Skip to main content
Website & Technology

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Nonprofit CRM Software + Our Top Picks

Author: Tatiana Morand
February 26, 2020
🕑 14 min read

Let’s face it — sometimes working at a nonprofit is like herding cats.

When you consider the volunteers, staff members, donors, potential donors, and event attendees (to name a few!), it’s a lot to track – and track down!

Just look at the Asheville Humane Society.

They invested in a CRM solution that included solicitation analysis reports. After really diving in and reading the reports, the Asheville Humane Society determined they could be more aggressive with their campaign approach, resulting in a far surpassed goal.

The same software alerted the organization to lapsed donors, helping them reach out to find out why to overcome those obstacles. All things, they pointed out, that an Excel document just couldn’t do.

And that’s why picking the best nonprofit CRM software is so important.

Although it might initially seem overwhelming, I’m here to break it down for you.

In this post, I’m going to cover:


Free Best Nonprofit Software

What a Nonprofit CRM Is

The acronym CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.

So, nonprofit CRM software is a database that allows you to see all of the relationships you have in one place. You can include names, donation amounts, donation dates, notes on their likes and dislikes… really any kind of record that you’d like to keep track of.

And why is this helpful?

Simply put, nonprofit CRM software helps you build deep and meaningful relationships. Think back to a world when you didn’t have social media to remind you of your friend’s birthday. It was much harder to remember the details, wasn’t it?

CRM software for your nonprofit can help with a variety of common tasks, including:

  • tracking donation amounts

  • the last time your organization interacted with a constituent

  • when a volunteer last contributed their time

And so on.

Think of your CRM as your report dashboard, your reminder to reach out to various contacts (like that helpful birthday notification on Facebook!), and your accountability partner. Additional functions range from pulling analytic reports to the ability to update donor information on your phone.


Why You Need a CRM Solution

Essentially, you can’t afford not to have a CRM solution for your organization.

The costs you’ll save in time and money as well as donor and staff retention will pay for itself.

Wondering what I mean?

Here are the top three ways I’ve seen nonprofit CRMs come in handy.


Time is Precious

nonprofit crm time

Is this you waiting to pull donor reports from Excel? 

If you can easily access the info you need, your time can be better spent doing “make the world a better place” type of things, instead of “where is the contact info for the donor we should have reached out to a month ago” type of things.

For example, OneHope, a large faith-based nonprofit, partnered with Virtuous to help solve a major pain point — entering in donations on the back-end and tracking them.

“The time it takes our partner services team to enter gifts is less than half of what it used to be. We went from a 3-day processing time to less than a day to enter and receipt.” —Sheryl Root, Partner Database Manager

Remember, training is incredibly important for your staff and anybody that can access the CRM. If the software you’re using is too hard to use, you end up spending money on a “solution” that is, instead, an obstacle.


Money, Money, Money 

nonprofit crm money gif

This is the dream… sigh.

Money makes the world go ‘round, and don’t we KNOW it in the nonprofit industry!

Depending on the size of your organization, money will play a factor in choosing your CRM. If you have little to no budget, have faith! Below you’ll see that there are even no-cost CRM options, despite your budget (or lack thereof).

You should definitely think of your CRM software as an investment rather than an expense. If you don’t track vital information in the donor process, like touchpoints, you may lose out on major donations. It’s all about the cost benefit for your organization.


Data is Utilized to the Fullest

counting on fingers nonprofit crm

Wait, how many months ago did I call that major donor?

As if freeing up your time and money weren’t enough to get you on board, CRM software means you’re utilizing your data to the fullest. It’s hard to keep things organized and remember when it’s time to follow-up without order in our chaotic nonprofiteer lives!

If your member data isn’t organized in a place you’re frequently checking, it’s not going to get attention from you or your staff. Out of sight, out of mind! Make sure it’s front and center in a CRM system that is easy to navigate for best results.


What To Consider When Choosing A CRM

This is no small decision for your organization.

After all, the last thing you want to do is end up trapped with software that doesn’t make sense for your specific needs.

Take the time to ask yourself these 5 questions before you schedule a demo with a software provider.

