An Important Resource for Your CRM Implementation: FAQs


During your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project, usually there are a subset of individuals living and breathing the project. But the finalized CRM project impacts beyond this small subset of individuals. 


Things get even more complicated factoring in remote teams and time zone differences. 


This is why it is essential to create a resource users can refer to during the CRM implementation. Often overlooked, but a very important resource that is also highly effective is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. 


In the absence of information, the human experience goes to the worst-case scenario—increasing anxiety, frustration, and the fear of the unknown. The FAQ helps to offset this.


Here’s more about the importance of an FAQ as a CRM project resource and how to create one.

Benefits of an FAQ for your CRM Project

A good FAQ will reduce the workload on your team and provide consistent information. With the help of an FAQ, users are not getting information from the “rumor mill”–instead, they are getting facts from the resource. Also, information remains consistent through communication methods. 


For example, like the “telephone game” where a message can be altered even when passed from person to person in a relatively short line—information about your CRM project can become inaccurate as it is distributed.


Additionally, an FAQ provides quick access to accurate information in any time zone. Users won’t have to wait to resolve their questions, which is especially important if you’re short on time and you have global remote teams.


Finally, from a change management perspective, the FAQ is an important tool to build awareness of your CRM project. 

How to Create an FAQ for your CRM Project

The FAQ resource is usually maintained on a CRM project website. It is easily accessible to all team members—especially users who are not involved in the CRM project daily or those that work remotely.


Deciding what specific questions to ask in your FAQ document may depend on the CRM project itself and your unique needs. At the very least, provide questions that cover the basics. This alleviates the need to answer simple questions regularly. For example, “How do I login?” Or “Who should I contact with a login issue?”


After you’ve covered the basics, you can ask more fundamental questions such as:

  • What is the goal of the CRM Project? 
  • What does the term CRM stand for? 
  • What is an SME?  
  • When and how will I get access to the new system?
  • Will I be able to do everything I do now in the new system?  
  • When will the new CRM go live? 
  • Will I still be able to use the old system once the new CRM is running?


When implementing an FAQ resource, avoid the mindset that if you build it, they will come. So often, organizations create an FAQ that exists but isn’t used. This is because users don’t know about it. Create awareness of your FAQ by adding it as a part of your communication plan. Host a lunch and learn or town hall meeting or send a newsletter to consistently bring users to the FAQ resource.

Change Management Should Include Acknowledging the Current State of Society


Times of disruption foreshadow what the best leaders already know: Change is an inescapable reality of the modern workplace. Change is even more prominent in the world of advancement. But we’re in a unique time in that what people may be dealing with personally has used up their capacity for change in a professional setting.


As you embark on your change management initiatives related to your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation, you must acknowledge the capacity to change is at an all-time low. Additionally, there’s no compartmentalizing change. Everyone has a limited ability to change—personal as well as professional.


If you’re in a leadership position and feel pressured to move forward, it’s easy to forget these principles leading to the end goal. So, consider these four principles at the forefront of your change management processes.

Remain People-Centric

Effective change management is neither solely top-down nor bottom-up. Everyone in an organization has a contribution to make in co-creating workplace transformation. When it comes to organizational change management, even though the goals are toward the over-arching institutional initiative, fulfilling those goals is a collective of individual people.


You can’t take the people part out of it. Your institution will not achieve its goals unless the individuals that make up the department or business unit move forward and adopt the change.


Remain people-centric by engaging with them as often and genuinely as possible. Remember, people don’t change for policies or procedures, and they don’t change because they’ve been told they have to. Instead, people change for other people—for each other or themselves.

Offer Grace

During this unique time, offering grace is key to supporting your team as they manage change. Grace in a professional setting is about showing kindness and compassion even if they might not appreciate it or return the favor.


Here are four ways to exhibit grace as a leader during change management.

  • Anticipate and delegate needs: If you are aware of your CRM project or deadline, consider how you may be helpful to get it completed. Then, communicate and delegate those needs accordingly.
  • Forgive mistakes: Communicate that an error (within reason) during this time is acceptable.
  • Don’t react personally: During change, especially a CRM implementation, people may become frustrated—whether with each other or interdepartmentally. If this happens, don’t react personally. Instead, work to find the root cause of the frustrations. For example, was there a communication breakdown that contributed to the frustration?
  • Actively listen: When a team member needs grace, give it freely without questions, expectations, or conditions. Practice active listening—giving full attention to the speaker, empowering them to feel seen and heard.

