There's a delicious plethora of open source CRM systems out in the wild. In this article, we take a look at a few, and give some pros, cons and things to think about for each. To begin a comparison, let's start with SugarCRM, VTiger and CRMery.First, what is open source CRM?
Open source means the code (all the stuff that makes software work) is openly available for users to modify and adapt. There are quite a few of caveats that go along with this, and you can read more about that here. But, for the sake of this article, it means the code is modifiable. While a vast majority of open source CRM systems are free, open source doesn't always necessarily mean free.Let's first take a look at SugarCRM
Ah, SugarCRM. It used to be the creme de la creme of open source CRM. It had a community edition that was built from talented developers all over the world, and became a viable option to Salesforce. SugarCRM has an enterprise edition as well that was hosted by Sugar with some additional functionality, however the SugarCRM Community Edition was available as open source. You could download and install it on your own server (needed an Apache setup, with the wiggly-bits of Linux, MySQL and PHP), however the process was uber-straightforward. Not exactly plug n' play, but those with a decent techie-hat could do it in 20 minutes or so.What I love about SugarCRM: Number one is its flexibility. There are some CRMs that are built with some main use-cases in mind, but doesn't necessarily adapt for organizations that need a good amount of flexibility. SugarCRM's Studio Builder is really nifty. It has a drag n' drop interface to easily customize different screens, and amazing access control to provide access for some users, but constricting other users to a tailored view.The reporting dashboards are also a huge plus. Every user can have a different view that's specifically built for him or her.The development community for SugarCRM was also extremely large with several key components offered at no-cost.Oh, and SugarCRM Community Edition is... err... was free.Which brings me to:What I don't love about SugarCRM: SugarCRM, like a dagger to my tender, wounded heart, stopped supporting its own Community Edition and reinforced its dedication to the paid, enterprise edition. This makes me weep. Why? Thousands of super-smart developers gave their time, money and energy devoted to an open source CRM project. Somewhat out of the blue, Sugar announced that it was no longer going to be around.BUT... WAIT THERE'S MORE!Another develop company bridged SugarCRM's Community Edition and is continuing to develop on it under another open source CRM project called SuiteCRM with a download here. It's great to see this project continue!Let's take a look at VTiger.
VTiger is another open source CRM application that's built from some code used in SugarCRM (I should mention, that SugarCRM *has* really provided tons of benefit to the open source world). VTiger's interface is simple, but it doesn't represent the user interface that today's 2015 users are beginning to be accustomed to (flat design, etc) so there are some basic UI improvements that can be made.But anyways... let's move on. VTiger has really cool tools that make it easy for users to opt-in for certain marketing offers, and the information becomes populated into the CRM. Sure - this is a fairly common element of any CRM, but VTiger's experience makes it a breeze.VTiger's project management feature is also well-developed and easy to use. In many systems, the CRM project management feature tends to be a bit overlooked or an afterthought. With VTiger, I feel like it's part of the forefront of their thinking (which I truly appreciate).VTiger's development community doesn't seem to be as active as what Sugar's used to be, however I think if they can make some key user interface updates to make it more current, then this system would be really beneficial to those looking for a good CRM.Now let's look at CRMery.
Many people won't recognize CRMery (and for full disclosure, we have no connection with the company besides the fact that we kinda love it). CRMery is a component to be purchased and seamlessly connected in the Joomla CMS (content managment system) backend. The good thing is that it assumes the similar look and feel as the site itself since it's sharing the same design (the same global CSS files for the techie-nerds out there). So for user adoption, this is a huge win.The design trumps the other CRMs on this list. It's clean, it's functional, and it's evident that the user experience was placed smack in the middle of the CRM design and development.The learning curve is a breeze, and it's easy to customize fields for different forms or other calls-to-action.One of the biggest cons of CRMery is the new-ness of it all. From what I gather, it's developed and supported by a small shop (I've chatted with the lead developer, and he's awesome) so there's always a risk of implementing a CRM that may eventually not be developed or supported any longer. I really hope to see this CRM grow, as it has a ton of promise.So there's 3 different open source CRMs. We're looking to do a comparison on some others. Are there any CRMs that you would like to see us compare? Any thoughts about the systems reviewed above? Please let us know in the comments below.Have a CRM Question? Contact us and we'll help.
It is in the plan this year – FINALLY – to replace your current mishmash of information sources with a new Nonprofit Constituent Relationship Management (Nonprofit CRM) system. It can provide the process improvement to better support your nonprofit or non-governmental organization. No more cobbling together pieces of information from various databases,spreadsheets and individual people's recollections in order to get a complete picture of what has been happening. You may even have picked out the software you want. Maybe you are taking advantage of the Salesforce Foundation's free licenses for Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) or NGO Connect available through the Salesforce.com "Power of Us" program for nonprofits—or at least checking out the possibilities for replacing your current legacy donor database with something that is more efficient and cost-effective. Something that will empower your development team; enable better volunteer management; and, create a coherent, 365 degree view of the people who make your goals possible: supporters, partners and staff.
