Constituent Relationship Management: A Guide for Success


For most nonprofit organizations, their most valuable asset is their constituent data. The right data allows you not only to contact the right people, but to personalize the content and timing of each message to each supporter. A nonprofit’s Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is usually the central piece of software at a nonprofit organization.

1) Why is constituent relationship management important?

2) How do nonprofits practice effective constituent relationship management?

3) What features should you look for in a CRM system?

4) How do you choose a CRM solution?

5) What’s the best constituent relationship management solution for nonprofits?


Why is constituent relationship management important?

A Constituent Relationship Management system is more than a nonprofit’s supporter database – it provides the intelligence and functionality that an organization needs to optimize fundraising and communication with their supporters.

How do nonprofits practice effective constituent relationship management?

  1. Target communications
    A donor database stores the information most critical to a nonprofit organization.  So when evaluating systems, focus on the core functionality to ensure that you can track and display the data most important to your organization.  You will want to be able to categorize supporters in multiple ways to ensure that the right messages are reaching the right people.
  2. Personalize communications
    In addition to targeting different messages to different groups of supporters, you can increase engagement by personalizing each individual communication. Simply adding the recipient’s name or other personal information to an email subject line
    increases open rates by more than 25%. Consider including personalized data in the body of emails as well. Including information about a donor’s last gift or personal information, such as a spouse’s name, can help you establish a closer relationship with your supporters.
  3. Identify potential major donors
    Major donors can not always be immediately identified through the size of their initial donation. Your Constituent Relationship Management software can be used to track donation history and integrate to third-party wealth data, allowing you to identify major donors more quickly and completely.
  4. Optimize fundraising campaigns
    Constituent Relationship Management systems will store detailed information about every campaign your organization has run.  Study engagement and donation rates by type of campaign, dates, target audience and more to optimize your next campaign for donations, number of new supporters, or other metric that is important to you.
  5. Automate manual and repetitive processes
    Use your nonprofit CRM system to automate email responses, internal notifications, reporting, and other repetitive processes where possible.  These automations will allow your team to focus on issues that will have the most impact on your organization, and will also ensure that nothing “falls through the cracks.”

What should you look for in a constituent relationship management system?

Whether your organization is large or small, consider using an organized selection project to find a new nonprofit CRM system.  Some of the items to evaluate:

  • Constituent groups – The system should allow you to categorize constituents so that messages can be targeted appropriately.  Different systems will use groups, lists, or tags to do this.
  • Family units – Most organizations need the ability to track donations and activity by family as well as by individual.  You should be able to build relationships between constituents easily in the donor software.
  • User-defined fields – No system is going to provide every field you need out-of-the-box.  Be sure that you have the ability to track any and all unique information that is important to your organization.
  • Reports and dashboards – These can give you a good picture of individual donor history, as well as organization and campaign-level status.  Be sure that you have the ability to create customized reports, dashboards, and queries to meet your specific needs.
  • Advanced tools, such as:
    • Next suggested gift amounts that are based on giving history and wealth data
    • Dynamic ask strings
    • Strong integration capabilities

See Salsa CRM

How do you choose a constituent relationship management solution?


An organized selection process is essential – follow these steps to find the right CRM system for your organization.

  1. Discovery
    Create a requirements list of features that your organization needs (and those that are “nice to have”).  Be sure to get feedback from all relevant stakeholders
  2. Create a Short List
    Research Constituent Relationship Management systems online, talk to other organizations, and solicit feedback from your staff to develop a list of applications to evaluate.
  3. Make a Scorecard
    Use your requirements list to create a scorecard.  Consider assigning 2-3 different weights to each requirement to properly identify the more important features.
  4. Schedule Demos
    Be sure to ask questions, involve as many stakeholders as possible, and try to see the same features in each demo to accurately compare systems.
  5. Evaluate Results
    Use your scorecard to evaluate results.  Were any systems missing key features?  What was the overall impression of each system?
  6. Present to board
    Many CRM system vendors can provide you with the information you need to present the software to your board.  Stick to the general capabilities, implementation timeline, and (most importantly) the expected return on investment.
  7. Contract Execution
    Be sure to understand exactly what the vendor will need to execute a contract and get you set up as a customer.  Who will be signing the contract?
  8. Implementation
    Rely on your software vendor to guide you through this process, but be sure to ask questions and involve every member of your team who will be using the system.
  9. Go-Live!
    Consider making your go-live day an event for your staff!


What is the best constituent relationship management solution for nonprofits?

Salsa CRM

Salsa CRM is the best Constituent Relationship Management system for nonprofit organizations using Salsa Engage for marketing automation and fundraising.  Salsa CRM and Engage work seamlessly together to provide a complete and comprehensive Smart Engagement Technology platform for nonprofit organizations.

Salsa CRM offers the following features, among others, to ensure that today’s nonprofits have the tools they need to succeed:

  1. Online and Offline Donation Tracking
    Salsa CRM will track both online and offline donations, providing both online fundraising forms and direct mail functionality.
  2. Unlimited Custom Fields
    Track every piece of information about your supporters that is important to your organization.
  3. Strong Integration Capabilities
    With available integrations to third-party tools such as wealth data systems, along with a customizable Zapier integration, Salsa CRM provides needed flexibility to today’s nonprofits.
  4. Rich Donor Profiles
    Donor profiles that supporter family relationships, giving history, and extensive demographic information are the centerpiece of the Salsa CRM system.
  5. Extensive Reporting and Dashboards
    Our popular constituent dashboards provides a central view of everything you need to know about a supporter.  Combined with campaign reporting and customized query tools, Salsa CRM delivers data to users in the way they want to see it.


Salesforce and the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) provide a full-featured, extremely customizable donor management for nonprofits with more advanced requirements.  

Because it is highly customizable, Salesforce can be used to create different experiences for different users and can be integrated with other solutions from the Salesforce AppExchange.  For example, combine Salesforce with fundraising and marketing automation tools, like Salsa Engage, for a complete supporter engagement system.  Salsa Engage for Salesforce provides a strong, bi-directional integration with Salesforce and is available on the AppExchange. 

Salesforce Nonprofit  provides the following features for today’s nonprofits:

  1. Relationship-first views of your constituent data
  2. Manage complex programs of different types all in one place
  3. Enter offline and recurring gifts individually or in large batches
  4. Insightful dashboards and reporting – all customizable to meet your needs

See Salsa CRM

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