Communicate Effectively

Now more than ever, communication is critical. But during these times, we need to go beyond that and become keenly aware of constructive communication. Constructive communication preserves a positive relationship between communicators while addressing problems. Poor approaches to communication, on the other hand, can exacerbate problems.


Here are a few ways you can practice constructive communication.

  • Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages
  • Communicate the entire message
  • Don’t use your feelings as weapons
  • Use specific language
  • Focus on the problem, not the person
  • Don’t dwell on past mistakes
  • Look out for mixed messages
  • Pay attention to body language

Instill Patience

During your CRM implementation, you’ll still want to remain results-oriented, but there is no point in moving at a pace where it becomes detrimental to individuals involved. Remember, solitary existence at the finish line is ineffective. 


The art of patience should be cultivated and practiced. Self-awareness is an excellent starting point. Focus on these tips for improving your patience during change management.

  • Accept what you can and cannot control
  • Manage expectations and strive for realistic goals
  • Practice kindness (to yourself and others)
  • Prioritize tasks and eliminate unnecessary ones
  • Strive for balance and positivity in your job

Leaders who take the time to acknowledge their team and meet them where they will be rewarded when their team emerges more resilient, capable, and trusting than they were at the beginning of the change management process.

Common Misconceptions of Organizational Change Management During Your CRM Implementation


Organizational change management within the Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation context is about getting users to adopt new business processes and procedures and the technology that enables them. And it should be an integral part of your CRM implementation.


But there are a few common misconceptions about organizational change management. Here’s what to consider.


Common misconception #1: Employees adapt to new technology quickly.

During a CRM implementation, there is plenty of new technology being integrated. This investment often incurs the expectation of gaining efficiencies. And these expectations can often create a resistance reaction to change.


Leadership may assume that employees will quickly adapt to transitional periods, and they do not account for the time or resources it will take to handle objections and overcome any conflicts that may arise.


As a leader undergoing organizational change management, remember that these implementations usually impact business practices, operational procedures, and daily tasks. How staffing is organized in terms of roles and responsibilities is also affected, and people in a business unit or department sometimes shift as a part of the project.


Common misconception #2: Training should resolve any discrepancies.

When it comes to organizational change management, people try to help transition from the current to the future state by going straight to training. They may think, “If we train them well on the project, that should resolve it.” But training is only one component, and it’s a downstream approach to organizational change management.


Leaders tend to assume that change can only come from the top down. However, it is impossible to successfully mandate the adoption of new business operations, technologies, or policies without employee buy-in. Training can’t resolve issues if employees aren’t willing to change.


Part of organizational change management is knowledge and skill building but it should be integrated within your culture for it to be facilitated successfully. This includes communicating with your employees about the change, why it’s happening, and what they’ll be expected to do throughout the process. They should also understand how it will affect them in the future, including their job role within their teams. Then, after you quantify the change’s impact, you can integrate an effective training program.


Common misconception #3: Organizational change management experts can resolve interdepartmental stressors.

Conflict is a symptom of people going through change, not what you address at the outset. As your team dynamics, roles, and responsibilities change throughout the CRM implementation, conflicts will likely arise. But that’s more of a symptom of improper awareness of the changes. If you’re facing conflicts during organizational change management, ask yourself:


  • Are people struggling or stressed about how to make those changes?
  • Is there resistance or desire to make those changes?


Conflict often comes about because of missteps of organizational change management. It’s not the root cause of what a change management program is trying to address. If conflict is not resolved, it can hinder progress, creativity, innovation, and productivity. Leaders should approach conflict management as a combined process of limiting the negative aspects while increasing the positive aspects of the conflict.

Interdepartmental Relationships Impact Your Institution: Here’s How to Repair Them


Collaborating between departments is key to the overall success of your constituent relationship management (CRM) project implementation. When done effectively, department collaboration increases efficiencies and dramatically impacts the overall success of an institution’s mission.


However, CRM projects are complex and often require departments to work beyond their daily to-dos, causing tension within their departments and, in many cases, tension between other departments.


The two departments that face the most friction when collaborating are often finance and advancement. If your institution faces challenges regarding interdepartmental relationships, here’s what to consider as you work toward repairing them.


