Some words in life just seem more useful and practical, while others are just plain obscure. Because we’re immersed in “CRM” (Constituent Relationship Management) every day here at Convio, it occurred to me that we probably tend to get caught up in a vocabulary of terms that are foreign to most people. And, the further down you go into the technology, the more complex the terminology becomes. So, instead of feeling like you’re trying to find words in alphabet soup, we thought we’d start with the basics.
Here are 6 essential terms you need to know to dive in and get your hands dirty with CRM. Most are words we hear thrown about quite a bit in CRM discussions. Learn these terms, some of which are used a little differently in CRM than elsewhere, and you’ll be well on your way to CRM fluency.
1. Constituents – In CRM, constituency means ALL people with a relationship to your organization. Constituents can be donors, funders, volunteers, clients and anyone else who benefits from or helps you achieve your mission.
2. Touch Points – The term “touch points” is used in CRM to refer to the many ways in which your supporters interaction with your organization. These touch points are continually expanding and are increasingly multichannel (see also channel).
3. Contact Management – A basic functionality of CRM, it allows you to maintain supporter information and contact histories for existing volunteers, donors, prospects, advocates, partners, board members and other constituents, as well as (in some cases) their point in the giving cycle.
4. Supporter Profiles – Most nonprofits divide supporters into categories: paid staff, volunteers, clients, donors, vendors, or advocates. However, real people often fall into multiple categories, and keeping track of their activities related to your organization can quickly get complex.
The way you organize your constituent data can make all the difference in the quality of your interactions with supporters. A supporter who is not a major donor may have many small touch points with your organization across channels that, taken alone, don’t attract much attention from your staff. (For instance, suppose she donates $20 annually, went to your open house and volunteers occasionally.) But taken together, these activities paint a picture of someone who’s interested in your mission and might get more involved if you engage her properly.
Supporter profiles can give you a 360° view of your supporters and all their activities, so that you get the complete picture of each relationship and its potential and impact on your organization.
5. Channel – A channel is whatever means your constituents use to communicate with you. There are multiple channels. Our audiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated as supporters grow more comfortable with engaging with organizations across the different media. Nonprofit fundraising and marketing has expanded beyond the traditional modes of communication used in the past – mainly direct mail and phone – to include other channels, such as email, Web, social media, and mobile. Multichannel means communicating with your supporters through all these channels and managing your conversations with them over a span of many interactions.
6. Open Data Access – In a CRM, open data access usually takes the form of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Think of them as “doors” through which data can flow. This process is incredibly important when it comes to integrating your CRM with other applications in your ecosystem.
For more great information on CRM, check out “The Donor Database – An Endangered Species: Why CRM is the Next Evolution of Donor Management” and learn 6 reasons why nonprofits are converting to CRM.