How to get your CRM system signed off internally

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So you’ve done your research, you understand the benefits of having a CRM system and you know that your charity needs one - how do you convince your boss/CEO/Board?

This is something that's cropped up a few times recently, so I thought it might be helpful to share some things that I’ve learned over the years. While working as a fundraiser myself, I had to pitch for a CRM system twice, in two very different organisations, with very different sign-off processes.

Today I’ll be discussing the first, when I was working in a small charity with a tight budget. We were using a variety of excel spreadsheets and MailChimp lists to keep track of our donors and volunteers and, up until I joined as their first Fundraising Manager, it was possible to manage activity in this way. However, having worked with databases previously and having seen how much they can improve efficiency, I knew I wanted a CRM system to ensure I was following best practice when setting up a fundraising programme.

But how to pitch this to senior management who had hired a Fundraising Manager to bring in money and, not, well, spend it?

These were the points I focused on:


Whilst GDPR often elicits groans from charities (I have actually had nightmares about privacy policies), one thing it has done is improved data security and relationship management across the sector as a whole. It’s important to give donors a choice in how they want to hear from charities and what they want to hear about. It’s also important to store their data securely and to be able to delete it at their request. Whilst you can do this all this without a CRM system, it can be difficult and time consuming to adhere to. This was one of the points I really focused on in my pitch to the board and it seemed to resonate well.

Time Saving

One of the best things about having a CRM system is that it can save you a huge amount of time. Reports on donors’ giving history at your fingertips, automatic gift aid claiming, integrations with MailChimp to track your comms - all of these things can take hours of admin out of your week, leaving you freer to do what you actually need to, whether that’s major donor fundraising, writing social media strategies, or managing events. When I was building my CRM proposal, I actually tracked over 1 week how long I was spending on doing these manual tasks and estimated how many hours of my time would be saved by switching to a database. I was then able to convert this into an estimation for how many extra fundraising proposals I would be able to undertake per month, but you could tailor this according to your role’s priorities. The main thing senior management want to see is that any money spent on a system, will have a return elsewhere.


I knew that our organisation had ambitions to grow its fundraising, comms and number of contacts. We were therefore going to have to progress from spreadsheets to a more sophisticated system at some point. I argued on going for it now instead of waiting. I explained that doing it now would mean a less intensive migration/onboarding process and would save money and time down the road. I worked out the cost of the CRM system over the next 5 years and allowed for any increases linked to growth of constituents. I also forecasted increased income (linking it to the time saved point) and set this against forecasted costs. This seemed to help our board whose main concerns were not knowing how much costs were going to increase in the future. 

Overall, persuading your senior management to go for a CRM system you believe is right might not be quick or easy. Sometimes they might not be familiar with databases or why they are important for fundraising. Other times they might have a system in mind that you know won’t necessarily be fit for purpose (whether that’s continuing with spreadsheets, creating a bespoke system, or moving to a system not well suited to your organisation’s needs). Alternatively they might just not have the budget to spend. Regardless, if you’ve done your research and know that this is the right step for your organisation, take the time to put together a proposal document. Clearly outline the costs, the process (who will manage the implementation? How long will it take? How much disruption is likely to be forecast?) and, most importantly, the benefits. Include any sector research and reviews that will backup your proposal. And stick to your guns. It will be worth it!

Good luck!


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