Acknowledge the Differences

The first step toward resolving the interdepartmental conflict is acknowledging where both departments are coming from. This often begins by working to understand the different perspectives.


For example, the finance and advancement departments use similar data but for completely different purposes. The advancement team is focused on revenue tracking and management by documenting the donor’s desires. In contrast, the finance team is focused on the institution’s financial management system and allegiance. Both are trying to manage financial data and be fiscally responsible in all areas of the institution. But the dedication is two types of different people.


The second area where similarities and difference overlap are data consumption and performance reporting metrics. Again, these two departments will likely use similar data but have significantly different decisions and actions.


From an advancement perspective, they are evaluating the health of their fundraising and engagement programs. They’ll likely wonder, “Are we properly stewarding our donors and supporters?”


Whereas the financial scoreboard for the finance team is the financial health of the institution. They’ll be managing accounts, spending, budgeting, and proper allocation of financial resources to assess how the data impacts the institution overall.


Industry Guidelines

Not only do these departments face differences in how they consume and use data, but they also operate under industry guidelines from two totally different places.


For advancement, they’re looking at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) standards and how those impact receiving funds, counting gifts, and the donor bill of rights.


Whereas the finance team is guided by industry guidelines and organizations like the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and considers financial accounting and reporting for the guidance and education of the public, including issuers, auditors, and users of financial information.


Ultimately, as you work toward resolving conflicts between departments, the most critical aspect is to understand both sides. Advancement services need to know where the finance team is coming from—including their allegiance, how they work, and guidelines for standard practices—as does the finance team need to understand advancement.


Respect and acknowledge they come from two different perspectives, but always remain open to finding common ground. This is necessary for a successful partnership and advancing the institution’s mission.

How to Create a Project Sponsor Video Message for a CRM Implementation


How (and when) you communicate with project sponsors is crucial to your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) project’s long-term success. Open and consistent communication keeps your CRM project on track (and in scope)—ultimately supporting your timeline and budget.


But sometimes, traditional project communication is no longer enough. It’s time for a digital transformation of your CRM project sponsor messaging.


Your organization can benefit from the power of video. Video increases visibility—allowing you to create a project sponsor message efficiently and effectively for your CRM implementation. In fact, “in 2020, 96% of consumers increased their online video consumption, and 9 out of 10 viewers said they wanted to see more videos from brands and businesses,” Wyzowl’s Video Marketing Statistics 2022 report said. “In fact, as of 2022, an average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes per day watching online videos.


But if you’re wondering where to start, keep reading—we’ve created a template for you to customize!


Here’s how to create a video project sponsor message for your CRM implementation.


Solidify Your Messaging

The first step before you can create a compelling video for your project sponsor message is to understand your organization’s mission, goals, and challenges. Then you’ll want to understand who it is you’re talking to.


Finally, decide why “should” someone stop and continue to watch your video message.


Think about:


  • What is important to them?
  • Do they have any challenges to overcome?
  • If so, do those challenges hinder their ability to do [insert goal]?


Create a Script

One of the essential parts of creating a compelling video for your CRM project sponsor message is to create a script. Here’s how we suggest you put it together.


Talking point #1—Reiterate the CRM project mission statement and your connection to the project mission.


“The mission of the [insert CRM name] CRM project is to establish a shared view, connecting both the “brain”—that is, our customer data—with the “body”—that is, the operational, communications, and clinical teams that create the [insert organization] experiences every day. [Insert CRM name] CRM will provide an actionable 360-degree view, unlocking emotional intelligence to match our [insert goal].”


“As I think about the strategic vision of Development, the mission behind [Insert CRM name] CRM will light the path for us to reach our objectives. I am proud of the work we do here at [insert organization], and I am delighted that [Insert CRM name] CRM will enable our people to do their best work.”


Talking point #2—Inspire the team to succeed.


A compelling script and project sponsor video message focuses on inspiration. Here are some talking points that inform but also inspire your team to succeed.


“Positivity is contagious. I want to encourage you to cultivate a nimble mindset, keeping in mind the following:”


  • “Be flexible and adaptable.”
  • “Keep up the momentum and work efficiently.”
  • “Be open to working differently.”
  • “Keep it simple, cut through complexity.”
  • “Work together as a team.”


Closing –Thank the project team for their hard work.


Thanking project sponsors fosters a sense of loyalty and inclusion that, in turn, inspires the project’s overall success and helps drive it through the organization.


