Charity CRM Systems - The Best and Free CRM Software For UK Charities

Which are the best UK charity CRM systems?  How to choose the best CRM system software for your charity - the key issues in choosing, migrating and making the most of a charity CRM system.

Charity CRM Systems - How to Find the Best CRM Software for UK Charities

Which are the best UK charity CRM systems?  How to choose the best charity CRM software - the key issues in making the most of a charity CRM, including free CRM systems for charities.

With fundraising incredibly challenging, a charity CRM system gives you a powerful fundraising tool, but you need to choose the best CRM for your UK charity and know how to use it well.  This resource will help you to do that, including details of our friends at the Access Group who provide a cloud based CRM system specifically designed for charities and non profits.

What Is A Charity CRM System?

A charity CRM system is a software solution that helps charities manage their interactions and relationships with donors, supporters, and other stakeholders. It's like a virtual "hub" where all the information about these relationships is stored and organised.

Think of it like a big virtual address book, but much more powerful. It keeps track of important details about each donor, such as their contact information, donation history, communication preferences, GDPR consents and any other relevant information. This allows charities to have a complete view of each donor and their involvement with your charity or non profit.

It will also help you to manage your compliance obligations and ensure that you are meeting the relevant data protection and GDPR requirements.  The best charity specific CRM systems will do much including managing the Regular Giving processes by automating Direct Debit collections and claiming Gift Aid, managing Fundraising Campaigns and Donor Journeys and using tools like Marketing Automation to empower you to communicate at scale.

How A CRM System Helps Charities

A charity CRM system helps charities in several ways:

Organisation: It helps charities keep all their donor information in one central place, making it easy to access and manage. No more scattered spreadsheets or paper records!  This will help meet data protection obligations, but also ensures that everyone has access to the latest information.

Communication: A CRM enables charities to effectively communicate with donors. It allows them to send personalized emails, newsletters, and other communications based on donor preferences and interests.  More advanced CRM systems will also include automation tools to better target communications and ensure that the supporters stay engaged with your charity.

Fundraising: A CRM helps charities keep track of donations and fundraising campaigns. It can generate reports and analytics to show how successful these efforts have been and identify areas for improvement.  It will also show you your regular giving and membership programmes and the income that can be expected from those.  A key benefit is tracking progress of your funding applications and major donor approaches, so that key information is available to the team and income can be predicted.

Compliance: A CRM will help you keep track of your supporters consents and manage your GDPR obligations.

Finance Processes: A CRM will boost your efficiency, managing your Direct Debit collections and helping you to claim the Gift Aid that you’re due.  It will also send data to your Finance system reducing the amount of rekeying required during the reconciliation process.

Relationship Building: By having all the information about each donor in one place, charities can build stronger relationships. They can understand each donor's history, interests, and interactions, allowing for more personalized and meaningful engagement.

Efficiency: A CRM automates tasks like data entry, sending thank-you emails, and managing event registrations. This saves time and reduces the chance of errors, allowing charities to focus more on their mission and less on administrative work.

Charity CRM Systems - Problems

Charities often face several challenges when using charity CRM systems. Here are some of the main problems:

Cost: Charities have limited financial resources, and investing in a CRM system can be expensive. The cost of purchasing and maintaining the software, as well as training staff to use it effectively, can strain their budgets.

Complexity: Many charity CRM systems were originally designed for commercial organisations with complex structures and processes. Small charities may find these systems overwhelming and difficult to navigate. They might lack the technical expertise or staff resources to fully understand and utilise the CRM's features.

Customisation: Charities have unique needs and workflows that require customisation in their CRM systems. However, they may struggle to find a CRM system that can be tailored to their specific requirements, forcing them to adapt their processes to fit the system rather than vice versa.

Data Management: Managing and maintaining accurate and up-to-date data can be a challenge for charities. Those without dedicated IT staff, they may struggle with data entry, cleaning, and ensuring data integrity within their CRM systems. This can lead to inaccuracies and inconsistencies that hinder their ability to effectively engage with donors and supporters.

