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CRMs – Is the grass always greener on the other side?

13 November 2019 at 5:51 pm
Stephen Kinsella
The Xfactor Collective specialist member Stephen Mally says jumping to a new CRM may not always be necessary, in our weekly Collective Insights column.

Stephen Kinsella | 13 November 2019 at 5:51 pm


CRMs – Is the grass always greener on the other side?
13 November 2019 at 5:51 pm

The Xfactor Collective specialist member Stephen Mally says jumping to a new CRM may not always be necessary, in our weekly Collective Insights column.

Are you thinking of replacing your organisation’s constituent relationship management (CRM) solution? 

CRM replacement projects are plentiful with more universities and not for profits making the decision to replace their solution. But, is a CRM replacement project really necessary? 

In my experience, a CRM does not always require replacing, rather, an existing CRM simply requires the attention it deserves.

“Overall, they saved around $45,000 in direct, and possibly another $30,000 indirect costs by staying put.”

For example, a hospital foundation in Sydney had been to a conference and felt very “sold” on a new CRM by the CRM vendor (of course!), but on further investigation, they had the functionality they actually needed in their existing CRM – they just needed to upskill their team. Overall, they saved around $45,000 in direct costs, and possibly another $30,000 in indirect costs, by staying put. 

Before you decide to transition to a new CRM, you should first conduct a review of your existing solution. A review is a comprehensive analysis of your existing CRM. 

When conducting this analysis, you should consider the following five key areas:

  1. Challenges – What are the biggest challenges your team faces with your CRM?
  2. Functionality – What functionality is lacking from your CRM?
  3. Goals – Will the current CRM allow your organisation to achieve its KPIs?
  4. Relationship – How healthy is your relationship with your current CRM supplier and are there key focus areas which might make it healthier?
  5. Staffing – How is your CRM staffed in terms of data management and oversight?

A review is often best conducted by an outside expert who has a 40,000 foot view of the CRM sector. This expert understands your organisation’s functional requirements inside and out and understands what is required to operate a CRM efficiently and effectively in an organisation. Additionally, the expert firm has in-depth knowledge of CRM solutions, functionality, and the associated suppliers.

A review will result in an analysis document, drawing conclusions on the above and other important factors. It will form a foundation to allow you to decide whether to move forward to an official CRM search or to “stay put” utilising the CRM you currently own. 

The analysis will also help you to identify an action plan containing activities your organisation must accomplish whether or not you transition to a new CRM. 

These activities may include:

  • identifying a data manager to oversee the CRM
  • developing policies and procedures
  • highlighting opportunities for automation
  • establishing a training plan
  • creating a data cleansing plan, including data enhancements.

Unless your organisation takes the time to review the existing landscape, you may find the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. 

In fact, your organisation may find itself in the same situation. CRM reviews often save time and effort, resulting in an improvement of the existing solution rather than a complete transition to a new CRM solution.

A constituent relationship management (CRM) solution is your organisation’s number one asset. You want the latest and greatest technology, which will assist your organisation to reach your key performance indicators. 

The following are the top six reasons organisations typically choose to transition to a new CRM:

  • Another CRM solution is preferred by a new head of fundraising.
  • The existing CRM solution lacks functionality to deliver an organisation’s strategic plan.
  • Functionality in the current CRM is clunky and not intuitive.
  • The organisation lacks a healthy relationship with the CRM supplier.
  • Staff do not utilise the existing CRM.
  • The existing CRM is not well configured and lacks automation.

A robust CRM solution also assists fundraising leadership to:

  • achieve fundraising goals;
  • recruit and hire experienced and seasoned fundraising talent;
  • measure and analyse fundraising performance; and
  • automate and streamline business processes.

About the author: Stephen Mally FFIA CFRE is an experienced fundraising and independent CRM specialist with The Xfactor Collective social impact community.

Each week Pro Bono News and The Xfactor Collective present a Collective Insights column, answering common questions and challenges experienced by social changemakers. You are welcome to lodge questions for the column by emailing

The Xfactor Collective is an Australian-first community where changemakers go for expert support and advice, including pre-vetted specialists across 100-plus areas of specialisation, specialist triage support services and a free video library.

Stephen Kinsella  |  @ProBonoNews

Stephen Kinsella is a research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s school of government, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Limerick and a columnist with The Sunday Business Post.

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  • Monique Littlejohn says:

    I’ve worked with 5 different CRMs in my career and can confidently say that some are better than others, and the most expensive does not equate with the best in class when it comes to a cross functional system that serves both the fundraising teams and the finance department. CRM fundraising solutions should be intuitive, purpose-built, and efficient. Creating a new contact should be done on a single screen, and data mining/reporting should be easy to set up without a database administrator. After all, professional fundraisers and marketers use the same board reporting metrics and key indicators regardless of what organization they work with. For these reasons, the best CRM software that I’ve worked with is Donor Perfect. The worst (not naming names here) is one that is offered to nonprofits for free but requires a tremendous amount of developing to provide similar functionality, so as the author mentions, it could cost $45,000 for this free software.

  • Renee says:

    Great article Stephen. People are often “sold” and excited by the next shiny new software, when in fact they are totally underutilising what they already have.


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