“A heartfelt thank you to the [Insert CRM name] CRM Project Team for their time and commitment to this effort.”


“Let the adventure begin!”

Change Management: How to Transition from Current State to Future State


Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems are often based between an “as is” (the current state) and a “to be” (the future state.) However, many project teams and organization leaders consider the future state only from an organizational perspective.


Common future state goals may include a documented and managed process like a production process with fewer errors or variations and an integrated data system instead of disparate legacy systems.


The future state is a critical perspective but should not be your only perspective when managing change. Here’s how to transition from current state to future state for effective change management.


Change Management Stages

All the stages of change management ultimately impact individuals and how they do their jobs. Therefore, one of the first steps toward building buy-in and commitment to change management is helping your project teams redefine how they view change. This involves helping them move away from a strictly technical view of the project and toward a complete view that includes the individuals who must ultimately engage with and adopt the change.


Before you can build buy-in and a commitment to change management, you must first decide what challenges to change (if any) your stakeholders face. In many cases, there are two scenarios when it comes to the change management processes.


Scenario No. 1: Long-Established Business Practices

In this scenario, you’re looking at changing long-established business practices. There are some challenges you may endure. One of the most prominent is that people get entrenched within it the long-established business practice, making it difficult to persuade change.


This is because some may feel the change isn’t needed—causing even more resistance to the change. They may also resist because they are attached to the process or because it feels uncomfortable to change—some may grapple with the change.


On the contrary, there may be a group of others willing to change, but it’s hard for them to visualize what that change would look like because they’ve been doing it so long. They may think, “I want to change, but what is that?”


The group of individuals that want to change but can’t visualize it may experience this because they are embedded in the current state. They built their processes based on what’s in their domain and what’s in their control—they’ve done this year in and year out. So, they may end up siloed in the effort to get things done, and siloed is never good.


The approach for this scenario, especially during a CRM implementation, is to create an immersion experience for the stakeholders. The immersion experience empowers stakeholders to learn new functions and features of the CRM software. Aside from not trying to replicate what you’re doing, but instead trying to get them to have a fresh start—leaving everything else and embracing the change.


There is a different openness to change when you create an immersion experience. The immersion experience encourages exploration and discovery of what the new technology offers without the constraints. To do this effectively, let go of current business rules and allow stakeholders to discover the technology without the limitations of “today.”


Here’s how to create a practical immersion experience.


  • Overview: Offer a guided tour of the CRM application, but the immersion experience is not training. It is not “this is how you do this” but a general program overview.
  • Basic Information: Offer instruction on navigation and terminology and provide a starting point.
  • Discovery: Have stakeholders commit (weekly) to allotting time for the discovery process depending on their comfort level. The discovery sessions can be on an individual basis or within a group setting.


From a change management perspective, the immersion experience is essential for moving away from long-established business practice.


Scenario No. 2: Emerging Business Practice

The second scenario you may endure during change management are challenges around emerging business practices with no concrete processes or plans. In this scenario, there is no proven track record for what works and what doesn’t.


There is a desired future state and benefits you want to achieve, but there is no evidence for getting from point A to point B, and there is no idea where to start. Moreover, because of the excitement of your CRM project, it may not be easy to reel people in from excitement.


The approach from a change management perspective is to become a guide and create practical parameters. In the first scenario, stakeholders are restricted, and you must implement a method of freedom. Within the second scenario, there are existing types of freedom, and you must create parameters.


The method for managing the second scenario is to prioritize the desired state. Identify the objectives you are looking to achieve, explicitly how to get them to the correct starting point to create something new but also viable.


For example, think about the change management process as a grid. The first column is objectives or desired benefits for the future state. The next column would be the effort associated with that. Whereas the third column would be the impact you expect to receive from the objective or desired state.


Then assess low, medium, or high for each objective.


You’ll always want to aim for something that would be a low effort but high impact—this is a good starting point to establish an emerging business practice.


Another to consider would be a low effort with a medium impact. It is best to avoid high effort with low impact—ultimately, you should always strike that off the list.


Change management supports the successful adoption of your CRM implementation and use of change within your institution—allowing stakeholders to understand and commit to the shift and work effectively. Your CRM implementation can be difficult and expensive without effective change management in terms of both time and resources.

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.

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.

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.


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.




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.