 1. Who (and how many people) will be using the CRM?

Many software platforms charge per “seat”, or per user. If a lot of your team need access, it can get costly fast! If you’re looking into a CRM that does this, make sure you’re


2. What information do I need to track?

If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, you might want to track more than just donors. Many nonprofit CRMs include the option to track volunteers and staff as well, or will also include fundraising management as part of the platform.


3. What does the training look like to implement the CRM?

Some software platforms offer free training; others offer it at a cost. Some will also have more comprehensive help documentation or videos that you can follow to get yourself set up.


4. How fast can we get our new CRM up and running?

If you’re already using a CRM and want to switch to a new one, the process can be more time consuming since you’ll have to migrate all your data. This is especially true if you have a lot of special reports set up or a lot of custom fields — always budget more time than you think you’ll need.


5. What am I willing to spend to make this possible?

The biggest question of all!


5 Key Features to Look for In a CRM

Although the ideal CRM will have a variety of features, there are a few that are particularly critical for your organization to consider. Here are the ones other organizations I’ve worked with have found the most useful.


1. Keep it Simple

The easier something is to use, the easier it is for you to get your staff on board with properly using it. Software like this used to come with a manual and a wish of good luck. Nowadays, much of the software is self-explanatory, and there’s a team of experts on-call to help if needed.


2. Keep it All In the Same Place

Software is meant to make your life easier, not more complicated.

So, when picking a CRM, keep an eye out to make sure it integrates with your fundraising software. That way, when a donation is made, you want that to automatically be reflected in your database so there’s no manual entry. Again, this saves you time!

If you don’t have the budget for fundraising software, some CRM solutions have additional options to create donation pages and process donations. Make sure when you’re testing different options that you’re upfront about your total budget and all needs for your CRM.


3. Keep it Personal

Being able to create a variety of audiences for different campaigns and causes will help you align your message and personalize it for their interests.

So, your CRM should have full capability to separate and segment your contacts into lists based on age, past giving, location… The list goes on.

This helps streamline your communication to specific groups. A blanket statement to all donors has much less impact than targeted, heartfelt messages that make sense based on the segmentation options, like location, age, or past giving.


4. Keep it Automatic

Being able to schedule automatic responses when someone gives or signs up for a volunteer shift is one of the biggest time-savers that a CRM allows.

But remember, just because it’s automated doesn’t mean you can go full robot. Put personality into every touchpoint with donors and constituents.


5. Keep it On-the-Go

We’re living in the 21st century — your CRM solution should act like it!

Many CRM solutions, like WildApricot, offer mobile versions of their application so you can easily input information when it happens. That means you can also easily access donor information on the fly, including contact info, when you may need it most!

Free Best Nonprofit Software


12 Nonprofit CRM Solutions to Consider

Ready to make a decision? Check out these nonprofit CRM tools worthy of your consideration:

1. Blackbaud

blackbaud nonprofit crm

This is a solution for large nonprofit organizations. In one case after utilizing Blackbaud CRM™, the University of Georgia increased their fundraising by $14.3 million.

Other Highlights:

  • ResearchPoint™ within Blackbaud allows users to identify prospect wealth, liquidity, connections, and philanthropic affinity
  • Allows you to track the full fundraising process, from acquisition to cultivation to stewardship of major donors

An Awesome Feature: Fundraisers out in the field can update information from their smartphones. In a world where “on-the-go” is a part of fundraisers’ vocab, this helps ease the information tracking process.

Real Feedback from Users:

“Because of Blackbaud, Boys Town can now measure our effectiveness. We can measure donation forms that are working. We can measure digital email campaigns that work for Boys Town, so that we can spend our efforts on what’s working.” 

Lisa Hukill, Senior Officer of Development, Boys Town 


2. Bloomerang

bloomerang nonprofit crm

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know how interested a donor was in investing in your organization? This software offers an “engagement meter” based on the past interactions a donor has had with your organization.

There’s also a “generosity score”, which uses publicly available philanthropic screening data to identify top prospects in your database.