Training and Support: Charities may lack the resources to provide comprehensive training to staff members using the CRM system. They may also face challenges in accessing ongoing technical support and assistance, which can hinder their ability to fully utilise the CRM's capabilities.

Workload and Expertise: It can be challenging to implement and make the most of a CRM system.  Often people are doing this in addition to their regular responsibilities and it can be difficult to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the system.  Many Charities are not getting the most out of their CRM

Integration: Integrating the CRM system with other software or platforms that charities use, such as accounting or email marketing tools, can be a complex process. Without proper integration, data silos can occur, making it difficult to have a complete view of supporters and donors.

Key Things To Think About In Choosing a Charity CRM System

Key considerations in choosing a CRM system for your charity:

Cost: Charities should consider the affordability of CRM software, including licensing fees, implementation costs, and ongoing maintenance expenses. It is crucial to choose a CRM that aligns with the charity's budget and offers a favourable return on investment.

Ease of Use: User-friendliness is important, as staff members should be able to navigate the CRM system without extensive training. Intuitive interfaces and customizable workflows enhance adoption rates and reduce the learning curve.

Integration Capabilities: Charities should assess the CRM's ability to integrate with existing software systems, such as accounting software, email marketing tools, and online fundraising platforms. Seamless integration allows for efficient data sharing and eliminates manual data entry.

Scalability and Flexibility: Charities should choose a CRM system that can accommodate their growth and evolving needs. It should be scalable to handle increasing volumes of data and flexible enough to adapt to changing fundraising strategies or regulatory requirements.

Data Security and Compliance: Given the sensitive nature of donor data, charities must prioritize data security and compliance with relevant regulations, such as the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Your CRM system should have robust security features and demonstrate compliance with data protection laws.

Reporting and Analytics : A key benefit of a CRM system is the availability and centralisation of data.  Having good reporting and Analytics tool will help you make the most of your CRM system.

Access Group Charity CRM System

Our friends at the Access Group provide a non profit and charity CRM system that is a powerful, easy-to-use donor database.  It enables you to mount more successful campaigns through intelligent targeting and user activity insights and includes event management (including planning to post-event analysis), insights into income, attrition, new donors and more.

It also helps to create predictable income through effortless Direct Debit processing, has data protection with ISO-12007 compliance and allows you to track supporter interactions across multiple channels.

Click this link to watch a short demo video and to find out more.

Choosing a Charity CRM System - Other Things To Think About

In addition to the key considerations above, there are several other factors that your charity may wish to think about when choosing a CRM system:

Accessibility and Mobility: Consider the accessibility and mobility features of the CRM system. A cloud-based CRM allows access from anywhere with an internet connection, facilitating remote work and on-the-go access. Mobile applications or responsive interfaces are valuable for staff who frequently work outside the office or need to access donor information while attending events.

User Roles and Permissions: Evaluate the CRM's ability to define user roles and permissions. A robust CRM should allow administrators to control access levels and assign specific permissions to different users. This ensures data security, privacy, and appropriate access for staff members based on their roles and responsibilities.

Support and Training Resources: Assess the level of support and training resources provided by the CRM vendor. Determine whether they offer comprehensive documentation, online tutorials, training videos, and user forums. Adequate support and training materials can empower staff members to utilize the CRM effectively and troubleshoot issues independently.

Scalable Integrations: Consider the CRM's ability to integrate with other software systems that the charity currently uses or may adopt in the future. Common integrations include email marketing platforms, accounting software, event management tools, and online payment gateways. Seamless integrations improve efficiency, data accuracy, and the overall user experience.

Reporting and Analytics: Evaluate the reporting and analytics capabilities of the CRM system. Look for features that allow charities to generate standard reports, customize reports, and visualize data in meaningful ways. Advanced analytics tools can provide insights into donor behaviour, campaign performance, and overall organizational effectiveness.

