It’s hard to imagine living without my very smart, integrated iPhone. Every day I interact with business and personal contacts over my phone. Thankfully I can concurrently manage these relationships and a host of other tasks such as calling my son’s school, facilitating a Kiva loan, finding directions on Google Maps, coordinating volunteer work, downloading a dinner recipe, making reservations on Open Table, and adding new contacts. My smartphone facilitates the processes and outreach to “constituents” in my own “personal industrial complex.”

 Nonprofits too, have many different constituent groups to track including donors, volunteers, grantors, clients, partners, and social media influencers. Just like consolidating activities on a smartphone, nonprofits are using their Constituent Management Systems (CRM’s) as the hub of their operations. A CRM system enables strategy to cultivate relationships and raise more money. Yet, none of these efficiencies and strategies is attainable without keeping your organization’s data in one place.

 Because of antiquated systems and disparate work processes, many nonprofits are beginning to recognize the importance of integrating data. In a September 2010 survey1, “survey respondents’ most frequent technological need was for integrated data/software systems…” The CRM exists in the background seamlessly allowing your nonprofit staff to advance relationships and goals. Is this true for your organization?

 If you haven’t begun to move towards a centralized system, here are Five Reasons to Integrate:

1.     Go Deep

A development officer can determine the best-matched gift strategy when equipped with a deep understanding of a donor. The more touch points available, the deeper the understanding. In addition to demographics, donation history, and event attendance, an integrated database might tell us about how a donor was referred to the organization, interests, or social media activity, for example. As Eric Scroggins, Executive Director of Growth Strategy for Teach For America, reminds us2, “donors are more sophisticated than just believing in a cause.” A layered database provides this broader picture.

2,    Foster Teamwork and Scoring

Instead of operating in silos, working groups can coordinate outreach and create specific solicitation plans that are meaningful to the donor. For example, the Community Manager can provide information about “key influencers” on social media to the development department, increasing a potential or current donor’s engagement score. Using integrated data, a Development Officer may better understand what type of communication has already been sent to a donor while the marketing team, if observing development metrics, can be better informed of what’s relevant to the donor.

3.     Mine your Nonprofit’s “Industrial Complex”

An integrated system will enable you to engage and manage a broad network of supporters, resources and organizations versus focusing too narrowly on one constituent group. Further, third-party prospect information, like Wealth Engine, can be layered on top of your data to help “mine” for new prospects.

4.     Be proactive with your “Moves”

A centralized CRM system can help your nonprofit automate email notifications and staff assignments based on trends and past behaviors. For example, instead of learning that a loyal supporter did not attend an event, after five years of doing so, a CRM will notify an event planner and development officer, in advance, if a response has not been received. The development officer will reach out and “check in” with the donor before the event has occurred.

5.     Simplify reporting

No longer must different departments garner their metrics and create reports by tangling with an individual database system. One database system makes it easier to compile comprehensive donor and constituent information.

Integrated data systems support the nonprofit focused on meeting donors’ needs. As further defined by Paul Hagan is his Idealware article3:

“Donor-centered nonprofits with centralized CRM software ‘maximize their relationships with supporters…regularly increase the average donation size and effectively engage an increasingly wide swath of constituents to take actions to meet the organization’s goals.”

Why wait to integrate!

Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the non-profit sector.


1 Technology and the Performing Arts Field: Usage and Issues; Survey conducted by NPower Inc. and Callahan Consulting for the Arts;

2  Fundraising Innovators: Leaders in Social enterprise Share New Approaches to Raising Money; Wise Media Group, 2012, pg. 131.

 “Building a Military Industrial Complex”, Fundraising Innovators: Leaders in Social enterprise Share New Approaches to Raising Money; Wise Media Group, 2012.

3  “Creating the Relationship-Centric Organization: Nonprofit CRM,” by Paul Hagen; published by Idealware, May, 2006, pg. 145.