Improving Productivity at Not-for-Profits with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

A daily struggle for not-for-profit organizations is the need to do more with less. But finding the most beneficial way to maintain and cultivate relationships with constituents such as donors and volunteers is also of the utmost importance

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a solution that allows your organization to holistically manage your relationships in a user-friendly manner that integrates with your existing framework

Many not-for-profit organizations have difficulty identifying their key constituents and presenting them with the right information and the right frequency of contact. You want to gain a better understanding of your stakeholders and the information they are looking for as well as how they want to be communicated with.

Progressive organizations are looking for ways that technology can assist in enhancing and growing relationships. Many organizations are currently operating with outdated technology that poorly integrates with other back office systems leading to insecure data and inefficient processes. Others operate with manual-based systems which are sometimes prone to errors such as duplication and require a significant time investment.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is often seen as a sales application, but “accelerators” have been implemented to tailor the software to specific industries including not-for-profits. The software’s functionality, cost effectiveness and ability to integrate with existing systems make it an ideal relationship management system for many organizations. The not-for-profit accelerator includes key metrics such as:

  • Donation and pledge management
  • Basic membership management
  • Volunteer tracking
  • Campaign management
  • Event management
  • Case management
  • A series of typical Excel dashboard reports

The functionality of the application sets it apart, allowing for organizations to tailor the software to their specific needs. Every organization has a specific mission and goals, so Dynamics CRM allows for a high level of customization of data fields and data sets. The application also allows users to create workflow to enable business processes across the organization as well as in-depth analytical reporting and dashboards.

Dynamics CRM integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft applications as well as other existing back office software. It can work along with your financial management tools, accounting software and donor management applications to give you a 360 degree view of your organization to ensure that you are servicing your constituents effectively.

New users of Dynamics CRM are likely to be familiar with its framework, as it looks and feels very similar to Outlook, a software that many organizations already utilize. Dynamics CRM can actually be deployed within Outlook, as it is presented as a series of folders within the tool. This allows organizations to command their communications and relationship management from one place.

Another benefit included is increased access for users, as it can also be used through a Web browser. A user can login securely and use the application anywhere at any time while access can also be attained for users in the field using PDAs or smartphones. So remote users, whether at home or in the field, can be enabled with the type of access that is right for them.

When viewing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you will first see your customized workplace, complete with reports that you have selected as well as specific activities that require action. From this screen, you can immediately see information that you have designated as critical as well as managing and delegating tasks. Each of these can be drilled down into through several levels to show detailed data and information on demand.

Similar to the workplace desktop, areas are also available for managing relationships, donations and campaigns.

  • The relationships area shows basic information that is associated with constituents, relationships, donation information and demographics. It also includes a significant amount of information that can be tracked and tailored such as marketing lists and campaigns that constituents are a part of.
  • The donations desktop can be used to create programs, assign goals and track pledges. Donations that have been made can be seen and new pledges can be inputted and assigned toward specific campaigns. Donation status is also documented, such as those that are open, processed or collected.
  • The campaigns area allows users to set up and manage marketing lists as well as specific campaigns. You can create and populate a new list for mailings, quick campaigns or larger campaigns as well as set up a campaign, including task planning, pledge tracking and event registration.

The software is a very cost-effective solution for organizations, and it comes in two different forms to provide value and best fit individual needs. It can be purchased as Software as a Service (SaaS) or through a traditional on premise licensing agreement. The SaaS option allows your organization to purchase a specific number of monthly licenses, allowing for changing needs and demand. The traditional on-premise licenses allow you to use the same customized software but run it on your own hardware, or in a hosted environment where you own the software.

The software has the ability to evolve with your organization as start out with the SaaS option to get used to the software, then grow the use of the application because of its customization abilities. After determining whether it is effective in their environment, they then make a decision on whether to make a transition to a more traditional model. The specific data and metrics are preserved if an organization chooses to move from SaaS to conventional on-premise licensing.

As mentioned earlier, Dynamics CRM has close ties with other Microsoft applications, such as Office, SQL Server and Exchange. This integration allows for benefits such as coordinated letters and mailings through Word, information distribution through Excel, reporting and analytics through SQL Server and document management through SharePoint.

Organizations do not have to have a high level of technical ability to operate and maintain Dynamics CRM. Since it is based on popular Microsoft applications, most users will not have the typical learning curve that comes with new software, as they are likely already familiar with the layout and commands. Cost savings are also achieved in regard to maintenance, as designated power users can update the software instead of programmers or technical staff.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides a high return on investment for organizations, offering a practical relationship management application that is highly customizable and provides a complete view of the activities that your constituents take part in. The software has the ability to greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaigns, promoting growth for your organization.

For more information, please contact RSM Managing Director Mike Nafziger at 612.376.9249.

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