that people would not even write one sentence – they wrote paragraphs about what they were willing to do to make the project a success. The users even waited in long lines to make sure that their commitment card was posted on the board for everyone to see.

If you are planning a new CRM implementation or planning the next phase of your CRM implementation and would like to increase the success of your project by having your users engaged from start to finish give me a call at 424.206.5379 or email me at [email protected] so we can set up a time to talk.

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.  

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