Ever since I started using Salesforce, I've been fascinated by CRMs and their power to manage information. CRM--short for constituent relationship management--might simply be called a database, but to nonprofits, CRMs are much more than that. Today's providers offer everything from communications to fundraising.
One of the most frequent questions I'm asked as I meet nonprofit communications professionals, is for advice on choosing a CRM. Recently, my colleague Eric Rardin was in Canada and met with Philip King, President and CEO of Artez, the leading CRM based in Canada.
Eric put me in touch with Philip and he graciously agreed to share his thoughts on CRM trends in the nonprofit world. Philip also describes how Artez differentiates itself and talks about what nonprofits should look for when shopping for a CRM solution.
By the way, frogloop is vendor neutral, so we don't recommend any CRM solution over another. Also, NTEN recently published a report on the results of a survey covering CRM satisfaction. It's available for download here.
I hope you enjoy the interview below.
Interview with Philip King, President and CEO of Artez
frogloop: It appears that U.S. based nonprofits are faced with two extremes: on the one hand, there are large large players like Convio, Kintera, and Blackbaud and on the other hand there are smaller providers like DIA, FirstGiving, and NetworkForGood. Do you see opportunity in the middle ground?
Philip King: We absolutely do! We're finding that a lot of fundraising organizations (charities, political parties, associations) need a technology that allows flexible branding, so their donors don't feel they're being "handed off" to a separate site...but they also need something that isn't too expensive, inflexible, and hard to implement. Some of the providers you have mentioned do a good job for either very very small charities or very very big ones.
frogloop: How broad is your client base in terms of size and geographic reach?
Philip King: We're approaching 500 clients, and in contrast to some of our competitors we're not counting national contracts as each region or division. We think it's important to treat each client well and not like "a number". We think there will be lots of organizations who will value a fanatical approach to service almost as much as they'll value the power of our technology. One bit of evidence that this is working well is that our client retention rate is about 99%...and that's not because we've locked up our clients in a complicated contract that's expensive to break! Our clients have the freedom to leave at any time if they are unsatisfied for any reason.
We're quite interested in traveling the globe to find good relationships that also help us become better global internet fundraisers. We now have clients in Canada, US, UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Our public-facing technology works in English, French and Dutch with Spanish just around the corner. We're excited about the potential of global campaigning which makes perfect sense since the Internet is a truly global medium.
frogloop: What are the primary considerations a nonprofit should make in choosing a fundraising software vendor?
Philip King: Ask about their client retention rate: I think this is key. Understand what their total cost/dollar will be this year, and for the next few years. When I say 'total cost' be sure you're getting not just the prices of the technology, but also any consulting or professional services you'll need to include. Make sure you are talking not just to references who are using their solution, but also references who have left their solution. Understand what happens if for any reason the nonprofit wants to switch vendors in the future. Understand who owns the data. Make your potential vendor prove they are open to data imports and exports without having to purchase expensive additional APIs. Ask about their throughput: how many transactions per second can they handle. Ask about security: are they PCI Compliant (you can look this up on Wikipedia), and if so what level?
I could go on and on but those are some key ones.
frogloop: What are some of the challenges nonprofits face today with respect to fundraising technology?
Philip King: Using the tools well. No matter which vendor you select, it's important to understand "it's just a tool and won't raise money on it's own." I think this makes sense, but I have seen many nonprofits spend a very large amount of money (overspend in my estimation) and expect the spend to somehow magically generate fundraising. I think the campaign or event idea itself is at least as important--if not more important--than the technology. I can speak from first-hand experience that we at Artez provide access to the identical set of code/tools/platform to all of our clients; some nonprofits raise millions online, and some raise $50,000. Same tools, different campaigns.
frogloop: What common practices do you see used across the best nonprofit fundraisers?
Philip King: The best are playful. They see this as a fun challenge and laugh a lot. Many of their campaigns don't work, but a few of them do really well! The best measure a lot (but not too much). The best aren't afraid to share brand, content and promotion with their supporters. The best spend as much time reading about Google, FaceBook, and Apple as they do reading the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
frogloop: What metrics are the most critical to measure and track when conducting an online fundraising strategy?
Philip King: ROI or cost of funds raised. All costs in including staff time compared to how much money came into the bank account. If someone wants to get a little more sophisticated we encourage applying the "simple math of online fundraising" = # of people who register for your campaign or event x % people who actually fundraise more than $1 x the number of people in their social network they solicit x % of those friends/family/colleagues who give x average gift = YOUR FINANCIAL RESULT. I think it's important to work this math before you launch any online fundraising campaign, and then look back at it once the campaign completes and see where you were right and wrong. Adjust. Repeat.
frogloop: Can you share any new or interesting fundraising statistics or data with us?
Philip King: Sure. In almost any social-network online fundraising campaign, including the big online-a-thons, about 80% of all of the mon
ey will come from about 20% of the online fundraisers. We see this sometimes even more extreme in which 10% of the online fundraisers will bring in 90% of the money. It's important to use online fundraising tools like Artez and others to identify these uber-fundraisers early in the campaign and treat them differently. Don't just fire out the same blast email to everyone. Take the time to have your ED or CEO pick up the phone and give them an unexpected call to thank them for being such a fantastic online fundraiser. Other interesting stats: the growth of referrals from Facebook and mobile browsers (more on that below).
frogloop: Anything new on the technology horizon? What is everyone at Artez talking about?
Philip King: Three big things (plus a lot more...but for the sake of my typing fingers I'll keep it to the top three).
#1 Facebook (and other social networking sites): We're finding a significant amount of traffic increasing from these sites, so we're launching a new widget this summer that will allow our clients to leverage this new and emerging source for fundraising traffic. We basically see this as an email replacement or email-augmentation strategy to drive more traffic to our fundraising pages.
#2 Mobile: Last month anywhere between 5 - 10% of all traffic on our donation servers were coming from mobile browsers. I know what people are doing (since I've tried this myself). We're reading our email on our Crackberry's and iPhone's and seeing that our friend has solicited us in email for that walk-a-thon she is doing next weekend. We're clicking on the link which pops up our onboard mobile browser and we're getting to her personal fundraising page. We're working on a smart new way to render these pages in a very light, very fast, secure manner built just for smartphones...due out this fall.
#3 Salesforce: We're super-excited about how nonprofits are embracing Salesforce as their "do it all" CRM/DRM solution. For a long time nonprofits haven't had much choice in their database solutions, and the choices they've been given have been proprietary and closed...which makes life for point solutions like Artez difficult. With Salesforce this is completely different. Salesforce actually publishes their API and encourages companies like mine to develop great applications that extend the core application.
If you're still reading this: thank you for giving me so much time! One last plug is for our conference here in lovely and cosmopolitan Toronto, Canada on September 9th. It's going to be great and quite "different" from most nonprofit tech/fundraising gatherings. Though I'd love to direct you to our registration form, it's a bit delayed since our head of marketing's wife just had their first baby (welcome little Charley!). If you'd like leave your email at our website www.artez.com and let us know you're interested in learning more about the conference, us, whatever and we'll get back to you.
About Philip King
Philip King has been President & CEO of Artez (www.artez.com <http://www.artez.com> ) for the past six years and it just keeps getting more interesting for him. He is fulfilled each day staying ahead of the technology curve, creating a culture of fanatical client care, expanding into the UK, Europe, Australia and US all while keeping an eye on the core values of an organization dedicated to making the world a better place. He grew up in Tennessee, got a history degree from Harvard, worked in Manhattan for the Edison Project, then bought a home in Toronto where he rests and plays with his wife and their two sons ages 11 and 7.