There are a lot of acronyms in the modern business world. You may well have heard the terms CMS and CRM thrown around before. But how familiar are you with what these systems actually are? As a charity or non-profit organisation are they things you actually need, or are they a luxury you can manage without?

The Basics

Despite the shared letters, a CRM and a CMS serve quite different purposes. CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”. At its core, it is a database of your organisation’s contacts. It acts as a hub and is often seen as an excellent opportunity to create a ‘single source of truth’ for your information. This means effectively it is the master copy of your data and should be reliably kept up to date.

CMS on the other hand stands for “Content Management System”. While there is a little more to it than this, you can effectively think of it as your website backend. You’ve probably heard of some common CMS platforms such as Drupal or WordPress. From content creation to storage plus some nifty content workflow options, a good CMS can also be a core asset to your organisation.

Do I need a CMS?

Short answer: yes. That’s because you’ll need a website to compete effectively and spread your message. Shockingly 25% of small businesses don’t have a web presence, even in the post-COVID world. Websites are often the first port of call for someone looking for your organisation. In fact, not having a website may cause many to question the legitimacy of your operation. With evidence also showing over 80% of consumers use their smartphone to do their own research before spending money, a website is a channel of information you can’t afford to ignore.

So the real question here isn’t if you should have a CMS (you should), but instead how much to invest in a CMS. That question depends on your needs. If you just need a basic web presence then you’re probably fine going it alone and setting up a very basic website. But good design is tricky - especially if you want a more complicated setup. If you’re thinking about an ecommerce site, integrations, or think mobile is a key market, it’s worth consulting an expert. The public are not always forgiving either - with 88% of the public unwilling to return to a website after a bad experience.

Do I need a CRM?

This is a bit trickier. On the surface, it’s may not feel as vital as a CMS. There are many successful smaller organisations that run entirely using spreadsheets. However, once you are dealing with more than just a few sets of contact information at once this becomes an absolute nightmare. Files can be lost and spreadsheets can break, resulting in crucial data going missing or having to be painstakingly recreated. Spreadsheets are not without their charms, but they are something that organisations should look to outgrow as soon as they can. Basic CRM implementations can be quick to set up and are a necessity for sustainable growth.

We’ve already discussed how a CRM is effectively a database, but that sells their potential short. They can also be a hub where you track your customer activities, send out emails, manage invoices, process event registrations or membership renewals, track ad hoc tasks, create reports… In short, a CRM can streamline a lot of necessary tasks while giving you greater insight into the impact of your actions. Rather than individual spreadsheets designed for specific scenarios, everyone has a consistent database that can be configured to meet your whole organisation’s needs. 

Certain data should only be seen by a select group? Easy. 

Automatic emails should be sent based on a condition? Also easy. 

The right CRM will change the way you work for the better.

How about Both?

As your organisation grows you’re going to need both a CMS and a CRM. The important note here is that you don’t want them to run in parallel. In a truly effective setup they’ll be properly integrated, i.e. communicating information to one another. 

Imagine you have a ‘contact us’ form on your website - think about how much time you could save if each submission was automatically recorded on your database after it happened. Perhaps it could even automatically trigger a follow-up task in your CRM. Or what about an event registration where any sign-ups were recorded straight to a contact’s record? There are many opportunities an integration can provide which will make certain activities significantly more manageable and effective for you to run. 

If you already have a CMS and CRM which aren’t integrated, it’s something you should be looking into.

Where to Start?

This is a big question, and we could certainly go into more depth, but the first step is to draw up a checklist of what it is you’re looking for in a website or a database. It might be best to consult an expert or someone with experience if you need ideas.

For a CMS there are many options out there. While we have a preference for Drupal, other CMS platforms such as WordPress, Webflow, Joomla and Squarespace are just a few options worth investigating. If you’re looking for an ecommerce site, more tailored options such as Shopify may be preferred.

CRM platforms are a little more complicated as they can vary a lot according to need. While in the commercial arena options such as Salesforce or HubSpot are popular, they are not well tailored for the non-profit sector. CiviCRM is much better suited to this market space, with specific modules for each of the key operational areas such organisations are likely to require. Even more so than with a CMS, having very clear objectives in mind is vital when choosing a CRM.

Where Next?

If you currently don’t have a CMS or CRM, you should consider investing in them at the next opportunity. The legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer habits makes the case for change clear. If you already own both systems, then make sure that they both serve your current needs and that they are effectively integrated.

If you’d like advice or help with implementing an integrated CRM and CMS solution, we’d be more than happy to discuss it with you. You can contact us here.