Reinventing Charity CRM

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 02 August 2011
read time: 5 minutes

Over the past two years we've been busy working with a local charity on an exciting project to reinvent the way small to medium-sized charities use fundraising and donor management software.

The charity in question is our local Children's Hospital Charity which recently launched its biggest campaign to-date. It aims to raise £20million to help modernise its city centre site – the biggest thing to happen in child health care in our region since 1876. 

Children's Hospital Charity website

To support this ambitious campaign, the Charity recognised they needed to take a radically different approach to their fundraising and donor management software. So, two years ago they started talking to Yoomee about the problems with their current CRM and how to take a more joined up approach.

The old system

Their old system was Raiser's Edge which was complicated and difficult for the Charity's non-technical staff to use. It also needed an in-house server, and didn't integrate with their website or social media. Here's what a typical screen looks like:

The old system

Instead of building a web-based version of what the Charity already had, we asked the question: "What would a charity CRM system look like if CRM hadn't been invented?" We started dreaming about building a brand new system from the bottom up, that would feel more like a social tool akin to Facebook – which at the end of the day is just a CRM for your friends.

The dream

Together we dreamt of using the power of the cloud so the Charity's data could be accessed over the internet from anywhere, at any time and didn't rely on expensive in-house hardware and infrastructure. We imagined a combination of Highrise and Basecamp– some of the best tools available to business, though not specifically tailored for not-for-profit organisations.

We dreamt of a modern user interface which would mean staff wouldn't need to be trained, but could quickly pick up the system – much like using Facebook or any social media tool. Newsfeed, comments and notifications would be the norm. Staff would be able to comment on or action any item sent to an individual to-do list. Tagging would enable order rather than complex category lists.

We dreamt of full integration with the web, so when a donation is made online it would automatically appear in the CRM, alongside all related personal information and history. Funding targets and real-time progress would be automatically tracked on public campaign websites. And of course, automatically collecting all Gift Aid-related information would be built in.

We dreamt of supporting the administrate workflow, so 'thank you' letters would be automatically produced as beautiful PDF documents, cutting out the need for someone with specialist skills to mail merge databases with Microsoft Word templates.

The budget for the new system was tight, yet the vision huge – so we agreed to subsidise the development costs as part of our support for our local community and out of a desire to show smaller charities that different approaches are possible.

Making it happen

Development started in August 2010, and twelve months later the dream became a reality when the charity switched off their old Raiser's Edge CRM and we imported 10 years worth of data into the new cloud system; a total of 60,000 contacts and 162,000 donations totalling £11.7 million.

Over the last 12 months the Charity has used the software daily. It's not only a CRM, but also an integrated Content Management System (CMS) with online donations built-in. So it also powers their public website at .

All credit is due to the Children's Hospital Charity team for being brave enough to take a different approach, and resisting the urge to buy a complex off-the-shelf, stand-alone solution – just because that's what everyone else does. It takes guts to go against the flow and try out different approaches.

The new system

Here's a few screenshots from the new CRM system. The first screen shows the home page with a recent activity news feed. There's an easy to use search, and everything you see on the screen is clickable, so you can easily jump to view contacts and related information, just like when you're browsing Facebook.

CRM homepage

Each individual and organisation has a profile page (shown below) and a posting wall, where Charity staff can write notes. A newsfeed shows all recent activity against a contact, such as donations made, events participated in, changes to contact data etc.

On the right hand side, you can see related information, such as tasks to follow up the contact, events and donations linked to them.

You'll also notice we implemented a sophisticated de-duping function, so duplicate records can be weeded out (modelled on how Apple deals with duplicates in your phone address book). 

CRM profile

The donations area shows a news feed of donations received. We made heavy use of tagging so data can be organised flexibly and easily changed over time.

We were also inspired by Google Analytics and explored how donation 'traffic' could be analysed in much the same way as website traffic using interactive graphs.

And finally, we provided a way for each donation on the web system to automatically generate thank you letters that could be printed without the need for Microsoft Word and complex mail merging.

These thank you letters had to be easy for line managers to approve before despatch. So we made a system of 'queues'. Letters can be quickly viewed as a batch and approved in one action. After that, the only thing to do is hit 'print'!

Everything you see is accessed over the internet, so Charity staff aren't tied to a particular computer – the only software they need is a modern web browser. (That's what's meant by 'cloud computing').

Micro sites

Integrated Content Management System

The CRM also includes an integrated Content Management System (CMS) and an online donation system to power any number of front-end campaign websites. In the case of the Children's Hospital Charity this includes their main website, as well as the Artfelt and Make It Better campaign sites, all of which integrate with and are powered by the new CRM system.

Thanks for sticking with us and reading thus far! As you can see this project has kept us more than busy, and hasn’t left us with time to communicate this epic project or market it to other organisations. However, if you would like to explore how your organisation might benefit from using our integrated fundraising and donor management software, or you’d like to see more with a demo, then please do get in touch.

Posted on 02 August 2011 - By Andy Mayer
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