Donor Communication and Engagement Tools: Consider the CRM's communication and engagement features, such as email marketing, social media integration, and personalized messaging capabilities. Look for features that enable segmentation, automation, and tracking of communication efforts to tailor interactions with donors and supporters effectively.

Data Backup and Recovery: Assess the CRM's data backup and recovery mechanisms. It is essential to have regular, automated backups of the CRM database to protect against data loss due to hardware failures, human error, or security breaches. Check if the vendor offers data recovery options and how quickly they can restore data in case of emergencies.

Ongoing Costs and Licensing: Consider the ongoing costs associated with the CRM system, including licensing fees, maintenance fees, and any additional charges for modules or add-ons. Understand the pricing structure and ensure it aligns with the charity's long-term budget and growth plans.

Vendor Reputation and Support: Research the reputation and track record of the CRM vendor. Look for customer reviews, testimonials, and case studies to assess their reliability, customer satisfaction, and commitment to the charity sector. Also, evaluate the vendor's customer support offerings, including response times, availability, and the effectiveness of their support team.

Charity CRM System Pricing - Things To Think About

When considering charity CRM software pricing, both the initial purchase and ongoing costs need to be taken into account. It's important to thoroughly review pricing plans, engage in discussions with CRM vendors, and ask for detailed pricing breakdowns to ensure transparency and avoid any hidden costs. Additionally, consider the scalability of the CRM system and how pricing might change as your charity grows and its needs evolve.  Here's a checklist.

Charity CRM System - Initial Purchase Costs:

License Fees: Understand the pricing structure of the CRM system, whether it is a one-time license fee or a subscription-based model. Compare different vendors to find the most affordable option.

User Licenses: Consider the number of users who will need access to the CRM system. Some vendors charge per user, so ensure the pricing aligns with your organization's needs and budget.

Implementation Costs: Determine if there are any additional fees associated with the implementation of the CRM system. This may include data migration, customisation, and training costs.

Charity CRM System - Ongoing Costs:

Subscription Fees: If the CRM system follows a subscription-based model, evaluate the ongoing costs involved. Consider the frequency of payments (monthly, quarterly, annually) and ensure it fits within your budget.

Maintenance and Support: Check if ongoing maintenance and support are included in the subscription fee or if there are additional charges. Understand the level of support provided and any associated costs for upgrades, bug fixes, or technical assistance.

Add-Ons and Integrations: Assess whether there are any additional costs for integrating the CRM system with other tools or for accessing specific functionalities through add-ons or plugins. Understand the pricing structure for these extras.

Data Storage and Usage: Consider the amount of data your charity will be storing in the CRM system and any associated costs for storage or exceeding data limits. Evaluate if there are any usage-based charges for features like email marketing or campaign management.

Training and User Support: Determine if ongoing training and user support are included in the CRM pricing or if they require additional investment. Consider the availability of resources, tutorials, and user communities that can help reduce costs associated with training.

Choosing The Best CRM System For Your Charity:

Needs Assessment: Evaluate the specific needs and goals of the charity, considering factors such as donor management, fundraising requirements, and reporting needs. Identifying the desired features and functionality will help narrow down your CRM system options.

Research and Vendor Evaluation: Conduct thorough research on available charity CRM system providers, considering their reputation, experience in the charity sector, customer reviews, and case studies. Request demos or trials to assess the CRM's suitability for your organization.

Customisation and Support: Assess the CRM's ability to be customised to meet your charity's unique requirements. Additionally, consider the level of technical support and training offered by the CRM vendor, as ongoing assistance is crucial for successful implementation.

User Feedback and References: Seek feedback from other charities or organizations that have used the CRM system you are considering. Their first hand experiences can provide valuable insights into the CRM's strengths, weaknesses, and overall satisfaction.

How Can I find a Free Charity CRM System?

There are a number of free charity CRM systems.  Be aware that, a lot of CRMs offer free plans, but as you add contacts, you eventually end up having to pay.  However, you can use the free Charity Excellence Help Finder to find genuinely free charity CRM systems.  Use the Software & Hardware search category.