Now what should you do?Start thinking about WHAT you need to accomplish with your new system – and realize that the HOW of day-to-day life for you and your team will change greatly. It will be a good thing eventually, but be warned – there can be tears along the way! Change isn't easy and you'll be interrupting your team's set patterns of work. There is no such thing as major change without a learning curve and preparing for it can help. As a leader at your organization, you'll be responsible for change management and for insuring new CRM user adoption by your team is complete.First think about how things work today.Many times folks focus on how they currently do things, forgetting – or never realizing – that often existing processes have grown up around the gaps in their current technology systems or connectivity.If they can stand back and look at it, most people find that many of their current "systems" are really a set of disconnected, old technologies each individually transmitting clumps of information to a human being. The technology doesn't connect and your person must manually combine those different clump of information with their own or other person's knowledge in order to accomplish the job. This "system" is really a bad manual process which is time consuming and has great potential for errors.Unfortunately, no matter how ugly or manual the process, it can be scary to let go of what you know. Sometimes the person had to build his or her own workaround process in order to do their job successfully -- and have been doing it the same way for many years. Remind your reticent Development Director or Programs Manager about what it took to pull together the information you needed to apply for that recent grant or comply with reporting requirements. Help them stand back and think about WHAT they are trying to accomplish and what could make them more successful:Which information they could really use about donors, volunteers or grantorsWhen do they need the information in order to achieve goals and how quickly they need it when requestedWho also needs to easily access the information and use it either regularly or on an ad hoc basisWhich processes would be more effective if automated
Help those individuals understand about the opportunity to automate tasks – including the ones they may dislike intensely or waste their limited time. Some examples of what automated workflow and reporting can do:Enable each member of your team to quickly access needed reports, activities, and tasks to manage their day through their personalized dashboardAutomatically calculate, roll-up and report on important measures, including donation statistics, with specialized reports geared for specific department heads, the Executive Director, the Board or for compliance reporting to foundations or regulatorsMove a grant proposal through the internal review and approval process with system-generated reminders and routing, including built-in oversight to reduce the need to manually "chase" approvals for a grant application with an impending deadlineAcknowledge all donations immediately for the donor's tax purposes – and alert the Development Director and/or the Executive Director if the amount hits a specific threshold or is from a major or high value donor to insure they get personal attentionEnable online program or event registration which immediately populates the participant's information in your system and automatically provides the participant with an email acknowledgement and other documents or information – no need to have a staff member or volunteer have to interpret someone's handwriting on a form and manually enter the information into the database – reducing errors and time to process
Most importantly, help your team focus on WHAT is important – your mission, goals and what needs to be accomplished every day – and what these changes can mean to the important people and organizations involved:Better supporting your constituentsFacilitating the recruitment and retaining of volunteersImproving the nurturing of donorsComplying with regulations and funder requirementsIncreasing staff's available time to connect with donors, volunteers and program participants – the kinds of work which can't be accomplished by technology
A nonprofit CRM system is a financial and time investment for your entire organization. If you and your team start with the "What" instead of the current "How", your CRM implementation will be smoother and increase the likelihood of adoption. The better the adoption, the higher the ROI. Ultimately, if your team understands you consider them at the center of "what" is important in this process, there will be less tears along the way (especially yours) when you change the current "how" to be more effective with your new CRM in place!What has your experience been in past with new system implementations--lots of tears or smiles? Something in between?Questions about making your new CRM a success? Contact us and we'll help.
Long a staple in the business-to-business sales world, CRM systems are databases created to hold information about people relevant to your organization. Whether you are a business, government agency or nonprofit/NGO, people inside and outside your organization drive your success. CRM is the way you can manage relationships and measure success.What is CRM? A Definition of Customer Relationship Management and Constituent Relationship Management
In the commercial business world, they are typically referred to as “Customer Relationship Management” systems. In the public sector or nonprofit/NGO realm, you may hear the term “Constituent Relationship Management” used instead to show the focus on service vs. revenue. Typically geared to be a single source of information about the people who are connected to your organization – either directly or indirectly. The people could include:- customers or program participants- staff, volunteers, or Board members- investors, funders or donors- vendors, service providers or partnersCRM systems track activities for these people, including:- Transactions and interactions: donations, products purchased, customer service or customer support interactions- Time spent on: volunteer hours, development or service interaction, sales cycle length- Communications documentation: dates, time and content of emails, phone calls or letters- Participation in: events, marketing campaigns, sales or service processesIn the business world, there is typically a heavy focus on measuring and managing sales deals and effectiveness -- improving the ROI on sales and marketing expenses.For nonprofits, the focus is on donor management, volunteer management, services enablement and program improvement.Typically, a CRM system replaces or connects existing legacy systems. In a commercial environment, this could include integrating or replacing outdated:- Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems- Customer Service Representative (CSR) databasesIn the nonprofit world, it is typically replacing an entire suite of older, disconnected or “silo’d” systems:- Donor Management System- Volunteer Database/Spreadsheets- Program Management Package- Mailing Lists living in an Email Distribution SystemThe idea behind a CRM is to create a central command system that interconnects the information you need to drive your entire organization.
If you'd like your own copy of "What is CRM?" pdf download here. Need help defining CRM for you? Contact us and we'll help.