Other Highlights:

  • Manage donors, volunteers, sponsors, grantees, & more in one place
  • Get real-time retention and engagement metrics

An Awesome Feature: There are lighter options for the non-established nonprofit. Everybody has to start somewhere! If you’re operating off of a spreadsheet and just starting out, they may be able to help. (There’s even a completely free option!)

Real Feedback from Users:

“This is the first donor data management system that was built to NOT require a user’s manual. If you have a lot of turnover in this position, Bloomerang could solve a major training problem. Running reports is about as obvious as buttering bread.”

— Tom Ahern, Donor Communications Expert


3. CiviCRM

civi crm nonprofit crm

CiviCRM is an open-source nonprofit CRM, meaning that it’s highly configurable and customizable to your nonprofit’s needs — and best of all, it’s completely free!

Other Highlights:

  • Members can create peer-to-peer campaigns through this platform as well
  • They integrate directly into Joomla, Drupal, WordPress and Backdrop so that you can use whatever CMS platform you already have

An Awesome Feature:

Because it’s open-source, the sky (and your development expertise) is the limit when it comes to integrating with other platforms.

Real Feedback from Users:

“I work for a very small and relatively new non-profit organization and CiviCRM has been the perfect combination of intuitive/ user-friendly, as well as adaptive to our unique needs as we continue to define our direction, expand our scope, and grow to reach a larger audience.” 

— Chelsea S., Communications Coordinator


4. DonorPerfect

donorperfect nonprofit crm

When nonprofits talk, DonorPerfect listens. They tout their usability to the feedback they’ve received from real nonprofits over the years that provided feedback on their features! Did we mention there are more than 15 different features, integration functions and development tools?

Other Highlights:

  • Unlimited Free Online Constituent Forms (for collection donations, volunteer signups, events, & more)
  • Prospect Research Integration Tools Available

An Awesome Feature:

This software allows you to add codes to a donor’s profile for how often they give, the last time they gave, and more. Then, you can sort lists and use the free constituent forms to send out more personalized communications to the right constituents! Better communication = more fundraising dollars!

Real Feedback from Users:

We’ve been using DonorPerfect for long enough not that it is hard to imagine how we could have ever gotten the results we’re enjoying now with our old database still in place.”

Glenn Marangelo, Development Director, Five Valleys Land Trust


5. Keela

keela nonprofit crm

Keela bills themselves as complete nonprofit software, so that you can move your organization out of spreadsheets and eliminate manual tasks.

Other Highlights:

  • They include project management tools so that you can tie internal activities to donor outreach more easily
  • You can create personalized campaigns to easily track the impact of donor outreach

An Awesome Feature:

They automatically detect duplicates, making it a lot easier to clean up your data!

Real Feedback from Users:

“It is so easy to use! From the project management to running fundraising campaigns and eBlasts we have been able to do things with little to no learning curve. Customer Support is top notch!”

Kymberly Prouty, Executive Assistant, Bay Area Housing Corporation


6. Kindful

kindful nonprofit crm

According to Kindful, they’re “built for relationships, not tasks”: their main goal is to help you easily track donors’ activities through clear and easy-to-navigate dashboards.

Other Highlights:

  • They allow unlimited users with no extra charge
  • They have robust in-kind gift and corporate giving programs tracking, making it easy to see the individual behind the donation

An Awesome Feature:

Their household relationship tracker makes it easy to see which of your contacts know each other.

Real Feedback from Users:

“Overall, I love the ease of use of the software. My team isn’t intimidated by it and are able to get on and navigate it well. Usually, if there is something that isn’t easily available, the Kindful team will find a work around for the problem.”

Niki, Dry Bones Denver


7. Little Green Light

little green light nonprofit crm

Little Green Light is targeted at small to midsize nonprofits, and provides all the key donor management functionality you need at a fraction of the cost.

Other Highlights:

  • If you’re registered with Techsoup, they provide a credit of up to $425 on a one-year subscription
  • They include automated mail merge to make offline donation asks just as easy as online ones

An Awesome Feature:

It’s easy to collect donations with their powerful form builder! You can even integrate it with your website to create an amazing donation page.

