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 partners

CRM 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 processes

In 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 In a commercial environment, this could include integrating or replacing outdated: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) databases

In 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 System

The idea behind a CRM is to create a central command system that interconnects the information you need to drive your entire organization.

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