How Charities can drive more donations, with better engagement and increase operational efficiencies with CRM

Mike Lewis
Mike Lewis

The UK’s third sector is currently under financial threat, with many charities forced to reimagine their fundraising and stakeholder engagement strategies amidst a daunting cost-of-living crisis.

According to data from the June 2019 – December 2023 Charity Excellence Report, charities have grappled with declining performance since 2021 – a continuing trend only exacerbated by the government’s minimal action in the spring budget.

The cost-of-giving crisis

Dwindling support from donors and stakeholders alike can largely be attributed to the fact that people have fewer available funds in the current economic climate, leading to significant cutbacks in generosity. Of course, this comes at a time when a greater number of people are suffering, placing additional demand on certain charities to support those in need.

With so much at stake, its unsurprising that an overwhelming 90% of not-for-profits feel anxious about the future, according to CAF (Charities Aid Foundation). Indeed, as donors face their own monetary issues, Charities must face the resulting cost-of-giving crisis.

Shifting donor dynamics

Despite such deep-rooted difficulties, however, the spirit of UK giving persists. Donors and stakeholders are simply becoming more deliberate in their donations, perhaps limiting their support to the causes closest to the heart.

Charities must therefore extend their efforts to capture people’s loyalties, with a little bit of gratitude and a personal touch going a long way. Indeed, research from JustGiving underscores the importance of making donors feel appreciated, with the collaborative success of Bowelbabe charity and Cancer Research serving as a case in point. The results they achieved by working across a well-established audience was consolidated by relatable content and showing stakeholders they are genuinely valued – a clear sign that brand engagement must become a priority for all organisations within the third sector.

Equally, charities must become more adept at addressing specific audiences more directly. As we have seen, success very much requires a personal touch and, if Charities were better able to tap into the interests, mindsets and sensibilities of target groups, they would see a vast increase in performance. The UK Giving Focus Report by Blackbaud has revealed that the youngest generations are now among the country’s most significant donors, for example – so, gaining insight into this core group would really help to redefine successful engagement strategies.

Communication as a major roadblock

Nevertheless, this goal is nothing but a distant desire when operating on outdated processes and systems. Most Charities fail to upgrade their technological infrastructure, leading to the fragmented storage of data across multiple departments. This means that donor, volunteer and stakeholder data is often incomplete and cannot be accessed easily to generate insights. Communication between staff members is hindered, customers become frustrated upon waiting for the answers and organisations lose sight of their overarching campaign goals – with many hands stirring different pots – making it difficult to drum up the necessary support.

Centralisation as a catalyst for change

In order to overcome the barriers presented by this disjointed approach, Charities must look to a more centralised approach to data. Tools like CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) can have a huge impact when it comes to team unification, fostering seamless communication between departments, streamlining operations and enhancing donor engagement through more targeted, personalised interactions.

A centralised view of your can also unlock valuable insights, allowing organisations to identify trends and tailor their strategies to meet evolving demands, needs and expectations. Indeed, the solution is unrivalled when it comes to making informed decisions.

A survey conducted by Charity Digital and Salesforce found that 82% of charities with a CRM saved time, whilst simultaneously increasing their income. This is something corroborated by Blackbaud research, which found that organisations that used a CRM experienced a 43% increase in income over the course of a year, in comparison to just 33% for those without a CRM.

With a CRM, you can better manage donor and volunteer information. Loyalty and engagement rise, because you can determine which content is relevant to who, furthermore identifying relevant opportunities, which you can advertise through more personalised channels.

Meanwhile, rapid access to information means faster internal communications and faster decision making. Customers feel less frustrated and staff members can implement innovative initiatives in a shorter space of time. Plus, everyone on board knows exactly what the plan is, making it easier to stick to the overarching campaign goal, boosting mission clarity and, consequently, success.

Of course, a centralised approach to data management helps with risks like GDPR compliance, in addition to more practical impacts, such as, making it possible to track and measure the success of fundraising campaigns. Then perhaps most importantly of all, it allows charities to manage their automated communications, sending out personalised newsletters, appeals and thank you letters for that all important connection and gratitude – without expending too much time and energy on content creation. Core staff members can then use the time saved to focus on future strategy and innovation.

Navigating the transition

The issue is that, whilst those in charge of data transformation know how a CRM would transform things, they still find themselves up against a reluctance to abandon legacy systems, with poor integration, internal tech deficiencies, compliance gaps and a lack of data governance thwarting their efforts – not to mention the unyielding grip of budgetary constraints they must fight. As pressure mounts to increase donations and keep members on board, feelings of failure and frustration rise to the fore.

Presenting the suggested technological changes in terms of potential monetary savings, fundraising increase and growing engagement could help to overcome this. It’s simply a matter of proving to the board – or other core decision makers – that the investment will pay off.

Once realistic investment has been agreed, they can then look to change management to guide their Charity through the transition period. Indeed, by addressing concerns about new technologies, skills gaps and integration head-on, they can maximise staff and volunteer buy-in, securing successful CRM integration.

Change management specialists like Equantiis can help with stakeholder engagement, strategy, procurement, systems integration and skills augmentation, empowering internal teams to navigate new technologies with ease. It’s all about staff and supporter engagement from the outset, they know the challenges and issues, so involve them at the beginning to define the requirements, rather than making decision then imposing change on them. Engagement early on will mean support to drive change.

Robust data governance protocols can also be established to improve accuracy, security and compliance when handling donor and stakeholder information.

A more adaptable future

In the face of adversity, Charities must recognise the urgent need for collaboration and adaptability to overcome the challenges posed by the cost-of-living crisis. Embracing centralised technologies is not just a solution but a lifeline for organisations seeking to thrive in an ever-changing third-sector environment. By breaking down silos, embracing data-driven strategies and navigating the CRM transition with effective change management, Charities can pave the way for a brighter, more resilient future in fundraising and stakeholder engagement.

Interested in finding out more? Equantiis is here to help – book a meeting with a member of our team today.

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More about the author

Mike Lewis
Mike Lewis - Commercial Director

As Commercial Director, his focus is on the Sales and Marketing aspects of the business. Passionate about value-oriented sales, cross-functional stakeholder engagement and effective change management, with the goal of always focusing on delivering material impact to our clients. Across his career, Mike has worked with a variety of sectors, including Not For Profit (Charity and Housing), Healthcare (Public and Private), Finance, Banking, Retail, Distribution, Manufacturing, Automotive and Broadcasting. Outside of work, Mike is a keen DIYer, was a skydiving coach for over 21 years, holds a Private Pilot’s Licence, RYA Competent Crew (Sailing) and is passionate about all things music related.