6 Ways to Harness Your CRM Solution as a Change Management Tool | npENGAGE

6 Ways to Harness Your CRM Solution as a Change Management Tool

By on Feb 26, 2019


I’ve gone through one CRM solution implementation at a large, public university and I’m about to embark on another. Implementing a CRM solution is opportunity to think boldly about your institution’s future and to chart a new course. As systems and processes are being re-written, it’s an ideal time to set new goals, experiment with different processes, and emerge stronger on the other side of your transition.

You’ve got this!

The opportunities for transformation are there, but it takes intentional work and will-power from all corners of your institution to recognize them and make them happen. This is the time to question how things have always been done and consider changes that will expand your institution’s reach.

On paper, realigning your institution on the heels of a system overhaul makes perfect sense. In practice, transforming a large, complex institution with multiple stakeholders is an incredible challenge. Being transparent, getting buy-in, and having adequate understanding of interconnected processes requires a framework.

First, I recommend that you position the CRM solution implementation as step one of a long-term process of change. After go-live, acknowledge and plan for a long-term fact-finding period involving all stakeholders.

You need this fact-finding period because during implementation you will make all sorts of decisions that can’t be measured until after go-live. You need time to assess how the system is working, where it could do better, and what changes you’d like to make. People tend to want to bend their new CRM solution to fit existing processes and workflows. Fact-finding is also a time to fight that tendency and ask if there’s a smarter way to run your institution.

Fact-finding periods are most successful when everyone is on board. I suggest creating a cross-functional team that meets regularly during your implementation and fact-finding periods. Subject matter experts from all areas of your institution can continue to assess the CRM and suggest process improvements based on goals.  Here are some of the areas I recommend your team examine as you usher change into your institution.

  1. Analyze your solicitation process.

Now that you’re working from within a new system and have new access to data, your solicitation process is ripe for change. Your team should ask: Who gets solicitations and when do they receive them? Are there donors who receive too many solicitations or great prospects who receive none? What needs to happen so that the right prospects receive the right messaging at the right time? This tremendously complex, yet fundamentally important area of questioning will help you fine-tune your CRM, but also the people and processes that interact with it as part of your institution’s mission.

  1. Re-examine your record-keeping processes around matching gifts.

Recording matching gifts is a challenge. Most institutions are awash in a sea of information that can’t be easily used. First, identify who needs access to this information and how they’ll use it. Our cross-functional team found that we needed less information than we thought we did. This realization made it possible to organize matching gifts data much more simply in a way that best supported our fundraisers.

  1. Create a process to measure errors.

Your users must know that the CRM’s data is accurate, or they won’t use it. No one wants to track and measure data entry errors, but it’s essential to maintaining data users can trust. During fact-finding, create a quality-assurance process to maintain your data’s accuracy. It’s simple to audit your data—the challenge is convincing a large team of CRM users that this process is here to help them and isn’t a punishment. Creating a plan to measure errors needs to include a corresponding internal PR plan to help your users successfully acclimate to the process.

  1. Foster a self-service system.

Enabling CRM users to make changes, run queries, and find the information they need by themselves, saves time, and avoids information bottlenecks. It’s also a brand-new workflow habit for all your users. Make sure they get proper training and support so that they’re confident entering data and making changes. Reinforce good database behavior by making proper usage part of weekly, quarterly, and yearly employee goals. At the beginning, your cross-functional team will be busy encouraging best-practice behaviors amongst new CRM uses. Over time, the habits will become an engrained part of your processes.

  1. Enhance capabilities to serve specific users.

During fact-finding, you may realize that specific users’ needs aren’t being met. There may be a business case for additional CRM capabilities, overlays, or vendor products. Your cross-functional team can determine which add-ons will make the biggest impact on your institution’s goals. It’s easy to jump to the next thing if progress is slow, or you experience set-backs—the fact-finding period is your built-in time for figuring out the best way to overcome problems.

  1. Be open to new ideas and tangling with taboos.

Using a CRM revolutionizes access to data. With knowledge and access comes challenges to the status quo. The trick is navigating this politicized landscape with an eye to meeting goals and bettering the institution as a whole. Your team may find themselves reconsidering longstanding rules such as prohibitions on contacting donors in other schools’ “territories.” It’s worth asking what purpose traditional boundaries serve and if breaking through them could improve your ability to meet your mission.

Harnessing your CRM solution as a change-management tool.

CRM implementation is an opportunity for you to change processes and workflows to better support your mission, but you’ve got to be prepared. Set your institution up for success by creating a team specifically to handle change management during implementation and after the go-live. The questions you address and the vision you chart will help your institution slowly but surely, expand its scope.

Good luck!


Derek joined the University of South Carolina in November of 2018 as the Assistant Vice President of Advancement Services.  His prior experience includes 11 years at the University of Georgia and 11 years at General Motors®.  In his current role, he is managing a team to help make the organization more efficient by implementing a new CRM. Derek was the Senior Director of Advancement Services at University of Georgia and served as the project lead on Georgia’s conversion from a mid-mainframe green screen to Blackbaud CRM™, which went live five years ago. Since going live, continuous improvements in business processes, data quality, and constant change management kept him busy. Derek is the current chair of the Blackbaud CRM Higher Education Product Advisory Group and co-chair of the Advancement Management Best Practices Committee of the Association of Advancement Services Professionals®. He loves playing basketball, officiating volleyball, and raising two teenage girls with his wife, Kollette, of 18 years. 

Comments (2)

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    Thank you for sharing! Great tips for transitioning to a new CRM.

  • Cammi Derr says:

    All great information! Our new VP has removed my shackles and enabled me more power to enable our users to perform more tasks that used to take a lot of my time, but I do find that some users are just not cut out to understand data or maybe it’s that they just don’t care. In those cases, I have attempted more training for them to no avail. I created a special security group for them and add them to it when needed. That forces them to come to me for more personalized training. Once they have a grasp or accept their new roles for data management, I slowly decrease their security for their roles.

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