Should you combine your nonprofit website’s CMS with a CRM?

Should you combine your nonprofit website’s CMS with a CRM?

Should you combine your website content management system (CMS) with your customer relationship management (CRM) software into one integrated tool?

It’s tempting, I understand.

The software promises to take care of everything for you: website content management, email marketing, online fundraising. Need ecommerce? Sure! How about event registrations or online advocacy? Here ya go!

While an integrated system can be helpful, it also has the potential to cause headaches. In fact, I was inspired to write this article by the conversations I’ve had with my clients, students and conference session attendees about the headaches they’ve experienced.

Stories from Real Nonprofits

Here are a few of the frustrations I’ve heard from nonprofit professionals about their experience with their combined CMS/CRM:

  • 50% decrease in search engine traffic 
  • Lag in addition of latest technology (ex: outdated Google Analytics configuration) 
  • Inability to customize to fit the organization’s needs 
  • Or, customizations that then prevent future core software upgrades 
  • Slow website load times

Of course, there are nonprofits who use and love their combined CMS/CRM.

Maybe an all-in-one solution is right for your team, but how will you know?

The sales people always paint a picture of eternal bliss.

The software is usually expensive and complicated to setup, so you can’t give it a quick, realistic test drive.

If you’re considering a combined CMS / CRM tool, here are some questions to ask your team, your vendor and another nonprofit who already uses the tool.

I believe that your team will be able to make an informed decision once you’ve considered all aspects of the tool, how it will affect your work, and what options would be available to you in case you decide the tool isn’t right for your organization after all.

Questions to Ask Your Team

  1. Do we have specific goals that will be well served by each main feature of this software? 
  2. Are we ready to serve as a strong, involved advocate with our vendor in the name of ensuring our website is well managed? 
  3. Can we afford to implement and maintain the software for the next 3 to 5 years? 
  4. What other tools will we eliminate or add to our suite, based on this choice? 
  5. Are we ready to create and maintain internal documentation/training to help us use the new tool correctly? 
  6. If we find that this tool hurts our goals/SEO/etc, what is our plan of action to improve the situation? 
  7. If we had to move to a new system within the next year or two, do we have a plan to handle that expense/process?

Questions to Ask the Vendor

  1. How long has your company been in business? 
  2. How many nonprofit clients do you serve? 
  3. Give me an example of one of your nonprofit clients that is similar to us in size, mission, capacity. 
  4. What options are available to me to customize the features of the software? Are these customization options included in my fee, or will I have to pay an additional fee? 
  5. If we choose to customize features, how will those customizations affect our ability to implement core software upgrades? 
  6. How often do you add new features to the software? 
  7. What is the criteria for requesting a new feature? What is the criteria for choosing which features are added? 
  8. How will you help us prevent the loss of SEO, and improve our SEO over time? 
  9. Do you offer a user group? 
  10. How will I interact with your support team? 
  11. How many people are on your software development team? What is the average length of their time with your company? 
  12. How many people are on your support team? What is the average length of their time with your company?

Questions to Ask a Fellow Nonprofit User

  1. How long have you been a client? 
  2. Is this software helping your team accomplish its goals? 
  3. How is your fundraising/email marketing/advocacy different before/after the transition? 
  4. How is your SEO different before/after the transition? 
  5. For what reason did you last contact support? How did the interaction go? What was the result? 
  6. Do you have any custom features added to the software? What was that process like? 
  7. Have you experienced any unexpected expenses? 
  8. Would you recommend this tool to our organization? If so, why? Or why not?

Want more tech resources to help you manage your nonprofit websites?

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yesenia sotelo

About Yesenia Sotelo

Yesenia Sotelo is a digital skills teacher and web developer.

She elevates ambitious nonprofit professionals by teaching them how to use the technology tools of modern marketing.

Yesenia can teach you how to use website analytics or improve your online marketing results.

Her SmartCause Method for building websites is especially designed for the way nonprofits collaborate, make decisions and grow.

She won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) for her work teaching digital skills to nonprofit professionals.