Legacy membership database v CRM: what’s the difference?

19 June 2018 by Steve Sydee

Are you still stuck on a legacy membership database, or feel you aren’t getting the best out of your CRM? Then read on...


Over the next six months, we’re working with a range of partners on a series of CRM-focused forums to membership organisations – covering specifying and buying the most suitable system for you, navigating the data minefield, member engagement, website personas, getting your staff really buzzing, and a host of other key aspects of successful systems. Have a browse to see what’s on offer »

Our session on July 24 with Hart Square is aimed to help users currently stuck on legacy databases such as Integra/AdvancedNFP Care, IMIS/ASi, Raisers’ Edge and similar. Why should you think about a new system, and what makes a new CRM so different?

We’ll cover many angles in depth on July 24, but here are some taster points:

1. Simply adding an email address field to an old database does not make it a CRM

Too many of these older systems rebadged themselves as ‘CRM’ but they are not. A system needs much more than rudimentary marketing ability to make it a good, effective and beneficial system. It also should enable you to run many functions centrally and link easily to many other important systems. This will allow you to:

  • Manage subscriptions and invoices
  • Have a single store of all member details
  • Segment data so you can treat different types of member differently
  • Underpin and standardise your business processes
  • Manage training and CPD programmes
  • Run committees and groups
  • Manage marketing activity via post, email and social media
  • Connect to your website
  • Manage events, exhibitions and conferences

You’ll get a cohesive single view of all of a member’s activity, so you can drive more engagement and revenue. These are just some of the things you can do with a fully-integrated CRM that a traditional membership system can’t do.

2. Focus on making things easier for your members

Traditional systems tend to focus on subscriptions and finance whereas a good CRM allows you to do multi-channel marketing, engaging with the member/customer via the channels they prefer, and also providing them with better service to them no matter who they talk to in your organisation (as everyone will have the same information at their fingertips).

3. Get a single-view of each member

Having all your data stored in one place allows you to see what training someone attended, what services or products they have bought (and just as importantly, NOT bought), what technical questions they’ve called about, if they have any outstanding payments etc. CRM systems are contact-centric while a traditional legacy membership system is transaction-centric.

Being able to see all information about each of your members also allows you get better insight into who likes what and who is doing what. When analysed, all the data can provide great insight into what works for each of your members and what doesn’t, allowing you to tailor your activity to better fit with their needs.

And if your system is based on an advanced CRM like Microsoft Dynamics 365, you’ll easily be able to plug in Microsoft’s Business Intelligence tools and even Artificial Intelligence to really accelerate your membership engagement.

4. Don’t treat all your members that same

Not everyone likes cheese or chillies, or getting their member organisation news only monthly via email. Knowing more about your members’ likes and dislikes is step one; being able to communicate with them differently according to what their preferences are is another. And now with GDPR making good data management an essential process, you need systems designed to help you in these core activities.

An integrated CRM system allows you to do this, communicating with people using the channel they prefer; giving them information on their preferred subjects; even down to working out who are your most valued members and who are the ones who actually cost you money to service. Once you know what categories your members fall into, you can start treating each category in an optimal way.

5. CRM makes your organisation more productive

Combining inbuilt workflows with integration, a good CRM can automate many processes that would otherwise be done manually or not at all. With good CRM you can create nurture, retention and re-engagement programmes which work well for your members and for your staff.

To find out more about this please download our concise guide to the Benefits of CRM systems for membership organisations; we’d also love to see you at one of our events.

And of course, if you would like an informal chat about your current systems and the options available to you, please reach out to us at info@smartimpact.co.uk or call on 0845 544 2043. 

smartimpact is a dynamic CRM agency founded in 2007. We are experts in providing and supporting elegant and effective CRM systems for organisations of all sizes where members are at the heart of your business.

We understand the unique needs of membership organisations, whether your members and companies themselves or individuals, but we don’t adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We learn what is important to you and create solutions that solve your problems.