As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m finishing up this update about our process of switching to a new Customer Relationship Management software. It’s what we use to track all of our giving and contacts. Many nonprofits use it to track relationships with their donors and help raise money.

The process has been long and is still ongoing. I want to be frank with you, but I also don’t want to leave the impression that it’s not worth it over the long-term! Even since April, when our SmartSimple portal went live, we have seen big wins for our organization.

Today I’ll finish up with talking about the challenges and benefits to our switch to a new platform.

What were the challenges in making the switch?

  1. Design – When you start looking into new systems, it’s important to do some planning and dreaming ahead of time. You need to know what kind of information you’ll want to collect, processes you can use it for, and what kind of reports you’ll need. CRM companies usually don’t want to sell you an out-of-the-box system because every organization’s processes are different.You will want to think through every field, its type (dropdown, text, checkbox, etc.), and what kinds of users need to fill it in. Without this, you’ll be constantly revising forms, which can be costly.
  2. Expectations – Our new system is still not perfect – no system is.  I think when we first embarked on creating a new CRM, I naively believed that this new system would be perfect.  I quickly realized that for all its benefits our new system still had limitations.  Prepare yourself in the beginning and you will be much more satisfied with the end result.
  3. Learning Curves – Another challenge is the learning curve all staff will have with the new system.  It is like getting a shiny new car but not knowing how to work the windshield wipers. Plan to spend at least 6 months “getting to know the system” and budget money for training.
  4. Balancing Workload – We considered hiring a consultant, but ended up thinking we could do the work ourselves. At this point, my colleague Karen and I have put between 10-50 hours each week making this happen. It will take more time than you think – so, at a minimum, I would suggest having a buddy. If you can hire a consultant, even better. Or, as I mentioned in the first part of this, you can try and get a pro bono consultant via our Taproot platform.

What are the payoffs?

  1. Automated Processes – When we are fully done with the switch, we will be saving a lot of time. For example, with our new system, we can now automatically upload Guidestar and tax status verification from the IRS to make sure the organizations we’re granting to are legit and current on their tax filings. We used to spend hours pulling this information for every application we received and now it happens at the press of a button.  Also, we automated our processes to include automatic emails when an application is approved or declined, as well as reminder emails that are automatically sent to remind grantees when a report is due.
  2. User Friendly – Grantees have told us over and over that our new system is more user friendly and self-explanatory.  Do we still get questions? Yes, but they are a lot less than we used to get. We used to dread deadlines for sponsorships and grants because of how many questions and requests for technical assistance were coming our way all because of our very old, outdated, confusing system.
  3. Flexibility – The cost of a new system is going to be high to implement, but we will be saving on our yearly subscription fees.  Another great feature is the ability to customize our database as our organizational needs change without having to purchase “plug-ins.”  We were trained on how to make changes ourselves and the quarterly updates are included at no extra charge.
  4. Better Customer Service – The customer service experience of our new system is unlike any other I have seen.  They work around the clock to fix any issues we might run across.  We can call them and submit tickets electronically.  Most of our issues are fixed with a few clicks of a mouse. Another helpful resource is that they have Wiki pages so we usually just google the issue and there is a step-by-step guide.

If you’re considering upgrading an out-of-date CRM, or maybe investing in one for the first time, I’d love to hear from you! If I can be helpful to you on your organization’s CRM journey, please reach out to me at

Have a great week,

Kellie Duhon
Corporate Giving Program Manager

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required