Real Feedback from Users:

“Little Green Light is an astronomical upgrade over Excel, which we had been using as a donor database. Mailings are quick and simple now, tracking fundraising and donor contacts is a breeze, and keeping on top of the backend of our organization is just so much easier. Little Green Light punches way above its weight and should be on the list of potential CRMS for any nonprofit.”

Adam from Global Friends Coalition


8. Salesforce for Nonprofits

salesforce for nonprofits crm

If you’ve looked at any lists of CRMs for nonprofits (or any organizations!) it’s a sure bet that Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack has come up. They’re known as one of the top CRMs for large organizations due to their robust reporting and extensive functionality.

Other Highlights:

  • The Salesforce AppExchange is huge, so it’ll be easy to find the integrations you need
  • Due to their size, they also have a lot of training resources and support that other companies might not have

An Awesome Feature:

They have a very comprehensive volunteer management suite, so volunteers can sign up for shifts and check in and out directly on your website.

Real Feedback from Users:

“This program is great for non-profits and convenient for organizing, tracking and reporting. We compiled everything into one system now from multiple sources. This program has helped transform our organization by being to build reports for donations, donors, residents, etc. We have been able to customize our features, communicate with this tool and build grant reports.”

Michelle B., Director of Development


9. Salsa

salsa nonprofit crm

Salsa allows users to save and schedule reports to be sent however often you’d like, giving you control to keep up. Rich donor profiles mean you can add notes to a profile, store documents, put the person into a group, and more.

Other Highlights:

  • Organizations boast an average of 35% increase in staff efficiency when using Salsa CRM

  • They also boast 28% donation growth and 74% donor retention rates

An Awesome Feature:

This CRM solution offers role-based functionality, so you can limit and grant access to the people who need to see the information. No more, no less!

Real Feedback from Users:

“The software is a great comprehensive marketing and CRM software solution designed for the smallest nonprofit or the largest. You can truly customize everything to fit a simple or complex process. We love Salsa and look forward to all the advancements coming!”

– Derek B., Salsa User

10. Virtuous

virtuous nonprofit crm

Running on the platform that donors should be more than rows in a database, Virtuous consolidates important data into one dashboard.

Other Highlights:

  • Automatically notifies you of donors who may lapse so you can reach out
  • Made specifically for marketers and fundraisers instead of the IT department

An Awesome Feature:

This software can suggest when you should call a donor, and even how much to ask for! How cool is that?

Real Feedback from Users:

“Virtuous is powerful yet simple. It is designed as a capable partner for today’s high touch fundraiser who works to build relationships across multiple channels and understands that networks are as important as gifts.”

-Otto Monroy, Director of Advancement, Logos Academy


11. WildApricot

nonprofit crm

If you’re looking for a tool that can do more than just keep track of contacts, consider looking into member management software like WildApricot. It’s an all-in-one management tool to help you eliminate and streamline administrative tasks from your workload to save you time and money.

Interested? Start a free 60-day trial now! 

Other Highlights:

It’s comprised of a website builder, online contact database, online member directory, communications system, booking system, finance & payment system, event platform, and more — so you can do everything without leaving the platform!

An Awesome Feature:

It even includes an online store, so your nonprofit can easily sell merchandise and other items to supplement donations.

Real Feedback from Users:

“WildApricot is constantly working to improve functionality and add features. They have an extensive knowledge base and tutorials, and their support has been amazing. They are quick to respond and I have never had an issue they couldn’t help me with. Their website builder is easy to use and has several templates to choose from that allow you to add your own customization.”

—Terri R, WildApricot User


12. MemberClicks

While WildApricot is perfect for many small organizations, MemberClicks builds integrated membership management software solutions specifically for small-to-midsized organizations.

MemberClicks offers intuitive association management systems, learning management software, event management solutions, and job board software, built to save time, save money, grow communities and increase revenue.

Click here to learn more about MemberClicks can help your organization by connecting you to connected solutions.

Remember, do a full evaluation of your organization’s needs before diving in. In the end, it’ll save you time and money, two vital resources to every nonprofit!

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!