Migrating To a New CRM System

Data Migration: One of the primary challenges in CRM system migration is transferring data from the existing system to the new one accurately. Issues may arise due to data format discrepancies, data duplication, or missing data fields. It is crucial to plan and execute a thorough data migration strategy to ensure a smooth transition.

System Compatibility: Compatibility between the old and new CRM systems can present challenges during the migration process. Integration issues may occur when attempting to transfer data or connect with other software applications. It is essential to assess the compatibility of the new CRM system with existing infrastructure and data formats to minimize disruptions.

Data Cleansing and Standardisation: During migration, it is an opportune time to clean and standardize data. However, inconsistencies, outdated information, or duplicate records may complicate this process. It is important to establish data cleansing procedures and define data standardization rules to ensure data integrity and accuracy in the new CRM system.

Customisation and Configuration: The new CRM system may require customization and configuration to meet the specific needs of the charity. This process involves recreating workflows, custom fields, and automation rules from the previous system. Proper planning and testing are essential to ensure that the new CRM system is tailored to the charity's requirements.

Training and User Adoption: Migrating to a new CRM system often involves a learning curve for staff members who need to become familiar with the new interface, features, and functionalities. Adequate training and support are necessary to ensure smooth user adoption and to maximize the benefits of the new system. User feedback and engagement during the migration process can help address any concerns or resistance.

Downtime and Business Continuity: During the migration process, there may be a period of downtime when the old system is no longer accessible, and the new system is being implemented. It is crucial to plan for this downtime and communicate with stakeholders to minimize disruptions to day-to-day operations. Developing a comprehensive business continuity plan can help mitigate any potential negative impacts.

Testing and Quality Assurance: Rigorous testing and quality assurance processes are vital to ensure that the new CRM system functions as expected and meets the charity's requirements. Thoroughly test data migration, system functionality, and integrations to identify and address any issues or bugs before fully transitioning to the new system.

Stakeholder Communication and Change Management: Effective communication with stakeholders, including staff, donors, and volunteers, is essential throughout the migration process. Managing expectations, providing updates, and addressing concerns can help alleviate any anxieties and ensure a smooth transition. Change management strategies should be employed to support staff members in embracing the new CRM system and understanding its benefits.

UK Charity CRM System Case Study

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. Their vision is a society in which women and girls in all their diversity are equal and truly free to fulfil their potential creating a stronger, happier, better future for us all.

Before Valerie Derrett,  Database and Support Services Officer at Fawcett Society, joined the charity in September 2021, they never had a data focused expert on the team so the data was mixed which reduced the quality of reporting, and the ability to manage digital campaigns, create mailing lists and log donors communications.

As Valerie started with Fawcett Society, her first objective was cleansing the charity’s data and quickly became a massive fan of the Access Charity CRM.

‘Now that the team are using it more and in the right way, it is so much easier to look up a contact in a particular organisation and all the emails are logged.

When a new person starts it’s so much easier to look back through all the logged contacts and

that is very beneficial for us because it keeps our organisation’s history in one place.’

Thanks to the Access Charity CRM and the Premier Success Plan they were also able to claim a missed Gift Aid payment of over £5000 and they also now know how to maximise claims in the future.

Discover their full journey with the Access Charity CRM.

Free Support for Charities - Find Funding, Free Help & Resources

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Charity CRM Systems and AI

In accordance with our AI policy, we always make clear when anything we produce was created solely by AI created, partially or human created only.  This resource was partially created using ChatGPT4.

AI has the potential to significantly transform charity CRM use in several ways, including Data Analysis and Insights, Personalised Donor Interactions, Automated Workflows and Processes, Predictive Analytics and Prospect Identification, Social Media and Sentiment Analysis, Fraud Detection and Risk Management, Donor Journey Optimisation and Intelligent Fundraising Campaigns.

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